We turned 10, so we’ve been celebrating and reflecting on everything we’ve learnt along the way. And of course, we’re always looking forward – thinking about how we’ll build for the next 10 years. 

Firstly, we became part of the Northgate Public Services family. This move gives Snook the opportunity not only to scale as a company but to scale our impact. From discovery to build, Snook is now positioned to go deeper into projects and work on large scale services from national policing and control rooms to the benefits system. 

We also went through a strategic re-brand. This wasn’t about just designing a new logo. We wanted to find new ways to talk about and re-define our purpose. It’s allowed us to better articulate why we’re here and act as the starting point for defining our missions and culture.

 We’ve worked on too many projects to write something about all of them. So we’ve cherry-picked some highlights here, aligned with our mission areas. We hope they convey something of the breadth and depth of our work and our commitment to making the world more human.

Thriving Planet

In April, after an inspiring Design on the Inside (DOTI) event, about sustainable environmental action, we set up the Design+Climate Community.  The aim is to work collaboratively with the wider community of designers and related disciplines to develop ways of considering the environment at every stage of the design process. We’ve started in Glasgow and London and are looking for people to host in cities and towns across the world next year. If you’re interested in joining us and seeing what we can do together, click here.

We’re currently working with Climate-KIC, supporting them to develop and test their ideas for organisation design as they reorganise around their new mission. Design-led approaches have played an important role in making sure they have the internal functions and structure that will enable them to continue delivering important climate innovation work.

DOTI Fest 2019 was a platform for honest, system-wide conversation and collaboration which was designed to embody our commitment to environmental awareness. We wanted to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, so as well as lining up a whole day of amazing speakers, workshops, forums and fun we made sure that everything from the breakfast pastries to the name tags and decorations was sourced zero-waste, recycled and reusable.

People discussing something at DOTI Fest 2019

DOTI Fest 2019

Next-era Government

In April we led a discovery with OpenCommunity, a group of local authorities pioneering data standards for community services. Off the back of our research, there are now 10 councils actively piloting implementing the standards to help people find services that help them live a fair, healthy and equal life.  A great example of the Local Digital Declaration to #fixtheplumbing in action. The real benefits and savings of standards adoption will come from improved availability and quality of data about community services. Better access could play an important role in preventative health and social care.

People have joked that digital should be the basis of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – over food, water, shelter, and warmth – but in fact, there is evidence that people do prioritise connectivity over essentials and comfort. The importance that refugees attach to owning a mobile phone is a reminder of that. As more public services go online, digital exclusion is expected to drive inequality gaps. We worked with the Scottish government on a report which concludes that the seamless integration of digital and human engagement is essential as Scottish public services expand.

Good Business

We’ve been working with a global company that delivers around 100 services in areas ranging from defence contracts to leisure facilities. They wanted to improve the catering service they provide to large institutions like schools, hospitals and universities. We focused on a higher education college in the UK, conducting research and co-design with students and the client. We’ve come up with prioritised recommendations based on feasibility and the areas that align with their business plan. Like the work we’re doing with Climate-KIC, the focus on enabling them to adopt user-centred design as the way they do business as usual is key. We help organisations to develop these capabilities in-house.

Healthy Lives

We’ve worked on several projects that address the impact on young people’s health of poverty and the increased demand for mental health support. 

Not all of those eligible to receive free school meals actually get them. We worked with pupils in Scotland to understand their experiences of school lunches whilst also seeing how the Child Poverty (Scotland) 2017 Act gets implemented on the ground. Ultimately we wanted to see how we could make a difference – effectively working to flip the benefits model on its head by bringing services to people instead of waiting for people to come to services. 

Meanwhile, in London, we worked with Hammersmith and Fulham to address the impact of food poverty on children and young people. We went out to communities and engaged with local volunteers, residents and children to research, co-design solutions and start building an alliance. We’re now working to explore how these ideas can be delivered in practice and to ensure the alliance continues to flourish after the project. In order to tackle the root causes, we’re supporting staff in children’s services to connect with other parts of the council to harness existing resources and explore how to improve the whole system response.

We’re working in partnership with Barnado’s and Public Policy Lab to develop a library of best-practice guidance for developing digital mental health products for young people.

This is part of the recently launched #RESET online Mental Health funding Programme. We’re thrilled to have partners to go on an open and exploratory journey, to build something new that we hope will ensure that young people can access effective support when they have difficulties with mental health. 

We’ve done a lot of work around mental health over the years, so in the spirit of putting our own oxygen masks on first, we also trained the whole Snook team in both studios to become Mental Health First Aiders.

Communities for All 

One of the ways in which communities thrive is in the work of many volunteer organisations run by and for members of the public in their spare time. This year we achieved a long-held ambition to work with the Scouts! They asked us to look at improving the adult volunteering experience and we sent members of our team out to meet with people all over the UK, often at weekends (because that’s when volunteers are doing their thing). We learnt that Scouts the energy and enthusiasm that drives people to volunteer can lead to burnout or feeling under-appreciated in the end.  We’re currently prototyping solutions to explain the realities of volunteering, open the communication within the Scouts community and help Scouts feel recognised.

We’ve been working with Renfrewshire Council, in partnership with Dartington Service Design Lab and funded by the Life Changes Trust, to ensure all young people in care have their voices heard. We’ve worked with them all the way from user research and co-design through to testing and implementation. Research with young people revealed that good conversations are key enablers for many important decisions in a young person’s care experience. We’re now building a framework to improve the quality of conversations and will be testing a shared resource, co-designed with young people and practitioners to improve care experiences from early 2020.

Another great experience of being involved in creating a fully built service from research to delivery was with Hackney Council. After finding out that over 50% of applications fail, we worked with them to design and launch a new digital service for household planning applications. We met with planners, citizens and housing experts to understand their needs. In alpha, we developed a series of recommendations and prototypes, designing an end-to-end service using the GDS Design System. In beta, we’ve designed a new data-led service and re-worked the user experience to include dynamic forms to make the submission process easier and effective. 

The next decade is about systems 

As you can see from above, no one project we run is simply a ‘health’ or an ‘environmental’ challenge. As Dahlgren and Whitehead pointed out, your health is connected to your socioeconomic level. Many issues are determined by economic factors or the environment. When we talk about designing a world where people and planet thrive, we recognise this isn’t the challenge of one organisation alone, but a systems challenge.

Our new missions are purposefully wide and we’re proud of that. We want to work across systems in the next decade, working with multiple partners who connect together to build alliances that will tackle the tough inequalities and human and planetary health problems that exist today. 

We’re here for that. If that sounds like something you want to do – get in touch, we’re planning out 2020 and beyond as we type. 

But for now, 2019 has been an epic adventure. We’ve grown in size and impact and are so excited about what we can achieve. 2020 will see both the London and Glasgow offices moving to new premises. We’ve got big plans to do even more with DOTI (watch this space) and tons of exciting project work coming in. 

But now it’s time to turn off the laptop and have a well-earned break. We hope you’ll be enjoying a relaxing, joyful, harmonious holiday and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

See you in January 2020!