The view from here: analysis



We were delighted with the wealth of data received from those participating in the project. This, however, made knowing where to start with analysis a little tricky!

After much deliberation, we decided to start our analysis with the ‘reflection points’ (at the end of the recording week, we had asked participants to add a colour coded sticker next to text or diagrams that reflected: one thing they were proud of, one thing that stood out for them (good or bad), one thing they wished they could change and one thing that they wanted to tell their manager). It seemed apt to start with these reflections as these were the points that the participants themselves had identified as being most important after reflecting on their week.

In order to analyse this data, we firstly transcribed each of the indicated quotations and then pulled out relevant themes. We then checked the internal validity of these themes by having another team member sense-check them according to their interpretation. We were then able to discuss any differences of opinion as well as settling on the best ‘term’ for the themes that we thought were emerging. This analysis was then used as a frame for a sense-checking event we ran directly with participating practitioners (checking external validity) on 11th March.

Sense checking event

Everyone who had taken part in the project was invited to come along to a session to help us make sense of the data received. Those who had participated in the work came from far and wide across Scotland, and so we were pleased that approximately a quarter of participants were able to come along on the day. We encouraged participants to bring any curious managers along with them on the day, although only a few took up this option.

The aims of the day were to:

  • give an overview of the early findings from the project
  • provide the opportunity to talk and share with others who participated in the project
  • get to know each other better
  • work together to sense-check the findings so far
  • generate ideas about what to do with the data
  • generate ideas about what to do next

After giving a broad overview and introduction to the day, we got straight into understanding the themes from the data.

In order to facilitate discussion around this, for each ‘reflection point’ we pulled out quotes relating to each of the pre-identified themes and had them available for participants to read and interpret. We discussed these quotes as a group and finally asked participants to:

  1. choose the quote that resonated most with their experience
  2. to write a note about why this was the case
  3. rate on a scale from ‘way off’ to ‘spot on’ how much the data resounded with their overall experience of delivering care and support.


An overview of the conversations that emerged is outlined below.

One thing that you are proud of

Our analysis:

Overwhelmingly we felt that that the data indicated that key pride-inducing moments were centred around working with the people they support and seeing improvement or building relationships.  We broke this down into two key areas (1) seeing service user progression/ surpassing expectations and (2) building relationships (this involved elements such as building trust and open dialogue).

Although it was clear that many practitioners were trying to do their best to support people, and that many were moving towards outcomes, there definitely still seemed to be a focus on tasks (things that practitioners do) and activities (things that people who are supported do), rather than outcomes.  We were interested to tease this out at the event to see if practitioners made the same distinction.

At the event:

All in all, as you might imagine, people really enjoyed talking about this subject!  However, it was continually repeated that practitioners felt like they had to rely on personal pride to know that they are doing a good job. There was discussion that praise is often focused on tasks achieved/ undertaken rather than being focused on relationship building.

Themes that emerged and that corroborated our initial analysis included:

  • Importance of rapport

The issue of building strong relationships was most frequently shared. There was a general consensus that it takes to establish a trusting relationship with a person. Practitioners felt there was a direct relationship between developing a strong rapport with a person and that person’s general well-being, progress and quality of life.

  • ‘Being’ and ‘doing’

In terms of the distinction we’d made in our analysis around ‘outcomes’ and ‘activities’ practitioners at the event highlighted that often there was a disconnect between the outcomes that had been set and the activities that they undertook with the person (this was particularly true for the administration of medication). They felt that this might be due to the fact that often the outcomes are set were negotiated by people other than those who deliver the care.

Practitioners also interpreted the difference between ‘outcomes’ and ‘activities’ differently from us. Instead, they referred to the difference between ‘being’ and ‘doing’ and stated that often they were praised by managers for the activities and concrete actions that they did with people – rather than the simply ‘being’ and establishing connections with people. There was consensus by the group that the ‘being with’ (acting like family member / developing trust / establishing rapport) is harder to achieve, but it is the underpinning work that enables outcomes to be reached.


One thing you wish you could change

Our analysis:

We felt that there were three key strands emerging from the data on this topic, these included: (1) the emotional impact of the job, (2) concern for circumstances of people supported by services and (3) practical things that would make the job better.

At the event:

Helpfully, the conversation relating to this topic validated the themes we’d initially identified, with some additions and links we possibly hadn’t made. The main discussions always came back to emotional impact of the job, and the group in general used emotive language.

  • Emotional impact of the job

This was the strongest theme in this category. Participants added descriptors of emotions including ‘helplessness’, ‘feeling like you could never do enough’ and ‘feeling like you were sinking’. The group always came back to these feelings. They also talked about this being a reflection of caring about people.

  • Concern for circumstances of service users

This was another strong theme. People spoke more widely about policy and changes broader than their organisation and the ways that impacted on their job. This was linked back to emotional impact and feeling personally responsible/guilty. People also talked in the groups about relationships – knowing the person really well and that being an asset, but also a challenge as they maybe weren’t heard in their role, or because they had become ‘indispensable’ (a reliance they weren’t comfortable with).

  • Practical things that would make the job easier/better

The group didn’t actually speak about terms and conditions (a code that we’d used) – but did discuss working hours a lot. People generally felt ‘staffing’ was a key issue, more than it appeared in the original data. In fact, they felt that staffing was often the route of other issues – like excessive working hours, excessive paperwork.

Another issue that emerged was the challenging relationship with GPs and health professionals, who the practitioners at the event felt had different value bases, and didn’t listen or respect their views. Issues around collaboration appeared more strongly at the event than in the data.


One thing you would like to tell your manager

Our analysis:

This data was difficult to synthesise due to the very personal nature of issues that people wanted to address with their managers. It was also clear from the data that people had varied relationships with management. That said, key themes included: (1) the emotional impact of the job (which were almost equally balanced between negative/positive emotions that they wanted to talk about) (2) wider systems issues that need to be addressed (including very small practical changes that need to be addressed) (3) feeling undervalued by colleagues and managers.

At the event:

It was clear that the themes identified in the pre-analysis were relevant to the group with almost all practitioners thinking that they were ‘spot on’. It was clear from the discussion that the relationship the practitioners have with their managers is one of the defining features of whether or not they are happy in their work. These practitioners thought that the theme that came out most strongly was that of ‘value’ and ‘communication’.

  • Value/ communication

Practitioners felt that ‘not feeling listened to’ or ‘valued’ was a theme that seemed to cross-cut many of the quotes that were provided. In three of the four discussions, practitioners highlighted an awareness of how hard everyone in the sector works, but they felt that managers seemed to forget what it is like to be on the frontline and the type of pressure this work provokes.

Similarly, those who were in attendance frequently sited the disconnect between the pay and conditions that they are offered and how valued they feel. There was an articulated gap between what it is expected that frontline staff will deliver and how they are recompensed for this work. It was felt that frontline workers in social care are generally lower paid than those in other sectors, with terms and conditions that are rarely as good.

  • Sector challenges

More than any other ‘station’ the wider issues affecting health and social care were highlighted here through discussion. Many of the practitioners picked on a particular theme around the sector needing an ‘overhaul’ and highlighting that issues such as funding ( a ‘race to the bottom’) and capacity being at the root of many of the issues that staff present to managers. Again communication was clearly an issue here with the majority of practitioners stating that a lack of communication and honesty around cuts, changes to services, policies make it particularly difficult for them to support people to deliver outcomes. There was the feeling that as there is so much change in the sector it could often be difficult to be clear and consistent with people who are supported.


One thing that stood out the most for you

Our analysis:

Positive reflections

The majority of reflections centred around having quality time with people supported by services and working with them to work towards outcomes. Respondents noted how rewarding this particular element of their work is. Another key positive reflection coming through strongly was the personal achievements of practitioners – this could be anything from seeing progress, to setting up a new service to supporting colleagues well.

Negative reflections

The majority of negative reflections centred around worry or concern for service users. Key to note here that there were quite a few participants (9) who highlighted serious incidents that had happened during the week (such as death or illness). Another significant negative reflection was the amount of paperwork that has to be completed. This seemed to stand out particularly for participants.

Overall, we felt that there was another common theme which focused on ‘attachment’ and ‘professional and personal boundaries’. The data showed many instances of practitioners becoming connected to the people they support, not wanting to ‘hand a case over’, and forming friendships. This, to us, was interpreted as being about how personally invested practitioners were in people’s lives.

At the event:

The most frequently selected quote and recurring theme was that of relationships. Most people felt that they have a relationship with the people they support but that it is one-sided. It was clear that everyone really cared about the people they supported, however, many talked about how they often feel like a ‘fraud’ who pretends to be someone’s friend but doesn’t share the connection. The need for professional boundaries wasn’t discussed, the focus was instead on how it feels to act like someone’s friend but then tell them you aren’t their friend when they cross an invisible boundary. The frustration and emotion around this was clear in the groups.

Most people said that they had experienced death in their role. There was a general feeling that there is little time to be person-centred at the end of someones life, due to the fact that practitioners often had to juggle the person’s emotions, the families’ emotions as well as their own emotions. Practitioners often felt that although necessarily their own emotions often came last, that this could be hard to deal with particularly when they have a deep connection with the people they care for.



The Process

As well as supporting us to make sense of the data, the event was used as an opportunity to check-out how practitioners had felt about taking part in the project, so that we could better understand its impact on them. Overwhelmingly, practitioners felt that it had been a useful exercise to support them to reflect on their work and although most people generally found it hard to fit doing this work into their day, they did so because they were motivated to share their voice/views.

Here are some of the thoughts from those who attended:

Reflecting on self: “You forget about yourself in this job, this project provided me with time to reflect about myself”, “Feedback about your work stops after your probationary period, you don’t get a chance to reflect on your work anymore. This project gave me the chance to do this again.”

Reflecting on the amount and type of work that they do: “my god, what do I do in a day”, “it’s full on”, “difficult to get a break”, “great job, the day goes so quick”

Reflecting on what they value: “Made me appreciate, I like my job and I have autonomy and a passion for it”, “Highlighted my time management: where I am wasting time’ and ‘how much I travel compared to face to face time”

Overall, the majority of people said that their experience of this project was cathartic. In terms of the impact of the project on personal practice, practitioners were generally positive. The majority felt that this should be the sort of reflective process that all practitioners should undertake – two people said they were continuing to use a diary to reflect on their practice – one person said that the prompt cards had prompted reflection on their career trajectory (something they hadn’t thought of before), many others said that they’d generally learned a lot about themselves.

At the sense-making event some practitioners gave us their reflections on The View from Here project.

 What next?

For the last part of the session (before nibbles and networking) we asked practitioners what they’d like to see us do with the wealth of data that we’ve collected and how they’d like the data to be displayed.

There were loads of ideas shared on the day, but a key few were flagged up by the majority:

  1. develop a reflective practice tool
  2. use the data from the diary entries to create something (perhaps a storybook) that tells the tale of frontline practice – (audience: other frontline practitioners)
  3. create a report with infographics to highlight the data visually/accessibiliy. This should enable practitioners and managers, and people more broadly, to understand the experiences of those working closest with those supported by services. (audience: national, managers, policy).

We’ll be taking forward these actions in 2015. Keep in touch for progress!

Update October 2015

The View from Here website is now available.

The View from Here – overview of respondents


About the project

At IRISS, we want to better understand the experiences of staff working closest with people supported by services – those who are supporting people everyday in their homes, in a homely context or in the community.

This project asked people, over one week, to record their experiences of delivering care and support using qualitative, creative methods (sometimes these methods are called ‘cultural probes‘).

Cultural Probe pack

We chose this method because:

  1.  we know that frontline practitioners won’t be at a computer all of the time (and are more likely to be in and out of people’s houses or in the community) so electronic surveys and observation won’t work as well.
  2.  we know that frontline practitioners do a lot of travelling from place to place, so talking to them on the phone was likely to be tough.
  3. we wanted to understand experiences, so qualitative methods are better than quantitative
  4. we wanted to take a ‘deep dive’ into a select number of  cases, rather than take a broad brush overview of a larger sample
  5. this technique allows people to self-report and allows for an element of creativity not possible in standard surveys or interviews.

Overall, 120 people applied to participate and packs were distributed. We received 74 packs back. Here is an overview of the makeup of the group of people who were involved.


Top 5 jobsclient groups

We were really pleased to have almost equal representation from the private, voluntary and public sector – and the spread of the types of support that these practitioners provide is also quite evenly spaced.

The wealth of rich data we received has been overwhelming. We had no idea that participants would warm so well to their task and be able to provide quite as much detail as they did in their diaries and timesheets – for which we are truly grateful.

The data includes:

  • 9 x 74 pieces of information from ‘prompt cards’ – designed to elicit responses on specific topics ranging from ‘work/life balance’ to ‘Support and Supervision’.
  • 74 diaries – designed to give people the luxury of recording anything that they wished
  • 74 timesheets – hourly data on the types of activities that people undertook each day
  • 74 x 24 photographs (and associated ‘tags’ to explain the photographs) designed to encourage people to creatively record the story of their experience
  • 74 x 4 reflection points – in each pack we asked participants to reflect back on their week and to use a sticker to identify: one thing that they were proud of, one thing that stood out for them (good or bad), one thing that they wished they could change, and one thing that they wanted to tell their manager.

We are currently in the early stages of analysis which will involve comparison between responses from each of the sectors, as well as across the different themes that are emerging. After an initial eyeball of the data, we’ve been particularly struck by the complexity of the long-term challenges facing frontline practitioners, as well as their knowledge, tenacity and resilience.

At IRISS, we aspire to being as participatory as possible which is why we have chosen to begin analysis with the reflection points submitted by each of the participants themselves. In essence, we felt that this was using their own identification of important factors from their week as a starting point. We worked together with participants to make sense of this data at an event in March – more coming on this very soon.

Update October 2015

The View from Here website is now available.

Contemporary Coproduction: theory policy and practice (guest blog: Dr Stuart Muirhead)

Contemporary Coproduction: theory policy and practice

Wednesday 18th March, Iris Murdoch Building, University of Stirling

A reflection on the day

The day started well for me with a morning walk through the rather picturesque grounds of the Stirling University Campus. It sits in a prime location at the bottom of the Ochil Hills, and it looked particularly nice on a crisp, sunny morning. This stroll was followed by arrival and a welcome hot coffee, while happily bumping into Claire Lightowler of the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice on the way into the room.

Richard Simmons introduced the day as we got settled and we went straight into a couple of presentations by folk from the University of Birmingham. Catherine Needham explored what we consider as evidence, reminding us of the importance and value of lived experience and practice wisdom, as well as the more formalised evidence we are all perhaps more familiar with. Two things really hit home to me here. Firstly, coproduction must be additive and not substitutive. In other words – we must add value from coproducing, we can’t just fill gaps. Secondly, processes and ways of coproduction can’t just be copied from context to context. These processes shouldn’t be replicated but they should be assimilated into different places.

Next up was Tony ‘Tornado’ Bovaird from INLOGOV and Governance International. He gave a fantastic overview of where value sits in our society – is this in the formalised economy, or is it in the informal and social interactions that we take part in every day? We must re-balance service outcomes, personal outcomes and social capital outcomes. He also highlighted that we have a rich resource base in this country and it is not a lack of resources that we suffer from but a resource matching problem. We need to work with who is up for working together and not ignore the real strengths that exist.

After the break, when I had the chance to talk to Claire Brynner of What Works Scotland, we had two more presentations around the theme of ‘disrupting coproduction’. The first from Julie Christie who is exploring dementia in resilience in her PhD project. She ended with point that really seemed to resonate with the room – is coproduction done with active citizens or does coproduction help in activating citizens? Do the loudest voices get heard? Are these the white middle classes with loudspeakers and a voice this is disproportionately heard by those in power (a point highlighted by Peter Matthews)? Julia Fitzpatrick from Horizon Housing Association was our final speaker of the day and made some extremely pertinent points. The one that hit home with me was that we must not  “equate a place at a table with involvement” – there are always power issues being played out and we must recognise these, and address them. In the following discussion, power came out as a central theme, and there was a reminder given that coproduction should be about increasing social justice and equality – just as public services should be.

After our impressive lunch of bento boxes and fruit we started enacting a bit more coproduction during the day. We went into a World Cafe with groups moving about the room. Each group started with a question and the discussion was recorded by a scribe. As the groups moved round every ten minutes, the scribe stayed put. Every time the group did move on, they left a provocative question for the incoming group. I scribed and you can see the direction of the discussion below:


Questions          Broad discussion journey…
Group 1 – Opening questionCan coproduction allow for resources to be redistributed to create more equitable outcomes?
  • Can we make communities more equitable by having a more unequal distribution of services?
  • Why do people get involved in causes – anger, passion, love
  • Is politicisation useful – start with something small and mobilise from there
Group 2 – Prompt questionDoes coproduction help people frame and influence issues that are important to them?
  • People are too easily marginalised from certain areas and backgrounds – too easy for them to go from being a person with a problem, to a problem person…
  • We should strive towards an even playing field
  • There is disproportionate middle-class voice
  • Coproduction should be a power to break these barriers and inequalities down – this should be through building confidence and self belief
  • We have became too individualistic as a society
Group 3 – prompt questionCan we use coproduction to become a more caring society, increase empathy, and to understand each others problems and perspectives?
  • Coproduction should be underpinned by respect – do good services respect people?
  • Should be more linked in with implicit democracy
  • Move people out of comfort zones
  • Understand motivations for why people take part in coproduction
Final question

How do you address different perspectives, motivations and values in coproduction?

After hearing from the other group scribes we had a quick break followed by different engaging activities designed to prompt discussion and group cohesion. My own group had a wide discussion around coproduction and began to build up a mini-lego community (see below). We actually started this hour session by getting to know each other and exploring what each other had to say, as opposed to beginning with a specific question. I found having the lego in front of us, and building our own little projects, meant there was more time for us to sit in comfortable silences and take time in our interactions. It was only in the last ten minutes that we started physically putting all our creations on the board and linking these up with lego pathways. We praised and prodded each others creations, ranging from an allotment/garden (top right), to the oriental/ MC Escher building (top middle), to the unicorn towers (middle left – unicorn is unfortunately hidden), to the burrowing octopus of cause/effect tentacles (bottom left), to the rather prosaic co-prod letters (which was my own stilted creation!) IMG_0867

We then heard what the other groups had been up to, with one using a circle to subvert the Brooks Newmark quote: “The important thing charities should be doing is sticking to their knitting and doing the best they can to promote their agenda, which should be about helping others.” Experienced knitters and complete novices came together to chat and support each other to produce a wonderful collage of squares (see below).

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 17.11.07

In the following discussion we started to explore themes of creativity, improvisation, innovation and support that had really exemplified some of the aspects that were coming through this final session.

Thanks to everyone there on the day, Stirling Uni, and especially Peter Matthews (@urbaneprofessor) for organising the day – let’s keep on prodding each other to work in more effective and thought provoking ways.

Stuart Muirhead, IRISS

Space Unlimited – Changing Schools

On Wednesday I attended an event run by Space Unlimited about their work ‘Changing Schools’. I did so with great interest and enthusiasm as working with young people is a key part my background and continues to be a strong passion of mine.

Location: The event took place at House for an Art Lover in Glasgow (nice venue!) and lasted about 4 hours.

Attendees: There were about 30 people in attendance. This group included Space Unlimited Staff; Teachers and pupils from some of the schools involved in the project; and a selection of guests (i.e. people not involved in the project from IRISS (me!), Education Scotland, Care Inspectorate and so on).

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 13.45.44Layout: Space Unlimited had drawn two large (4m+) diagrams of their process and pinned these along the wall. As they presented they added key aspects to the drawings so that they were built up by the end of the day. I found this really useful for visually bringing everyone in the room up to speed with their process from the point of planning to the point of action.

Very quickly I felt like I had a grasp of the work they had done, the process they had gone through and their outcomes.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 13.45.39Program: They started the day with an introduction to their ‘Changing Schools’ project.

In summary, Space Unlimited had been visiting schools to bring together teachers and pupils over three days to enable them to work well together and develop pupil/teacher committees.

The facilitators split the group into 4 smaller groups and sent them to separate rooms. Each group consisted of two people from Space Unlimited (facilitator and note taker); two pupils (min); one teacher (min) and three guests (min).

On the floor Space Unlimited arranged quotes from teachers and pupils involved in the project. They then asked those involved (teachers and pupils) to select one that resonated with them the most, followed by the guests.

Each person then took it in turns to talk about the quote they had chosen (40 mins total).

I really liked this method. It gave everyone a voice and something to talk about. Having a chance to read all of the quotes was very valuable also and a garret way to give the guests insight into the project from the participant’s perspective.

I was encouraged to hear quotes about feeling empowered, respected and listed to. The young people (age 13-14) were extremely confident and vocal about their experience with Space Unlimited. When I asked them about it they said they weren’t this confident until they worked with Space Unlimited and were able to see that their teachers cared about them and wanted to listen to them.

 “Working with Space Unlimited allowed me to see my teachers care about me.” pupil.

There was a lot of discussion about how the schools could get other teachers/pupils engaged. There was concern that without Space Unlimited returning that it wouldn’t be possible. Pupils felt that they had become so confident that they were at the same level as the teachers and so new pupils would need to repeat that process. They referenced this as being similar to asking English speakers to join a group of Spanish speakers – you need someone to teach you both a shared language. That was what they thought Space Unlimited had done.

There was concern from the teachers that if they left the school they were currently working in that the learning would go with them but may not remain in the school they left.

After this session was a break, during which everyone was invited to write a topic to discuss in the next session. These were stuck on the wall and then everyone had to write their name next to one topic that interested them most.

Only 6 people wrote cards. Three of the people were pupils. I joined the group who had selected my card “how can this approach be embedded”. I wrote this based on the discussion at the start of the day as I felt it hadn’t been resolved and was a key part of the process.

Each of the groups were joined by one person from Space Unlimited (note taker).

Unfortunately there were no pupils in our group. In fact, most of the pupils ended up in the same group.

Our group talked a lot about how to build on and embed the process without Space Unlimited. There was talk about it being difficult to motivate teachers on the value of working with pupils in this way and having to give up their lunchtime or after school time to facilitate the pupil/teacher discussions. Workload was also discussed a lot.

I tried to bring the conversation back to outcomes for pupils and teachers and also (from a policy level) how this approach meets the outcomes of the Curriculum for Excellence. Although the teachers and guests in our group all agreed that enabling teachers and pupils to work together as equals was key, they were concerned again about the views of their colleagues. We did not resolve how this could be embedded.

After this session we returned to the larger group and one person from each group was invited to feedback their discussions.

I was really pleased to see that the pupils wanted to speak first and did so with great confidence.

The event ended with lunch and an opportunity to speak to the people involved. I spent this time with the group of pupils and two of the teachers. The group was extremely positive about their experience with Space Unlimited. The pupils all took the opportunity to talk to me with one telling me they were surprised someone outside of their school was also so interested in their story as well as their teachers.

“I’m surprised that someone other than my teacher would want to hear about what we are doing.” pupil.

This was a fun and engaging event and was really successful in quickly bringing everyone in the room to the same level of knowledge about the project – or at least to a level where the guests could happily engage with the participants. I really like the approach Space Unlimited took. In particular I like the large-scale visuals of their process and the quotes from participants and, of course, the opportunity to speak to everyone involved about their experience.

Guest Blog: Keira Anderson Talks About the Relationships Matter JAM

On 15th January 2015 IRISS ran a Relationships Matter JAM, where people with an open, enquiring mind, came together to work through a design process to challenge barriers that prevent the continuation of relationships with young people leaving care.

Below Keira Anderson, a participant at the JAM, reflects on her experience:

Working for design agency Snook, I have been embedded within Includem for six months, as a service designer. Recently, alongside a team from across Includem, I attended IRISS’s one-day hack event, The Relationships Matter Jam. The event brought together 5 organisations from across Scotland to explore ways in which young people can continue to be supported as they move away from child, support and care services.

In attendance were representatives from Care Visions, Falkirk Council, Hot Chocolate Trust, Includem and Kibble.

Includem offer support to young people who have often been excluded from mainstream services. We focused on a barrier that had been identified by young people themselves, when I explored Includem’s Transitional Support Service with them.

When young people exit Includem’s service, they are reassured that they can still use the Helpline – a service which is available to provide support to young people 24/7. However, experience shows that in practise, young people are reluctant to do this. Even those who have made good use of the Helpline whilst working with Includem fail to use this service after exit. We wanted to understand why this might be, and how Includem can best support young people beyond their initial service delivery, whilst not imposing on the independence (or interdependence) of the young people in question.

We were able to bring together a great pool of Includem brain power on this issue: two young people who have been working with Includem in Fife; sister/brother team Alana and Gavin, their Transitional Support worker Kathleen, frontline Core worker in Glasgow Kim, Briege who has been undertaking PhD research with Transitional Support and myself, Keira, Includem’s embedded service designer from Snook.

Alana and Gavin had helped me look at this issue during the first phase of our project, and took this opportunity to share and discuss their experience of the issue with the wider group.

Fuelled by pastries, tea, coffee and Parma Violets, we delved deeper into what some of the underlying reasons might be for young people feeling reluctant to pick up the phone at the very moment they need help most.

The Jam gave us the opportunity to reach a little deeper into the issue – we began investigating all of the hurdles or aspects of the current system which might be discouraging young people from calling the Helpline. We even spent some time analysing the word “Exit”, which is currently used to describe the disengagement process from Includem. Young people and workers indicated that this word seems very final; “You don’t go back in a door marked ‘Exit’” as one frontline worker put it.

In the end, the solution we developed was the same one that had been identified during the first phase of the project; but now we were confident that it really was the most supportive and progressive way of preventing young people from slipping after regular support has stopped. There is a commitment now to offer some young people “Helpline only support” as they exit Includem, on a prototyping basis. As always, they will be able to call the Helpline if they need a little more support, or aren’t sure where else they might find support for a particular issue. Additionally, Includem will commit to a series of call-backs, as necessary to each young person (say after two weeks, one month, two months) – to check that they are still doing as well as when they exited Includem and to give them reassurance that they can always access the service again if they find that they are slipping back.

With one of our team members, Gavin, currently studying acting at college, it was only right that we put our ideas across to the rest of the Jam with a short play, which will be available soon (check back here!)

At the end of the day, IRISS also made a commitment to keeping the conversation going between all of the organisations in attendance. Most were concerned with supporting young people after they exit from care or other support services, and recognising the very real relationships young people build with the workers who care for them. A variety of ideas were generated, which lay within a wide range of feasibility and completion. We look forward to learning how these ideas have grown within each organisation over the coming months.

Thanks again to all who attended the event, helpers and mentors, and to the Fiona and Gayle of IRISS, who made sure the day ran smoothly and kept us fuelled with sweets and soup.

Guest blog: Claire Carpenter, Managing Director, The Melting Pot

What’s the creation story behind every social innovation?

Social innovators are often the disrupters, the ones who swim against the tide and question the status quo. We may find them uncomfortable and challenging but these people are also inspiring, determined and resilient.

Take the Social Innovator personality test. How many of these needed core skills and qualities do you have? Making connections, causing disruptions, having persistence and a critical mindset, clarity of vision, courage of your convictions, an ability to learn and reflect, to take risks and experiment, question results, have focus but also openness, and of course – the ability to “sell”.

During 2014 The Melting Pot initiated a collaborative enquiry process into social innovation and how it might flourish in Scotland.

Gatherings took place from Inverness to Edinburgh. Using ‘The Art of Hosting’ participatory processes, we dived into understanding the cultural conditions that help or hinder people, communities and organisations of all sizes who have a passion for creating solutions to our pressing eco-social challenges.

You can read more about our findings here. For fun, here are the recommendations turned on their head.

How to kill social innovation in 5 easy steps!

First – spot those disrupters and put them down – go on, tell them their mad ideas won’t work. These non-conformers who wish to do something different are a nuisance with their radical notions. Their dreams are too big, too complex. They don’t know what they’re doing and it will certainly never make any money!

Second – don’t assist those disruptors, or offer them a chance to collaborate. Keep yourself to yourself. Don’t move out of your comfort zone, talk to, or, help anyone! Don’t go out of your way to make connections or introductions, you might catch something – like a scary new proposition…

Third – seek out the answers to our societal problems from another place, somewhere like London, New York or Shanghai. Those disruptive ideas under your nose, on your doorstep, the ones that take account of the cultural fit can’t be any good can they? And anyway, it’s more fun to go on international jollies (sorry I mean learning journeys).

Forth – never accept anyone else’s wisdom, or seek to learn form them. What do they know anyway? There’s no point taking time out of your busy schedule to reflect on your learning – you’ve just got to keep doing – at all costs.

Fifth – work from your bedroom, alone – you can’t afford anywhere nice and professional to work anyway, not on what is invested into the social innovation pipeline. Yes we need jobs, but they can only be produced form companies that focus on economic growth not social capital.

Now forget all that. For social innovation to thrive in Scotland, we must create a culture to:

  1. Encourage – literally lend courage and support to – those seeking to address inequality, those who are questioning the status quo, creating disruption and taking risks.
  2. Foster connections, creativity and the generation of ideas amongst innovators in all sectors.  Enabling genuine participation and collaboration across sectors releases socially innovative ideas.
  3. Cultivate local solutions where social innovators can work with communities to define and co-design solutions within their community context.
  4. Create safe places and spaces for learning, reflection and sharing all the stories: the successes, the tricky moments, the failures, the highs the lows of experience.
  5. Invest in social innovation – provide the physical resources to enable social innovators to work with focus, purpose, determination and persistence.

The Melting Pot would like to thank the Scottish Government for commissioning this work, so that our policy makers can better harness our people’s talents, energy and ideas to make Scotland flourish.

Find out more about The Melting Pot, Scotland’s Centre for Social Innovation, and our Social Innovation Incubation Award programme (all disrupters PLEASE APPLY!).


Guest Blog – Service Design Student Involvement in the Design Process

As part of our Hospital to Home Project I involved three Service Design Students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) in the co-design workshop process I ran in Tayside.

This was an extremely useful learning experience for myself and for the students as we gained experience in each other’s approach and knowledge of how to engage older people in a co-production design process.

This is an experience that I enjoyed very much and would highly recommend other organisations to utilise the skills of design students and graduates where possible to help develop service design solutions to put in practice.

Below is feedback from Lorri Smyth – one of the students involved in this process – on her experience of this opportunity to work alongside IRISS.


For the past 12 months I have been studying for a Master of Design for Services at the University of Dundee. Throughout this intense and widely rewarding year, I have had the opportunity to explore and develop innovate responses to challenges experienced within the public sector and various business services. The final three months of this course were dedicated to one single project of our choosing. During this time I’ve been fortunate to be involved in the Hospital to Home project along side fellow students Aishwayra Iyengar and Autumn Wang.

To work with IRISS on this project has been a great opportunity to observe some of the challenges and opportunities of co-design in practice. It certainly isn’t an easy thing to do. However, I strongly believe that involving people in the development of services is vital to tackling the challenges we face today and into the future. One simple quote by Albert Einstein has continued to inspire me throughout this year.

“We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”

The exciting thing about figuring out new ways of thinking, is that there is no set way of doing things. There are no fixed rules, and a limited number people to learn from. It also requires the bravery to embrace change, try things out, make mistakes and try again. There is no set way of integrating co-design into a project, and to be at the forefront of experimenting with these new ways of working has been truly challenging and rewarding.

Working on this project with IRISS has given me the opportunity to see how co-design can be used in different ways. We did not involve people in our project in the same ways that IRISS have, through a workshops. We were also working over a much shorter timescale. Instead, we spoke with people in groups and one to one, to hear their stories. We took these stories back to our studio and developed some ideas. We then involved people during the rapid prototyping and testing of these ideas, incorporating peoples feedback directly into our designs.

From what I have experienced during my time with IRISS and through conducting our independent project, I sense a real enthusiasm and an appetite from people to be involved in the design process. From what I have learned from being part of these projects I will continue experiment with new ways of harnessing creative energies towards generating innovative solutions. It is vital that we enable people to share their thoughts, feelings and creative ideas in ways that are enjoyable, valuable and productive for everyone involved.

I look forward to seeing what the Hospital to Home co-design group produce at the end of their time with the project. We have heard some great insights from people during our time in the workshops that could lead to exciting developments. I’d like to wish the group the very best of luck during their last sessions.

I would like to thank Fiona Munro and her colleagues at IRISS for giving our team this excellent opportunity to be involved in the Hospital to Home project. We have enjoyed our time with the project and look forward to seeing how it progresses.

If you would like to learn more about the project Aishwarya and I have developed please visit our webpage. Here you can view our final prototype and read the full report to accompany the project.



Hospital to Home: DJCAD Student Outcomes

As part of our Hospital to Home Project I involved three Service Design Students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) in the co-design workshop process I ran in Tayside (Read their reflections here).

During this time they have been working with IRISS with the aim of developing outcomes for their final submission.

Two of the students (Lorri Smyth and Aishwarya Lyengar) have developed a new tool that aims to enable improved communication between older people and the people who matter to them.

They evidenced that they had gathered insights from older people, highlighting that they (older people) did not share relevant information with their family or carers regarding their health needs and day to day wants and needs. Instead older people tend to have informal conversations about these subjects with their friends, who may or may not have a caring role in their life. The aim of this tool is to engage older people and encourage them to communicate more with those who are most relevant to their care.

Their outcome was well received by the working group with many members asking how the tool could be embedded into their professional role in practice or how they could use one with their own families. Lorri and Ash are now working together to take this idea forward in Tayside.

The third student working with the working group was Autumn Wang. Autumn focused her time with the group on establishing a tool and system that offers support for planning and facilitating design-led workshops.

Her work identified that conducting workshops requires elaborate planning and preparation. This created a niche opportunity to explore how workshop planning and facilitation could be better guided and simplified for people who need assistance in preparation for workshops. Autumn took a Service Design approach to create a complete package called ‘Workshop Whitebox’ that offers both a guide and a checklist for beginners wishing to run workshops.

Super curious


A couple of weekends ago, I popped along to TEDx Glasgow. I loved every minute.

One of the talks really caught my attention – Will Mitchell’s ‘super curious’. Will is a Design Director of 4C Design Ltd, a graduate from The Glasgow School of Art and has spent 15 years working in a wide range of industries as a specialist engineer.

Will’s message was to stop ‘do-ing’ and to stop looking for ‘solutions’. This was difficult message for me to hear. In my day to day work I attend a lot of meetings and am often itching to get out and go get things done, or to support others to get things done.

Listening closer, though, there was a subtly in his message. He focused on learning through constant questioning – in essence, continuing to be ‘super curious’ about the challenges and issues that present in our day to day lives. He explained that in order to move forward and achieve your goals you have to constantly question everything that you encounter.  He explained that no matter how much you think that you understand about the issue or challenge that you face there is always something new that you can learn. He suggested that getting to know a problem well enough, is in itself an achievement.

Now this, I can relate to.

It got me thinking about the application of this idea in practice – particularly for social services. I think we know broadly what the challenges are. But we are unable to be specific enough. This is because we don’t face problems. We face dilemmas.

Problems can be solved, but dilemmas only managed – this means the problems that we face are not clear cut with cookie cutter ‘solutions’, the dilemmas facing social services instead have grey areas and require responses that will support the issue to change in that particular context.  This means that the closer we look and the more specific we become in our analysis – the more the ‘problem’ or ‘issue’ will change and become clearer. Lets also not forget to be ‘super curious’ about what is working too. Understanding what makes something a positive experience or service is just as important as focusing on the negatives.

In a different context (energy), the RSA (Royal Society of the Arts) have also been looking at the power of curiosity.  Their research found that modern lifestyles could put the curiosity we need to drive innovation at risk. It highlights that modern technology is having an impact on our curiosity as it encourages short-term curiosity about a wide variety of topics, but doesn’t promote focus. The RSA argue that both types of curiosity are necessary to stimulate innovation.

In response to the findings, the RSA champion three key recommendations for learners of all ages to cultivate curiosity by:

  • Teaching for competencies like curiosity, as explicit educational goals, rather than as beneficial off-shoots of knowledge-based learning.
  • Encouraging forms of mental attention, including mindfulness, that make people reflect on things that might not have been noticed.
  • Having the opportunity to learn something in considerable depth.

Can we make the space for these kinds of activities in our sector?



Mind Full or Mindful? Making Space for Creativity

MindfulnessMindfulness is everywhere – in books, magazines, journals and TV programmes as the latest way to combat the inevitable day-to-day stresses that modern life has to offer.

Once seen as a ‘New Age Fad’, mindfulness is now used by a range of people from health professionals to athletes, teachers to school children and, most recently, in parliament as a means for combatting mental health concerns such as stress and anxiety.

But what does it have to do with creativity?

Researchers are increasingly discovering a massive link between mindfulness practice and the impact it has on creativity as well as the expected human well-being, health, and happiness (Langer, 2005).

Hazel White, Course Director of the Masters of Design for Services Course at the University of Dundee, supports this view:

As part of the Design for Services Programme at the University of Dundee we run a four week Mindful Design Practice module (MDP). Mindfulness practice is a way of rebalancing thoughts and reducing anxiety through meditation practice, which we feel frees our students minds up to be creative in new and challenging situations.

Our masters programme is an intensive one year of study – many students are juggling the responsibilities of family, part-time work or adapting to a new culture and language: a heady mix which does not always foster creativity. 

The mindfulness practice complements the design research and practice element of the module – supporting students as they gather insights from a range of people in new and sometimes challenging environments. The mindfulness practice is led by practitioner Kumanga Andrahennadi supported by David Sanchez in five 90 minute sessions in the design studio at the university and two short (two hour) ‘retreats’ to the Botanic Gardens in Dundee and a local beach. In the sessions the participants were guided through a series of exercises to reduce the number of thoughts in their mind and focus on positive thoughts.

Feedback from the students suggested that the mindfulness practice gave them ‘space’ for their thoughts and many of them reported on the positive impact it had had on keeping them ‘balanced’ throughout their study.

Psychologist Brad Waters (2014) also supports research that suggests mindfulness can help foster creativity stating “I’ve personally found that, regardless of the science, learning how to cultivate mindfulness during my own bouts of creative block has been a welcome discovery.”

However, mindfulness can be daunting to the novice and should be embraced by learning to ‘trust the process’.

It’s not about ‘doing nothing’ or ‘daydreaming’, it’s about learning to focus on the moment you are in right now and removing yourself from all the distracting thoughts in your mind by becoming aware of them. Admittedly daydreaming can help to generate ideas, but being able to clear your mind and focus on the problem you are addressing is much more helpful in establishing a creative solution.

People may argue that you need a busy mind in order to create lots of new ideas. However, Shamash Alidina and Joelle Jane Marshall, authors of ‘Boast Creativity with Mindfulness, suggest that “when you have a calm mind, creativity naturally reveals itself’. They suggest this is for the following three reasons:

When you practice mindfulness:

  1. Your normal conscious thoughts start to lose their grip on your awareness.
  2. Your more creative, unconscious brain is able to work more effectively and create new connections and ideas.
  3. You make a mental space when your conscious mind calms down in which the new ideas are revealed.

The added benefit, they suggest, is that you are able to identify solutions faster, making you a more effective problem solver.

Try it for yourself:

Right now take a moment to become aware of the space around you, the lights, sounds and shadows. Focus on your breathing and what part of your body you feel it most in. Let thoughts come to mind but dismiss them immediately without letting your mind focus on them. Do this for a couple of minutes. Your only focus is being entirely present in the situation you find yourself in now. This is mindfulness. See where it takes you. 


Alidina, S. and Marshall, J. J. (2014) Boost Creativity with Mindfulness

in Mindfulness Workbook For Dummies

Brad Waters, L.C.S.W. (2014) The state-of-the-art in personal development. Psychology today: Design Your Path

Dhiman, S. Mindfulness and the Art of Living Creatively: Cultivating a Creative Life by Minding Our Mind. Journal of Social Change 2012, Volume 4, Issue1, Pages 24–33 Walden University, LLC, Minneapolis, MN DOI: 10.5590/JOSC.2012.04.1.03

Greenberg. J, Reiner. K and Meiran. N (2012) “Mind the Trap”: Mindfulness Practice Reduces Cognitive Rigidity. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36206.

Hofmann, G. (2014) How Mindfulness Can Help Your Creativity

Langer, E. On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity. Ballantine Books; 2005.

White, H. (2014) Personal Interview. DJCAD: University of Dundee.