Designing human connection into digital services

TL:DR — Download a suite of tools for desiging for human connection here, developed with over 60 UK charities.

Small moments of connection between us have a huge impact upon our mental and physical wellbeing. They have a direct corrolation with life expectancy and loneliness which, in turn, is now viewed as a greater threat to public health than obesity and smoking.

It’s also generally accepted that compared like for like, face-face interaction trumps digital every time. As our lives become more digitally focussed (especially since Covid-19), we need to look more closely at our interactions online and how they…


[Update: free high resolution prototypes of our Human Connection Framework can be found here]

The five conditions for human connection in digital services

As part of the Catalyst we’ve been researching how to create human connection in charities’ digital services, and the relational wellbeing that can result from it.

We’ve seen a wide range of methods used to foster it: from shared reminiscence, to using voicenotes alongside website text. We now have somewhere in the region of 50 methods, developed from workshops with 60 charities.

From all of the methods we see a common theme. Reducing separation between us is the gateway to connection and relational wellbeing.

These methods…


We’re now almost a month into lockdown and, for the lucky ones amongst us, that means remote working and most likely, Zoom. I thought a year of remote working would make this a breeze but having just co-hosted a weekend ‘residential’ online as part of the Deepr / Enrol Yourself Learning Marathon, maintaining real human connection was a huge challenge, despite the wonderful people there on screen.

In terms of our relational wellbeing, if we needed further evidence that digital doesn’t yet cut it as a replacement for real life social interaction, we probably all now have it. …


As charities rapidly launch new online services, how can we avoid feeding the loneliness epidemic?

Just a week into lockdown and, for the lucky ones amongst us, that means remote working and most likely, Zoom. I thought a year of remote working would make this a breeze but having just co-hosted a weekend ‘residential’ online as part of the Deepr / Enrol Yourself Learning Marathon, maintaining real human connection was a huge challenge, despite the wonderful people there on screen.

In terms of our relational wellbeing, if we needed further evidence that digital doesn’t yet cut it as a replacement for real life social interaction, we probably all now have it. …


Meet the latest (double) cohort of peer explorers to embark upon a six month learning marathon…..

We (Deepr, Enrol Yourself and Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking) were looking for twelve people from diverse backgrounds who, like us, wanted to explore how we might embed human connection into the systems and services we all use every day. We found twenty.

We have designers, psychotherapists, systems thinkers (and doers), makers and players. Here they all are….

Kat Murray-Clark


Why (and how) we need to put meaningful relationships at the centre of service design solutions — for public wellbeing, for business success and for the mindset shift we all need to make for a sustainable future on planet Earth.

Everton Vila on Unsplash

“This is a genuinely brilliant piece of work” Dan Sutch, Director of CAST

As we systemise we dehumanise

The manifesto Deeper Everyday Connection below is the result of two years research and development, looking at the systems and services we all use every day, online and offline. It looks at the ways in which transport, work, social media, retail and others restrict us from having meaningful connections with each other. It outlines the negative impact this has on wellbeing and social cohesion as it reinforces the dominant (yet unsustainable) mindset of separation.

I found that small meaningful connections, or empathic interactions, which are viewed as…


Photo by Jacob Ufkes on Unsplash

If you are having trouble concentrating for long, or even short periods, this is for you. If you find yourself wasting hours aimlessly browsing the web, compulsively checking for new emails, notifications or find you’re no longer finishing books. If you feel compelled to be ‘always on’ or just feel you’re no longer in full control of where you place and keep your attention, this is for you.

I’ve experienced all of the above, having noticed some time ago that my ability to focus for extended periods was being eroded. I preferred to read and write short, punchy bits of…


Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Whilst we’ve sought to develop machines that can think and behave like human beings, we have been shoehorning human beings into thinking and behaving more like machines, to the detriment of our wellbeing and to our very nature. As we systemise, so we dehumanise.

This may well be about to change.

Many current jobs are likely to soon be usurped by AI and machine learning. A large portion of those that remain — and the new ones created — will focus less on technical knowledge and skills and more on deep relational qualities that the robots can’t deliver. These new…


It’s no longer news that our attention is in constant demand in all manner of ways: email, advertising, phone notifications, not to mention the systems we use every day like transport, work and childcare — all slotted together using the meta systems of time and money and all requiring our attention. Then there are the things we try to make room to direct our attention to, like playing with our kids, going for a walk in the woods or just hanging out with friends. …


Thanks to antoinebarres.com for this photo

We use systems every day. Practically every aspect of our lives is governed by the rules, processes and technologies that enable us to operate in today’s world.

On the roads, we drive on the left, stop at red and go on green. On public transport we buy tickets, stand on the right, let people off first and don’t make eye contact. We’re surrounded by the ‘ding’ of phone, microwave, Fitbit and email; each requiring a specific action from us. These are systems, saving time, increasing productivity. And it doesn’t end there.

We take the kids to school, take Dad to…

Matthew McStravick

co-founder @DeeprDesign, Ex @CAST / Founder @Echo economyofhours.com @SharingEconomyUK / Member @ExtinctionRebellion Vision Tank

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