Much has changed from the early days of the Internet. The information super highway is no longer a mere fast track to contact details or technical information. Virtually organic in nature, the world-wide-web has evolved, weaving itself into all aspects of modern life.
With this in mind, we now know that creating an effective online presence requires much more than a slick interface or fashionable visual appeal. It needs to work on many levels, resonating with the values of its intended audience as well as underpinning those of the founding organisation.
Yet all too often there is a tendency to outsource responsibility for digital expansion to ‘experts’; without a clear brief of what is really required. We do not question the expertise of these services or the need to involve them. Depending on the production pathway, they may be experts in programming and writing code or corporate marketing, to name but a few fields; they may even be in-house departments, however chances are they are not experts in what you do and how you do it. You and your stakeholders are the real experts. It is your combined insight that understands best the needs you service, the ethos you apply and the difference you make.
We need a website!
This was the starting point for developing the first ever website for the specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service that covers Wirral and Cheshire. Right from the offset this wide reaching NHS provider wanted to build upon their commitment to participation and engagement. Working with children, young people, parents, carers, staff and other partner agencies, deadcatdreaming used BIGGER Picture and Catalyst Cards to help develop a comprehensive appreciation of what was really required to make this new online provision both meaningful and sustainable.
Literally starting with a blank canvas, the process went way beyond simplistic questions around stylistic choices, the nature of content or what works or does not work on rival platforms. Instead, it opened up a conversation about the service, creatively exploring what was fundamental to those involved. This led to a whole host of exquisite ideas, some large, some small, but all combining to define an extremely unique purpose and identity for the new provision.
Drawn large for all to see, these qualitative contributions not only produced some amazing artwork, many of which were incorporated directly into the finished website’s branding and iconography, it also resulted in the comprehensive ‘Headstrong’ summary report and design brief that determined the decisive direction for the site’s development.
So much more
The result was the distinctive MyMind.org.uk, a multi award-winning endeavour that keeps on growing. The site boasts many features that set it apart from similar services in different parts of the country, but for us the key success of employing graphic facilitation in shaping the vision for the website, is the way in which the ideas it generated inspired new ways of working within the organisation. What emerged was more than a website, it gave rise to different approaches to communicating and sharing information, strategies that wove social media, video and service user created content seamlessly together. Health workers became bloggers and podcasters; teams within the service began to consider and develop how they packaged and professionally presented what they do and new imaginative resources began to become available for download.
These online developments did not stop there; they cascaded out, leading to advances in offline activities and the creation of a growing portfolio of professional tools. Tools such as the award-winning Next Step Cards, the international authored Team of Life Toolkit, as well as unique stakeholder-led planning days; all building upon DCD’s participatory improvement approach.
‘This entry has had an impressive impact and has excellent content and materials. We were really impressed with the engagement that it has created with patients through innovative use of digital media. It creates exciting opportunities to involve patients and create inclusive and progressive relationships.’
Why was this initially small project so fertile and successful? We believe it is to do with the ‘ownership’ that participatory involvement nurtures. The website was not an interpretation of what was needed, it emerged from the values and aspirations of all involved and as such the stakeholders took responsibility for making it work. This meant that it built upon existing best practice, enabling the participating practitioners to grow and expand what they already did, in ways that gave them a route into using technology that was not daunting or alien to them.
MyMind.org.uk has been widely regarded as ‘innovative’; however, at its launch there was nothing new about the technology it made use of. What set the implementation apart, was not that it employed the ‘latest’ but rather that it focused on the ‘lasting’.
DCD believes that innovation is incremental in nature, a process of translating and combining existing ideas into an outcome that creates additional value for the beneficiaries. It involves information, imagination and initiative. It brings people together, altering attitudes and cultural behaviours. This is the innovation that DCD aims to initiate, an innovation that harnesses inclusion to inspire meaningful and lasting improvements.
“What can I say? Award winning website that wouldn’t have been award winning if DCD hadn’t facilitated and co-created the vision”