Adur & Worthing Councils in West Sussex wanted to better engage with stakeholders in order to more effectively solve the problems affecting the area’s local communities. At the same time, council staff wanted to examine how best to redesign their services. They approached Design Council and found that through co-design they could create a lasting legacy that would not only win them awards, but reshape the local community for the better.
Worthing’s prevalent street community has historically been regarded negatively – perceived as a reason for loss of business and tourism and also as a drain on resources such as housing, health and policing services. As a result, local agencies have been reluctant to be seen to direct resources towards it.
With the arrest of a rough sleeper typically costing the community £1,600 a time, the councils hoped a new type of intervention and support would prove more cost effective than enforcement.
John Mitchell, Director of Communities at Adur & Worthing Councils heard about Design Council’s public sector support offer and attended an event at its London offices to find out more.
What we did
Design Council assigned Design Associate Gavin Pryke to work with Adur & Worthing Councils to understand the problems posed by the street community’s rough sleepers and identify possible solutions.
His first step was to identify and assemble a diverse array of local stakeholders with an interest in the issue and an ability and desire to participate in tackling it jointly.
It was all about co-design. We wanted all the stakeholders involved to feel empowered to ‘think like designers’, identifying opportunities to improve challenging situations.Gavin Pryke, Design Council
Working with the council’s project manager, Pryke then facilitated two workshops at which stakeholders were introduced to design techniques – such as user-led design, visualisation techniques and prototyping – to understand rough sleeping more fully, prioritise which problems to address, and co-create solutions.
“The project was all about co-design,” Pryke explained. "We wanted all the stakeholders involved to feel empowered to ‘think like designers’, identifying opportunities to improve challenging situations.
“Local government is generally risk-averse and it was liberating to work within a structured framework designed to liberate you from the constraints of conventional, often conservative, thinking,” said Mitchell. “Also striking was the difference between piloting, something we have done often, and can be bureaucratic, and prototyping, which is all about testing small then iteratively developing it.”
It was liberating to work within a structured framework designed to liberate you from the constraints of conventional, often conservative, thinkingJohn Mitchell, Adur & Worthing Council
Rough sleeping is a complex issue with many causes and ramifications within the local communities it affects – in particular with its impact on Worthing’s local businesses, many of which rely on local footfall which they argue drops in the presence of anti-social behaviour such as street drinking.
Participants at the workshops generated 32 ideas, four of which were then selected to take forward. Prototypes of each idea were developed, including a weekly market stall in Worthing town centre in which seven or eight rough sleepers were invited to volunteer to run the stall, sourcing goods and testing different types of products to sell. Different ideas tested including affordable Christmas goods, charity wares and second hand bicycles from local social enterprise ReRide.
The market stall was launched and run three times in October and November 2014. Since June 2015 it has run monthly with the support of Worthing Church Homeless Project and key agencies run by staff, community members and volunteers.
The stall changed the relationship between the street community and the town centre from antagonistic to positive. There were fewer homeless people sitting around the town centre and fewer arrests.John Mitchell, Adur and Worthing Councils
“The stall changed the relationship between the street community and the town centre from antagonistic to positive,” said Mitchell. “There were fewer homeless people sitting around the town centre and fewer arrests. Local businesses began collecting and donating to the stall and participating street people developed their numeracy and social skills.”
Three other prototypes were also developed. The first was an initiative to gain better insights into the street community and help others gain a greater understanding. This involved a DVD in which street community members discussed their personal circumstances. It also involved a desktop exercise to collate costs data across a ten-year period for three homeless people to clearly demonstrate the cost to local stakeholders and the local community.
The other prototypes involved a quick-to-access accommodation service for homeless people and a mentoring service, for which personal caseworkers were embedded within the street community to provide support across different parts of the typical homeless person’s ‘journey’.
“The techniques helped evolve a mind-set that was all about openness, iterative development and inclusivity,” explained Mitchell. “Another important lesson was that development of an idea is open ended and that revisions and adjustments should be embraced as part of the design development process towards the best solution, instead of being seen as sign of failure.”
In March 2016, Adur and Worthing Council’s Rough Sleepers Team won gold in the Transforming Access to Services category at the iESE Improvement & Efficiency Awards
Mitchell believes the Design Council support Adur & Worthing Councils received has created a lasting legacy, reshaping for the better how it works internally and with external stakeholders across the local community.
“Working with out Design Associate released ideas and energy that were exciting and innovative which, in turn, have made a real difference in our approach to service design,” he says.
The methods learned are now being used in other areas and influencing the way the councils approach a project or service delivery in general, Mitchell adds. For example, Adur & Worthing Councils have recently applied a design approach and techniques to improving the care pathway for members of the community entering or being discharged from mental health services.
In March 2016, Adur and Worthing Council’s Rough Sleepers Team won gold in the Transforming Access to Services category at the iESE Improvement & Efficiency Awards.