03-Research


Before defining solutions, every co-design project has to go through a research phase in order to discover the opportunity or problem that needs to be addressed. Co-design tries to discover and understand the issues and challenges in the system by engaging with the people who experience the system.

Conducting co-design research

The 'Listening to Families' co-design research

Research interviews are exploratory, which means that, while there are some pre-prepared questions, the interview is more like a relaxed conversation. To a certain degree the interviewer will allow the family to lead the direction of the conversation, which means that they are able to talk about what is most important to them. The exploratory nature of this project means that the skills of interviewing rely on genuine engagement with the family and finding ways to help pinpoint areas of pain, areas of opportunity and general areas of importance from their perspective. The interviews were audio recorded and extensive written notes were taken.

Research team

ThinkPlace was responsible for scheduling the main activities in this phase. The research team consisted of people from the ACT Government, the Community Service Organisations and ThinkPlace.

Interviews with citizens

Interviewing was the main activity in this phase. An interview went for one hour and was focused on understanding the citizen's experience.

Each interview started with a general and short introduction of the interviewer and the project. After the interviewee gave consent, the conversation began by the citizen talking about their background, family, life and problems. This included a few demographic questions that needed to be answered in order to have a base for comparing several families.

As the interview continued, the focus shifted more and more to the citizen's experience with the service system. We were trying to capture their journey through the service 'jungle', their feelings and problems on the way. The following questions will give you an impression about the information we were trying to discover:

  • How do you experience the service system today?
  • How did you come in touch with the service system?
  • How do you access this service?
  • What are the services you are accessing right now?
  • Are there services you would like to use, but can't? And, why?
  • Do you feel understood and heard by the service system?

Tips for interviews

  • Manage the flow of the interviewees story
  • Keep focused on what you need to know and come back to your line of inquiry
  • Maintain a positive relationship by being genuinely interested in their story
  • Watch your body language, sit forward, open arms, maintain eye contact
  • Be open about taking notes, and offer interviewee the opportunity to see your notes (so they feel safe about what you write)
  • Be careful if you hit a sensitive part of their story

Conducting co-design research

Why is this phase important?

The value of a service system is measured by the satisfaction of the user. Userswant to use a service that meets their needs and helps them effectively. It ispointless to design such a system without having any information on the user'sneeds and desires.

Research allows us to really understand the experience of the user and get a deepersense of what they need. This information will be synthesised into insights which willinform the design of the change.

What is involved?

Research is at the heart of a co-design project. The research phase aims to discoverand understand the experiences of service users, particularly the issues and challengesthey face when accessing services.

By engaging with and understanding the experience of the people at the centre of thedesign, we are able to better understand:

  • The current design of the service system
  • The user, their context, and their needs and preferences
  • The environment into which the design will ultimately be implemented

Output - research data

Research interviews can result in rich data and narratives about the experience of citizens.

How to gather data?

In exploratory co-design research we want to understand the world of the citizen. In order to do this research should be guided.

Building rapport

The exploratory nature of co-design research means that the skills of interviewing rely on genuine engagement withthe interviewee. We ask them to share personal information and stories about their lives with people they have never metbefore. Gaining the trust of the interviewee and helping them to feel comfortable sharing their story is crucial to trulyunderstanding their world. Researchers can find ways to help pinpoint areas of pain, areas of opportunity and generalareas of importance from their perspective by asking interviewees to:

  • Speak from experience about situations that illustrate points important for the project
  • use personal stories; this empowers the participant because it demonstrates that we value what they have experienced

Rich data can come from a good narrative and there is a higher chance of engaging and holding a meaningful conversationabout personal experiences.

Listening and observing

Because research interviews are exploratory, while there are pre-prepared questions, the interview is more like a relaxedconversation. To a certain degree the interviewer will allow the interviewee to lead the direction of the conversation. This meansthat they are able to talk about what is most important to them. Exploratory interviewing means:

  • Understanding episodes from beginning to end
  • Allowing interviewees to speak from experience
  • Zooming in on significant situations, interaction or transition points experienced from the perspective of the citizen

However, the researcher must:

  • Manage the flow of the interviewees story
  • Keep focussed on what we need know and come back to our line of inquiry

The role of researcher

  • 'visit' the 'natural setting'.
  • observe and reserve judgment.
  • feel comfortable being naive.
  • question the status quo and other assumptions you may hold about the context.
  • learn in the field which questions are worth asking (understanding the spectrum of answers is important).
  • maintain 'professional empathy'
  • maintain a positive relationship by being genuinely interested in their story
  • be aware of body language, sit forward, open arms, maintain eye contact
  • be open about taking notes, and offer the interviewee the opportunity to see the notes (so they feel safe about what is written)