Identify and explore design opportunities related to "dependency" for the benefit of mentally handicapped citizens.
I collaborated with CSBB, a day-time institution and learning center for mentally handicapped citizens. There I did ethnographic field work with citizens and pedagogues. I came to understand that being independant enough to live alone can have a downside of social isolation. Having access to opportunities to socialize with people like themselves adds to the citizens’ quality of life. I also learned that many highly-functioning citizens have practically been forced into early retirement by the system. Yet, they yearn for responsibility and feeling needed, and they flourish in suited volunteer jobs.
Initially, I saw opportunities for interactive designs that citizens living alone could use to connect with each other. But through brainstorming, sketching scenarios, and pitching ideas, a combined opportunity arose. What if we could provide a lifeline for lonely citizens, while also creating citizen volunteer jobs? A concept emerged for a casual chat-hotline, operated by citizens, and supervised by pedagogues. I refined the concept through roleplaying, and through iterating on visual scenarios together with citizens, CSBB management and pedagogues.
I expressed the proposal through a set of communicational prototypes: a script for a welcoming message greeting callers; an interactive prototype of a simple tablet app for volunteers; an interactive prototype of an administration and supervision app for pedagogues. Finally, to communicate the interdependent roles of the prototypes', I produced a video scenario.
I pitched the prototypes to CSBB management. They were impressed with the proposal, and they are now seeking to continue the project internally.
Trust is important for ethnographic user research. When you are clearly not a member of the studied population, building trust takes time. For this project, a longer time frame could have led to deeper insights. Further, as the proposal became the concept for a new service, service design tools—such as journey maps and service blueprints—could have helped solidify the proposal.