The Keeping Connected Design Challenge was a national project that asked young people to develop service design idea that would help older adults better connect to younger generations, their communities, families and each other.
The Challenge, a partnership between the Design Council and Technology Strategy Board, ran from January to July 2011. Fifteen schools from across the UK were selected to participate in the Challenge, and were asked to address two questions:
- How do older adults (65+) connect to younger people, their community and the wider world?
- Can you design ways to keep them better connected?
To help tackle these questions, each school was matched with a Design Ambassador - an experienced practising designer, working in a voluntary capacity who mentored the pupils in design process and design thinking.
How it worked
The project kicked off in March when teachers and Design Ambassadors met at the Design Council office in London to attend an Inspiration Day. The Inspiration Day was a valuable opportunity for teachers and designers to get to know each other, learn about issues related to the theme of keeping connected in an older adult population, as well as to find out about the Double Diamond design process and deepen their understanding of service design.
The participating schools ran the Challenge in a number of different ways. Some schools ran the Challenge solely during class time, whilst others ran it after school and during school holidays. The common thread that ran through all the schools was that they all worked with older adult research participants to help them develop their ideas. This approach enabled the pupils to develop authentic and relevant service ideas based on actual insight and need, rather than guess work.
Despite the fact that the Challenge was predominantly run during Design and Technology classes, many of the schools’ service ideas were ‘low tech’ and encouraged actual, rather than digital, face-to-face communication and in settings that were familiar to older adults. This highlighted how powerful the user-led approach was in the development of ideas.
In June, all 15 schools submitted their service design ideas to be judged. Five schools were then shortlisted to attend the final event at the Design Museum on 7 July, with a chance to win £5,000 to help turn their idea into reality.
Students from the five schools skilfully pitched their ideas to a dragons den of judges, which included representatives from the Design Museum and TSB as well as the Government’s Inclusive Design Champion, Michael Wolff. After significant deliberation, the judges chose Stoke Newington School & Sixth Form as the winner.
Stoke Newington School’s idea is called Enrich. Their service idea is to bring older adults and young people together on the school premises to jointly take part in activities including cookery, dance, and gardening. The judges chose this idea as it seemed to genuinely embody the spirit of ‘keeping connected’. The idea taps into needs of the local community, is easily realisable and most importantly, keeps older adults better connected. Stoke Newington students also worked closely with a number of older adults in developing and refining their idea. The school is currently setting up the service using its £5,000 prize money. Dianne Abbot, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, will launch the programme to the local community in late 2011.
The four runners up ideas were:
‘Brainy Tech’ from Essa Academy, Bolton
Brainy Tech brings older adults in to the classroom for IT lessons from school pupils. The focus is on on “connecting” applications such as the internet, email and Skype.
‘Strollin 'n Rollin’ from Farnham Heath End School, Farnham
Strollin n Rollin brings together young people and older adults to provide local social activities, such as community walks, bike rides or group trips to cafes.
‘Conekt 2 u’ from Govan High School, Glasgow
Conekt 2 u is a multi-purpose 'radio' that combines traditional style design and new technology to enable older adults to access local services, phone books, diary, bus timetables and other functions, thereby enabling connectivity.
‘Super Maps’ from Hope Valley College, Peak District
SuperMaps aims to deal with the problem of trying to find items in a supermarket. This led to the idea of a sat-nav for a shopping trolley. The twist in the idea is that the sat-nav links shopping preferences to activities in the community. For example, if a customer bought lots of items for baking, they would receive the details of a local baking club on the till receipt.
The Challenge had many expected and unexpected benefits. On the educational side, the teachers were able to develop their design teaching practice by receiving teaching materials from the Design Council and having the chance to work with a professional designer. Likewise, the Design Ambassadors were able to develop their practice by working with new types of people.
The main unexpected benefit from the Challenge was that there was a significant shift in the perception that the young people and older adults had of each other. The bringing together of people who seldom mix socially for a shared goal, enabled a space where myths and stereotypes could be challenged and dissolved. One participating student said that “old people are similar to us and we treat them as if they were aliens”.
Whilst the Keeping Connected Design Challenge has ended, the Keeping Connected Business Challenge has just begun. The Business Challenge is the next phase of Keeping Connected and similarly it is a competition for businesses to develop services that keep older adults better connected. Information gathered during the schools phase was used to help develop a resource that outlines the concepts, principles and service ideas from the schools.