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17 Apr 2019

Co-design with Camden Care Leavers


Co-design with Camden Care Leavers

As a graphic designer I can often be found sat at my computer with photoshop in front of me, mouse to my right, biscuits to my left (optional but statistics prove I’m more productive with chocolate).
So it may surprise you to know that this isn’t the start of the design process when embarking on a new app or website. As much as I want our digital solutions to look good, they must also serve their purpose successfully and appeal to the intended user. Sometimes this means leaving my computer behind.

When our friends at Camden Council asked focusgov to deliver an app design workshop to care leavers, I couldn’t wait to get started. You’d be forgiven for thinking I don’t get out much (you’d also be right!) but that wasn’t the only reason. We want to give care leavers an app they will really want to use and turn to for guidance.
The Care Leavers App (CLA) helps local authorities meet their duties as corporate parents. It is down to them to make sure care leavers are aware of the services available to them in their immediate area. The CLA simplifies the publishing of this information which includes health, accommodation, education and more.

Not all digital agencies host workshops. I could simply google what it is professionals think care leavers want or need and (not to toot my own horn but) from that I could design a great looking app that works as myself and similar others think it should (toot toot!). But we’re not the ones who will need to regularly use it, care leavers are. So I waved goodbye to Bristol and boarded the train to Camden to go and meet who all this is for.

Fast forward past the bit where I’m nearly taken out by a refreshments trolley and stop at the part where I’m in a room full of youthful strangers, many of whom are avoiding eye contact in fear of having to speak to me, some beginning to doubt whether they even want to be there at all. That’s often how it starts but never how it ends. By the time the session is over they are all wanting to speak at once, desperate to contribute their amazing ideas and there were even some hovering at the end to talk, asking if there’ll be another session. 

Even at 30-something I find it strange to be the one at the front of the classroom expected to play teacher, so I don’t. I’m there to learn from them. And I make sure they know how valued they are. I steer the session of course, we talk about apps they currently use and why, preferred imagery, use of language, tone of voice and so on. The app name brainstorming was a real hit and I was incredibly impressed by the ideas they were coming up with. Once put to the vote we had a winning name which is… a secret. It’s far too good to give away so soon!

One of the things I love most about being a part of focusgov is that I work with people who really care about why we do what we do. So If I’m given the chance to make young care leavers realise just how much they matter and how important their point of view is, I’ll jump at it. Yes, guidance within ‘The Children and Social Work Act 2017’ states that the Local Offer should be co-produced through consultation with users but we wouldn’t want it any other way! How can we come up with a solution to help a specific audience without a clear understanding of what it is that they want? The users needs are at the centre of good design and I consider it an honour to have the opportunity to work alongside them.


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