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Kat Sexton
Digital Services Architect

Transforming services for our littlest people

This week, a group of transformers (people who work in transformation, not the robot kind) will be researching the real life experience of parents, carers and young children in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

We’re excited to be supporting a unique partnership between Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council, public health and other organisations to improve outcomes for under sixes.

How to get a project off the ground in the public sector…

Here’s what we’ve learned about how to get such an ambitious project off the ground in the public sector:

Decide who’s driving this thing

The sponsors of our project created 2 groups. The strategy group (like an engine room) are responsible for doing the work. The second (larger) stakeholder group give feedback and leadership. The latter group has representatives from all of the organisations involved, as well as people from the voluntary sector and primary health etc.

A shared vision

We created and communicated a high-level vision that different organisations and staff could make sense of and get behind.

Our vision for this project is:

“Every child will be given the best start in life, supported by high quality integrated services, families and communities.”

Impact statements

Our stakeholder group agreed specific impact statements, which will help guide the work.

These statements help us clarify what success looks like, but still leave space for exploring the best way to get there:

Our impact statements:

  • Children live healthy lives
  • Children are safe from harm
  • Children are confident and resilient with an aptitude and enthusiasm for learning

The right attitude

The sponsors of the project are open-minded and committed. They have attended every stakeholder group and continually confirm their support of the project and vision. They listen to feedback and check back to make sure all voices are heard.

Sponsors are also flexible enough to allow major changes to take place, if needed.


Meetings and workshops are planned and facilitated with clear agendas, making sure that time was spent wisely. The sessions are engaging – involving movement, group work and lots of post-its!

It goes without saying that meetings should be regular (every 2 weeks) and booked in advance if you want to stimulate pace and increase attendance.


“The most exciting thing for me has been seeing senior leaders embrace human centred design tools, as a way of understanding user needs.”

Kat Sexton


Research with real users

The most exciting thing for me has been seeing senior leaders embrace human centred design tools, as a way of understanding user needs.

The project’s sponsors haven’t jumped to early solutions, but are willing to explore problems by getting fully immersed and researching ideas with real people.

We did have a couple of rocky moments when we were explaining what user research is and why we do it… Note to self – always acknowledge the hands-on approach that already exists within a service, but explain the value proposition of conducting research from a blank sheet of paper.

Plan, plan, plan!

Over the past few weeks, we have been planning our user research phase. We have recruited researchers from the specialist and transformation services, identified users,  and started to recruit people to take part in testing.

We’re working to mega short timescales but are gaining buy in and support by collaborating with the stakeholder group as much as possible.

Sprint like you mean it

We decided to run the research stage in sprints (short periods of time where the whole team pulls together to get a lot done.)

The first sprint started on Monday, and involves a lot of hands-on research at children’s centres, baby and toddler groups, weighing clinics, food banks and nurseries. The team will observe what happens on location, who attends, what the environment is like and how people appear when they enter the space.

We will then get back together on the 31st January to share our learnings, iterate on our approach and plan sprint 2 which will take place from the 4th February.

Embrace ambiguity

We’re all feeling hugely positive about the plans we’ve put in place for the next few weeks … and we’re learning to embrace the ambiguity this work brings.

We have no idea what we‘re going to find out or where insights will take us. But we do know that this work will give us some really solid foundations, to help us design solutions that we will prototype, test and continue to improve. I for one, am looking forward to the journey.