Diving into the Digital Fellowship — Part 2

Our second Fellowship kick-off day was led by an energetic duo in the form of Nat Hunter, who runs the Machines Room, and Harry Harrold, product management and user experience guru at Neontribe. Together they led the Fellows through a good deal of hands-on workshopping around user-centred design. Tools like the templates in Nesta’s DIY toolkit, and the Design Council’s double diamond (discover -> define -> develop -> deliver) are great ways to structure your exploration of the problem you want to solve.

The Design Council’s Double Diamond

Once you’ve established who is going to be the user(s) of your solution, creating full ‘personas’ can also be a handy exercise to bring their profiles to life.

“Examine a user through the lens of your problem. Think about what critical questions you can ask to interrogate your persona. For example, what phone do they use?”

One of the things that has come across really strongly is that nonprofits are in fact in a fantastic position to embark on a user-centred design process — more so in fact than the corporates and agencies that do this all the time — because they already have an intimate understanding of their end users as real people with complex needs. If empathy builds better design, then we have nine potential first-class designers in front of us. They appreciate that Joe who’s currently homeless from Sheffield might also be a keen kayaker and hill-walker, for example, and that caricatures of users are counterproductive.

Amanda from HARV talks through a day in the life of her team’s user persona

Helpful as personas are, nothing quite prepares you for what your real users will think and do with a new piece of technology, so you need to out there and testing with living bodies (as the charities on our Fuse programme have been doing over the last few weeks). When it comes to specific design decisions, paper prototyping can be a really helpful way of doing this in as lean (time- and resource-efficient) a way as possible.

‘Here’s one I made earlier…’ Harry demonstrates some paper prototype examples

By drawing out all your designs on paper, with different elements of, for example, a web page, attached with blu tack so they can be moved around, you can react to your users’ feedback immediately by tweaking the layout or pathway through the tech. The beauty of this technique is that it requires zero coding, and is so simple you can do it with a five-year-old!

We’re now on Week 3, where the Fellows are learning about lean social business canvases — or our variant called the ‘Superhero canvas’. A canvas is a more concise and agile way to encapsulate your business than the traditional business plan, but common startup canvases will need to be adapted for a charity, to take the social impact considerations into account. Led by CAST’s own Kieron Kirkland, this is helping tie together a lot of the hands-on ‘doing’ from the first week with some more strategic overview.

Three of our Superheroes hard at work on business canvases

It’s been a very intensive start to our Digital Fellowship but the Fellows’ energy and openness to new ideas and techniques has been absolutely fantastic. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be helping them get to grips with how the methodologies and processes they’re learning can apply to each of their organisations, and how they can put what they’ve learned into practise.

If you’d like to find out more about any of the sessions, we’ve put a more detailed version of the course materials online at castfellowship.wordpress.com.

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