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    How a Design Thinking Project Might Impact Thousands of Young Peoples Lives – Part 1

    Part 1 of the case study that changed my life and gave me purpose.

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      Vaughan Broderick

      Vaughan Broderick


      This article describes my final MBA consulting project for the social services sector in New Zealand.

      This is one of my proudest achievements – potentially impacting the lives of thousands of young people in care, by enabling the opportunity for their story and voice to become taonga (treasure), through the innovation and digital transformation of Life Storybooks.

      He Tangata, he tangata, he tangata (the people, the people, the people)

      The Innovation Challenge

      The Life Storybook App Project was an idea from a collective of care providers to digitally transform hardcopy Life Storybooks. The care providers provide support for people with a range of intellectual and physical needs.

      Life Storybooks have been a proven Social Work practice for decades and have their roots in therapy for traumatised young people. Additionally, they offer a way to help develop self-image, increase connection and understanding between young people, Support Workers and Whanau (family).

      The difficulty with hard copy books is that they are extremely resource-intensive and in an environment that experiences high caseloads, often dealing with urgent matters and having limited resources Life Storybooks have not become widespread.

      The problem was that in the social services sector there are significant resource constraints.

      Regardless, Life Storybooks are seen as best practice and a way of helping young people heal and develop a positive narrative, although given the constraints the books are not widely created.

      The Design Thinking Project Approach

      The project utilised Design Thinking and Lean Start-up approaches through the phases of Discovery, Understanding, Creating, Testing, Resourcing and Implementing.

      Co-design was central to the work, with care experienced people, young people in care, Support Workers, foster parents, parents, Social Workers and Managers all collaborating in the project.

      Additionally, we have sought Māori (indigenous person of Aotearoa/New Zealand) perspectives from within academia, health and a local Iwi (tribe).

      Also, governmental agencies have contributed to and remained engaged with the work including several experiential walk-throughs of the work that remains on display at the world recognised Canterbury District Health Board Design Lab.

      Design Thinking - Discovery and Understanding Phases

      During the Discovery and Understanding Phases, we used interviews and observations as the primary research combined with desktop analogous research.

      When sense-making within the Understanding Phase, we used affinity maps, personas, empathy maps and user journey storyboards.

      We found that the deep need of young people was trust and connection so that their lives can positively change and result in acceptance, belonging, self-worth, pride and hope.

      Support workers need a way to easily collaborate on the young people’s stories that encourages trust and connection to enable better outcomes because the current system is ambiguous and ad-hoc.

      Reframing the project goal into – ‘How might we create a collaborative life story system that encourages trust and connection’ we leveraged several bright spots – goodwill, extreme users organically finding ways to create their own storybook, motivation to improve the current state.

      Design Thinking - Creating and Testing Phases

      The Creating and Testing Phases involved iteratively increasing the fidelity of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) from hand-drawn sketches through to a working app using a no-code platform based on user feedback gathered in feedback grids.

      We tested the MVP in-person (having the user engage with the app) and in a real-world pilot within two of the care organisations.

      We found that while there was high desirability, the environmental factors for Support Workers meant that adoption of the app was limited to 25%

      Subsequently, we have completed a 2nd pilot with improved onboarding and a focus on implementation (emerged as the key phase for success), further iteration and continued elevation of the app (team discussions) within the support workers day resulting in increased use of the app to 73%, sustained engagement, and over 355 images uploaded throughout the seven-week pilot.

      We have proven that support workers are able to incorporate the app within their busy day.

      Family members took part in the 2nd Pilot and have endorsed us to continue with the project that enabled them to ‘see what their loved one is up to’ and ‘see the good work of the support workers’.

      Additionally, there are several recounts of staff engaging with young people over the app, young people talking about their day and showing with pride a photo.

      Also, staff and family members added historical photos to build the ‘richness’ of the young person story.

      Enjoyed Part 1? You can read Part 2 here.