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LGSS Digital Blog

Service design for local government

Kat Sexton

Digital Services Architect

Mental Health Hack: Co-production at work

Mental health is important to people, and a lot of people struggle with their mental health at some point in their lives.  That is why it is crucial that mental health services; whether clinical, social care or voluntary sector, need to operate in a joined-up way that makes sense to people needing to access help.

There are many organisations in Cambridgeshire that offer support to people with varying needs and levels of mental health problems. The NHS is key within the mental health system and arguably, the organisation which ties everything else together.

Commissioners from Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) recognised that additional support from a voluntary organisations could help people access the help that they need. This support would also reduce the ever increasing demand on primary care mental health services. The Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire branch of Mind (CPSL Mind) were commissioned to provide this support.

LGSS Digital was asked to run a design hack with CPSL Mind and with the Primary Care Mental Health service (PCMH), as well as members of the commissioning team within Cambridgeshire County Council, CCG, voluntary organisations with experience of working within the mental health service and individuals who have been users of mental health services.  The hack week took place from the 18th November and was based on the SPRINT methodology, created by Jake Knapp when working for Google Ventures.

The idea is to go through the human-centred design process in just 5 days with a small dedicated team – creatively solving a problem, prototyping a solution and testing it with real users. Hack weeks are incredibly beneficial as you come out with tangible and tested solutions at the end. They are also incredible environments to foster new relationships and build trust throughout the week, which paves the way for long term creative and collaborative working.

One of the most powerful aspects of the hack week was the fearless way the group came together to come up with a meaningful vision. It’s scary to be bold enough to create a sentence that everyone can support and get behind. It was so powerful to create a vision that the whole group kept going back to and reflected on throughout the week.  The vision went through many iterations during the week, but the final version was incredibly strong and ambitious…

“Everyone in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough is living the life they choose and are able to easily find support with their mental health, if, and when, they need it.”

The week

The group went through a fantastically creative and yet regimented, fast paced few days.  This involved continually stepping out of their comfort zone, not spending any time on their day to day roles or on their laptops, and just immersing themselves completely in the process.

The group came up with some incredibly creative ideas about how to solve the problems identified on the Monday by generating ideas, sketching individually and voting on the best idea to prototype. Individually sketching solutions rather than having traditional ‘brainstorms’ allows everyone to have an equal voice.  It was simply marvelous to see our ‘Art Gallery’ on the Wednesday morning.  We got ambitious as a group and decided that we would take 4 ideas forward – 3 of which we would prototype on the Thursday and test with users on the Friday.

The 3 prototypes were:

1. Toolkit cafe – a place where people can go and speak to peer supporters or ‘just be’ if that is what they need. They have the option to create or work on their own ‘toolkit’ which tells their own story.

2. An event to be held either in GP surgeries or near GP surgeries where GPs and GP receptionists could signpost people to if they are struggling with their mental health. This could be something they could attend whilst waiting for a GP appointment to find out more about what support is available in the community.

3. A digital tool which will enable people to be able to put in some information about themselves in order to receive information about what relevant local support is available to them and how to access it.

The group also wanted to take forward one idea which was to have regular ‘system development days’. This would involve bringing together people from all over the system (users and professionals alike) in order to come together and problem solve in a creative way.  This was to ensure that different organisations maintained the ethos of working together, seeing problems as opportunities and continuing to creatively solve problems with users.  We decided that the hack itself was a prototype of that and the group committed to making the regular events happen.

Taking risks is part of the process…

For us within LGSS Digital, we were really excited and a bit nervous about event prototypes.  We are used to prototyping IT systems and solutions, apps and websites, but we had never prototyped an event involving coaching and supporting people. By the end of the week we had prototyped our 3 ideas and had tested them with 8 real users and professionals. The feedback we gained was overall positive about each solution and we also gained insight into how each idea could be improved on, how they could be piloted or even implemented. 

There were many good cross-organisational relationships created over the week which is already fostering real trust.  The week created a shared understanding about each organisations’ offer, how they work and created empathy about different perspectives and points of view.  This created a real energy about how the team could work better together moving forwards to support individuals, and also a real will to support each other reach their goals. 

For a more in-depth look at what happened, to understand the process, the detail of each day and lots of photos including those of the sketches / solutions, please take a look at a more detailed review of the hack week.

If you are interested in finding out more or are interested in running a similar event, please contact Kat.