The co-design process
The ChildStory project began life as the Frontline Systems Replacement project of the Safe Home for Life reform program. Since then much work has been done to understand the root causes of the problems with our current technology systems and the needs of all (current and future) users of the child protection information technology systems.
An understanding grew from this work that we needed more than just a replacement of our existing technology, we needed a system that was capable of placing the child at the centre our work, a system capable of telling a child’s story.
To help us understand how our clients, frontline staff and partners use technology to interact with us and each other we have used a process called co-design. Co-design is a human-centred way of creating technology that recognises that people are the experts in their jobs and lives. With co-designed technology the solutions are designed with, as opposed to designed for, people.
Through this process the ChildStory team have used many different co-design approaches including; co-design workshops, diary studies, collages, work shadows and interviews. We have used co-design with FACS staff, our NGO partners, carers, kids and families to gain valuable insights into the world we are trying to improve.
By using co-design we have been able to develop a deep appreciation of the needs of not just our technology systems but the people who will use, and those that will be impacted by, those systems. One of the key building blocks of this work has been the mapping of the Child Journey <Link to Child Journey> where we came to understand the different stages of a child’s journey in the protection system, the challenges at each of those points and what we could do to help.
Below is some further detail on some of the methods we used as part of the co-design process.
At co-design events, a learning environment is created in which the experiences, ideas and meanings are created and shared with participants. We conducted a series of co-design events with stakeholders at different stages of our requirements process. Some workshops were focused on mapping out current processes and understanding frustrations and process bottlenecks. Other workshops focused on idea generation where together we came up with new IT services and interfaces that could better support FACS workers and families.
Members of our team went out to shadow our frontline workers. We went out on car trips to visit kids and watched different staff interact with the current IT tools and systems back at the office. We observed where the pain points were and considered what day-to-day life might look like for frontline staff if they had better technology. We saw first hand that case work is best done with social interactions and relationships, not time-consuming paperwork or IT processes.
Co-design relies on the making of ‘things’ (objects and visualisations), which we can use to think and talk with. In early 2015 we sent out instruction packs and some craft materials to lots of different FACS offices and asked them to create a collage to depict a part of the child journey, such as adoption or leaving care as they saw it.
These collages enabled us to see where the people on the ground felt the challenges lay. They were used during the first co-design workshops as conversation starters and to gather key problems to address.
We asked some FACS workers to do diary work over a two-week period. This included them telling us about their day, what went well and what didn’t, a letter to the ‘Queen of FACS’ telling her how she should do things differently and thinking about their day and how would they like the future to look. These self-reporting activities were done independently and they gave us a good understanding about what some of the needs of these staff were.
Our team spent considerable time out meeting different stakeholders in the FACS ecosystem. We spoke to carers to understand what challenges they faced when caring for kids and how IT tools and better access to information could better support them and the kids in their care. We talked to young people who have left care to understand the challenges they faced during care and when leaving care at 18.
We visited external and NGO partners like Family by Family and Whalan public school to understand their needs and FACS workers in regional and metropolitan areas across the state in order to understand what they need, how they work, the tools they use and how improved technology can make an impact.
The data from these interviews helped us to construct the requirements that are going out to different IT vendors, specifying the different capabilities the new IT services need to support.
These are some ways that the ChildStory program has been able to put people at the centre of our work so that we can design improved IT systems with our users, empowering us to put children and families at the centre of our work.