Output from May Event - Morning Session (JUD Game)
This article provides highlights and commentary from the morning session of the Joined Up Digital event, held on May 18th 2016 at the Centre for Ageing Better offices in Angel. The event was attended by approx 45 people from over 30 organisations, made up from our project contributors.
Firstly I would like to extend a huge thank-you to Anna Dixon and the Centre for Ageing Better for making the event possible, through the funding of the initial JUD project and hosting us on the day.
What is the Join Up Digital game?
In the morning session of our event we invited our attendees to play the Join Up Digital Game (JUD Game). This is a game developed for the event by Drew Mackie, an experienced game designer, with adviser David Wilcox. It was created in response to the barriers to digital adoption which the JUD Project raised (as covered in our introduction) and our approach for tackling them by looking to fix the broken 'digital supply chain' (as covered in our project outline).
The purpose of the game was to see how we could improve the wellbeing of people in later life by getting more digital solution (apps, sites, devices, services) to them: so firstly tackling the challenge of how we reach people and make them aware of what is available. The game also aimed to draw out the best ways for people to then adopt these solutions - either ageing specific or generally available digital technologies - such that serves their needs and desires, and fitting around how they live their lives.
The event brought together representatives from:
National bodies that have a responsibility or interest in ageing
Organisations acting at a local level from several locations across the country
Developers of apps, platforms and devices
The game intended to explore ways to:
Make platform, app and device developers more responsive to the expressed needs of older people and the people and organisations that support them
Get tech solutions to those people who can help with adoption - sometimes this could be people close to the target person (e.g. friends, family, carer) or a local organisation they are part of
Deploy existing digital solutions in a more appropriate and joined up way across organisations from all sectors: promotion, signposting, partnership, support
NB: more information on the structure & rules of the game can be found on this page, and also includes instructions on how to use the JUD Game for your own event.
Backdrop: The Living Lab
The backdrop for the game included 4 main sections, split across our event space:
National map - this was a basic network map including some of the main players from within the ageing space from all sectors - mostly made up of the organisations involved with the JUD project
Local 'Slipham' map - this is a more developed network map of the fictional town of Slipham, that Drew and David Wilcox have developed over many years. It includes typical community assets such as social clubs, uniform services, advice centres, volunteering groups, and many types of charity / non-profit support organisations.
Personas - this is a set of 6 fictional people from later life, based upon Ageing Better's work with Ipsos Mori, expanded to include network maps of the Personas' close connections, including family, friends and links into the Slipham community organisations.
Digital solutions - we had a wall of digital solutions which could help benefit our Personas, including well known tech solutions such as Facebook & Skype, established social apps like Do-it.org, and emerging ideas and start-ups focussed on ageing-specific problems.
NB. More information on the Living Lab can be found here in our Resources section.
Aim of the Game
The aim was simple: get the Personas (or in this case the people playing roles close to the Persona such as wife / son / carer) to adopt digital solutions that could help improve the Persona's lives. These could be existing solutions picked from our wall, or new solutions invented within the game.
All players were assigned roles - for many attendees they played the (typically National-level) organisation they represent in real life. But many also picked guest roles and represented local organisations and people close to our Personas, such as family friends
The players had to form alliances to take or create a digital solution, get support from other players (organisations) to help fund / promote / deliver their solution, and ultimately get it adopted by a Persona where it could help improve their life.
How the game ran
We played the game for just under 80 minutes. Drew and I explained the backdrop, the game and the rules, and after a certain amount of head scratching we got underway. One thing I noticed immediately was the level of engagement. We expected that the game concept would not be for everyone, as it meant mingling with lots of strangers. However pretty much all attendees threw themselves into it and got involved immediately.
In terms of my own experience of the game I was playing Tony the son of Mary, one of our Personas. I was pleasantly surprised with how early within the game people with existing digital solutions (such as Jamie from Do-it and Micah with Activating Space) came to me first to talk about what my mother's needs were. They didn't just assume what her needs & interests would be, instead we had a detailed discussion about her particular situation and what would work best for her. This approach was also present in a new solution proposed by the Age UK Slipham character (played by David at Age UK) and is described in this video interview below.
David Wilcox was our social reporter at the event, and shares his perspective on how the game went. “In the 'real world' of digital technology, innovation and ageing the dynamic of exchanges and relationships are often driven by two factors: looking for funding, as organisations aim to maintain and develop their programmes; and a focus on the latest 'shiny' solutions as developers promote their products and services. It is easy to forget that people - of any age - have very diverse interests, needs and capabilities. One size doesn't fit all. In addition, digital technology is just one tool people may add to the mix of media and other methods they use. Their home and community context will be enormously important adopting any new solutions.
We deliberately put the focus on people, by presenting organisations and developers with the challenge of helping create solutions for a range of personas. We also showed the close network of relationships around each persona. Solutions had to be adopted by those close to the personas to be deemed successful. In the event everyone turned their creativity to this end - showing the potential of a person-centric design approach. We achieved solutions that were not just about introducing technology, but rather how to blend that into an existing situation, and how tech could enable existing relationships and support new ones. John captured the presentations.”
Game outputs - Solutions for Personas
At the end of the game we stepped back to review the solutions that had been created for each of the Personas. It was certainly a constructive session - in less than 80 minutes over 20 solutions had been formed, each of which had managed to gain the support of at least 3 different players (organisations) and adopted by the Personas.
I have included a selection of videos below with some commentary ...
Maurine presented her idea of a walking group that is arranged online - an example of digital not being the solution, but it can help people find out about it and get more people involved.
Sharon's idea was based around convening people and selling them their idea of Digital engagement at their Peacock centre lunch club. This would use an existing setting where people already attend and feel comfortable, and 'sell' them the benefits of getting online in a more personal way.
Rob Pye was playing DWP - not his day job but a role he took to with real vigour. His idea for helping get the Persona Trevor back into work was to connect him to a national database of flexible working opportunities offered by top employers. As with Sharon's idea, this would be done in a local setting through Trevor's computer club. The mass of support Rob got from so many organisations (national and local) for this idea was a great example of what could be achieved through collaboration across multiple organisations and sector.
Another great example of collaboration to help Trevor back into work was Shona's solution. She pulled together a number of organisations to support a University of Third Age initiative to get former lecturers back into teaching - this would help Trevor with regaining confidentand would assist other people looking for classes to increase learning and social activity.
Stuart's solution had a private sector organisation (his own company Tunstall ) worked with innovative new sensor technology to help folks stay in their own home, gathering lots of support from other sectors and in this case NHS Choices.
Jamie presented how his organisation's solution Do-it.org can help people think about how to use their time as they approach and enter retirement. Do-it is a fine example of an existing solution with offer so many opportunities for people, which doesn't need funding but it would benefit from support and promotion help to get the word out there about its existence. I also really liked Jamie's idea for a new solution he came up with for my Persona Mary: taking the Do-it database of volunteering opportunities and building a text message interface on the front. Knowing Mary was less digitally skilled, but comfortable with her mobile, his solution was a great example of how digital technology must adapt to people and how they live their lives - not vice versa.
Micah Gold did some excellent 'working of the room' with his Activating space idea, which he described as an 'Airbnb for community space'. He partnered with organisations within Slipham that could act as suppliers of space, and he would then map with volunteers looking to deliver classes. A fine idea if unused space could be transformed into opportunities for increased community activity.
In one of the more ambitious tech ideas Julika proposed a secure data platform for sharing health info. This would not a simple solution to develop but the concept rightly got much support on the day - it could unlock so much value and bring benefit to millions of people trying to navigate the social care and health systems.
The best reception from our audience was saved for Mervyn with his 'Sharing passions' idea. A solution and speech that rightly got the most applause over the entire day! It was not only a great solution, built around what people want and using technology merely as the enabler, but Mervyn also pointed out the limits of the Personas (and its stereotyping): his solution was for all Personas and for all people. He also highlights how important it is for us to think about existing (non-digital) communication channels such as Radio. Finally I loved the idea that 'Sharing Passions' was owned and run by the people themselves as a cooperative.
Were the Solutions Effective?
Did the digitally-enabled solutions the attendees brought to the Personas in the game help address their challenges and improve their lives? We asked those who played roles closest to the Personas...
Paddy & Marjory gave their perspective highlighting the importance that people need to be spoken to in the first instance to understand what they need. This happened for Paddy not Marjory.
In playing the daughter of the one younger Persona within 'squeezed middle age' Rachael felt that players struggled to come up with some of thepreventative solutions needed.
Patrick was encouraged by the solutions formed on the day that could help his Persona with tackling social isolation, however he felt there may have been an assumed jump from Trevor's current status to a point where he is made aware of all of these new opportunities.
Anna was playing an 'activist' who was representing all of the Personas and trying to help them find solutions. She drew a similar conclusion around the key challenge of “discovering people who are otherwise hidden” and felt there's a clear need for signposting so people and their close networks can find out about solutions and services “all in one place”.
Rick also played an activist and his view was that too many of the solutions created in the game were about doing things to people “as recipients of health and support and charity”. Instead we all need to see people as contributors - we must create solutions with them not for them.
Feedback on what the game could teach us
At the end of the game we asked all attendees to provide feedback on what were their main 'takeaways' and feedback from playing the game. I have included a selection of the post-it notes in the images below.
Here are some of the key themes that I took from those feedback notes, and from the wrap-up discussions from the game.
Approach to adoption
Digital is just the enabler - the solution will most often be people (“we need sociotechnical solutions not just apps”)
Don't start with digital - “don't mention the D-word” - it could put people off - instead focus more on the opportunities, “what is the personal gain for the user?”
Start with the Person - their passions, interests and needs — a point picked up in this audio interview between John and Ageing Better Chief Exec Anna Dixon
Recognise people / users as contributors not recipients - what skills do they have, what can they give back?
Leverage the power and appeal of peer-to-peer sharing and learning
Make use of family members and carers who can act as intermediaries
Help individuals to help themselves - “give people control of their lives”
Make solutions personal and relevant to people's particular needs - not 'one size fits all'
Involve people in the solutions - in the development and ownership
Digital solutions should adapt to how we live our lives - not the other way around
Create interfaces that respect how people work, e.g. with the text message interface idea
We need to invest more in getting existing solutions out there, not putting all investment into new 'innovation'
Before building more digital solutions & platforms consider the long-term business model - when grant funding runs out does it have level of adoption and business model to make it sustainable
Much more can be achieved when we work together - across all sectors
Co-ordinate don't compete
Collaboration is key - without it we don't know what else is out there, what has already worked / failed, and we are duplicating effort
Funding is becoming more scarce - we must use it more wisely
What is missing / barriers
Infrastructure barriers such as cost of broadband are unacceptable but unlikely to change soon - we must work around them
We need greater signposting of the services and solutions that already exist
On this note an idea from Maureen I liked “Every borough should produce...information about all facilities that exist and should be sent to all residents”
Sustainable support models built from the community level up
The role of 'activist' we had in the game was key - there is a need for a community level conduit that can bridge the gap between what people want and what is out there
Feedback on how the game could be improved
This was the first time we ever tried out the JUD game so we knew there would be room for improvement. A few points we received from the audience that could improve the game included:
Having players in role of Personas instead of close networks would have helped get them more involved and contributing - not just being 'passive recipients'. Also would have helped explain to other players / roles their difficulty with tech and how that would have been a more real barrier
Don't just think about the challenges but also the opportunities (thanks again to Mervyn)
Letting attendees choose to play a role different from their organisation - is more fun and adds to the game experience
Include Personas in residential care setting
From talking to many of the attendees I believe the majority of our audience found the game fun, engaging and - most crucially - informative and educational. I was inspired on the day by the way the attendees threw themselves into the game and their roles, and the passion they showed in trying to make the world a better place for our Personas. My thanks again to everyone who attended and got stuck in.
I learnt a huge amount on the day as I am sure everyone did. The game provided us with some great feedback and hugely useful insights, which I hope will provide all organisations involved in the JUD project with useful food for thought to take back into their organisations and work programmes. The insights also provide us with strong pointers on where any follow-on JUD project should focus if we want to help achieve wider scale change, and see many more people enjoy the benefits of digitally-enabled, joined-up solutions.
If I had to pick my main take aways - the points I have thought about most since the day - there were two that stuck with me. Anna and Rick playing the role of 'local activist' were a crucial bridge between people, their community, organisations and solutions. This type of 'conduit role' (which I think is slightly different to a digital champion) needs to be explored in more detail, and how we best enable them with the ability to signpost to where existing services and solutions can be found.
And finally Mervyn's speech was truly inspiring and showed that we need to think about all people when forming solutions - thinking about their desires and interests and not just about their needs and challenges. Making people part of a solution from development to even owning and running it - and making use of their insights, experiences and skills - is a fantastic 'digital mindset' I would love the JUD project to capture and develop further.
NB: for another perspective on the day please read Rob Pye's passionate blog post 'Ethos on acid'
Feedback on this article
Project contributors: please contact me via email or our Slack channel if you have further comments or additions to add to this article, and I can post an update.