Inflatables for better services

Over the past month Sahil and myself have been getting quite familiar with some inflatable furniture. Fear not though, I’ve not convinced him to take up camping (achievable goals please), we’ve actually got ourselves a pop-up living room.

We’ve been touring round some of our schemes and estates, popping up in communal hallways and entrances to catch people as they come home and have a bit of a chat — over a cup of tea and a digestive of course. We’ve got an inflatable sofa, a couple of coffee tables with a pot plant and a lamp, a whole load of cushions and throws, a rug, and the all important teapot. It really looks quite bizarre if you’re not expecting it.

By turning up almost un-announced (we drop people people a text the day before, and then again when the kettle’s on), right when people are arriving home from work or the school run, we get to meet people who would never normally come to a traditional meeting or focus group. This, really, is the whole point — the sofa is basically there to give us an excuse to be loitering in your hallway and a bit of a conversation starter.

Speaking to whoever turns up (and doesn’t run away) gives us a much more authentic picture of our customers, rather than only talking to the people who you might find at a traditional meeting (the usual suspects as they’re sometimes called). And ultimately, the insight and empathy from this engagement should lead to better designed services, that meet real customer needs.

(In this case, we’ve been talking to people about a new Community Development strategy, but are planning on using the living room for a whole lot more).

Next week, the pop-up living room is travelling all the way to Manchester to appear at HouseParty; so if you’re going, do try it out and remember to take a #sofaselfie!

And finally, nearly everywhere we’ve been someone has asked where the sofa came from — so if you’re interested, here are our main bits of kit:
Intex pullout sofa bed (yes, you could actually sleep on this)
Ikea Hol Table (put other things in it!)
Ikea Lack Table (unscrew one leg to transport with the Hol)
Ikea Lampan Lamp (plus LED bulb, great for risk assessments)
Ikea Polarvide throws & Ullkaktus cushions

And then a rug, pot plant, and my mobile tea and coffee facilities (including a teapot and real mugs, no disposable nonsense here).