Thames Valley Housing

Homes in development: a programme designed by Snook

Working with Thames Valley Housing Association to understand future resident needs from services when living in a high-density environment and to build in-house service design capabilities.

Resident services of the future

This project focused on understanding future residents’ needs from Thames Valley Housing Association (TVH) services and the built environment. In particular this was  focused upon two potential new build sites at varying stages of development.

This project was also focused on building the service design capacity within their organisation by developing their team, and expanding these skills throughout the  organisation.

We built a 12-week programme, working alongside the TVH Service Design team, senior leaders from IT, housing, and customer services. Furthermore,  we undertook user research across two future development sites in Thames Valley.

The goal was twofold.

  1. To understand future needs, and design services that could be effectively run by Thames Valley.
  2. Showcase the way  the organisation can run agile design sprints in the future and develop their internal service design capability.

We researched across five user groups, and various housing developments in London. From the user needs and insights identified, we were able to start co-designing solutions with residents that met the needs of both users and staff.

Building the capacity for Service Design

We worked with TVH to establish and build capacity within Thames Valley Housing first in-house Service Design team.

We did this by working with the Service Design team members and guiding them through the project, providing support, training, and knowledge sharing throughout. Working on a live project gave the team the opportunity to learn and practice service design approaches and methodologies in real time, whilst solving problems that would improve the lives of TVH residents.

Our approach was open and we spent two days a week on-site, working closely with the in-house team.

Working with the front line service providers

We spent time working internally with staff to understand how they currently service residents. We undertook this research so we could fully understand what services can be improved and delivered in the future.

We shadowed call handlers and service support teams, and mapped processes ranging  from sales teams into resident on-boarding. Through this work, we found lots of smaller issues that could be fixed as well as establishing an understanding of the infrastructure in regards to future service delivery.

What did we find?

We understood how user needs change when people live in higher density buildings. Furthermore we discovered how services can be tailored to compliment the physical space they reside in.  We built five service propositions based on these emerging needs.

One example of an fast emerging need was around package delivery services. Many of the buildings that we visited were not fully equipped to cater for packages to be delivered to a residents door. Some properties have a delivery room but often things can go missing from these shared spaces and that’s if the courier can access this space to begin with.

We even heard stories of residents ordering large items to work and then struggling to carry these back on public transport, due to the fact that they had no other way of receiving their deliveries safely. We worked with users to understand what the main issues are currently and how possible solutions could be implemented in the future to better meet this need. For example using Amazon lockers or local pick up points when physical space is limited would provide a solution for residents.

Future user-centred services from Thames Valley

From our research, we synthesised user insights into high-level propositions and mapped how viable they were within Thames Valley Housing.

Our ideas ranged from policy considerations on pets to how concierge services would work in the future, onboarding concepts around first-day internet services, shared public spaces, to how laundry is handled in a public building. We supported TVH to narrow the concepts down and build first prototypes of the solutions.

  • I had to wait a year for an inspection before I was allowed to decorate my flat.
    Tenant, research participant

One of the concepts we presented to the board was a system to support residents to personalise their homes and corridor spaces in the lead up to a rental period or as an existing tenant. Social rented residents had communicated that the quality of communal hallways was poor, and talked about having the opportunity to personalise the interior of the home with a choice of colours, kitchens, and carpets. We developed an idea called ‘My Home’ which was  a digital service/ This would help the residents to have a sense of ownership, and pride by personalising both internal and communal spaces.

We delivered…

Service propositions

We created five potential work streams that have undergone concept evaluation. Each of these have a ‘Do/ Next / Vision’ ; a model that ensures next steps are clear, actionable, and deliver the service into the next stages of implementation. Some of these workstreams are currently being pushed further.

User needs library

We worked to define the specific needs of residents from the current TVH service and the built environment, and to capture un met needs. For example ‘ As a resident I need to know that my parcels will be stored so that I can receive packages when I am not at home’. We then created the initial framework for a digital user needs library.

Strategic recommendations

We led the creation of a range of strategic recommendations, such as ‘Residents don’t want 5 points of contact. They would like a single point of contact who will speak to relevant TVH departments, removing the need to explain every previous case’ from the user research gathered. These insights have the ability to be used across a wide range of TVH workstreams. These have been most recently used as part of a strategic housing Pilot.

Capacity Building

We built confidence, understanding and relationships within the service design team and the wider organisation. Through conducting regular show & tells and lunch & learns we were able to bring in the wider organisation to feed insight into the project as well as building further understanding within the organisation about the importance of a user centered approach.

What’s next..

Snook co-designed a series of workshops with the Service Design Team to further build the internal team process, team design principles and a team manifesto. Helping the team to structure how they work together and with the wider organisation to achieve a further user focused organisation.

The TVH service design team are now on to their next challenge, and making fantastic progress.  We are continuing to support the team with some mentoring, providing a helping hand to the project, and some high level strategic support at key stages throughout the project.


  • Introducing design disciplines into an organisation for the first time means challenging existing paradigms and all of the complication which comes with that. Snook are able to see organisational change alongside the projects which act as the catalyst, so that together we were able to establish a new design team within an organisational context and explore more fully the opportunities which this opened up.
    John Baldwin, Housing & Neighbourhood Services Director
  • We are a new team that have come together because we are passionate about designing services that reflect our users needs. We were fortunate to have Snook work with us in a mentoring capacity rather than running the project for us. The guidance, help and support offered have been invaluable as we find our own way of doing things. The experience and insight provided by Snook has given our team the confidence we needed.

    Tracey Allen, Senior Service Designer

Looking to build a further user focused organisation

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