What makes an engaging service design workshop?

That was what I contemplated going into the second of six redesigning leaving care workshops the intention of which is to blueprint the aftercare care service, extract insights, challenges and opportunities, create ideas, prototype these, test them and substantiate all of this to create design solutions that improve the existing social and emotional support that care leavers receive.

From feedback last week, the group suggested a few ideas as to what would make a better workshop – amongst other things was more movement, more breaks and more irn-bru. This we could do. Easily. However what became more of an enigma was what to do to really capture and engage the group.

If you read last weeks blog, you’ll know we used quite a few service design tools to work though examples of stages the group would come across over the coming weeks, concept generation, prototyping, blueprinting etc – this was imperative, we wouldn’t have succeeded with future workshops without it – but what we found was that by making the decision to go along to this workshop with extra post it notes instead of a large clean blueprint, we were able to engage in conversation much more freely, therefore creating deeper and richer insights within the group.

In one room Lauren and Chris worked with the care leavers, and I spent the first part of the day observing an exercise that Pamela Graham from STAF had suggested might be useful to introduce to the service provides.

The purpose of the exercise was to take the service provides to a place where they were thinking on the same level with the care leavers (metaphorically speaking obviously) – back to their own childhood. Pamela led this conversation, hurtling through her past from the age of 15-25 and documenting her key life experiences and moments of transition. She then asked the group to do the same. We ended up with 6 stories, one as different as the next.

Pamela then introduced two new characters to the group – Pedro and Tallulah, both care leavers and both with equally individual stories. The objective was to consider what experiences these care leavers might have that differ to a ‘regular’ young person, essentially collaborating all the experiences and support that the group had as they grew up and considering this in relation to how the experience might contrast to that of a care leaver.

It was an exceptionally rich process which created a lot of interesting debate. Perhaps the most thought provoking of which was that the entire group agreed that they didn’t actually “find-themselves” until they were at least 25. They were able to make mistakes because they knew that if something did go wrong, they had a support network to fall back on.

Care leavers in Scotland (generally speaking) leave care at 18, many much earlier – so the question was raised that if individuals with a stable upbringing were still finding their feet at around the age of 25 what would it be like for an 18 year old care leaver to negotiate this territory alone?

Elsewhere, behind the sliding sound proofed wall of the 3 Villages Community Centre, Arrochar, the care leavers were busy working to develop a story of their own.

They created Jemimia.

Jemima was an amalgamation of ideas and experiences that the care leavers crafted to develop a detailed persona.

Brining the groups back together we began to discuss what each had worked.

From here (after a break of course) we moved onto a user journey through Jemima’s life. Taking the Jemima’s story and beginning to discuss her journey from 15-25, specifically looking to address what key experiences she might go through, and at which point relevant service providers would communicate with her.

This is where it got really interesting. Once we started creating debate around the expectations that each service has of the next, and its users have of the service, the insights, opportunities and challenges came out in bunches. The intention had been to get through Jemima’s entire story, but the conversations that were happening around the room meant that we only made it a few years down the timeline – we’ll finish the rest next week.

So back to the first question – what makes an interesting service design workshop? Myearly vote: facilitating group discussions in an environment where everyone recognises that through speaking freely and openly about concerns, experiences and ideas we can create hugely valuable insights and opportunities to work with.

Put simply, a group of open minded people with no agenda, talking as equals.

Oh, and biscuits.