Participatory service design

These are some notes from some sessions at Industry Day of the Participatory Design Conference, held for the first time ever in the Southern Hemisphere at UTS 28 November to 3 December 2010. From the conference website:

Participation is the complex, contested, changing, creative and celebratory core of participatory design. The theme calls us to explore the current and emerging equivalents to the pioneering Participatory Design focus on involving people in the introduction of technology into their work. This PDC will take up the challenge of extending the design approaches and understandings of participation that informed the first 20 years of Participatory Design towards those that were needed to enable the field to continue to generate major innovations in design in the future.

Shaping Practice – Mariesa Nicholas, Inspire Foundation (Industry Day keynote) A youth suicide prevention program.

Wordle: Participatory Service Design
They built their service by having youth design it themselves. Participation is used there to promote mental health & wellbeing. Involvement of youth is seen as critical to the success of the service.

How Inspire’s practice is shaped (principles):

1. Being flexible and responsive

· Completed a year long evaluation on impact, service development & health/well-being

· Diversity of youth reflected to increase engagement

· ROMP (reach out to an MP) uses social networks

· RO has youth reporters telling stories.

· Hard to reach groups are specifically targetted.

· Using social technology to take message to youth (they use Habbo Face-to-face workshops proved unpopular, but Habbo was! People waited up to an hour to get access to a 15 minute facilitated online discussion in Habbo.

2. Communicate openly & often

· Very important & often forgotten

· Youth are OK not to be involved in all decisions, but want to understand reasoning, and need to know their role (else they get frustrated and cynical). Also want to know who else is involved & they want updates. Process must be transparent.

· Empowerment is important for youth or they become cynical

· Must be clear and open! Tokenism is to be avoided at all costs

· Mistakes: roles were not clear/checked; participants not kept updated; mistakes not addressed publicly (this is seen as a good thing).

· Conversion of one-of participants to engaged participants is important & then they become involved longer term.

· Frank & personal communications are important to build trust & genuine relationships.

3. Building a foundation for sustainable participation

· This offers opportunities for professional development is important for young leaders

· Barriers were removed to (to becoming a Youth Ambassador) in order to increase diversity & improve participation but it didn’t translate to much long term participation . . .

· The emphasis on just letting users take the initiative (alone) was wrong. Inspire found they had to provide structure & direction

· Formal staff-led programs were important

· Being a youth ambassador (YA) was seen as a privilege (so opening it up to all took away status)

· There is potential for some YAs to become over-commitment/invested and this isn’t healthy – staff needed to manage these challenges

4. Participation is properly resourced

· Not a hobby or something to do in your spare time

· It needs the resources it deserves

· Initially they underestimated what was needed including time

· Participation is difficult, does not come naturally, is costly and it is complex. But the benefits are potentially great.

· Staff training was very necessary & the appreciation of time to engage youth were underestimated.

· Effective participation isn’t spontaneous or a natural process (something that just happens of its own accord)

5. Fostering a culture that values participation

· This is the secret to their success

· Inclusiveness is an organisation value

· Everyone participates in this including the CEO and they enjoy that part of their work.

· Leading by example is very important and valued by colleagues

· They include a youth rep on interview panels – to identify people (staff) who relate to, and work well with youth. (Maybe we could at least try that too with students on panels for reference librarians?)

· They have surveyed stakeholders: and the YA program is central to meaningful participation

· Staff & youth seek opportunities and improve their work

Concluding remarks

The leading mental health service in Australia is ReachOut now.

Inspire now has program, research & policy and consulting arms.

Staff get an extra week annual leave called “reflection leave” – how can it be introduced into other not-for-profit organisations?

They are now also consulting to the NFP sector & Government

They have an “exit strategy” for young people post 25 & they’re developing an alumni program (as advocates) – “setting them free” is seen as critical.

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