As a result of research that IRISS conducted on the state of innovation and improvement in Scottish social services sector, key barriers to innovation emerged. A lack of time, finance and political interests were the three main barriers that were reported by the sector – maintaining the status quo rather than focusing on the needs of service users.

This project is exploring how co-productive methods can be used in the social services sector to use resources differently and consider how this process may effect the status quo by involving service users and care leavers in the re-design of existing services. It will explore – with the Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum, (STAF) Argyll and Bute Council, IRISS, Snook, practitioners and care leavers  – what a co-productive approach could look like and yield in the social work sector, and create and develop ideas so that they can be piloted and tested by the service providers who come into contact with the young people leaving care services.

The first of six workshops kicked off yesterday. We focused on introducing the basics of service design and blueprinting so when we come to blueprinting their own journey through the leaving care service the concept won’t be completely new to them.
We introduced prototyping in a very simple way. After all, it is just a really simple cheap way of testing ideas. Asking the question ‘when was the last time you prototyped?’ we introduced familiar things we all do every day like travelling!

“Would you cycle, get a lift, walk with friends or catch the bus?
It is likely you have tried more than one of these modes of transport before.  Every time you try a new route or a new vehicle you are prototyping – testing something new!
You wouldn’t jump on a bus for the first time if you were running late because that would be risky. You test things out when things are nice and simple so you are better prepared for your next journey. When was the last time you prototyped a journey?”

We collected words and phrases to capture how the group felt about prototyping:

Today was undoubtedly the most sensitive environment we have ever worked in. Our approach to start very basic worked very well in the outset but slowly but surely became too abstract for the young people to relate to. Naturally, they have much more pressing issues to think about so it was difficult to keep their attention at times. Nevertheless, the day ended on a high as the participants felt they had ‘designed a new service’.

Entering any environment to deal with a sensitive subject is difficult, however what was unusual in this instance was the diversity of the group. In an afternoon where we had representation from the likes of the health sector, housing, social work, social care, Skills Development Scotland, STAF, as well as the care leavers themselves, trying to manage the expectations made the task all the more challenging. This wasn’t just a unique situation for us, but for all the service providers who attended – and they admitted it really made them think differently!

Toward the end of the workshop, this was summarised perfectly:

“This many service providers around a table with young people…that never happens”

For us there are big questions designers need to ask themselves as a industry around entering such sensitive and political environments… ( more thoughts on that coming up ) but for now as always, we strive to adapt what might have worked better and have evaluated this to ensure the knowledge we gained from this experience reflects how we approach future workshops.

It was great to hear that Snook’s input was valued as we were there with no agenda, no political involvement and we genuinely wanted to support this project.You can keep up to date with this project from IRISS’s point of view here.

We are very excited to be involved in collaboratively designing emotional and social support for care leavers!