On 26th March 2021, we dusted off DOTI after a pandemic-induced hiatus and hosted Design on the Inside: Digital Innovation in Social Care. 

It was a chance to celebrate the work of the Social Care Digital Innovation Programme, which we’ve been collaborating on with the Local Government Association and NHS Digital for the past two years. 

The aims of the programme are:

  • To use the principles of service design to address social care problems.
  • To develop collaborative, innovative and person-led solutions.
  • To measure the benefits and share learning and practice to encourage wider action.

DOTI was a chance to showcase the awesome work of four councils who’ve been part of the programme and have been designing and delivering essential social care services amidst the pandemic: Camden, Derbyshire, Kirklees and North Somerset. 

We were thrilled to have 101 people attend; across private, public and third sector organisations in the UK and other places in the world! 

Enabling people to live independent healthy lives with digital innovation

We kicked off the day with a short intro from Liam Hinselwood from Snook, Edmund Willis from the Local Government Association and Jackie Harris from NHS Digital. Jackie told us that they’d identified digital innovation as an enabler for people to live independent, healthy lives. The programme itself uses service design tools to support councils to deliver key services. 

Next, we heard about the projects that each of the councils have been working on. 

  • Sarah Hill from Kirklees council shared their work which gives service users and carers access to information about their care services and greater control
  • Jessica Lawson and Shallom Sithole from Camden council showed us their new service Plan Ahead which has been developed with the support of Snook. Plan Ahead aims to increase independent travel across London and was co-produced with older adults and those with learning disabilities. Shallom walked us through a live demo of their new mapping tool, which uses visual aids to prompt familiarity.
  • Natalie Davidson from Derbysire council presented the council’s work on implementing digital tools to assess people’s needs for special equipment or adaptations to their homes. This work started due to an appetite for change, alongside a rising confidence in technology.  These factors are underpinned by the fact that adult care is increasingly underfunded, so cost-saving is necessary
  • Finally, we heard from Fiona Shergold and John Vowles from North Somerset council. They explained that hydration in care homes is a national issue. In their discovery phase, they’d identified that users were not choosing drinks they liked, and therefore not being hydrated. They walked us through an app they have developed that gives people living in care homes a choice of drinks and supports staff to understand their needs and preferences.

Fireside chats: Exploring themes in depth 

After the presentations, we moved on to our fireside chats: informal, candid conversations between two speakers about a theme in depth. 

In the first fireside chat, we listened to Jessica from Camden council and John from North Somerset council talk about how they found co-production in person and at a distance.

The in-person benefits were clear: Jessica explained the importance of using physical prototypes in testing sessions and John highlighted how users were able to talk more freely when engaged in a relaxing crafting session. They agreed that nothing replicates face-to-face for initial contact, but that once a relationship is formed, the digital benefits of remote working – time saving, people being more reliant on themselves, the use of digital tools – are clear. 

Our second fireside chat, between Sarah from Kirklees council and Natalie from Derbyshire council considered the challenges and opportunities within moving to remote services whilst working remotely. Sarah explained that they recognised from their discovery phase there was an appetite for a digital self-service – not to replace the face-to-face.

Natalie shared that a silver lining of COVID was highlighted through their work as it thrust adult social care to delivering reviews over the telephone, increasing their capacity drastically. 

Questions from the audience are so important

Thank you to our brilliant audience for your questions throughout. These sparked rich discussions between speakers on the ‘digital divide’: as services are increasingly moving online, how do we support those who have less access?

One audience member emphasised the need for projects like this to be more joined-up on a national scale: to share learnings and best practise between councils. 

If you weren’t able to make it, here is a recording.

We hope to see you at the next DOTI event. Keep your eyes peeled on the Snook Twitter for updates.

31 Mar 2021


  • Health
  • Local government
  • Transport