The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

Levelling Up Skills: Trauma-Informed Design Research with Jenny Winfield

John Carter
May 22, 2024
49
 MIN
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Levelling Up Skills: Trauma-Informed Design Research with Jenny Winfield

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Episode shownotes

In today's episode of "This is HCD," we meet Jenny Winfield, a user researcher specialising in socially taboo topics and trauma. Jenny shares her journey from psychology and anthropology to design research, highlighting the significance of belongings in people's lives. She discusses the importance of trauma-informed design research practices and how she enhanced her skills in this area.

Jenny offers practical tips, tricks, and frameworks for applying trauma-informed care in design. She reflects on her experience in a trauma-informed organisation, emphasising the necessity of embedding these principles into the design process to ensure care, safety, and validation in research sessions. Jenny underscores the importance of setting boundaries, managing secondary stress, and prioritizing self-care for researchers. She also talks about the challenges of navigating sensitive topics and guiding conversations in a supportive manner.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the episode as we explore the power of empathetic and informed design with Jenny Winfield.

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Episode Transcript

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[00:00:00] Gerry Scullion: Hey folks, and a very warm welcome to another episode of This is HCD. Today on the show, we have Jenny Winfield, who describes themselves as a researcher and a design strategist, focused on taboos and trauma. She discusses the significance of belongings and the role that they play in people's lives. And she delves into the importance of trauma informed design research practices and how she leveled up her skills in this area, something that many of us have asked that question before.

[00:00:28] Gerry Scullion: Now Jenny emphasizes the need for practical tips, tricks, and frameworks to apply trauma informed care in design. Jenny discusses her own experience of working in a trauma informed organization and the importance of embedding trauma informed principles into the design process. Now she highlights the need for care, safety, and validation in research sessions as well as the importance of setting boundaries and managing vicarious trauma, something I'm a huge advocate for.

[00:00:58] Gerry Scullion: Jenny emphasizes the role of self [00:01:00] care in trauma informed design and the need for researchers to become aware of their scope of practice. She also discusses the challenges of navigating sensitive topics, guiding conversations in a trauma informed way. This, this episode is a really, really fantastic way to peek into the mind of someone who's got so much knowledge and so much experience in this area.

[00:01:22] Gerry Scullion: So I know you're in for a treat, but if you're looking to build on what you're learning from across all of these episodes on This Is HCD, then why not explore becoming a full member of the Human Centered Design Network by joining our Circle community. You'll connect and learn and grow through the community led events.

[00:01:40] Gerry Scullion: and also get involved in community led outcomes that people like yourself, who are part of the community, feed into. This is a community for people who want to design a better world, and no, you don't need to be a designer to really get involved or join. So check out thisishcd. com to learn more. Now, let's jump straight into that [00:02:00] episode.

[00:02:00] Gerry Scullion: I know you're going to really love listening to Jenny, who is an absolute rock star. Let's get into it. Sorry, Gordon. For a second there, I thought my camera had frozen. Um, but it hasn't. Thank, thank God. Jenny, I'm delighted to have you here. Um, we've been back and forth, I don't know when we organized this, but a couple of months ago.

[00:02:20] Gerry Scullion: Mm hmm. Um, but I'm delighted to have you here. As we said, we've already kind of mentioned in the prelude to this, my good friend Rachel Deacus was talking about you, um, a while ago. Mm hmm. And there was some serendipity happening, uh, in the universe, because you emailed me as I was about to email you. Um, so that's usually a good sign in my world, but maybe we'll start off, like I start every episode off, by you telling me a little bit about yourself, where you're from, and what you do.

[00:02:50] Jenny Winfield: Definitely. Well, hi, Gerry. Thank you so much for having me. And yeah, it's wonderful to be connecting dots between people we know. Um, and especially cause it's Rachel, cause she's somebody that [00:03:00] I've learned so much from. Um, so yeah, a bit about me. So as you already know, I'm from the UK. I'm from Yorkshire.

[00:03:09] Jenny Winfield: Got my cup of tea here as we're talking. Uh, I've been based in London for about 17 years. Um, my background is in psychology and anthropology. So understanding people. This is how it's raised. Um, very closely followed by design. So I've been working in design for over a decade. Um, and I now work as a user researcher specializing in research about socially taboo topics and trauma.

[00:03:40] Gerry Scullion: Nice. 

[00:03:41] Jenny Winfield: Um, and I do that both freelance and, um, as a head of research for an awesome, uh, charity called CHEN. 

[00:03:48] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. 

[00:03:49] Jenny Winfield: And we support people who have experienced gender based violence. So yeah, that's a bit about me. 

[00:03:55] Gerry Scullion: Wow. Okay. So I'm aware of Jen's existence, like I've, [00:04:00] um, followed them for a while. Mm hmm. Um, but let's take a step back.

[00:04:04] Gerry Scullion: You mentioned that your background is in psychology and anthropology. Um, what led you to get into the world of, I guess, service design, design research? Mm hmm. Um, is it a typical stepping stone to come from anthropology and psychology and kind of go, you know what? I want to get involved in design research.

[00:04:25] Gerry Scullion: Is that a, is that a common? 

[00:04:27] Jenny Winfield: I think increasingly so, more so now, when I was doing it, I wasn't even really aware that as a social scientist, I could go into design or whether there was a role for me in the world of design. 

[00:04:38] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. 

[00:04:39] Jenny Winfield: Um, especially not when I was doing psychology, so just, just sort of understanding, um, things around that cognitive development and like risk taking and like interesting topics like that.

[00:04:49] Jenny Winfield: Um, but when I did my master's in anthropology, that was where I learned a lot more about the role of research and design. And I happen to do a course at UCL, which is actually very [00:05:00] focused on material culture. Um, so that's effectively understanding the kind of cultural meaning of belonging. Um, I was very, very interested in the anthropology of home and what our belongings mean to us, um, and how we sort of create and craft a home.

[00:05:18] Jenny Winfield: Um, and through that work, I started to understand that there was a role for research in the design of products. Um, and understanding like the, the role that products play in people's lives. Um, and so I kind of got into design that way. Um, I learned whilst I was doing that course, I learned about IDEO, which is where I then went on to work and that they had this role called human factors.

[00:05:43] Jenny Winfield: That's what it used to be called back in the day. Um, and that it was about kind of having a researcher on a team of people who was rethinking or redesigning a product. 

[00:05:52] Gerry Scullion: Um, 

[00:05:53] Jenny Winfield: and that they'd placed a great importance on, on having these researchers, people who understand, understood sort of, [00:06:00] um, Different cultures and sort of different people and having that kind of was a big influence on the design process.

[00:06:06] Jenny Winfield: Um, and so that was my sort of entry point. And then as I continued to work there, we would start to do more projects around interaction design or experience design or service design more recently. I got a bit more, um, experienced in and aware of like the different types of design that there are. But my entry point was definitely kind of the product, um, one 

[00:06:28] Gerry Scullion: bit.

[00:06:29] Gerry Scullion: Tell us a bit more about the, uh, the belonging piece, cause that's something I did industrial design. Um, I did my, um, thesis on the Sony Walkman like way, way back because I was obsessed and I still am obsessed with music. Um, I may or may not have spoken about Jarvis Cocker and Richard Wooley to Jenny before this.

[00:06:51] Gerry Scullion: I did Milford Sheffield, the Sheffield music scene, you know, but the Sony Walkman for me, um, I couldn't articulate it at the time because I just didn't have any [00:07:00] experience, but I felt that there was, I had this love for the product, like that was, I remember my then girlfriend was saying to me, you're crazy, you can't be in love with the product, you can't, you can't have the, um, deeply connected with, uh, inanimate objects.

[00:07:16] Gerry Scullion: I was like. To be clear, I, uh, you know, that's as far as it went, I wasn't like falling in love with the emotion of it, but I had a deep connection with my music player because I had it everywhere with me and now I see in the, in the present day, like the closest thing I can think of is my smartphone, it's in my hand, I feel it and it's something that's quite tactile, um, tell me a little bit more in your understandings of belongings and I really liked what you said about how this informs how we shape our homes and our environments.

[00:07:48] Jenny Winfield: Yeah, I think I became kind of really interested in the relationship that we have with our stuff. Um, and then at that time I was also learning a lot about kind of the environment and [00:08:00] climate change and people being quite scathing about like the idea of being materialistic and how like stuff does not matter and you shouldn't be accumulating things and No, it's a big tension between like Wanting to have things that are meaningful for you and bring you joy and that make you feel like you as you surround yourself with them in your own spaces, whether it's clothing or whether it's like belonging of other types.

[00:08:26] Jenny Winfield: Um, I was particularly interested in secondhand belongings and things that had been passed down throughout families and things like that. So I was trying to figure out like this tension between like working in a world that was about creating stuff. Um, especially in the kind of my early career, I was working on kind of brand strategy and advertising.

[00:08:48] Jenny Winfield: Um, and then I, that was before I started to work in design. So it was really questioning, like, why are we doing this? Like, what does all of this mean? We're sort of asking people to buy stuff that they don't really need. 

[00:08:59] Gerry Scullion: And 

[00:08:59] Jenny Winfield: then [00:09:00] having a very, very strong sense from within, which was that like, things do matter and it's okay that they matter to us, 

[00:09:07] Gerry Scullion: um, 

[00:09:08] Jenny Winfield: and that we may have the A series of belongings that are particularly meaningful just personally or within our families or more broadly within our culture.

[00:09:16] Jenny Winfield: Um, and when I went off to study anthropology and I learned about material culture and the fact that certain like items or belongings will be materially significant for people from different cultures. Um, I just thought that that was fascinating. It's almost like a modern day sort of archeology to me.

[00:09:33] Jenny Winfield: Yeah. Thinking about. That kind of thing. So I just, yeah, I thought it was fascinating. 

[00:09:39] Gerry Scullion: Why do people, do you feel, put such, um, emotional pressure onto these items? Like, where is that coming from? Is it a scarcity or is it, um, is there something beyond that? That's the bit that I've often questioned. 

[00:09:56] Jenny Winfield: It's probably a bit of a question about where you're at emotionally.

[00:09:59] Jenny Winfield: [00:10:00] So if you're not in a very good place and you're kind of buying, buying, buying to fill a hole. 

[00:10:04] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. 

[00:10:05] Jenny Winfield: Um, that's probably one thing. But if you, You know, it, the way I think about it is a little bit like everyone needs to use a mug in the morning, right, for their tea or coffee and 

[00:10:15] Gerry Scullion: you have 

[00:10:16] Jenny Winfield: one that's like really crappy that you like never really chose and that isn't very well made, or you can have one that like you particularly love and makes you feel good and happy and it feels nice to hold and like it has a history or like something interesting about it.

[00:10:32] Jenny Winfield: And so for me, there's a bit of a distinction between like superfluous stuff that like we don't really need. And then there's the things that we need to use every day, so in my mind you may as well have a version of that thing that brings you a bit of joy. 

[00:10:46] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. 

[00:10:47] Jenny Winfield: It's 

[00:10:47] Gerry Scullion: very like that Marie Kondo kind of, you know, does it spark joy.

[00:10:57] Gerry Scullion: And for the most part, like I live my life [00:11:00] like I do, um, I only buy stuff that I really kind of tend to need and want, um, when I do use it, I do like, Oh, I like this, this, this makes me happy. Like, you know, so I won't turn my camera around here and show you the rest of the space, but you are looking at the most orderly space in the house.

[00:11:19] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. But, um, it is interesting and I find it really interesting. But you went from that background in anthropology and you're now working in Chen, and I know you, you have a deep, uh, appreciation and understanding of trauma informed design research practices and that stuff. That's how you know Rachel, how I know Rachel as well, like, um.

[00:11:41] Gerry Scullion: I hold Rachel in the highest, uh, regard and respects to trauma informed approaches within design. Um, where did this come from, from your end, like anthropology, and you mentioned you were working at, um, IDEO, um, where, what was the [00:12:00] journey for you like? 

[00:12:01] Jenny Winfield: Yeah. It's a good question. 

[00:12:03] Gerry Scullion: Thanks. 

[00:12:05] Jenny Winfield: It's not like I do this for a living or anything.

[00:12:07] Jenny Winfield: I don't do it for a living. Because you've been at work. Pretty 

[00:12:10] Gerry Scullion: much. I do. I do most, most, most weeks, most days. So anyway. 

[00:12:14] Jenny Winfield: No, it's really nice to be interviewed, actually, especially as somebody who does a lot of interviewing. It's nice to pick up on different ways of doing things. Um, but yeah, so I was, I was working at IDEO.

[00:12:24] Jenny Winfield: It was very, um, formative experience for me in lots of ways, had a huge influence on me in terms of. Just understanding design. So like the fact that design works best when it's interdisciplinary, working with people from totally different kind of backgrounds to me in terms of their kind of practitioner, uh, approach and the like skills and just understanding kind of the role of like the people bit within a design project, learning how to prototype, just like the whole gamut.

[00:12:56] Jenny Winfield: Like I was there for a long time and I worked on many different projects and that was great. [00:13:00] But I think there was a couple of things. So firstly, the work is incredibly intense as a consultant and I was, you know, I think it was in my contract to be traveling 40 percent of the time. So I was always on a plane or jet lags or ill cause I was getting burnt out.

[00:13:15] Jenny Winfield: And I had a lot of fun and I was in my twenties and I'd traveled the world and worked on all these cool things, but I wasn't seeing a lot of impact from the work that I was doing. Um, and I remember the idea had this trap line that was like. creating disproportionately positive impact in the world or something like that.

[00:13:33] Jenny Winfield: And I was like, that's cool. I could get behind that. But I remember reflecting to myself and thinking like, I'm not sure how much impact the projects that I'm working on are having. Um, and I tended to work on things that were quite far out. So it was these kind of speculative futures 10 years going to look like in.

[00:13:54] Jenny Winfield: The world of like automobiles, cars, travel, what's that going to look like for [00:14:00] Ford? How can we create some like white space for them to win? Or what's the future of like the Ikea shopping experience or like the luxury hotel world? And I worked on a lot of projects. I mean, I worked with all those three projects, literally.

[00:14:14] Jenny Winfield: But I think because the stuff I was doing was so far out that often it just like never really like happened. So I'd be like, Oh, what happened to all of that work that we did last year? And then it'd be like, Oh, that person's like left that job or like, it was just, it was just so far out. Yeah. And I found that quite difficult because it was, it was so relentless and it was quite an intense way of working.

[00:14:36] Jenny Winfield: And I just felt a bit like, I'm not sure if this is really adding up for me. 

[00:14:40] Gerry Scullion: Right. And 

[00:14:40] Jenny Winfield: then. I went freelance and I started to do some work in some quite sensitive spaces. So that one of the first projects I did, um, when I went freelance was for, um, a startup that was creating a digital product to support couples through sexual dysfunction.

[00:14:59] Gerry Scullion: Um, [00:15:00] 

[00:15:00] Jenny Winfield: and that was super interesting. And like, obviously like, Oh, it's a bit of a, like, okay, this is a different topic and something that I'm going to have to take, um, quite carefully. Um, and really loved the challenge and, and also just working in that startup environment where it was like, Oh no, we need the insight.

[00:15:18] Jenny Winfield: Like right now we're actually building this product. Like this isn't something where you're going to look around in a year's time and be like, what happened to that? Um, which I've already described as one of my sort of bugbears from before. So I sort of went into this startup, more scrappy world where it was like, we're building the thing, we need the insight now, we're actually going to action it.

[00:15:37] Jenny Winfield: Yeah. Um, and I started to try and find projects that were in this kind of sensitive research space and sort of carve this niche, niche for myself around doing like taboo issues. This is where I sort of started before I got into the trauma space. 

[00:15:51] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. 

[00:15:52] Jenny Winfield: Um, and it was quite everyday things like it was like menopause or it was sexual dysfunction, like I said, or it might be [00:16:00] mental health.

[00:16:00] Jenny Winfield: So. Things that, like, are not really niche, like everyone's experiencing these things. They're very, very everyday. Lots of stuff around women's health, for example. But yeah, it's hard to talk about them and like people were not talking about them and organizations are starting to want to design products and services around these things because obviously they are so common, but there's a bit of a taboo there.

[00:16:24] Jenny Winfield: So, for no other reason than I thought I was just quite good at having the difficult conversation, I was like, okay, I think this is my thing. I'm going to go down this road and I'm going to do more and more projects in this space. And as I did that, I started to encounter trauma, as you can imagine. So like when people have had experiences and they've not been allowed to talk about them, a really, really good example is sexual assault.

[00:16:50] Jenny Winfield: So something that's incredibly common, but there's huge taboo around like discussing it and sharing it. So I noticed that it's like, that's the traumatic thing in [00:17:00] itself, but the taboo kind of compacts the trauma. Because not only did the thing happen, but then you're isolated and the shame around it is kind of magnified.

[00:17:08] Jenny Winfield: The 

[00:17:08] Gerry Scullion: compounding side of it, yeah. 

[00:17:10] Jenny Winfield: And I really felt as though I was sort of entering into this space where I knew I was interested. I knew there was so much potential work in it because I was working across many different topics and like project about death and I worked on a project about suicide bereavement and I was going into these spaces, which were getting more and more serious.

[00:17:30] Jenny Winfield: And I realized I really needed to like level up my research skills and it wasn't, it wasn't going to be good enough to just be like. Okay. I'm just like a sensitive, nice person. I'm going to like, take care of, you know, this interview in the right way. Um, and a project that really changed things for me was, um, I worked on a piece of research about what women in prison in the UK need.

[00:17:54] Jenny Winfield: So what are their needs? Um, and how are they not being met by, um, by [00:18:00] the current kind of prison system. And we were, this was all in service of designing like a digital, um, product that would potentially live in like women's cells in prison, like effectively like an intranet platform that would be given to them on a tablet that they'd be able to use in prison.

[00:18:17] Jenny Winfield: And there's, yeah, I mean, there's various like questions around like whether that's even a good idea. And that was one of the things that we explored in the research, but I worked on that project with a prison psychologist. Um, and she partnered with me, um, so that I could design the piece of research in an appropriate way.

[00:18:33] Jenny Winfield: And she was the first person to introduce me to the idea of trauma and being trauma informed. 

[00:18:39] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. 

[00:18:40] Jenny Winfield: Um, and just massively helped me to kind of, not only like get under the skin of this stuff a bit and think about it more carefully, but give me more confidence, um, cause I was actually quite scared going into that research.

[00:18:54] Jenny Winfield: I was like, all right, I'm going to be meeting with people who have life sentences and we [00:19:00] And I had been warned, you know, that I was probably going to meet people with like extremely low self esteem or might have like extremely high anxiety, which would influence the way that they would show up in a research session.

[00:19:13] Jenny Winfield: So they may have like very scattered attention, or it might mean that like they felt as though their contributions would not mean anything. So lots and lots of different kind of factors to, to take account of. Um, and I think at that point I'd been kind of meandering my way through, Working in these sensitive areas and thinking like, I think I'm just like, do it like the only one really doing this.

[00:19:38] Jenny Winfield: And then I learned about trauma informed design and I realized there was this whole world of people doing it and that there was a community around it of practitioners who were like really leading in this space. Um, and that's when I sort of got really hooked because I realized there was a thing, um, that I could then go and learn a lot more about and, and start to practice.[00:20:00] 

[00:20:00] Gerry Scullion: Where do I go from this? There's, there's a lot, a lot of stuff that you just said there that I wanted to drill into. But you mentioned there about leveling up your skills when you started speaking there. And I want to talk to you a bit more on that because I think a lot of people listening will resonate to that.

[00:20:15] Gerry Scullion: They're saying, okay, it's one thing to do research. And I mean, no disrespect to people working in banks who are trying to understand what the future of banking looks like. But it's a whole other world of research and professionalism and sensitivity when you're researching some of those topics that you discussed there.

[00:20:36] Jenny Winfield: Yeah. 

[00:20:37] Gerry Scullion: Um, how did you go about leveling up? What do you mean by leveling up? Exactly. 

[00:20:44] Jenny Winfield: Yeah. Um, so I think one of the things that's discussed quite often in the trauma informed design community is how, like, if you come at this world from. A design practitioner perspective, you haven't had the [00:21:00] background and the training in some of the clinical work that has been a massive, like, influencing factor on creating those trauma informed design principles.

[00:21:07] Jenny Winfield: So. Mm 

[00:21:07] Gerry Scullion: hmm. 

[00:21:08] Jenny Winfield: It sort of depends what background you come from and where, where you've learned about how to be a researcher. But for me, just coming at it from a sort of anthropology perspective and being a sort of researcher in the design world, I'd never had any formal training in how to like handle situations, which might be quite complex and which needed handling with great care, I just felt like.

[00:21:28] Jenny Winfield: I was winging it a bit, right, and that I was just doing my best and I'd learned how to do like good user research and write a discussion guide and do the synthesis and all of that stuff. But I'd never, ever had any training about like what to do if X scenario based, um, what could the consequences of doing this be?

[00:21:49] Jenny Winfield: Like I'd never had any kind of training or discussions around that. Plus the fact that I was freelance, right, so I wasn't even in an organization where like more senior people were aware of these kind of potential pitfalls and stuff. [00:22:00] So I think coming at this from a perspective of being like, I would just really love to feel more confident in this and know more about it.

[00:22:08] Jenny Winfield: The reason that finding the community of trauma informed design practitioners was so important is because it gave me this framework to start thinking about like, Oh, this is how you can actually practice effectively and responsibly in this space. Um, and I think the principles are so useful because they do allow people to sort of traverse between the different worlds.

[00:22:30] Jenny Winfield: So they've come from clinical practice, social work, um, and there's a long, long history in that space of like how these principles have even been kind of generated and shared with the world. Which definitely needs, um, paying attention to. I think a lot of people in design think that trauma is like a new trauma informed like ways of working are new.

[00:22:51] Jenny Winfield: And it's like, they're not, they're just new in design. This has been going on for like decades, if not centuries in different cultures. [00:23:00] Um, so I think the framework of principles really helped me to kind of organize my, um, methodologies and my thinking around like something that I could feel solid about and other people were talking about.

[00:23:13] Jenny Winfield: Um, and then I think turning the principles into practical things is where I've been trying to do a lot of work in the past few years, and also to try and share some of those tips and tricks with other researchers and designers, because I think we, we need to practice it. We need to see how it feels. We need to find what works for us personally.

[00:23:33] Jenny Winfield: And I guess because Trauma informed care does feel like it comes from quite an academic place sometimes, like, you know, people are writing papers about it that designers are probably not reading. Um, I feel like turning some of that theory into very, very practical tips and tricks and tools, ways of doing things and frameworks is the most useful thing.

[00:23:56] Gerry Scullion: So what worked for you in terms of leveling up? [00:24:00] Was it courses? Was it reading? Was it coaching? And you mentioned that you were a freelancer, so you didn't have access to people who were like more senior. And even if they were probably more senior in design, they probably weren't going to have this in their locker either to tap into.

[00:24:16] Gerry Scullion: That was my experience. Yeah. No offense to anyone who I've previously worked with, but anyway, I said it. So, what, what, what does that look like from you? What worked for you to get you to the point where you said you were scared at one point, but then you felt more comfortable? What, what were the, what's the ingredients that you used to kind of cook that pie, so to speak?

[00:24:38] Jenny Winfield: Cook that pie. Yeah. So I think there was a couple of things. So I was working directly with, um, practitioners who were confident in this space. Um, so there was the prison psychologist, for example, um, I worked on a project about it. Um, families whose children, where the children had witnessed domestic violence.

[00:24:56] Jenny Winfield: And on that project, I worked with a family therapist to design the [00:25:00] trauma informed approach and how we would apply that both when we were talking to children and talking to the parent. Um, I did, um, a course on your platform with Rachel a couple of years ago, um, to learn about the essentials for trauma informed design.

[00:25:14] Jenny Winfield: But one of the biggest and most transformative things that happened for me around this time was joining CHEN. So CHEN is a trauma informed organization, which is super interesting. So not only are we trying to embed these principles into the services that we're designing for survivors. Um, but we actually.

[00:25:35] Jenny Winfield: Embed them within the way that we work as well. So our organizational principles, um, and our policies, the way that we research with our communities and survivors, um, and the services we design, they're kind of all, we're thinking about trauma and trauma informed ways of doing things in relation to all of that stuff.

[00:25:53] Jenny Winfield: And our founder, Hira, had done a lot of work to think about what kind of principles would [00:26:00] be most relevant and useful for us in our organization. And she sort of adapted and sort of tweaked, um, the trauma informed principles that you sort of see out there. said that they were a bit more relevant for our organization.

[00:26:14] Jenny Winfield: Um, and I think that's quite a contentious thing to do because there are people out there who are very purist about like following the principles exactly as they were kind of originally shared by the substance abuse and mental health services administration in 2014. But they were designed in a kind of substance abuse and mental health context and we're designing services in a slightly different context.

[00:26:36] Jenny Winfield: So I kind of admire her willingness and kind of work to sort of adapt them and adopt them in a different way. Um, but anyway, so going into Chen as a user researcher in 2021, November 21. Was where I sort of started to really gain that grounding and like, okay, so I'm now the user researcher for this organization, [00:27:00] which is designing services for people who've experienced trauma.

[00:27:04] Jenny Winfield: And it allowed me to sort of really bed into that world and learn a lot about it and, and practice and have some time and space to write and reflect. With other people in the community, both inside Chen and outside about what all of this looks like if you're doing it well. Um, and that's been really useful because one of the things that I was reflecting on recently is how, when you're kind of cycling through projects at speed and dipping in and out of things, like often, which you do as a freelancer, you don't really have the kind of meat to dig into these things necessarily, um, More deeply, which I think is required.

[00:27:43] Jenny Winfield: So it's kind of like the balance of like the, the job that I do two and a half days a week and then the freelancing as well has helped me there. That can 

[00:27:51] Gerry Scullion: help as well. I think they kind of feed each other in my experience when you're doing that kind of work. One of the things that kind of shocked me a little bit, [00:28:00] maybe six months ago when I was speaking to somebody, um, on a chemistry golf or coaching session, actually.

[00:28:05] Gerry Scullion: Um, I said from talking about trauma informed design, it says, oh no, I'm, I'm, I'm trauma informed. It was almost like, uh, it was being perceived as a personality trait, like, are you, do you have empathy? It was like in the same, it was being treated in the same way as like, oh no, whenever I'm researching I'm always trauma informed.

[00:28:24] Gerry Scullion: And while you're training, you're not really, not really able to deal with it. I think a lot of people still kind of struggle with the whole kind of how it changes what we're typically taught, whether it's through kind of by doing or from watching, observing other practitioners doing it. Maybe you could give us some specific examples of.

[00:28:46] Gerry Scullion: life before trauma informed design, like how you might approach a, say, a qualitative session, like one on one with somebody who has suffered either domestic abuse or some whatever scenario you want [00:29:00] to play out. And then what does that look like from a trauma informed design perspective? Would you be okay for doing this kind of, I think that might be helpful for some people because there's definitely, there's differences and I want to play that out for people so they can really grasp what I mean by trauma informed design.

[00:29:17] Jenny Winfield: Yeah. I think one of the key differences that I've reflected on a lot is how, like, previously when I would do research about other topics, you could get away with being really vague. Say you'd be like, in fact, a lot of the time in previous work I'd done for like organizations that wasn't about trauma, you deliberately withhold the name of the organization that you were working on so that you weren't going to like, you know, prime the person to like have a specific opinion about what you were going to show them.

[00:29:46] Jenny Winfield: B. S. O. The sort of market research, kind of design research focus is on like Extracting as much insight as you can from people and turning that very quickly into, you know, [00:30:00] opportunities for brands and organizations to kind of improve their market share or kind of become more innovative, whatever it is.

[00:30:08] Jenny Winfield: And when that is your mindset, you have like a certain window of time to do your research. It's part of a bigger project. There's always like a Pressure on doing work quickly and like to a high quality. And this is very sort of like consultancy style world of like research period and you're going to do 10 interviews and each one of them needs to be like, you know, incredibly insightful.

[00:30:29] Jenny Winfield: There's no room for error on the part of you or the participant. Like the way people would describe participants was kind of as a waste of time, you know, if they hadn't learned something that they thought was particularly interesting. Yeah. You know, you could do things like organize an interview and then change the time of it at the last minute if it didn't suit your design team or even the way like we would treat consent forms, it was just this like annoying formality to sign before we could really get started and, you know, talk about the fun stuff.

[00:30:56] Jenny Winfield: And I think a lot of it just felt. [00:31:00] I'm very much focused on like extracting from people and I think that in trauma work, there's so much more of a focus on care, um, and thinking carefully about whether the things that you're doing are going to harm people further than they've already been harmed or whether they could potentially contribute to that person feeling validated and seen and in any way feeling better.

[00:31:24] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. 

[00:31:25] Jenny Winfield: So one of the big things is to make sure that the mindset is that like, you're there to listen and you're there to validate and support, and you might learn something that's interesting for your project and hopefully you will, but if you don't, it's not a waste of time because you've been there for that person, you've provided a space for them to talk about whatever it was.

[00:31:45] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. 

[00:31:45] Jenny Winfield: Um, and you haven't got this mindset of like, Oh, you know, have to, have to get as much as I can out of this person. So moving away from that is a big one. Um, and then if you think about all of the different principles and how they really [00:32:00] come to life in a research experience, so for example, safety, starting with the first principle, um, this is about thinking carefully about like, what does that really mean to people when they're in a research scenario?

[00:32:13] Jenny Winfield: So. What might be triggering for somebody, what kind of language might you want to use to ensure that you're not like going to be triggering or you're not going to be harming somebody, how might you think about like the position they might be in? So are they going to potentially be anxious about what you're going to ask?

[00:32:29] Jenny Winfield: You know, you're there to talk on some level about trauma. You're not asking them directly about their traumatic experience, but it might come up in the context of your questions about your design work. Are you as a researcher ready for that? What are you going to do if somebody discloses something to you?

[00:32:45] Jenny Winfield: So having some like free time, having some time to think about these things before you go in and having some processes where it's like, actually the way that we do consent. Is that we think about active, active and dynamic [00:33:00] consent. So we would write like a really, really like human consent form, which is like really easy for anybody to understand.

[00:33:07] Jenny Winfield: We'd send it well in advance. We'd encourage people to ask questions about it. We'd encourage people to say like yes to some things and no to other things. For example, like transcripts, video recording, other people joining, how long the session is. Giving them lots of options as to like how it's going to feel, doing prep work, which tells people sort of like the emotional tone of the session that you're going to try and create, helping people understand what you won't ask them, and doing all of this in advance, giving people the options to sort of ask questions, and then making sure that you remember that like when people have experienced trauma, they may feel very different day to day.

[00:33:45] Jenny Winfield: So, or even like minute by minute, right? So you can start a session and you've got your consent done and that's all great and you're underway. But if you're being trauma informed, you'd have a check in halfway through or partway through and say, these are the topics that are still coming [00:34:00] up. How do you feel about carrying on?

[00:34:02] Jenny Winfield: Would you like to have a break? You know, just giving lots of space and time for like, The conversation or the research to go in multiple different directions and having this kind of approach or attitude that like, yeah, you're not just there to sort of get in, get your insight and get out again and never see that person again, there's a lot around the following up and taking care after the, after the session as well.

[00:34:25] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. 

[00:34:26] Jenny Winfield: Um, so yeah, I've, I've written some articles about all of this stuff in relation to the different principles, so we can link to them in the show notes. Yeah, I think taking the principles and just trying to really imagine different scenarios and work them through is, is Is a 

[00:34:42] Gerry Scullion: really, yeah, it's a solid way.

[00:34:43] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. The first time I ever saw a different, like obviously when you're working in design research or even UX research, whatever you want to call it, to me it's all relatively similar. Um, when I was doing work, um, I was [00:35:00] part of sessions for adult survivors of sexual abuse, transsexual abuse. And I was working with two kind of doctors of research in the University of Sydney, and I saw how they were running their sessions and I was just like, it's a different, just a different level.

[00:35:19] Gerry Scullion: And this was 2015, this was before, you know, you didn't know what to Google, like, you know, advanced research, um, researching with, you know, certain taboo subjects while really having too many returns. It's like, it's hard to believe that's really 10, I don't know when that was. I've, I've had blank on dates, usually the pandemic, like, you know, it was probably pre pandemic maybe I'd say, but it wasn't until like, okay, that's fair enough.

[00:35:48] Gerry Scullion: Now, one of the things that listeners, long time listeners will be aware, the whole premise of this is HCD came out of, by the way, Jenny, when, when I was working in that space, I suffered from extreme [00:36:00] vicarious trauma, from researching in that space. And I didn't know how to articulate it. I didn't know how to deal with it.

[00:36:07] Gerry Scullion: I didn't know how to share it with my peers. I was like, I was weak. I was like, why am I suffering from this? And I still manage it, you know, month to month with my psychologist. But believe it or not, 10 years nearly on. But what I'm keen to understand is when you're working in the trauma informed design space, it's like there's this whole kind of chasm of vagueness within the design world when it comes to research.

[00:36:33] Gerry Scullion: We are pretty good at researching complicated problems like bank ordering mortgage forms and car ordering processes and stuff in the UX world, but we're gonna get more and more into the, the world of complexity and, you know, really, really difficult problems that require us to become, in my world, more aware and more resilient.

[00:36:59] Gerry Scullion: Is it fair [00:37:00] to say, and tell me, like, if this is something you're not willing to go into, but when you're working in that space that you're in now to do taboo subjects, you mentioned about levelling up, where does self care sit within that kind of levelling up as well? 

[00:37:14] Jenny Winfield: Oh, it sits really centrally in it. Um, I think, you know, if you think about what I was just saying before about, you know, just Going and going and going when I was working in the consultancy world and sort of always being on a plane and burning out 

[00:37:28] Gerry Scullion: and 

[00:37:29] Jenny Winfield: you can sort of do that.

[00:37:30] Jenny Winfield: I 

[00:37:30] Gerry Scullion: mean, they're meant to be human centered design, that consultancy doesn't sound very human centered for their employees. 

[00:37:35] Jenny Winfield: The, um, the consultancy world, I think it's kind of difficult from that perspective, uh, for lots of people, but yeah, I remember, um, coming into this type of work and thinking like, You know, I'm freelance and I've got to like, get loads of projects and I'm sustaining myself now.

[00:37:53] Jenny Winfield: And people along the way would be like, and how are you looking after yourself? Like, what are you doing to kind of really make [00:38:00] sure that you're okay? Um, and I, it did take me a while to kind of recognize properly. And so this was something that I was at risk of vicarious trauma and secondary trauma. Um, and Chen actually, Chen helped me to really understand that more.

[00:38:16] Jenny Winfield: So. We have lots of policies and processes around managing vicarious trauma. As an organization, we have quite high literacy around it and what the signs might look like, as well as the fact that the signs look different for everybody. Um, we ha, you know, I have, um, like access to a therapist that I can speak with if I've had a particularly difficult search session and I've done that a few times, um, we have like an open door sort of policy where like, if we just need to talk about something that we're feeling, which is difficult.

[00:38:45] Jenny Winfield: Related to the work that we've been doing, you know, we can speak to any of our colleagues without even needing to say like exactly why it's just like, Oh, I want a 30 minute chat. Um, so that really helps as well as having, [00:39:00] um, you know, group sessions where we can come together in a sort of formally facilitated way to talk about difficult aspects.

[00:39:06] Jenny Winfield: Um, I think, yeah, I've learned a lot about like the need to actively take care of this stuff, um, from Chen. Um, and then just been trying to practice in my own kind of time as well and figure out what it means for me. Um, so what are the things that I do to, you know, help myself feel good and feel balanced and feel settled and feel kind of ready to do this work?

[00:39:31] Jenny Winfield: Whether it's having enough breaks or, you know, sometimes I work on projects that are about nothing to do with trauma. Um, so I have like a little break. I often work on projects for kids actually, like products. Um, so that's really fun. Um, and just being away from technology and screens and all of that, all of that stuff.

[00:39:49] Jenny Winfield: Um, I basically can't watch Netflix anymore because I feel like every Netflix show is just about like sexual violence on TV. Yeah. 

[00:39:56] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. So 

[00:39:57] Jenny Winfield: things like that, just, just [00:40:00] noticing being aware of kind of like where I'm doing things which like don't particularly make my body feel good. How much am I like taking care of my sleep?

[00:40:09] Jenny Winfield: So when I used to have like research weeks that were very intense, I'd be like, I've got to have all the healthy snacks in, got to cancel all my plans so I can go to bed early. I just feel like that's the way I live my life now, instead of it just being like based around a research week, it's like, Oh yeah, like I usually just like take care of myself really well because I need to, to do this work.

[00:40:28] Jenny Winfield: And to your point earlier about how much more work there is to do in this space, because when trauma is growing, the world we live in is very traumatic. You know, we're facing impending climate crisis and all of the rest of it. And so. To be somebody working in the space who wants to do it sustainably, you know, and, and for a long time into the future, being aware of and mitigating and managing vicarious trauma is just like absolutely essential.

[00:40:56] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. It's something that's [00:41:00] a lot, not a lot, it's still a taboo, I think, within many design organizations when researching can be. Something as trivial, and I say that kind of lightheartedly, as money, and you're working in bank scenarios, and I remember researching a married mum, and I was talking about money, and totally unaware that I was walking into an area that could be seen as a powerful controlling mechanism in a relationship.

[00:41:35] Gerry Scullion: They start to break down. Yeah. Um, that's something that was my own lack of awareness, but also how, I remember at that time I was with a consultancy and they were like, I can't believe you made them cry. And I was like, well, we were actually having a pretty human conversation and it wasn't like I was extracting.

[00:41:57] Jenny Winfield: Yeah. And it's not necessarily a bad thing if someone [00:42:00] cries in a research session. It happens a lot. And often it's like a relief that someone has been able to actually share stuff. 

[00:42:05] Gerry Scullion: And just talk about it. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:42:07] Jenny Winfield: Yeah, exactly. That validation and just having the space for somebody who's not wanting to like, move on to the next thing straight away, we've done the checklist of questions.

[00:42:15] Jenny Winfield: Yeah. Um, but it's interesting. Can I just 

[00:42:17] Gerry Scullion: add on that one point there, Jane, because that's a really important piece I want to hit home because those emotional responses are human. Okay, like that's, it is a very human thing. During the pandemic, like, I was researching for pain management for a very, very large pharmaceutical company that, anyway, we'll go into, I can't disclose their names.

[00:42:39] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. When I was researching, it was obviously through the medium, uh, Zoom and so forth. And I might have had 50%, as we would say, criers on those calls and they said it's so, so good to speak to somebody who's, um, listening, I can ask him these questions. [00:43:00] And again, I had to educate the people that were hiring me to do the job saying, I'm not doing anything here.

[00:43:06] Gerry Scullion: It's just, we can sometimes mimic therapists. Yeah. And I want to talk to you a little bit more around that and how we can actually. properly disclaim about our, our stripes, our kind of capabilities to handle those situations. 

[00:43:26] Jenny Winfield: Yeah. 

[00:43:28] Gerry Scullion: What are your thoughts on that and how did you, is that something that you, um, sort of uncovered in your leveling up, I'm using your word throughout this, this podcast.

[00:43:36] Gerry Scullion: But, um. No, it's great. Yeah. How do you handle those things? 

[00:43:41] Jenny Winfield: It's a really, yeah, it's something that we all need to be thinking about and what are the, what are the things that we're telling people about what we do? And also what are we putting out there that may be misconstrued? So it's all very well to show up to a session and be like, I'm a researcher and I'm working on this thing, [00:44:00] but thinking about it, it's like, does, does the person who you're speaking with know that a researcher working on this thing is different from.

[00:44:08] Jenny Winfield: A specialist. 

[00:44:09] Gerry Scullion: A clinical researcher. 

[00:44:10] Jenny Winfield: Yeah. A clinical researcher or, you know, somebody who's got a very different kind of background. So I definitely think it's really, really important for us to be aware of what our kind of boundaries are and what our scope of practice is. Yeah. Um, and that's something that I know that K.

[00:44:25] Jenny Winfield: A. McKercher, their work has been particularly influential on me. Thinking about, they wrote that great, um, piece last year around having a scope of practice. Rachel also talks about this a lot and, um, is keen for everybody entering into this space to read Tad Hirsch's article around practicing, practicing without a license, I think it's called, which is.

[00:44:46] Jenny Winfield: A must read, um, for anybody entering into this space, just to be very clear with people that, you know, you're not a therapist. So being able to say that at the beginning of the session, I think it's important, um, to give people an idea [00:45:00] of like, what is it that a researcher, In this context can actually do, um, what also I can't do.

[00:45:07] Jenny Winfield: So I'll often say, um, you know, I'm not going to ask you about the traumatic experience that we're here, um, in some way, because of, like, I'll often say, I'm so sorry that it's in this context that we're meeting and because of this thing that happened to you. But I'm not going to be asking you questions about that experience, partly because I am not qualified to be able to help you work through it.

[00:45:29] Jenny Winfield: I'm not a therapist. Well, I am as a researcher who works on the design of services, and so I know a little bit about this world. You can feel free to talk me about it if you want to. Yeah. Um, but I won't be able to follow up and let necessarily find resources for you, even though I can do some sign posting.

[00:45:50] Jenny Winfield: So I try to give people a bit of an idea of like what it is that I can and can't do. If a scenario was to come up where they disclose something, but it is difficult, I think. [00:46:00] We wouldn't be truthful if we were saying that it's, you know, it's easy to do this stuff, that you are creating an environment which feels warm, where you're encouraging people to talk at least around a topic that's really traumatic and difficult.

[00:46:15] Jenny Winfield: And to your point exactly, like, oftentimes people have never been asked in a kind way about this thing that happened to them before. So maybe they are taking the opportunity or they want to take the opportunity. To just spend half an hour talking about it. And so I think there's the doing the setup to try and make it clear at the beginning and beforehand, like what you can really offer, um, and then navigating it throughout sessions as well, and then trying to encourage people to not overshare, to kind of steer them away.

[00:46:46] Jenny Winfield: If you can see it going in that direction. Um, one of the things that I quite often say, if I feel things going that way is You know, I feel like I could talk with you about this stuff for hours. And it's so interesting, [00:47:00] I wonder in the time that we have left, if we might be able to focus on X and Y, um, so that it's not like, don't tell me about that thing, I'm not interested, but it's kind of like, okay, would it be okay if we move the conversation in this direction?

[00:47:16] Jenny Winfield: And often people will be, feel, appear to be quite relieved. 

[00:47:21] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. That 

[00:47:21] Jenny Winfield: they've been sort of guided from oversharing, because I think that's something that can create a lot of anxiety afterwards as well, is if they've kind of gone into a session and really shared a lot about something very personal, then it can make people feel quite unsafe.

[00:47:34] Jenny Winfield: Yeah. 

[00:47:35] Gerry Scullion: That whole kind of oversharing scenario. Yeah. Like, I probably shouldn't have said that. Yeah. And that's fair and rough, like, you know, I sometimes do that too. Yeah. And we all. Yeah. Jenny, there's, and I'm going to quote what you just said, like, I could feel like I could speak to you for hours, but, um, we are coming towards the end of the episode here, like, you know, and [00:48:00] first of all, I said to you that I always do this, but I always thank people who come onto the show to talk about this stuff.

[00:48:05] Gerry Scullion: We don't do questions on this podcast upfront, folks, and I do that intentionally because I want to get a natural flow of a conversation. I want to allow my own curiosity to drive the conversation and also. sense the mood of the guest as well and sometimes if I enforce those questions up front, I feel like the, the conversations can become quite scripted.

[00:48:28] Gerry Scullion: Um, so I want to thank you for your vulnerability coming in here today and allowing me to kind of go left and right and back and front and then sometimes reverse the same question. 

[00:48:36] Jenny Winfield: Yeah, it's fun. 

[00:48:39] Gerry Scullion: But um, What's the best way for people to get in touch with you? Because I know you're working for Chen, um, two and a half days a week, but there's that other two and a half days a week, which is where you get to ultimately, you know, learn and grow and practice and other areas that you're interested in.

[00:48:56] Gerry Scullion: So maybe give a shout out and tell us what's the best way to get in touch with you through those mediums. [00:49:00] 

[00:49:00] Jenny Winfield: Yeah, so you can reach me on LinkedIn. I'm there pretty often. 

[00:49:04] Gerry Scullion: Definitely, you're there all the time. 

[00:49:06] Jenny Winfield: That's a good way. 

[00:49:07] Gerry Scullion: Little green light. 

[00:49:09] Jenny Winfield: Why you making me sound like a bit of a leaderless, yeah? Not at all.

[00:49:13] Jenny Winfield: Would you 

[00:49:13] Gerry Scullion: stop? I 

[00:49:14] Jenny Winfield: might be there once a day. Yeah, I'm there. Um, and yeah, through my website as well, which is jennywinfield. co. uk. Yeah, absolutely great. So feel free to reach out. 

[00:49:24] Gerry Scullion: For sure. Jenny, listen, thanks so much. It was absolutely brilliant having the podcast. 

[00:49:28] Jenny Winfield: Thank you so much, Gerry. It was great to see you.

[00:49:30] Jenny Winfield: No worries. Catch you later.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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