Service design with Only Connect

Intro 

At criminal-justice charity Only Connect I conducted interviews with service users and workshops with staff. This project sought to demonstrate that staff could be considered part of a community of practice, whereby service providers are invited to intervene to improve services and spaces, based on the first hand insights of service users.

Illustration of a participant interview taking place

Illustration of a participant interview taking place

Between July and September 2016 I spent two days a week working as a Service Designer at Only Connect. The charity’s moto of ‘a handshake not a handout’ has won them much praise and publicity over the years, as has their championing of creative artsbased training to support rehabilitation and help ex-offenders on the road to ETE (employment, training and education).

Research

Jo Harrington, of the Innovation Unit and Goldsmiths University, helped to develop the methodology for an open-ended interview method. His advice was that “you want to ask them to tell you the story of their experience”. In these sessions I took notes in a way that the participant could view and engage with. This meant that the participant could control and engage with their story in a way that would encourage openness and trust. 

Developing a community of practice

Subsequently using these notes in sessions with staff would allow for “their own synthesis” of the research material. This disintermediation of the researcher was an important factor in putting the emphasis of learning from the findings onto the staff themselves. Also pairing up staff who worked together helped to foster discussion around related areas of the service. 

Illustration of staff pair sessions in progress 

Illustration of staff pair sessions in progress 

“We can say that many specific language-games are carried out in a community-of-practice. In communities-of-practice there is a strong focus on ‘learning’ as the act of becoming a legitimate participant”