Creating design practitioners in Camden
Extracting social value from the planning process with Camden Council’s Inclusive Innovation Network
Camden Council’s Inclusive Innovation Network (IIN) was created to help the council work better with residents on complex challenges rooted in social justice. Camden recognised that by nurturing this collective ability to generate, validate and execute new ideas in response to these challenges, they could embed new collaborative ways of working across both the organisation and communities.
With over 250 members, the IIN is designed to showcase the great work the council is already doing while increasing their capacity for innovation. Camden invited FutureGov to coach a core team of members in design methods and agile ways of working while solving a real design challenge.
Over 12 weeks, the core team was tasked to investigate a challenge: how can we secure the maximum social value from the planning process at all stages, looking at how planning (policy) can be pushed further to be even more explicit in the ways in which new developments can deliver an inclusive economy? We supported the team to investigate this challenge, introducing agile ways of working and design thinking from project setup to design research and telling the story of the work.
Setting up the project
We introduced design thinking through the Double Diamond and user-led approaches, plus agile ways of working, organising around two-week sprints and setting out the guides and materials for successful sprint planning, retrospectives and delivery. In addition to implementing new digital tools, the team worked in a flat structure, working in an open and transparent way, continuously communicating and iterating.
The design challenge impacted two service teams: Planning and Inclusive Economy. Bringing people from these teams together, we mapped further internal and external stakeholders to involve through the life of the project, understanding the audiences as the:
- Involved Network: expertise and input critical to understanding the challenge
- Informed Network: supporting wider reach, success and capacity to scale
With this foundation, the IIN ran research into three lines of enquiry, including investigation into the planning process, defining inclusive economy and understanding of the public perception of planning and inclusive economy. We supported the team to develop a research plan to set out the aims and objectives for the research and discussion guides to help steer research conversations.
From this research, we supported the team to narrow the original design challenge into two focused opportunity areas:
- How might we empower communities to articulate what is important to them throughout the planning process?
- How might we measure social value/impact related to developments?
With the new design questions, the team ran further research with a range of stakeholders including residents, neighbourhood forums, developers and inclusive economy and planning teams. Guided by desktop research, Kentish Town and St Pancras and Somers Town wards were identified as the areas to focus the next phase of user research, which turned up a number of crucial insights.
Synthesis and ideation
To make sense of the research, we guided the team through synthesis to capture observations, identify emerging themes and define insight statements from the most interesting, challenging and valuable findings in the research. This helped the team develop a range of opportunity areas and ‘How Might We’ statements as springboards for creating ideas.
The team then held an ideation event, bringing together nearly 40 participants of neighbourhood forum chairs, planners, developers, university academics, social enterprises, researchers and residents to engage with the work and help come up with ideas in response to our challenge. Participants focused on specific opportunity areas to formulate individual ideas and further refine into one collective idea. Through this process, the IIN learned how to run ideation sessions, how to communicate the story of the work so far and how they might continue improving facilitation skills.
Following ideation, the team collated ideas, presenting them in a Show & Tell to the Involved Network before prioritising one opportunity to progress to prototyping.
Following ideation, we introduced the team to prototyping and methods for prioritising. The final idea was developed further and reformatted, identifying the outcomes we were aiming to achieve, the questions and assumptions the idea raised and scoping existing best practices working on similar ideas.
The chosen idea was a live platform that collates community aspirations, information and data for a local area in a continuous way, with ongoing input from community outreach and engagement. With the chosen idea, the team developed it further and began prototyping how it could work and what it would look like. The next step is to test the concept with different stakeholders to gain high-level feedback on the idea. This step will pave the way for solution prototyping, where the IIN can test the details and mechanics of the digital platform.
We provided Camden with ways of working best practice, tools and reading throughout the course of this project. Acting as coach and guide throughout the journey, we were able to bring a team of people new to design thinking and agile to the point of confident practitioners, as well as champions for these methodologies within the IIN and their organisation.
– Core team member
I have really enjoyed learning new skills, techniques. I have also really enjoyed the subject matter and being able to be creative in how I approach the work.
We left the team with tools and learning to not only repeat this discovery process with future problems but also share these practices with their peers and previous service areas. This is in addition to the idea above waiting to be taken forward, alongside a large backlog of insights and opportunities that have been handed over to Camden’s Planning and Inclusive Economy teams.