Written by Audree Fletcher Jason Caplin on Tue 03 Oct 2017

Jason Caplin, Chief Digital Officer and Audree Fletcher, Head of Service Design at Barnardo's pose a question... 

How do you achieve transformational impact at scale?

If you know the answer, please tell us. We haven’t worked it out (yet). But, as 70% of change programmes fail, we’re pretty confident the answer isn’t “run a change programme”. 

Humble, Molesky, O’Reilly, Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organisations Innovate at Scale

At Barnardo’s, we believe strongly that lasting and sustainable change comes from how we work and who we choose to be. We work with some of the country’s most vulnerable children, and with other young people in incredibly challenging circumstances. Despite being badged ‘Barnardo’s Digital’, it’s not enough just to jump on the latest transformation bandwagon. We need to be the change we want to see in the world. For our little team, that means living by the following set of principles. 

1. Users are the kings and queens. We are not our users. It’s not about what we want, or what they want – it’s about what they need. And since for them, interacting with us is only a means to get what they need, they don’t need our service – just the outcome. So we need to challenge our assumptions about their needs. This means baking user research and testing into every stage of design and delivery, not just the start.

2. Work that changes lives is the only work that matters. Put simply, there is no point sweating the small stuff. We should focus our time on products and services in which we see – through data, insight and first-hand evidence – potential to astronomically change outcomes for children and young people. If we work on a website, it’s because we believe that work will translate into a real difference for our users, not because Barnardo’s wants a makeover.

3. Respect the experts. Social work is full of people who really care. We try to be careful and respectful of language and current practice. We don’t assume we are going to come up with something better - at least not without their help. 

4. Challenge everything. Our focus is on agile, iterative learning and stopping failures before they grow tentacles. We prioritise what we want to learn - our hypotheses - and systematically (in)validate them through research and testing. Data, for us, is key: we use data like a searchlight to shine past unfounded worries, unevidenced assertions, and analysis paralysis.

5. Only do the right thing. We’ve put a lot of effort into detailing protocols for ethical design and design research for the team. We’ve designed an entire consent management tool to help us keep our promises to our research participants. We emphasise the need for inclusivity. We run workshops on designing for accessibility, and on cognitive bias in design research. We won’t use dark patterns, as normalised as they might already be. 

6. Be bold. We aren’t afraid to explore radical ideas and designs. We know designing for 2017 may feel radical for some organisations (with Windows 98 and brickphones) and their trustees (whose average age across the sector is 57). But we’re not designing for them. Most of our service users won’t have ever seen a floppy disk. And they point at our social workers’ Nokia dumbphones and laugh, shouting ‘burner’.

7. Be efficient. We won’t reinvent wheels. We will, however, build elements and patterns for re-use and interoperability across the whole social care sector. We build for this pace of change - think Lego, not model airplanes nor Play-Doh. We don’t have money to waste, so we can’t afford to be short-termist. Our services must be able to evolve with user needs. 

8. Collaborate. We can’t do this on our own. We want to share: data, code, patterns, people, products, services. Think of what we can achieve if we work together to leverage expensive but paradigm-shifting capabilities like predictive analytics and machine learning. We need to build new business models for digital service development in the charitable sector so that everyone who needs support can benefit from the next generation of social services.

This is how we work, how we aspire to work, and who we are – a team of enthusiastic and passionate folks dedicated to delivering astronomically better outcomes for children and young people, together.

We’re also a work family - and a family looking to grow over the next few months by adding some awesome people across service design, delivery, technology and data.  If you want to be the change, we’d love to talk to you.

Audree and Jason will be speaking about this further at #twbconf 2017 on the 19th October. Tickets are available through Eventbrite for £149.00.