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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Taking a service design approach can help us all innovate


Renate Kriegler Edwards shares her story on how service design brought remote support practitioners together to discover and develop new ways of working

Attending the Gathering in February 2020 as a speaker, I met Service Design Academy (SDA) at their busy stand. SDA were offering charities the chance to win service design training worth £5,000. Charities were invited to share their problems and the potential impact if they were not addressed. I thought this would be a marvellous opportunity to share the concept and process of service design with my colleagues at Carr Gomm. Service Design places people at the heart of change, using creativity to solve problems. I wasn’t sure my problem statement was what SDA had in mind, but I had my fingers crossed when I handed my entry in.

Carr Gomm is committed to listening to staff, learning from each other to maintain our leading edge in social care. Our Futures programme actively promotes innovation and creativity in the workforce.

As a Carr Gomm national service, Futures is based centrally in Edinburgh. I was concerned that Futures wasn’t reaching and engaging our more remote and isolated frontline workers. Many of our workers spend their days driving between appointments, hardly ever seeing their colleagues. It was so frustrating that we struggled to reach the very people whose voices we needed to hear!

I was thrilled when I got the call that we would be collaborating with the Service Design Academy. Although Covid-19 struck only weeks later, we continued to plan our sessions as the SDA repurposed all their live learning online.

There was a bit of trepidation and curiosity when I shared that we would be working with SDA.  The biggest challenge was to arrange for support practitioners in small services to be relieved from their rotas to join in these discussions that were all about them. But regional and local managers were supportive, and several support practitioners were up for the adventure.

The workshops were facilitated energetically and creatively by the SDA team. They used the digital tool Miro, an online whiteboard space to learn and to express ideas with each other. It gives everyone an equal voice.  All insights can be recorded and re-explored after the session.

The workshop programme was co-designed with a small group representing Carr Gomm’s national service to agree initial problem statements and logistics. A Joining Journey was created for participants to practice with Miro so we could all feel comfortable using it during the workshops.

The main sessions were amazing! I knew many of the issues for frontline workers, but it was so incredibly important to sit down together and learn to listen properly to their lived experience.

The group was introduced to the key principles of design, including the importance of working in the problem space rather than jumping straight to solutions. “Don’t Make Assumptions” is a mantra.

Using a variety of tools to capture knowledge, people reviewed themes and formed smaller workgroups. We then moved to understand our problem more deeply by undertaking user research. We learned techniques on questioning and how to listen well. The groups practised their interviewing skills and gathered more data outside the classroom, with “cheerful chats” back at work with colleagues.

This interview data was collated and then we were guided by the consultants on how to generate ideas towards co-designing prototypes.

SDA have a positive approach which empowered the group. They helped us frame problems by encouraging us to think “how might we ……….?”

The impact of using service design has been immediate and will help us going forward. I will use the toolkit again and again for idea generation and implementing actions.

I always knew that Futures was a service to Carr Gomm, but this has helped me to articulate that we are there to design better ways of working with, not just for each other. 

Next steps

  • Five prototypes are now ready to trial, including open door sessions, to help demystify Futures, promoting our “no staff idea is too big, too small or too unformed” message.
  • The experience led to a reflection on how innovation may help shape and deliver Carr Gomm’s next three-year strategic plan.
  • We’re encouraging teams to regroup around their prototypes. Staff are encouraged to submit proposals that will be considered by the appropriate team - even at exec level.
  • Reflecting in my own group on how Futures may bring more fun to the workplace, I was led back to an existing Futures idea – to implement Joy in Work. My frontline colleague Claire and I are now proposing a campaign where we invite staff to nominate “Joyworkers” – colleagues who do little things to make the work-day easier or more enjoyable for others.
  • We hope to create a more deliberate process of gathering evidence from Futures projects, which will help close the funding loop.
  • Our learning will also support Carr Gomm’s ambitious digital inclusion strategy.

More than anything else, the workshops have led to improved communication, insight, reflection, empathy and collaboration between the central teams and local services. As someone driving innovation, I feel invigorated and inspired. The participants enjoyed being creative, having pride in what they achieved and learned. Particularly so for support practitioners, this was a profoundly different experience. Our collaboration with Service Design Academy is something to build on for sure.

Renate Kriegler Edwards is futures manager at Carr Gomm



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