Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Uscreates

Re-designing: opportunity to reframe problems and solutions.
Today’s problems are increasingly complex. Take health for example. In a country where access to healthcare costs the same for everyone, we are seeing more inequality than ever.

The wider determinants of health developed by Public Health England show that in fact, things like someone’s education, their job, who their friends are, how they get on with family, and where they live can actually determine how long they will live – even if they’re using the same doctor as someone living down the road but who is likely to live 10 years longer.

In the last two decades, design has been demonstrating a refreshing approach to addressing such complex problems.

This is because design provides the opportunity to reframe problems and solutions. It explores ways of doing things that haven’t been tried before, to address problems that haven’t been well understood before.

In this age of complexity and multiple dependencies, problems are constantly and rapidly changing, and so must solutions. We need to move away from the romantic notion that a solution – whether it’s a service, product or policy – needs to go through a one-off and well-polished design process, beyond which it will continue to be relevant forevermore.

Reality is very different. So we’re making the case here that as designers, we have a mission to build the capabilities of non-designers who work within the organisations that are transforming our future.

This means they are equipped with the problem-solving mindset to constantly interrogate, improve and innovate as realities quickly evolve, and things that worked yesterday soon become obsolete.


Asset MappingWhy this is important

Urgency for prevention and early intervention:

There is a sense of urgency to pre-empt problems before they happen in order to save time, resource and often even lives. The recent NHS Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) demonstrate this urgency.

With an ever-increasing population, public services are at breaking point. But since two-thirds of deaths among those under 75 are a result of preventable illness, there is a growing recognition that keeping as many people as possible healthy is the most sustainable investment.

This is where a lot of the STP plans are focusing their energy. Because design offers a lens into the future and a provocation for possible realities, it provides those committed to prevention and early intervention with the ability to understand future problems and to design solutions that can forestall them.

Systemic complexity

We can no longer think of products, services and policies outside of the systems they exist within and interact with. For example, we worked with the Healthy London Partnership on a deep dive to understand the root causes of childhood obesity and to try out new ways of addressing this chronic challenge.

Our insight revealed that a one-pronged approach will never do. We need to create positive and synchronised triggers at different points in the system: we need behavioural nudges that change the habits of individuals, we need social movements that influence and inspire whole communities, we need levers that transform physical obesogenic environments, and we also need legislation and regulation such as the Sugary Drink Tax to reduce temptation.

Design invites diverse people across the system to confront problems collaboratively, by creating solutions that leverage the collective power of everyone’s experience, expertise, resource and authority.

Ongoing transformation:

In a time of austerity, we just can’t afford to keep slowly chipping away at the problem through little tweaks and tricks in the hope that it will one day disappear. We need to completely and continuously re-imagine how things might work better. When working with a national charity, we realised that funding for children’s centres was at risk, and that they were struggling to reach diverse families.

This meant we needed to completely transform the service, into one where children’s centres can go (literally ‘in a box’) into the homes of those who most need them, for a ninth of the cost and nine times the reach.

A design approach to problem-solving offered staff the opportunity to experiment with transformational ideas at a small and safe scale, fail quickly, learn fast and build confidence in the direction of travel.

What capabilities

Organisations need to develop a number of problem-solving capabilities to future-proof their solutions. In a recent Touchpoint article, my colleagues Jocelyn Bailey and Cat Drew argue that these capabilities are presumably less about skill and more about mindset and culture.

Armed with the right mindset, organisations can then develop (and even invent) the unique skills, methods and tools to solve all types of diverse problems. This mindset is characterised by:

Deep human understanding

the approach invites curiosity and determination to explore what lies beneath people’s actions, decisions and perceptions.

Reframing challenges

the insight revealed through deep human understanding can help reframe the challenge to get to the bottom of the hidden root causes, rather than the visible symptoms.

Working with others

a design approach to problem-solving is humble. We admit that we don’t know it all, and we invite others who have experienced the problem in different ways or who are experts in related issues across the system, to come on board and shape the journey.

Learning by doing

the only way to test innovation is to give it a go. Design is a process of solving problems through doing, learning, improving and scaling. Starting small and imperfect can mitigate the risks of failure, and with every iterative cycle and every improved version, more investment and scale can be justified.



How to go about this

There are various ways that organisations can build the problem-solving capabilities of their workforce. Last year, I wrote an article with Joyce Yee in the Service Design Impact Report that reviewed different design capability models that the public sector draws on. There is not a one-size-fits-all model, and each presents its own benefits:

Structured training: this varies from one-day workshops to bootcamps. These are best for beginners who would like a taster of the mindset to assess whether it provides potential for the nature of their organisation’s challenges.

Experiential learning: in other words, learning on the job. Often this takes the form of design experts facilitating a series of problem-solving sprints within an organisation, based on a real challenge. Staff are invited to shadow the process, reflect on learning, and experience the benefits first-hand.

Coaching: this model is suited for more experienced organisations who have potentially benefited from structured training and/or experiential learning. They would be keen to lead the problem-solving process themselves, with the support of a design coach for strategic guidance, alignment, and constructive provocation.

Internal disruption: a popular example of this is the lab model, where an organisation invests in an innovation team embedded within, with a role to create and grow a movement and a culture that embraces a design mindset to problem-solving.

In today’s complex and rapidly evolving world, organisations need to start thinking differently about how they are future-proofing what they do and how they do it. They need to invest in people, not solutions. By better equipping their people with a problem-solving mindset, they are creating the enablers for ongoing improvement, innovation and future relevance.

Joanna is Design Director at Uscreates. She is a social designer, author, speaker and lecturer with over 15 years of practical experience in the UK, the Middle East and the United States.

She leads on the development and delivery of service design, user centred innovation, design research, business modelling, communication and digital design projects. Joanna has worked with over 50 public and third sector organisations – including Nesta, The Healthy London Partnership, the Health Foundation and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust – to help them better understand and address their challenges.

She has expertise across a broad range of social challenges including health and wellbeing, social integration, social action, employment, education and social enterprise.

Joanna has a Ph.D. in design for social integration in design for social integration and is an RSA fellow. She is an associate lecturer at the University of the Arts London, Kingston University and Ravensbourne University.



I have been meaning to share this for some time now, and International Women’s Day was the perfect nudge for me to just get to it!

In a nutshell, we have started a Design Leadership Lean In Circle at Uscreates back in September of last year. What is a Lean In Circle you ask?

“Lean In Circles are small groups who meet regularly to learn and grow together, and they’re changing lives. Women are asking for more, stepping outside their comfort zones, and leaning in.”

The movement was started by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg following the success of her book Lean In, which challenges and encourages women to lead in their careers, and men to support them to do that.

A few of us at Uscreates have read the book, got angry about the gender gap numbers, got inspired by some of the stories shared, felt motivated by some of the advice, and disagreed with some of the other advice.

I know that Sheryl, her book, and the movement have received their fair share of criticism – probably most notably here. But debating the strengths and shortcoming of the book and the movement is not quite the topic of this blog – although I do quite enjoy these sorts of debates.

The reality is that it’s the 21st century, the gender gap in (design) leadership is still there, and we all need to do something about this, and as a design business, we certainly do too.

For example last year Uscreates, alongside the Point People and the RSA, brought together women pioneers in service design to tell their story of how they essentially created a service design industry from scratch.


Industry: 70% of design students are female but only 40% of professional designers are female


Pay: 47 years after the Equal Pay Act, women are still 18% behind men on pay


Leadership: Only 23% of board seats in the UK are held by women.


Design leadership: In design businesses, only 3% of board seats are held by women.


Design leadership: Only 11% of design business leaders are female.

The success of Sandberg’s book inspired her to start a movement called  ‘Lean In Circles’.

These circles are essentially small groups of people, predominantly women, that meet regularly to learn and grow together with the help of free education materials, expert advice, discussion guides, and more. They are designed to help women ask for more in their careers, step out of their comfort zone and of course ‘lean in’.

Therefore, a Design Leadership Lean In Circle gives us a simple, no fuss way to apply our energies and passions to get stuff done. But because we understand systems at Uscreates, we know that the stuff that needs to get done needs to happen at the level of:

  • The individual (motivation, efficacy, resilience, capability building)
  • The design business – a culture and internal policies that encourage and enable women to achieve full potential
  • The design industry – collaborating to address joint challenges, making joint commitments and taking joint action
  • Policy – fully assessing the impact of every policy – whether intended or not – on gender equality in leadership

So as we got together at Uscreates to shape what we wanted to do, why we wanted to do it, and who we needed to involve, our thinking evolved into Lean In Ripple Circles for Design Leadership to address the dimensions of the challenge at different levels of the system: the Inner Circle, the Outer Circle, and the Open Circle.

Here’s a quick sketch of our early thinking. We know these are ambitions ideas, and we’re not quite there yet, but here is where we are up to, what we plan on doing next, and what we dream of doing one day.

image: sketch Lean In Circle for Design Leadership
Uscreates’ sketching out Lean In Circle for Design Leadership

What we are doing now; the Design Leadership Inner Circle

This circle is for us – all the people of Uscreates, internalising the revolution.

The gender gap is less of an issue here. We are a predominantly women-led business, and happen to have mostly women in our great team.

We (across the gender spectrum) want to support ourselves and one another to achieve our fullest potential. A few of us have been meeting once a month over lunch, to share our individual goals and support one another to get that one step closer to achieving them.

Different team members have different goals such as: doing a TED talk, being more confident in meetings, balancing work with work, balancing work with life, getting better at saying ‘yes’, taking a career shift.

It’s been wonderful coming together and leveraging the assets of the circle to offer one another tips, link each other up with things to look at or people to meet to help us all get to where we hope to be.

What we will be doing next; the Design Leadership Outer Circle

This circle is for us – all the people of Uscreates – and our friends.

Friends who have similar goals to some members of our team so we can work together to get there. Or friends who have achieved these goals in the past, we want to learn about your journeys, what the challenges were and what kept you going.

This will take the shape of an informal get together around a breakfast or perhaps some after work drinks. We’ll lay out our goals to discuss, challenge and inspire one another, and open the right doors to take that next step.

If you’re interested or have achieved any of the goals we shared up there in the Inner Circle, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch ( and we’ll let you know when the first Outer Circle is taking place!

What we dream of doing; the Design Leadership Open Circle

This circle is for everyone in the design industry, externalising the revolution. We want to shake and disrupt. We’ll start this with hacks every now and then, bringing together systemic players – movements, designers and design leaders, employers, educators, recruiters, and policy makers.

Each hack will focus on a systemic challenge – closing the pay gap, supporting men to be able to lean into their families, equal parental leave pay, supporting women to find good mentors, and so on.

There are so many wonderful people and movements doing so much already in this space, and we have SO much respect for them: Kerning the GapAda’s ListHidden Women of Design, and #upfront to name only a few.

We have spoken to some of them who were excited by this, and we want to speak to more. We want to make this happen as a force – not as Uscreates. So do get in touch ( if you want to help make this a reality!

Stay tuned. We will share learning and progress as we embark on this exciting and purpose-driven journey.

This blog was written by Dr. Joanna Choukeir


Dr Joanna Choukeir Design Director

As Design Director at Uscreates, Joanna’s role is to develop design talent and embed people-centred design across health and wellbeing campaigns, products, services, systems and policies. Joanna is a renowned researcher, speaker and lecturer on social design with 13 years’ experience gained in the UK and internationally across multiple sectors.

She has worked with clients such as Nesta, NHS England, Policy Lab, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and charities, to help them achieve transformational and sustainable change through design.

Joanna has also completed a PhD in design for social integration at the University of the Arts London.


New tools for changing behaviour? Like digital platforms?

Joanna Choukeir is a social design practitioner, researcher, speaker and lecturer with a decade of experience in the UK and Lebanon.
She is the Design and Communication Director at Uscreates, a London-based strategic consultancy pioneering innovative work to help organisations maximise their social value. Joanna has recently completed a PhD, researching and developing communication design methods to enhance social integration in post-conflict communities.

Using digital tools to change behaviour

Joanna Choukeir

How can you use online user experience to change behaviours in the physical world?

MyFitnessPal is an excellent sample of using an online experience to change offline behaviour – specifically around health and fitness. User experience is not just a digital thing – it’s any interaction with a company, service and product.

Buying fish and chips is a user experience. Successful UX is when they have a positive, streamlined and successful interaction with a service.

The future is digital. And it’s mobile – mobile is being used twice as much as PCs, and is the only media type growing.

Unilver has suggested that sustainable change will have to come across society, not just government or corporates.

There’s widespread interest in using behaviour change to improve our life experiences. Using online tools to do that means you can review and iterate.

You can measure change – if the app is logging changes, you get that hard feedback.

We’re not connecting these disciplines as much as we should.

A quick search of Google News turns up headlines taking about how much behaviour change apps are failing to do that. Searches for behaviour change have been consistent for nearly a decade.

UX design is rising rapidly, and user experience is higher than both and still growing.

How do we connect the dots?

Operant conditioning – the carrot and the stick

The Walk is an app, which plays you an audio thriller as you walk, and requires you to walk a number of steps to unlock the next episode. Zombies Run does the same thing, but you have a stick behind you – the zombies…


Kitten gives you a kitten photo if you hit your word count for the day. On the stick side you have Write or Die, which starts deleting words if you stop writing for set intervals.

Social cognitive theory

How much ability do we have to manage ourselves and our productivity?

There’s an app called Freedom that will block the internet on your computer for a while. SelfControl allows you to blacklist websites you want to avoid.

Theory of reasoned action

We evaluate the benefit or harm of actions to us, and we consider social pressure in that. BetterMe shames you on social media for failing to meet a task.

Theory of planned behaviour

If you want to change, you need the intention and a plan.

Unfuck Your Habitat allows you to plan and focus your efforts in cleaning your home.

Trainaway helps your reduce your carbon footprint, by concentrating on enjoying the journey, not just the destination. It helps you plan stopover points and things to do there.

Social learning theory

We observe and model behaviour based on what we see around us.

The Wheel of Well-being is built on the idea that people respond to tips given by others, because they know they work.

Social ecological model

We’re influenced by individual, environment and interpersonal factors. The Wheel of Well-being gives tips and activities contexts to harness this effect.

Trans-theoretical model for behaviour changes

Behaviour change is complicated – you need to have the idea, think about it, prepare for it, act on it and then maintain that change. It’s hard.

Most digital product focus on preparation and maintenance stages.

Can we move into the pre-contemplation stage, to give people the idea for change?

Promote well-being?  Tell me how

Joanna Choukeir Hojeily via Uscreates posted this July 15, 2014

For those who have been asking, here’s more info about the recent launch of our Wheel of Well-being website!

The Wheel of Well-being (WoW for short) was born out of research evidencing that certain actions, and habits can improve mood, reduce risk of depression, strengthen our relationships, keep us emotionally and physically healthy, and ultimately lengthen our lives.

WoW is a framework designed to translate theory into positive practice to build more flourishing communities.

Just launched: A new tool to promote well-being

We are very proud to announce the launch of the Wheel of Well-being website:



The Wheel of Well-being framework is the result of our ongoing partnership with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) dating back to 2007.

“ Since 2007, the brilliant team at Uscreates has been impressing us with their creative energy, collaborative ethos, deep understanding and enthusiasm for our work.

They’ve been instrumental in the evolution of the Wheel of Well-being: scoping out projects, designing strategies, and most importantly, opening our minds to new ways of working together to create maximum social impact. ”

Sherry Clark, Research & Development, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

At the heart of the WoW framework is the WoW website, an interactive platform providing inspiration for everyone who is interested in improving their own or their community’s well-being.

The website shares tools, resources, and intervention ideas that we have been crowd-sourcing, developing and piloting with SLaM over the past 6 years.

For example, the DIY Happiness pop-up game gets people talking about well-being at community events, and the Happier at Work programme tailors interventions that improve well-being at an individual, team and organisational level.


The website is divided into three sections:

WoW Yourself – For people to contribute with well-being tips and places, create their personalised well-being checklist and track their own well-being.

WoW Your Community – For people working in the public, private or voluntary sector, to access free practical tools and ideas for improving well-being in organisations, workplaces and local communities.

WoW Strategy – For people involved in policy development and local government, to access a transferable well-being strategy. This section is a work-in-progress.

We at Uscreates hope that you will enjoy the Wheel of Well-being website and that you will use it as a resource to make yourself and the people you influence happier.

If you are interested in more information about the Wheel of Well-being, please contact us (


Why using research-led insights affect behaviour change?

U in Point of View posted this July 24, 2013:

The wise David Ogilvy said, “The trouble with market research is that people don’t think what they feel, don’t say what they think and don’t do what they say”.

But if traditional market research is ineffective, how do you know why people behave as they do? How can you find out their motivations and triggers?

And how can you build behaviors and encourage change?

Research-led insight and eating at work – food for thought

Research has shown that healthier eating at work impacts on productivity and creates a happier and healthier team. We’ve achieved significant success in building positive eating behaviours in the workplace.

Eating can obviously be an emotional issue, so we used a variety of insight gleaning techniques to get to the heart of this behavior.

What were people really eating?

Why were they eating badly at work?

And what could we do to encourage them to build different behavior?

The Uscreates approach

To answer the above questions, we used traditional interviews, round-table discussions and surveys. But we also gave our target market some interesting tasks designed to uncover actual as opposed to reported behavior.

The tasks were designed to encourage people to engage with the research, uncover barriers to change and provide inspiration to the design phrase of the process.

Amongst other things we gave out cameras and asked staff to take a picture of their lunch, someone else’s lunch they wished was theirs, and an image of their eating companion (if any).

We gave them a budget, and asked them to buy food they felt represented the eating culture of the office.

Finally, we ran a collaborative event which involved our clients and staff members in generating ideas to improve eating behaviours.

The proof of the pudding…. (Healthy pudding obviously)

Our innovative solutions to encourage behaviour change around eating at work involved an honesty fruit bowl system, visiting chef, health lunch pack delivery service, health and nutrition MOTs and staff eating area re-design.

These solutions all came from the insights gleaned during our initial consultations, and were tailored to the people, offices and issues affected.

For one of our clients, one year (later?) on, 23% of employees rated their lunch “healthier”, and 73% are eating at least two portions of fruit/vegetables at work per day: a measurable and powerful result.

(My hypothesis is “How people are communing in their eating habit and the duration for finishing eating are much more important than the quality of the food or ingredients… Take time to chew well and relax with your work companions…)

Research-led insight – an effective and efficient use of your marketing budget

As we’ve seen, using research-led insight you can be sure that you are getting a thorough understanding of the issues affecting your target market.

With our eating example, we discovered how people eat, when, why and with whom.  We heard the truth, got to the core of barriers to change, and were able to translate this insight in to creative solutions that worked.

Having deeper understanding and insight in to the real life behaviour of your target market in situ is very powerful.  We’ve found that it leads to greater creativity in strategy and communication.

Sometimes a little insight goes a long way; it can provide the hook, answer the problem or highlight that opportunity that you need to succeed. And – if you read this and are trying to be SMART, you’ll also find that research-led insights make it easier to measure your results.

We love research-led insight (and we’re really good at it too)

In our experience, research-led insight is invaluable to any forward thinking business. It requires creative thinking, analysis and superb people skills.  It’s hard to do, but, done well, there’s nothing like it for uncovering deep insight into employees, customers or users and building new behaviours.

Thanks to research-led insights, the creative and collaborative approaches we use lead to engaged participants and compelling measurable results.

Do you have any great examples of research-led insights?

What behaviours are you trying to change in employees, customers or users?

Join our conversation now

Are you a resilient designer? Stories from the employer

What makes a resilient designer?

Stories from the employer

I have posted many articles on design, designing, designers, and now what could be the attributes for a resilient designer?

The London College of Communication (LCC) is working in partnership with Uscreates and FdA and BA Design for Graphic Communication students on a research project.
The aim is to better understand the resilience attributes that a designer needs to be equipped with and how he/she can develop these attributes further, to succeed in industry and among their community of practice.
We would appreciate your stories and experiences on this issue.
Please take five minutes to answer the following questions by Monday the 17th of June 12pm. Responses will be analyzed and published anonymously in a report during the end of year show at LCC on the 20th of June 2013.

* Required

Your top 3 resilience attributes for a designer

Select 3 resilience attributes from the list below that would make a design candidate you are considering recruiting most employable. *
  • Open to feedback: embraces and acts upon constructive feedback
  • Communicator: good at listening, explaining, presenting, negotiating, debating and pitching
  • Team player: understands the value of team working, leverages the team’s skills, and contributes constructively
  • Networking abilities: sociable, personable and understands the value of connections and people assets to further a career
  • Self-promoting: actively branding and promoting oneself in day-to-day interactions with the community of practice
  • Problem-solver: enjoys problems and the process of solution-making
  • Inquisitive: curious and questioning nature
  • Visionary: armed with a vision for a future career pathway
  • Strategic: good understanding of the bigger picture
  • Unafraid of failure: understands failure as progress and is willing to start again
  • Risk-taker: embraces experimentation, innovation, unexpected outcomes, and treading new territory
  • Self-directed: driven by own ambitions, goals and confidence, and takes more proactive than reactive steps
  • Agile: capability to adapt to change quickly and improvise coping strategies
  • Can-do attitude: sees obstacles as opportunities and barriers as possibilities
  • Confidence: believes in own skills, experience and capabilities
  • Self-reflective: assesses own strengths, weaknesses, and learning to progress and develop
  • Multi-tasker: ability to handle more than one task or project at the same time while maintaining quality
  • Working under pressure: ability to perform effectively with heavy workloads or conflicting priorities
  • Responsible: reliable and performs role and responsibilities well
  • Resourceful: makes the best use of time, budget and other resource constraints
  • Organised: reliable and effective task and time manager
  • Attentive to details: able to focus on the details
  • Theory-practice balance: ability to put theory into practice and extract theory from practice
  • Interdisciplinary: interested in disciplines outside design and how they affect design and can be affected by design
  • Industry-aware: good understanding of the design industry and its working dynamics
  • Researcher: understands the value of seeking information to make informed decisions
  • Empathic: designing with an understanding of clients, peers and audience’s needs and situations
  • Creative: ability to generate novel ideas, approaches and perspectives
  • Ideas person: good a generating new and multiple ideas quickly towards a challenge
  • Passionate about learning: mind-set that existing skills can be improved and new skills can be learned
  • Other:

Stories about the 1st resilience attribute you selected

What was your 1st choice resilience attribute? *
Share a story about a time when you interviewed a design candidate who would have scored LOW on achieving that attribute. *
Describe when it was, what happened at the interview, and how you felt about the candidate.
Share a story about a time when you interviewed a design candidate who would have scored HIGH on achieving that attribute. *
Describe when it was, what happened at the interview, and how you felt about the candidate.

Stories about the 2nd resilience attribute you selected

What was your 2nd choice resilience attribute? *
Share a story about a time when you interviewed a design candidate who would have scored LOW on achieving that attribute. *
Describe when it was, what happened at the interview, and how you felt about the candidate.
Share a story about a time when you interviewed a design candidate who would have scored HIGH on achieving that attribute. *
Describe when it was, what happened at the interview, and how you felt about the candidate.

Stories about the 3rd resilience attribute you selected

What was your 3rd choice resilience attribute? *
Share a story about a time when you interviewed a design candidate who would have scored LOW on achieving that attribute. *
Describe when it was, what happened at the interview, and how you felt about the candidate.
Share a story about a time when you interviewed a design candidate who would have scored HIGH on achieving that attribute. *
Describe when it was, what happened at the interview, and how you felt about the candidate.
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Social Impact?

When  was planning a new website, the team realized that other people may not understand the term “social impact”. Sure, it’s a recognized and much-used phrase among the social impact community, but what does it mean out there in the real world?

Can you share your experience and the alternative terms that you used to clarify the meaning of social impact?

Connect with  for examples of Public Social design projects, like this Was a pleasure working with #MAD4D @KingstonUni through #designthinking #workshops to create #Volunteering models

In Comfort ZonePoint of View, the team of  posted on March 26, 2013:

As trusted friends and contacts of Uscreates, we are hoping you can help us with a problem.

Over the years we’ve built up a reputation for being thought leaders in social impact. We’ve wowed clients with our results, and we have won awards.

Oddly, this leaves us with a problem.

We have spent the last 10 years working with public sector clients, and we’re used to talking in a certain way about the work we do.

We talk in this way when we speak to our colleagues, business contacts and others who are passionate about social impact.

It was only when we were planning our new website that we realised that other people may not understand the term “social impact”. Sure, it’s a recognized and much-used phrase among the social impact community, but what does it mean out there in the real world?

Why does this matter?

Well, we are hoping to use our skills and experience to help clients from different sectors with their social impact work.  But if they don’t understand what we mean, how can we communicate that we can help them achieve some of their business goals in our unique, positive and creative way?

So, that’s where you come in.  What is your answer to “What is social impact?”

Is it a meaningless jargon or a pithy way to communicate what we do?

Do you use it?  What could we use instead?

To join the conversation, tweet us @uscreates hashtag #whatissocialimpact or chat with us on our LinkedIn page.

Note 1: I would substitute Social Impact with Community Share.  

1. Social connote a magnitude at the national scale in impact, an idea that is not welcomed since people are wary of State imposing on them large scale plans and programs without effective large scale communication input and feedback. I’m inclined to feel that social impact sends the message of a large scale change.

2. No change takes place without starting on a smaller community-based dialogue and sharing with the project. A community can share and appreciate what they agreed upon and disseminate the change to the neighboring communities.

Note 2: Joanna Choukeir Hojeily shared Uscreates‘s photo.
Our brilliant design and communication director Joanna Choukeir Hojeily, will take part in a panel discussion on Service Design next Wednesday:</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The Art, Science (and Magic) of Service Design<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
April 3rd, 6.30pm to 9.15pm @ the Hub Westminster </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Our brilliant design and communication director Joanna Choukeir Hojeily, will take part in a panel discussion on Service Design next Wednesday: The Art, Science (and Magic) of Service Design
April 3rd, 6.30pm to 9.15pm @ the Hub Westminster

Last year I developed InnovaChart, a tool to measure our Innovation at Uscreates and ensure we are contributing new and good practice to the social impact landscape. For us to reach a ‘healthy’ level of innovation our work should aim to reach the following goals: 

  • 25% REVOLUTIONARY work: working with entirely new audiences, on entirely new issues, while creating entirely new offerings within Uscreates
  • 25% EVOLUTIONARY work: two novel territories, and one existing territory (for example the issue could be something we have worked on before, but we’re now approaching a new audience and creating a new offering)
  • 25% INCREMENTAL work: two existing territories, and one novel territory (for example the audience and type of offering is familiar to us, but we’re tackling a new issue)
  • 25% MINIMAL work: working with existing audiences, on existing issues, while creating similar offerings.

We used InnovaChart to look at the yearly innovation of our internal and external projects in 2011 and 2012 and this is what we found out

  • Although we worked on more projects in 2012, we were less REVOLUTIONARY in our projects than in 2011
  • Although we were more REVOLUTIONARY in 2011, our MINIMAL innovation rate was too low which means we were taking too much risk treading too many new territories
  • Our EVOLUTIONARY, INCREMENTAL and MINIMAL innovation is in a healthier range in 2012 than it was in 2011
  • We need to REVOLUTIONISE about 5% of each of our MINIMAL, INCREMENTAL and EVOLUTIONARY work to meet our 25% targets in 2013

InnovaChart analysis

Overall, our 2012 results seem closer to the ‘healthy’ targets, but are still not there yet. So this is what we plan to do in 2013 to foresee results early on and intervene at the right time:

We will use InnovaChart before the work commences as well as after it has been completed. This way, InnovaChart would also act as a forecasting tool during key innovation decision points in the business:

1. “Should we go for this project?”

2. “We’ve done a similar piece of work before, how can we make it better?”

3. “do we design a more novel methodology?”

4. “are we being too risky on this one?”

Get in touch if you would like to use InnovaChart to measure the innovation of your business.

Tips on: Reducing stress at work

Do you think that High workloads, physically and emotionally demanding work, uncertainty about the future, the temporary nature of jobs, lack of talents, growing older, competition with new graduate students with versatile abilities and technical expertise…. can lead to stress and therefore to poor mental wellbeing?

Joanna and Toby’s of  posted their Point of View on Nov.22, 2012 under “Reducing stress at work: A few simple tips

We’re all likely to experience job-related stress at some point in our lives.

But wellbeing is fundamental to everything: how we think, feel and function through the courses of our lives.

It is a precious individual and collective resource that needs to be protected and enhanced.

Around the world, a growing body of evidence is showing that people with lower levels of stress and higher levels of mental wellbeing are more creative, more productive and take less time off work.

They have better resistance to colds, feel pain less acutely and even live longer.

Additionally, there’s a compelling organisational case for better mental health: Annual costs of mental ill-health to a UK organisation with 1,000 employees are £835,355 (NICE, 2009).

However, the Department of Health’s mental health strategy highlights that each pound spent on mental health promotion at work generates net savings of £10 within one year.

Each single pound spent on early intervention for depression at work generates net savings of £5.

The 7th of November was the National Stress Awareness Day.

This inspired us to think about and share a little bit of what we learned on a project we carried out in London, where we shadowed nurses and admin staff to examine the issues that impact on their stress levels and ultimately, their mental wellbeing.

We found out that there are some practical, low-cost measures that managers can take that could have a significant impact on the team’s wellbeing. Here are a few:

1. Acknowledge that sadness is not a weakness: those we spoke to tended to suppress their emotions. However, allowing yourself the release of crying or talking about stressful moments increases your ability to deal with them

2. Recognize your team’s achievements: many felt that they rarely received praise or thanks for work done well or delivered in the face of difficult circumstances

3. Link rewards to emotional needs rather than organisational targets: for example, you could encourage your team to monthly nominate a colleague who has been particularly supportive or has dealt well with a difficult incident – let them decide the metrics. The person with the most votes could win a reward linked to wellbeing, such as a fitness class

4. Facilitate informal peer-to-peer support: opportunities to get together and chat with colleagues following a stressful or difficult event or day were valued more than compulsory supervision

5. Protect time for training and development and share opportunities with your team: most of those we spoke to wanted to develop their skills and progress their careers, but felt that opportunities were not communicated and continuing personal development time often slipped

6. Create opportunities for your team to get to know colleagues from other teams, specialisms and bands: ‘meet and greets’ were felt to be good for morale, making staff, particularly in frontline and junior positions, more likely to be treated as human beings, rather than just functionaries

7. Assess the physical ability of each member of staff individually: physical resilience varies, with some members of staff able to withstand long periods on their feet or physically demanding work better than others; but injuries and fatigue are detrimental to wellbeing (end of article)

So far so good. The wellness attributes in workplaces are what Human Factors in Engineering are concerned with: The safety and health of workers, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Powerful ‘ripple effect’ unleashed: Investing in adolescent girls?

Facing an increase in challenges such as teenage pregnancy, youth unemployment and obesity, and rising concern over mental wellbeing, community cohesion and households in poverty, the UK-based communities innovative and social initiatives are needed more than ever.

With reduced budgets for services and programmes which support social change, it is time for the commercial world to take more responsibility, and match the many social enterprises which are picking up the baton.

Mary at Uscreates wrote: “Last summer, Uscreates worked with a brand foundation that believes girls are a powerful change agent. The theory is that by investing in adolescent girls, a powerful ‘ripple effect’ will be unleashed. How?

By passing knowledge and advice to future adolescent girl generations to help address social challenges. While the work took place in Uganda, the brief was very similar to the UK work, but it was the first time Uscreates had worked with a foundation. We had our eyes opened to the focus and dedication to social improvement coming from the commercial world.

There is a wealth of support and resources beyond the public sector dedicated to achieving social change. And at Uscreates, we have been working with a range of organisation to harness this. However, I have been struck by the number of companies that focus on social missions and agendas in developing countries.

Of course, some of the world’s greatest social challenges exist in the third world: strategic funding and initiatives can have real effect, so this shouldn’t surprise me.  I also think the same is true for the UK.

For business to consider social sustainability is a relatively new mind-set, as is thinking about delivering it on home ground. Instead of international development, maybe the next decade will be about ‘ intra-national development’, or ‘national development’.

There are programmes and initiatives that demonstrate that this thinking is already underway within the world of social enterprise. “A Year Here” is a new programme supporting and encouraging teenagers to spend their gap year in the UK, rather than the traditional trip to Africa, volunteering their time to tackle a range of pressing social issues.

There are initiatives from corporates focusing their attention on UK challenges such as Orange and their Rockcorps programme. Rockcorps arranged gigs tickets that could only be obtained by volunteering for four hours in their local communities.

If Orange are working on the same agenda as the Big Society and encouraging the public to volunteer, will we soon see KPMG being the pioneers of health initiatives, once championed by the NHS, or BT leading new innovations to support the non-working class, into training or employment?

Uscreates are really interested to talk to people who have a view on ‘intranational development’ and would be keen to hear from you!” End of quote

Uscreates is a design company that receives government funding for designing community needs in communication and social well-being.

Note:  Mary’s point of view at Uscreate, published on Feb. 29, 2012 was under the title “Intranational development”

What of consumerism, power of consumers…? Any benefits when you let consumers lead?

Consumerism” was a term coined in the 60’s to mean a movement for protecting consumers and pressuring companies to caring for the safety and health of consumers in their products.

Currently, “Consumerism” connote over-consumption, the frenzy with which people keep buying things that they really don’t need or will rarely use. Actually, fans of a brand get very upset when it becomes mainstream…

Apparently, there is a Consumer’s Bill of Rights that was authored by John Kennedy in 1964, and this is an indication that relationship between company and consumers could evolve.

Companies have many more rights that individual citizens lack:  companies have limited liability, they have the right to give in unlimited ways to political campaigns, they can make an employee take a urine test…

Morning exercises at Ojom community primary school, Katine

Photograph: Dan Chung
If a company wants to bring about positive change, should it involve consumers from the outset?
Are consumers rarely engaged in developing a company’s social mission?
Is there any opportunity for higher benefits if business “gets it right” connecting with consumers in the beginning phases?

 Toby Hopwood, Mary Rose Cook, and Zoë Stanton wrote on how companies can benefit if they let consumers lead:

“Few organisations are better at engaging their customers than businesses. Whether it is developing sophisticated insight into audience characteristics or top-quality customer service… the commercial sector still leads the field. Without it, individual businesses could not compete.

So it’s surprising that we don’t always see this level of engagement when businesses set their social missions.

While some do engage their customers, particularly those who must directly and regularly interact with consumers, the relationship is usually one in which business takes the leadership role.

For example, supermarkets stocking green products or utility companies encouraging households to save energy are positive signs. But they are relationships in which business is in the driving seat, with consumers being led – or “nudged” – into positive social change.

Letting consumers lead is something that the public sector is doing with increasing frequency and success.

Local (British) authorities and NHS organisations throughout the country have produced effective, innovative solutions, to issues as thorny as anti-social behavior, harmful drinking and energy efficiency, by engaging the public and letting them shape the agenda.

When we’ve worked with public sector organisations to help tackle difficult social challenges, each case has involved recognition that the people on the receiving end of an initiative cannot always be led into a solution.

If you really want to bring about positive change, you must involve your audience from the outset. By doing this, not only will you deliver social benefits, but create stronger customer relationships and more cost-effective services.

Our work with Barking and Dagenham council is one example.  Collaboration between residents and council staff led to improved waste disposal in the area. Rather than ask us to address a specific issue, our brief was to see how engagement with residents could uncover and solve local problems.

To do this, we developed a method called “conversations for improvement” (CFI), which involves engaging residents, listening to what they have to say and then bringing them together with council staff to co-create ideas for improvements. This approach led the council to find that some residents were confused about how to get rid of bulky waste.

Giving their customers a voice, and the chance to contribute and develop suggestions for how things could be improved, led to innovative ideas, a more effective service and cleaner streets. And beyond the immediate gains to the social environment, it also created a positive relationship between the council and local people. The council is now rolling out the CFI model in a number of localities.

The CFI model works because it enshrines consumer participation. It recognises that since people are experts in their lives and many of the problems that affect them, they should be allowed to contribute to the responses – especially when these involve expectations that they behave in a certain way.

So why don’t businesses tend to involve their customers in defining and devising social missions?

Is it because consumers don’t care or would prefer to be left alone?

Not according to Asda’s Julian Walker-Palin. And even if we accept that some consumers’ intentions to do more to improve society don’t translate into action, there remains a significant proportion of people who will act if they are engaged in the right way.

For example, the Co-operative Bank routinely empowers its customers to lead its social agenda by letting them vote on which courses of action it pursues.

There are other examples where degrees of consumer empowerment have led to a range of benefits for both business and the public.

The first of the seven “pillars” of Marks & Spencer’s acclaimed Plan A was “involving our customers”.

At a local level, Waitrose’s Community Matters scheme, which allows customers to vote for the social initiatives pursued by individual stores, recently won the prime minister’s “big society” award.

Quentin Clark, Waitrose head of sustainability and ethical sourcing, told us that devolving decision-making has resulted in gains for customers, the business and the wider community. Clark said: “Not only does the scheme provide the obvious financial benefit to good causes and charities, but research shows that it also significantly raises our customers’ awareness of what goes on in their local area, helping them feel part of their community. Many of our customers choose to shop with us because they know that we are committed to doing the right thing, and research shows us that the scheme helps enhance our shoppers’ loyalty and trust in our brand.”

Given the opportunity and appetite for business to do well by doing good through consumer collaboration, why don’t we see more?” End of quote

Note:  Post inspired from “The benefits of letting consumers lead” by Toby Hopwood, Mary Rose Cook, and Zoë Stanton for the Guardian Professional Network, on Monday 20 February 2012;

Mary Rose Cook and Zoë Stanton are co-founders and managing directors of Uscreates, and Toby Hopwood is a communications associate at Uscreates




May 2023

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