Bringing Design Closer with Gerry Scullion

Melanie Rayment ‘Using Service Design to deliver improved experiences for vulnerable children’

John Carter
October 15, 2019
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Melanie Rayment ‘Using Service Design to deliver improved experiences for vulnerable children’

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Episode Transcript

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Hello and welcome to bringing this line closer. My name is Gerry Scullion and I’m a service design practitioner and trainer based in Dublin city Ireland. Today in the show we’ve got Melanie Rayment who’s a social designer and strategist originally hailing from Sydney Australia. Now living in London she is currently the Head of Service Design at Barnardos UK one of the UK’s largest and oldest children’s charities which employs 8000 staff 22000 volunteers and provides over 1000 social care services to our most vulnerable children. With a mission to redesign and deliver the next generation of children’s social care. Melanie and our team are doing incredible work. The service design team are Barnardos are working on some incredible projects at the moment and whether that be trialling messenger services to provide additional support to young people or redesigning service agreements and explaining consent through animations and child-centred approaches or even redesigning risk assessment tools for sexual assault. Bringing a child voice front and centre in redesigning residential care placement. The service design team at Barnardo’s are really busy, busy making a difference internally and externally for the people use for services.

In this conversation, we chat a lot about the interesting aspects about how they’re using service design at Barnardos to get these outcomes working inwards and outwards. It’s a fantastic conversation and I hope you enjoy it.

Melanie Rayment a very warm welcome to Bringing Design Closer.

Thank you. How are you?

Oh, I’m fine. I’m good. How are you? I am very good. I’m sat at Bath University right now.

You could be in worse places. Bath is beautiful. I’ve been there before and I loved it. It’s a stunning place to visit. But Melanie you know we’ve been trying to connect for quite a while. We were like ships in the night in Sydney and we worked with lots of people that we both know. And I’m honestly delighted to have you on the show. I’ve been a longtime admirer of your work especially in the last couple of years where we connected over there at the work that you do in a Barnardos. So let’s start off. Tell me a little bit about yourself. How would you describe what you do to your mother?

Oh, good question. I used the way designers think and the process that we employ to help other people unlock knowledge that they have and find new approaches that can create better services better outcomes for people better ways of doing things.

So you’re currently the Head of Services I’m at Barnardos. So for people who aren’t from the UK maybe tell us what Barnardo’s do.

So Barnardos is a charity one of the largest churches charities across the UK and we provide children’s social care services which is approximately about a thousand at the moment to vulnerable children and it’s a large heritage organisation that’s been around for about 150 years. Oh yeah absolutely.

So talk to us you know it’s been around 150 years. How have they used design in the past and how are they using it now.

I think design is slowly taking a hold within Barnardos in regards to how we imagine the way we deliver services to children in the UK.

And so I think a lot of the services that exist at the moment we’re trying to bring that sort of consciousness to the way that services are designed and the team has been around I think probably now about three or so years and it’s been on a journey. So in regards to you know where do we find the right intervention points to enhance the way that the organisation is responding to those social needs and proof that within the organisation. And of course you know allow ourselves to understand the people that we’re working with. You know we’ve got such a wealth of knowledge within Barnardos and the people that are on the frontline who have been dedicated their lives to these issues. And so how can we use design in a way that is respectful to that and bring different pieces of knowledge and evidence together and find a new way forward because we are faced with constantly diminishing budgets around social care. And so we have to find new ways to deliver those outcomes for children. And I think Design has that role to play within the organisation.

Yeah, so it’s producing more with less effectively is what I’m hearing. Yeah and that brings its own you know type of problems and unique set of problems as well. When you have those kind of restrictions placed on you so how do you work around an organisation that’s as old as Barnardos to ensure that what gets delivered is the right thing.

Yeah, I think it’s that sort of go slow to go fast. There are different sort of approaches that we are taking but I think it is always about starting with the children and their children’s needs and with them and understand their lives and certainly the families and carers and community around them and working from that.

And I think that’s something that ultimately we hold up as paramount within the organisation and bring those people within to our organisation so that they can affect the decisions made within the organisation.

Yeah I mean I met some of your team because you are head of services at Barnardos at Service Design Days in Barcelona and had some fantastic conversations. Tom Norman was awesome and a great guy and we were chatting around you know the complexities of working within an organisation that is ultimately you know, their intent is to do good.

Do you work with other NGOs or is it just you know directly with children.

Yeah, I think we do but it’s about also working in the open and being sort of relentlessly collaborating with other people. You know I’m really conscious that public funds go into a lot of what we do and the money that is spent into developing products and services and research is really valuable. And so we have to be able to not only share the knowledge that we are collecting through research but also share our journey and our processes and completely be working in the open so that we can not just progress ourselves as a nation and what our service proposition is and our position within the social care sector but actually push the social care sector forward.

And fundamentally that is our mission within the digital transformation team is to really shape the children’s social care sector around children’s needs and so that means that we have to be working really humbly and really openly and work across the NGOs and with government and with the private sector as well.

Yeah so I know we mentioned before we were recording this. You know there was service design or had a head of service design before you joined Bernardos, which was Audrey Fletcher.

What have you done since that period? Like what are the bits that have worked well in the last two years for you?

Yeah well, Audrey is an amazing designer and she’d set up a wonderful sort of foundation and tried to assist the service design team find its fate within the organisation.

So it’s really building upon the knowledge and the learning that her and the team had undertaken. I was thinking about this the other day that my hypotheses for where the intervention points are within the organisation has shifted multiple times.

And so had to be really quite agile and adaptive to how we do that and where we might put our focus because of course funding is limited even to our own team. So it’s since then I think we’ve changed in regards to looking at a much more longer-term view of where design can play and so working with long term partnerships. So we have a number of partnerships across the UK that are up to 10 years long in regards to children in leaving and leaving care mental health and wellbeing children sexual assault and working with Leicester County Council. And so that really progresses out the point in taking a portfolio approach to how we’re going to create social change and so that means using design at different levels.

So rather than coming in and creating a single service to fill an unmet need, it’s about having a really holistic view of the social care system all the local system that is at play, the context the structures in terms of the organizational structures of how we’re responding to that.

So it’s really that of policy to touchpoint view of where design can have a role and shaping the organised the view of service designers sort of designers change making rather than just being about particular services or or products which you know is fundamentally important but it’s about having multiple ways to create that change.

Yeah. So in my experience of working within the child sexual abuse space within Australia one of the big problems that I faced when I was designing and that space was the lack of access to change the policy and to move the system forward. They didn’t have access to us. So what kind of access was Barnardos have in your own experience of being able to shape policy to improve better outcomes.

I think we actually have a really good position to do that and we do have a dedicated policy team. But of course, the different sort of specialism is around the organisation. These people are experts in that.

And so it’s about bringing all of that knowledge together and I think much of it is around the organizational response to that. And joining up we a really big and decent organization for those that don’t know we. We have about eight thousand staff and we have about 22000 volunteers and we have retail shops all across the country. And so it as an organization. I think one of the challenges is to bring all of those sort of narratives together and the learning together across the organization so that we can bring that all together and position ourselves in terms of what policy changes we want to see.

And so you know filter that information up from the feedback and the learning that we’re hearing from children and their families and carers right up into the policy positions that we have and having that golden thread between that and being able to bring that learning altogether.

Yeah. So could you give us an example of what a typical project looks like? And I hate asking that question because there’s no such thing as a typical project but you know for people listening out there at the moment and they’re like it can be really cool maybe I’d like to work in this space and I totally you know I encourage people to start looking at social design as a real potential area to get so much great experience. But what does it look like for a service designer entering into this space.

I don’t know if I have an example of a typical project. So it is very much centered between sort of two poles like I was saying before is that pretty big sort of sense making off of what’s going on in terms of a system. So have we have a designer Amy Ricketts working in Plymouth with a number of our other team members across Barnardos in regards to children leaving care and so we have this unique opportunity there to across sort of seven to 10 years to really get down and understand what’s going on. Right from a policy level right down to an individual sort of touchpoint level around you know how do we enhance lives of children leaving care and into sort of employment and positive destinations for their life. So that project itself has been multifaceted. So it’s about that sort of big holistic understanding of all of the puzzle pieces at play and how do they interact in terms of policies and organizations working there.

What are the interchanges of value and relationships and funding structures and all those things that all sort of messily combined to create a particular context. And then it’s also about really honing in in regards to particular problems. And so looking at some of the gaps that are there in regards to we know so for example children leaving care once they’re into their own independent residence they often get to a place where they’re on their own in that apartment or that house and they sit down for the first time and it’s deadly quiet and it’s lonely. And so the structures and the services and the programs that aim to get these young people into that independent living then have that that gap in that need. And so it’s it’s really zoning in on that and thinking about how do we respond to the loneliness in that space and work with children and young people so they create in particular projects around what could we do around a particular intervention that would assist in that. And so I think we’re a bit agnostic around what is the best approach there. It’s not about necessarily creating a new service to fit a gap. It’s about having a number of different ways to approach that particular issue right at the top level right down to really small little things that a seemingly small but can actually have a really big impact over time whether it’s about you know when you leave care you might not have the relationship networks that you might have had in another situation in life. And so how do you how do you enhance that at a service level. But how do you put that at a community level on a policy level as well.

Yeah absolutely and the interconnectedness of all these problems was one of the big things that I know and there was a group of us working on a big project in Sydney and we could see that they’re all interrelated and there was a lots of problems. So how do you work at that level you know where there’s so many social problems that are interconnected. How do you define what’s the project you do next. Well I know that that was a crazy question to answer but it’s one that I was asked quite a loss. It’s one that I myself struggled with coming up with an answer for.

I guess it’s like any design though right. You know you have to look at what is the problem rented to you or the opportunity presented to you from which organization is it being presented. How do they currently frame that. And what’s the scope. And then assessing any sort of constantly having to sort of zoom in and out from macro to micro to sort of determined where is that scope of influence that I can have. And sometimes it’s less than where our resources. Or. Is it our gift to do that. Oh yeah. You know I think you know you could take a very purist view of that and say well we’re only ever going to take a really systemic holistic view of everything but we know that in design that that’s not the case. And so it’s about finding that you know drawing that circle around that complex problem and defining where is the scope. That I feel like we can have. And now have an impact in some way. And I guess some of those things though is like I was saying before is some things can be seemingly really small but can have a big impact. And I remember when I was working for designing out crime at the University of Technology in Sydney and we were sort of taking that design approach to complex problems. Some of the things that I thought were really interesting was about different agencies different government agencies coming together and different NGOs and practice was all being in a room and they’re all sort of discussing what is required around that.

And you know these guys have 40 years experience in various cities you know who am I to who am I. Is this designed to sort of tell them anything really.

And I think it was so interesting to say that the power of reframing a particular problem. Yeah. And what that meant.

And so if if all those different organizations come into that room with a particular view of what the problem is and they leave with a collective view that is co created in that room that allows for new opportunities to unfold not only do you have that in terms of your design approach forward but you actually have this huge ripple effect that you’ve created in regards to every one of those people leave that room now with the potential to make decisions differently about that they use language that might shift and create changes about how other people see that particular issue. So I think that. You know defining where you can have impact is a difficult one but it’s sort of always about considering and where that might be in the system and zooming in and out constantly to to find that sweet spot.

Yeah. So Mel, you actually mentioned this morning on Twitter, like a bomb show went off in my world, but you’re returning to Sydney…

I guess it’s something I thought and I’ve gone through that recently as well. Moving from Sydney back over to this side of the world it usually creates time for reflection and reflection on what you’ve achieved and so forth. How would you define what you’ve achieved? Barnardos and what’s the big learning.

Oh my gosh, I’ve learnt so much at Barnardo’s I am truly thankful for the opportunity that I’ve had there and the ambition that we as a team as a wider team and certainly of the organisation has to create that change.

I think what’s worked is at a team level working in a much more tamed perspective and a team approach. We were very lucky to have a number of very senior service designers and social designers working on large projects but that’s quite lonely so working in a change approach has been really useful. And just thinking about all of those rhythms and rituals where you create space in the team full of sort of reflective practice and learning has been really nice. You know every one of the team within Barnardos service design team has a really unique background and experience and so it’s it’s about how do we draw on each other’s learning and knowledge because it’s really tough to do what we do in this space. And so you have to really create a resilient team culture and supportive culture and and create that space for all of us to learn together. What have I learned in regards to sort of at a more broader level at an organisational level. I think there is a continued opportunity for us to use the digital cultural aspects and design to shape the way that the organisation responds to these issues and that can sound like a really big sort of strategic level you know a two systems thinking to do X but at a really fundamental level it can be just the way that people collaborate and the way people interact and certainly even the way people consider problems and bring knowledge together. So you know rather than having particular sort of very tick box meetings task in these groups actually how do you create a space to have really open and safe generative conversations about these things and bring all of that knowledge together. And then when you leave the room have something that’s tangible to act upon as well. So I think that continues to be a space where I think we have an opportunity to influence within an organization and and challenge some of the processes and procedures and sort of behaviors to effect change. And at a more broader systems level I think it takes a huge amount of emotional effort and passion to to challenge the current status quo in regards to how we do things. And that requires a lot of different people and you know we alone can’t do it. Fundamentally we alone can’t do it. And so it’s I think we have to be finding ways to collaborate with people finding ways to create a shared knowledge and shared skills and practices that are sort of externalized so that we can address those things and you know call out some of the processes and structures and behaviors that aren’t creating the results.

And this sort of thing we need for children in the UK.

Yeah absolutely. Just going back to the rituals that you mentioned earlier I mean not working in this space where you can be research and you know as you said I try sexual abuse or neglect or anything to do with the children. How do you ensure the mental health issues for the researchers within the team what kind of rituals do you do to ensure that they’re being kept okay and safe.

Yeah I think you know this is something that you and I have had other offline conversations about.

I think it’s something that’s really front of mind and something that we fully haven’t cracked as yet to be honest. But I think it’s firstly about how you create a team culture where it’s okay to talk about how you’re feeling here and I think I’ve been in different organizations that that’s fundamentally not the case. And so it’s a unique and in the broader digital team it’s a really unique culture and one that I’ve not seen before in regards to how supportive and open and inclusive as a wider team we are.

So there is that and that that comes ultimately from the leadership across many different levels of the team but also about having some of those clear practices about you know before you go out and undertake that particular interview to check in with that person and just be human and just have that conversation that it’s okay to say you know what I’m not okay to have this particular interview and have have an opportunity to veto that particular piece of work or that component of the work without any repercussions. And equally also in that moment consider are we the right people to be doing that for the child as well. Yeah sometimes as designers we’re not the best person to be sitting with those children to have that interview. And I think that’s something that you know service design is not in that space would struggle to understand. You know they’re sort of link I want to go out and speak to all these children. And sometimes that’s not our place right. And we have to be cognizant of that. In regards to trauma as well and having some clear procedures around rehearsing particular situation so we’ve had some of the team go out and interview in regards to residential care and we have a teaming approach to rehearsing some of those interview questions. How would you respond to these things and feeling comfortable and mean talking about different scenarios that might come up. Of course being very clear around our safeguarding issues for the children but also being really clear around our own our own mental health and being clear about what happens if any of those conversations trigger something for yourself that you have a number of different pathways to go and about that. But again back to the human thing is just debriefing about it and having the opportunity to go Wow that was that was intense and I didn’t see that coming. And what might we do with that and how do we feel about what we’ve learned today.

So before we were speaking Mel we’re mentioning around you know obviously the organization is so old and you’re working within one ecosystem that’s probably within part of another larger ecosystem that’s probably you know older than them that itself and sometimes it can become quite complex when you have to work with people who are a bit more resistant to becoming design led.

And I’m interested to see your active on measuring the impact of designed to provide that reassurance such there is vital you in this way are working to help build trust. Yes.

Yeah I think it requires a variety of different approaches.

And again it comes back to those sort of portfolio of how you’re going to measure impact at a design level and sort of proving the value of design. I don’t have a magic wand or you know I don’t think we’ve done a magic.

I thought there was a magic wand here.

I wish there was. I think it’s something that you know the sector really talks about.

But I think there is a number of ways that you can do that and certainly within our space because we act as a lighthouse really for sort of consciously designed and evidence informed services rather than redesigning our thousand existing services.

We have the opportunity to sort of hold those particular services up and capture a typical service metrics that that might demonstrate the value that that particular process has yielded. And of course the outcomes that that might create for children which is fundamentally why we all get up in the morning but at a more broader level what we’re trying to do is to capture stories across different projects in a way that legitimizes some of those reflections and those observations that we’re having. So I’ll give you an example within our projects we have obviously a number of key stakeholders some that are within Barnardos as sponsors and some within local authorities and then we have our designers and our researchers. So capturing their observations on a sort of fortnightly or monthly basis across a spectrum of indicators so you know are you seeing a shift in the relationships that you have with the local authority. Why is that happening or you know someone from the local authority stood up and explained service design really well. And a recent event you know that feels like a win. Yes but on its own it seems quite small and insignificant. But if you can have that sort of structured approach to how you collect an embedded into your projects processes what we can find is that you can sort of string a lot of those things together to find some clear shifts in behaviors and languages and actions that are creating an impact.

And some of those are around the design process itself and the shared skills and some of that is around how that is then creating particular changes for the problem that you’re addressing as well.

Yeah. Melanie it was absolutely fantastic to finally get you on the show. It has been a couple of months of trying to pin down you know you’re very busy but I’m delighted to find you of you on the show. And if people want to reach out to you and get in touch with you you’re gonna be very busy having gin and tonics and coffees with people for the next couple of months leaving London. But I know you’re but you’re a big twitterer. What’s your handle. How can people get in touch with you in other ways.

Yes I’m always up for nerdy conversations.

So you can find me on Twitter at mail Rayment or find me on LinkedIn and certainly always up for chatting and sharing stories and learning yeah I’ll throw a link to both of those into the show notes Melanie thanks so much for your time.

Thank you Gerry. It has been wonderful to catch up.

So there you have it. Thanks for listening to bringing this on closer. If you want to learn more about the other shows and this is eight city network feel free to visit. This is where you can also sign up to a newsletter or join our Slack channel and reach and connect with other human centered design practitioners around the world. Thanks for listening and see you next time.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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