Products and services stand or fall on the quality of their design. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 80% of a product’s impact is determined at this stage.
But while organisations are happy to invest in customer research, too often they do this late in the process – once all the key decisions have been made and tactics agreed.
In an effort to reverse this trend, Partners in Creation has developed a model of Action Based Co-creation for the health and social sector – ABC for short. These insight and invention workshops are designed to generate high quality, and often surprising, ideas and prototypes to address the trickiest of problems such as service configuration, product development, policy, problem solving and business strategy.
The workshops provide a structure that enables ordinary people the chance to work directly alongside professionals from the organisation, and other technical stakeholders. It gives the people most effected by the issues, the confidence and encouragement to define the problem and invent the solution.
ABC workshops have been used successfully by organisations on subjects as diverse as sexual health service design and behaviour change, alcohol consumption, primary care strategy, re-configuring mental health.
There are five key benefits to the ABC approach:
1 Deeper insight – through its immersive approach, ABC creates a safe space where revealing insights into people’s needs and barriers against change are made. By deconstructing taboos, ABC facilitators encourage people to explore their deep-held beliefs and emotional responses.
2 Inclusive and democratic – ABC workshops involve a real diversity of people, sharing experiences for possibly the first time. This means large groups (15 to 50 people) from different backgrounds can come together with frontline staff and professional stakeholders. The approach enables decision-makers to work directly with ‘naïve’ audiences, eliminating boundaries, breaking up unhelpful hierarchies and disrupting organisational ‘norms’. Through the use of highly structured facilitation, groups with very different perspectives can work collaboratively, share discoveries and find common goals.
3 Rewarding and motivating – the ABC approach use a range of tasks and techniques, some resembling psychotherapy, to draw people out. Because of the highly facilitated process, both professionals and customers report enjoying the workshops and finding it satisfying to share ideas, discoveries and solutions for change.
4 Fast and flexible – A mini-ABC workshop can be run over three hours for a challenge with a single focus, but a day will give people time develop trust, explore their motivations and design solutions on more complicated issues. For the level of insight they deliver, one-day workshops are an extremely quick and efficient way of finding creative solutions.
5 Tangible outputs - working in groups and individually, participants create detailed prototypes for change that are shared, developed and tested during and after the workshop. These prototypes and solutions can be surprising, giving organisations what they really need, but may never have expected.
To find out how ABC has worked in practice read about our project to tackle demand for primary care services with NHS Tower Hamlets CCG.