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Ideas to Action- Sector Innovation Programme.
We were delighted to have recently been involved in the delivery of the high profile Ideas to Action Sector Innovation Programme. The following provides a detailed overview of this fantastic project addressing physical activity.
Design thinking tools and methodologies help address challenges relating to physical activity
By Lesley Gulliver, Darren Evans, Melissa Bowden, Simran Chadha, Sport England
The Ideas to Action programme, delivered by Design Council and supported by Sport England, with funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, was launched to help some of the least active people in society become more active. One of its aims is to find new ways to overcome inequalities in physical activity.
There were two parts of the programme which involved cohorts, the Community Innovation Programme and the Sector Innovation Programme. The Sector Innovation arm of the programme comprised of teams from across the country, including:
The programme ran over the course of three months with a final showcase event held on Wednesday 8th December 2021. Some feedback from participants included:
“This has been the most enjoyable thing I’ve done this year.”
“I no longer just look for a solution. It has been eye-opening to take a step back and do the research and insight gathering first.”
“This process has been really useful for getting us to think about how we manage improvements to our programmes. It is definitely something we will start to embed across the organisation going forward.”
Positive feedback, but how has design helped with such a significant societal challenge?
With the pandemic contributing to diminished physical activity across a number of groups, there is an urgency to get people back to exercise. It’s tempting to rush to solutions, yet the Ideas to Action programme has helped the teams to take a step back from their usual Modus Operandi, and to take the time to really review the challenge in hand.
During the programme, we talked a lot about avoiding the temptation to “boil the ocean”. When we try to solve huge, complex societal challenges – in this case relating to health and wellbeing – we find quite quickly that the task in hand is so vast and complicated – with so many stakeholders – that we simply don’t know where to start. And for that reason, we often don’t start! Or if we do, we often fail to succeed with impact – simply down to the enormity of the challenge in hand. Hence the phrase: “don’t try to boil the ocean.”
By breaking down a challenge, and starting small, this programme enables a truly transformational approach that’s both achievable, impactful and most likely innovative too.
Ultimately, this leads to more focused challenges, more needs-led solutions and more successful outcomes.
“It felt good at the end of the last workshop that we had got to a place where we can focus on a job to be done. I felt like I understood more what we need to do and was also good to share the expertise that’s in our team and understand each other’s strengths”.
Getting closer to our audiences
The design methodologies taught through the programme have enabled the teams to go through a journey of reframing their challenges so that they are focused on the real needs of their audiences. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got” right? Ideas to Action enables a level of difference – through innovative thinking. So many organisations get stuck in the day to day and forget that their users should be at the heart of what they do. But how often do they actually go out and talk to them or spend any time with them? It’s obvious when you say it out loud, but it’s a trap that so many of us fall into.
Tools and methods
Design can seem unfamiliar to those who have never studied it. And the word ‘creativity’ can put fear into those of us who were never great at art at school. Ideas to Action provides the tools and techniques to think creatively, collaborate and co-create – in a surprisingly linear fashion!
‘’Our perception of our overall challenge is different even within our team, so creating a mutual vision has been helpful’’.
The entire programme is based around Design Council’s highly acclaimed Framework for Innovation, centred around the world-famous Double Diamond. Teams are facilitated through a series of steps that enable them to:
Fully break down their challenge and focus one step at a time
Gain a thorough understanding of stakeholder needs
Spend time with users to uncover previously hidden insights that can transform one’s understanding of the challenge
Generate many, many ideas in a short space of time
Prioritise those ideas and then visualise the future.
Not a felt-tip pen in sight – yet the quality and creativity of outcome is phenomenal.
The core principles of the Framework for Innovation include communicating visually and inclusively, being people-centred, collaborating and co-creating and iterating, iterating, iterating!
Key challenges faced by the teams included:
Embedding sustainable access to quality gymnastics for young disabled people in schools and community club environments all over the UK – to reduce health, social and developmental inequalities.
Tackling inequalities and improving wellbeing for young people (under 25) in Birmingham so they can live happier, healthier lives.
Addressing an inconsistent offer of physical activity across Nottingham which creates barriers for people becoming active through provision that’s not right for them.
Creating a framework to help partners tackle inactivity and health inequalities
Engaging with men, Asian and Black communities with the ‘Let’s Move’ offer so they can get the benefits of physical activity at a level that’s right for them.
Programme delivery and next steps
The Sector Innovation programme was delivered by Design Council Experts Lesley Gulliver and Darren Evans, plus a number of guest speakers including:
Maayan Ashkenazi, anthropologist, urban designer and researcher
Imogen Berman, Founding Partner of ThinkPlanThrive
Robin Pharoah, Director of Global Insight at Future Agenda
The entire programme was delivered online using Zoom, with all participants accessing MIRO as a virtual whiteboard. The series included five workshops with coaching sessions after each one – then a final showcase which brought the Sector Innovation Cohort together with the Community Innovation Cohort. The teams, collectively, are now looking to embed the principles and tools into their organisations, in order to ensure they address other internal projects with the same design-led and user-centred approach.
We are looking forward to seeing the teams continue on their journeys as they begin to put their ideas into action!
Flexing the programme to meet participant’s needs
As part of the Sector Innovation strand of the Ideas to Action programme, we worked with Move More Sheffield to adapt the programme to meet the team’s needs. The team was unable to attend the 4-month programme’s workshops and coaching sessions due to lack of time and difficulty involving team members from NHS regularly. Keen to see if we could offer something to the team when this problem arose, we discussed a shorter introduction to design tools and methods with the team lead. Through adopting a more tailored approach to support the team, we designed a 1-day sprint to cover a range of the tools and methods used by other teams over the 5 workshops. As a result of the 1-day session, the Move More Sheffield team was able to come together to explore their challenge in a way that allowed them to start thinking about re-defining their problem statement, generate and prioritise new ideas, and collaborate visually. The session was a chance for their team to also explore barriers to innovation and new ways of working to develop and take forward as their project progresses.
If you are interested in learning more about the teams and their challenges, listen to the Ideas to Action podcast, a series of thirteen short episodes interviewing the teams on the Community Innovation programme about how using design tools and methods have helped bring their ideas to action: https://www.ideastoaction.design/podcasts
For more information about the Ideas to Action programme please visit https://www.ideastoaction.design/
If you are interested in learning more about our Design Council and their programmes, please email email@example.com and sign up to their mailing list to keep up to date with Design Council news.
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