All posts by snevay

Let’s Create a Culture of Collaboration

“Create a Collaborative Mind-set”


As GHC17 problem solvers, you’ve been tasked in identifying insights and opportunities to bring about positive change for real people experiencing very real and complex issues. Key to the success of this will be teamwork.

Let’s look to IDEO co-founder David Kelly for some advice whilst working towards innovation as multidisciplinary teams:

  1. Every team member should be given the same amount of respect
  2. Take advantage of individual skill sets: throw egos out the window
  3. Embrace the opportunity afforded by bringing together people with different backgrounds and expertise – you’ll have more resources, insight, and experience to draw from

In other words, let’s create a culture of collaboration and recognise the strengths afforded to your teams brought by the various backgrounds and fields of your members. The next five weeks are yours to explore, discover and ideate and embracing the opportunity to do this together will really make your project sing.

Building on this thinking and echoing some of the advice shared by GHC16 winners Open Ears in our induction session, here are some final top tips from your GHC facilitators for successful teamwork:

  • COMMUNICATE: Establish and use somewhere central, like Facebook or the GHC webmail platform to communicate with your group. Share where you’re at and discuss progress in between meetings.
  • BE MINDFUL of the commitment you have made to the team. It is good professional practice to give this your full attention – if meetings are arranged, attend them. 
  • PROJECT PLAN & DELEGATE: Compile a task list – who does what and when?
  • PREPARE for your final presentation. Make sure every team member is clear on their role within the presentation and collect and compile visuals to communicate your project well.

Global Health Challenge 2017 is Go!

Day one of 2017’s Global Health Challenge kicked off with vim and vigour this week as students, sponsors and staff considered challenges from eight innovative local organisations; The Archie Foundation; Deaf Links; Dundee International Women’s Centre; Faith in Community; Hearing Voices Network Dundee; PAMIS; Parkinson’s UK; and NHS Tayside Primary Care Services. Applicants from across the University’s nine schools gathered to discover, question and ruminate eight impactful challenges about health and wellbeing. Tasked with tackling issues such as awareness, stigma, and understanding, these challenges invite this year’s problem solvers to focus on being empathic and ‘walk for a little in someone else’s shoes’ to create products or tools, spaces or services that promote, support and enable healthier futures.

Working in DUSA’s Air Bar for the afternoon, the fantastic Linsay Duncan led our ice-breaker and energised us with something a little different; Northern Soul Dancing! We learned how to jump and spin and to ‘Keep on, keeping on’; valuable training in going forward over the next five weeks of the GHC as we strive to be agile, focused and dedicated in addressing the challenges posed.

Invigorated from dancing, we then heard from the eight project sponsors as they pitched and framed challenges inspired by the work they do and the real people they work with. Coming together in a BarCamp style we worked on being present, questioning our experts, contributing to discussion and generating questions and key themes to begin to explore each challenge. We worked quickly as students’ self-selected four challenges to investigate, capturing key words, themes and questions on post-its, which were then clustered together to build a picture of the problems faced. We then took some time to reflect and recap before students identified and signed up to the challenges they will work on for the duration of the GHC. The final formed groups consist of around seven members who represent various disciplines from across the University including; Art and Design, Dentistry, Education and Social Work, Humanities, Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Life Sciences, Science and Engineering and Social Sciences. These groups worked with their project sponsors to curate a set of initial questions and inquiries to drive their thinking over the next week, the aim being to begin to develop understanding of their subject area, of their group mates and of how they will work together during this creative process.

We then heard from last year’s GHC winners, Open Ears, who created a toolkit that aims to educate and raise awareness of the everyday issues experienced by people who are hard of hearing. Team members Alice, Charlie and Simran shared lessons learned and advice with this year’s cohort including; Visit your partner organisations as soon as possible to better inform understanding and collaborate with experts; Outline weekly goals and make the most of your Wednesday afternoon GHC sessions together; Communicate in between meetings using tools like Facebook; and Plan for your final presentations early as you want this to fully represent your hard work.

To close, Alice of Open Ears, shared the inspiring evolution of the team’s project since winning GHC16. Following their final presentation, Open Ears secured funding to further develop their prototype working with NHS Tayside and Deaf Hub. Through this Alice has successfully iterated the Open Ears toolkit and attained a Top 5 position in Converge Challenge 2017. This experience has not only helped to develop the toolkit to the benefit of its’ future users but also afforded Alice the opportunity to undertake entrepreneurial training and showcase the toolkit to a wider audience. There is much to be learned from Alice and her fellow Open Ears members. See Alice’s blog for more of this story:

And on this particular high note, the Induction session wrapped up leaving the teams armed with inspiration and energy for their first week of GHC17.

A visual snapshot of the session:

Facilitator as Learner: 3 Key Take-Aways

The Global Health Challenge 2016 brought together students from across the nine schools of University of Dundee to work together to design innovative and entrepreneurial solutions for the wicked problem of health equality, aiming to improve social, cultural and physical wellbeing. As a design researcher exploring new and novel ways of supporting older people through loneliness, I was invited to co-facilitate one of six themes set by the GHC; ‘Social Isolation in the Elderly’. Working with Dr Louise Valentine and a team of six skilled students who are undertaking a range of specialisms (Medicine, Dentistry, Humanities, Product Design and Community Learning and Development), I was keen to understand this hugely impactful social issue through the lenses of their different disciplines and experiences, to learn their motivations for designing for this theme and indeed, to gain deeper insight from challenge sponsor Dial-Op.

The team were brought together by their shared interest or concern for social isolation and loneliness in the elderly. Two team members cited their own grandparents in igniting their interest, another, their fears for our growing ageing population and indeed their future selves, and another student saw opportunity to apply their knowledge of inclusive design to the project. Naming themselves, Team OAPortunity, I was invigorated by both their pluck and sense of fun; both important qualities in supporting people who are isolated or lonely through negative, difficult and often sensitive experiences.

Team OAPortunity using empathy tools to tune into the lives and experiences of their users.
Team OAPortunity using empathy tools to tune into the lives and experiences of their users.

Over the next four weeks, we worked with the team to discover the current landscape of loneliness and isolation, exploring issues at play within society at large – the team were abhorred that 40% of 75 year olds in the UK name television as their primary source of company – and locally with great support from sponsor Dundee Dial-Op’s Lali Tudela. In addition to this, one team member’s chance new acquaintance with an older woman who spoke freely about her own very real experiences of loneliness and isolation was particularly impactful, ‘hitting home’ the team’s understanding and grounding their thinking. We sought facts and opportunity throughout the research process, challenging assumptions and stereotypes by using a series of design methods to continually question and reframe findings. This process was at times sticky, with a tendency to rely on anecdotal knowledge and propel too-soon towards solutions before fully interrogating an idea or issue. In reflection I think that the team would agree with and acknowledge the gains of compelling themselves to re-immerse within this iterative process of questioning despite the intensity. I feel that this culture of questioning – which session leaders Louise Valentine and Natalie Lafferty established in Week One – really benefitted the teams’ ability to reflect upon and shape their ideas and this resulted in the delivery of an insightful concept at the close of the challenge in Week Five; an elective ‘caring and sharing’ module for first and second year students to spend time with older people in the community, swapping stories, skills and spending quality time together. Arriving at this solution by combining their own previous experiences and hopes for future elective modules and the noted successes of intergenerational activity in building social connectedness and capital, Team OAPortunity presented a strong case for their mutually beneficial enterprise.

We encountered a series of challenges during the facilitation of the GHC and given the ambitious nature of the project, this is to be expected. As facilitators we draw upon previous experience and methods to react to and attend to the challenges faced, supporting the development of new solutions. 

1. Challenging Assumptions

As a society we can be guilty of making assumptions about the pathways, experiences and needs of individuals who are facing difficult issues such as those explored by the GHC. Team OAPortunity brought some assumptions about loneliness and isolation to the fore, including ‘Older people are lonely or isolated because they have no friends their own age’ and ‘Social networking prevents feelings of loneliness or isolation for older people’. Further reading and discussion revealed that these negative experiences are subjective – each individual experience is unique – and that successful solutions will derive from genuine insights and opportunities about the lives of older people and the reasons they feel lonely or isolated in the first instance rather than deploying ‘blanket’ or ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions. 

Take-Away 1: We can attend to assumptions by revisiting the literature in our field and credible sources for hard data and statistics to ground our thinking in fact.

2. The Culture of Communication & Sharing

My own professional practice has taught me the importance of transparency, communication and sharing in cultivating a positive team working culture and in dealing with complexity but this was an issue for our team during the GHC. In discussion, factors such as unfamiliarity with online collaboration tools, misunderstanding of roles and responsibilities and concerns about ‘getting it wrong’ were highlighted. These are not atypical challenges and indeed we explored solutions for these as a group. We asked each team member to define their role from the perspective of their discipline to establish confidence and accountability within the team and joined the team’s preferred chosen mode of communication – a Facebook group – to support them in between sessions. 

Take-Away 2: Early establishment and agreement of roles, responsibilities and communication strategies can support team dynamics and expectations and produce higher quality project deliverables.

Empowering Students as Influencers of Change (Now and in the Future)

It is tricky to reflect in practice, particularly at speed, but this challenge was a great opportunity for students to attune their skills in working reflexively and consider the meaningful impact they can affect. As facilitators we used various activity sheets and visualisation methods to chart problems through research and development and the perceived impact of potential solutions. We also encouraged the team to not only question their sponsor organisation but to use them as a sounding board to explore, critique and validate their ideas. Tapping in to the knowledge, skills and expertise of Dial-Op helped the team to very quickly make decisions and shape their design direction. 

Take-Away 3: Gaining feedback from experts in the field throughout the research and design process can be key in inspiring and driving innovation and also, in identifying personal skills, interests and goals. I would encourage students to continue to discuss their thoughts and ideas widely and with a range of different stakeholders to fuel their ideas.

In closing, this GHC certainly packed a punch; students – and staff – were working live with sponsor organisations, learning not only about the ways they strive to improve the experiences of their service users, but to also gain a deep understanding of the subject matter themselves and uncovering areas of opportunity within this complexity. Not to mention tackling proof of concept and finally pitching ideas in a Pecha Kucha style – unfamiliar to most before this event. And whilst I think it is fair to say that each and every team were truly challenged by their GHC journeys, I’d like to commend them and their challenge sponsors for their hard work and dedication in delivering some truly exciting concepts at the close of the challenge. A pleasure to have worked with you all.

Empathy Maps

“Good design is grounded in a deep understanding of the person for whom you are designing. Designers have many techniques for developing this sort of empathy. An Empathy Map is one tool to help you synthesize your observations and draw out unexpected insights.”

-d.School Method Cards, Institute for Design at Stanford

Empathy Maps are useful tools in allowing us to gain a richer understanding of the lives of our user(s); what are their lives like; what is important to them; what do they need and want? Having this level of understanding is key for effective design. As a group you might like to map your users’ key issues and insights relevant to your developing design concepts to ensure you are considering both the intrinsic and wider impacts that your ideas and solutions may have within your chosen GHC theme.

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Team OAPortunity use an empathy map to better understand the people they are designing for

Some great resources:

d.School Empathy Map Method Card

Nesta’s Empathy Mapper template

Strategyzer’s Customer Value Proposition Canvas

Loneliness and Social Isolation in Older People

Loneliness is a distressing subjective psychological experience that may arise when an individual perceives a discrepancy in the quantity and quality of their social relationships. (It is possible for some to feel ‘alone in a room full of people’). Social isolation is the objective absence of social relationships and connectedness. Individuals experiencing social isolation may require practical help and resources (e.g. transport) whereas those experiencing loneliness may benefit from more social support and extended social networks.

People of all ages and circumstance are susceptible to loneliness and social isolation but older adults may be more vulnerable due to various age related changes or decline in health, mobility and social contacts or activities. 10% of UK adults aged 65 years and over are reported as feeling lonely all of the time and 40% name television as their primary source of company. Other risk factors include having cognitive or sensory impairment(s), being an older carer, having little or no contact with neighbours and living alone. Loneliness and isolation carry various health consequences (biological dysfunctions, psychological upset or behavioural issues) and individuals experiencing loneliness may develop negative habits such as excessive smoking, over eating and alcohol dependency. Many lonely people experience high blood pressure, sleep problems, anxiety, depression and cognitive decline and individuals who are lonely are 64% more likely to develop dementia than individuals who are not.

Noted strategies in tackling loneliness and isolation include improving social skills, enhancing social support, increasing opportunities for social interaction, and addressing poorly adaptive social cognition. But for those hard-to-reach individuals, who may feel discouraged in actively seeking support due to the stigma associated with loneliness and social isolation or who may be unaware of the services and support available to them, creative, innovative solutions are required. This challenge is an exciting opportunity to apply your skills and design for this highly impactful social issue.

Some Resources:

The Campaign to End Loneliness 

‘How societies can grow old better’ Jared Diamond, TED Talk

Elderly men and Social Isolation, Sky News 

‘1 in 5 Elderly have no-one to turn to’, BBC

‘Age of Loneliness’, Sue Bourne for BBC

‘Who is lonely and when?’, Prof Christina Victor

Inspiring Projects & Enterprises:

Nana’s Community Cafe, Nesta Ageing Well Challenge 2013

Nesta Ageing Well Challenge 2013 Prize finalists