We’re working with colleagues in Adult Social Care on a Service Design project looking at our early intervention procedures and preventative services. It’s a complex discovery project, made even more so by the need to introduce new ways of running and synthesising workshops online, due to the ongoing COVID social distancing restrictions.

As service designers, one of the most important parts of our process is to run a thorough and intelligent discovery collaboratively with stakeholders. This helps us to identify key areas to investigate, gain understanding of how things currently work and identify pain points (pains) and positive points (gains).

How to create a collaborative project vision

To start we facilitated a scoping session, regarding preventative services, where we asked our steering group key questions such as: ‘what would you like to see at the end of the discovery?’, ‘What do you hope to learn?’, ‘What key dates should be noted?’, ‘Who is our audience?’, ‘What internal & external stakeholders should be involved?’. These key questions not only helped us to understand the vision of the collaboration surrounding preventative services but also establish a timeline and set expectations. From here we can move forward confidently as a team with clarity on our roles and individual objectives.

How do you conduct a workshop remotely?

Due to lockdown we’ve had to adapt the way we conduct discovery sessions in order for them to work virtually. An essential tool that we’ve all grown to love is Miro. Miro was used to conduct the workshop and is a simple piece of software that allows for multiple participants to interact with activities and write their responses on digital post-it notes.

Following from the scoping we had clear direction on what we wanted to know, the main areas being, ‘who does what?’, ‘what works well?’, ‘what’s not working well?’. There were specific questions below each of these headings which were designed to gather insights from participants. Due to the scoping session we had a clear list of stakeholders who were invited to the discovery session, they included Age UK, NHS, Pure Innovations, Wellbeing and Independence Network (WIN), Signpost for Carers, The Prevention Alliance (TPA), Change Grow Live (CGL), Life Leisure, to name just a few.

The intention behind the activities was to get a clear understanding of where key stakeholders fit within preventative services and where potential gaps or overlaps lie. The ‘what works well / not so well’ questions were used to identify pains and gains that could fuel future workshops and investigation. We moved at pace throughout the workshop, allocating only 5 minutes per question. 5 minutes may not sound like much, but we got a lot of insights during this small-time frame.

It can be challenging at times to maintain a positive and energetic atmosphere virtually, where this previously came more naturally in person, but the questions sparked great debates and we encouraged participants to challenge the questions that were being ask. This resulted in one of the most important outcomes, which was re-designing two of the questions. This helped to get the most out of participants due to the questions now being clear, accurate and specific.

At the end of the workshop we always thank our participants and make sure to ask them for feedback. It’s great to get a feel for if they felt the workshop was beneficial, ‘did we ask the right questions?’, ‘did you have enough time per activity?’, ‘what could we have done differently?’. This feedback helps us to constantly improve the activities we run during workshops and get the most out of participants.

I’ve gathered lots of insights, now what?

Following on from the preventative discovery workshops we synthesised our findings. To do this we started by going through each of the questions and grouped the participants responses into key themes. Themes usually present themselves easily and it helps to condense the findings down, otherwise it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the volume of responses.

We then plugged the themes into a ‘Synthesis Wall’. We used this tool to view all our key findings from discovery workshops side by side. It helps us to visualise the rich picture of the current situation for preventative services. From this we then pulled key issues and areas that needed further investigation and put them into a chronological timeline. This timeline was a combination of the service’s process and the core areas that needed further work/investigation.

This broke up the work into manageable chunks and created more actionable and specific next steps. It allowed the team to focus on a specific area rather than being distracted by the overwhelming volume of work. Alongside the next steps roadmap, we brainstormed tools that we could use to further understand that area of concentration, such as personas, offer tree mapping, impact mapping and user journeys. This was presented back to the wider team and areas of the roadmap were prioritised.

I am extremely pleased with our discovery sessions to date. Despite my reluctance with the Miro Board I soon caught on and the sessions flowed perfectly. I have yet to see a session with that many participants that allows for equal access and maximum contribution by all. I am a fully-fledged convert of the process and will be using it now for any future major pieces of work.

We required a process that would allow us to reflect on a range of preventative services that were commissioned over a span of several years. Many of these services are valuable and well-loved schemes and providers but we know that we need to evolve and innovate and not get stuck with the status quo. In order to re-commission these services we need an approach that not only helped us re-evaluate what works well and what doesn’t, we wanted to co-produce this with all relevant stakeholders. This discovery process is the first big step for us to do that.

Vincent Fraga

Head of Commissioning & Infrastructure, Adult Social Care, Stockport Council

Next steps

Now that the next steps have been prioritised and the team is set on a mutual goal for the next phase, we can move on to conduct persona workshops with specific focus groups and complete some offer mapping with services. Through these exercises we hope to better understand our end user and identify any gaps and overlaps in provision. We intend to learn from the services and build upon their expertise so that we collaboratively create a better user experience for those who live in Stockport.

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