Action for Children’s 5-week residency at the AIE

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Michael Atkins reports from Action for Children’s residency programme at our Applied Innovation Exchange in London.

On Monday 10th June I was delighted to kick start a residency programme at Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange (AIE) in London, designed to help organisations create sustained impact through innovation. Our first residency was taken up by Action for Children – led by Gita Luz from their Innovation team. A team of 6 spent 5 weeks immersed in our AIE collaborating and exploring new ways of working.

Action for Children is an innovative charity, directly supporting over 300,000 children, young people and families every year. It’s investing and piloting several digital services to increase its reach and ensure children get support regardless of government budget cuts. Specifically, the Digital Innovation team has been tasked with three challenges: how technology can grow fundraising, how it can be used to engage and raise awareness of issues, and how it can be used to extend and improve services to some of most vulnerable young people.

Through the AIE residency programme, we were hoping to share ideas and help them bring different thinking to some of their challenges they face.  This is both part of our commitment to bringing organisations together for knowledge exchange, as well as our commitment as a company to ensure that our skills and capabilities benefit society as a whole.

Embarking on our first residency in the London AIE, and in particular touching such a critical social issue, our team has been diarising events as they unfolded, sharing not just the day to day process of how diverse teams come together, but also how they learn and grow – here’s what happened over the course of 5 weeks…..

 

Week 1

Both teams came armed with coffee and croissants ready to kick off the summer residency. With the theme of children in mind, we introduced ourselves, our roles and what we aspired to be when we grew up. Strangely, no one said “innovation worker” or “software engineer” but “firemen” and “pilots” were a popular choice. It’s interesting how no one had expected to be doing what we are doing now – probably because when we were growing up, those jobs were still in their infancy!

We also talked about what projects our teams had both active and upcoming in the pipeline – this was the first moment that we began to see the power of the residency. The crossover of objectives and common goals was a lot stronger than expected. Where one team needs to explore topics like retail pop ups and in market testing, the other can provide their point of view and experience based on learnings.

Once the teams had a general understanding of the types of work each other had going on, we began to coordinate collaboration offers to complement each other’s work. We set up a common communication channel (Slack) and a shared tool for visualising jobs to be done and in progress (Trello).

One of the first tickets to go into the tool was an invite to the Action for Children team to join a session with one of Capgemini’s public sector clients. The Government’s 25 year plan for a better environment mentions 2019 as their year of action. In their strategy, there is a heavy focus on getting young people more actively engaged in nature and understand the importance of the environment. One member from Action for Children team came in to speak about some of the research they have done into the topic, bringing data points from their experience and reflecting on how they see it affecting vulnerable children across the UK.

During the rest of the week we populated the residency calendar with upcoming events, weekly kick offs and retrospectives to constantly reflect upon and improve the residency in flight. Come Friday, we paused to reflect on our progress for the week and what we had planned into the rest of the residency before moving onto some week 1 celebration drinks!

Week 2

This week, on Tuesday morning, two members of the AIE team took the short walk down the road to Action for Children’s Holborn office where they were greeted with Christmas songs and mince pies. No, Action for Children hadn’t completely lost it, they were in the process of ideation for their 2019 Christmas campaign. With clear objectives, parameters and inspiration attendees began generating numerous ideas using the rapid 8s design-thinking technique which challenges participants to sketch 8 ideas in 8 minutes. Subsequently, two ideas were taken forward for further development. The AIE team was able to provide some input on all the digital and tech solutions – specifically, on how to make them impactful and scalable.

On Tuesday evening a few of the Capgemini team headed over to a showcase event from the Action for Children digital and innovation team, focused on the theme of delivering, developing and funding the future of social care. While both the AIE and Action for Children innovation teams follow design thinking methodologies and process, there is a notable difference in the considerations of products and service. Kate Stulberg, UX lead at Action for Children, spoke about how the difference of even two years makes a huge difference when designing solutions for them. During her open and honest presentation, we heard about key learnings from the team in having hypotheses proven wrong and right. We also heard from Rachael Gilthorpe, Digital Services Manager at Action for Children, about her learnings from rolling out pilots and interacting with the Government. Lynn Roberts, Head of Digital and Innovation at Action for Children, talked about the changing face of social care. Then lastly Darshan Sanghrajka, Founder at SuperBeingLabs spoke about the collaboration between design agencies and charities.

The attendees were made up of other charities and agencies, but also people not from the third sector whatsoever. What was amazing and inspiring about this event was the openness about lessons learnt and the atmosphere of everyone driving towards a common goal of solving big social issues. In the private sector, we often refer to silos within organisations but never consider that in the third sector similar organisations will be competing for funding against one another, but at the end of the day are all striving towards the same goal.

This week we also connected a member of the Action for Children team working on a project about the future of the workplace and how to collaborate virtually, with a Capgemini team delivering these types of solutions for our clients. Action for Children came away from the conversation with several tools and top tips for virtual collaboration and how they can leverage it for a 6-week accelerator programme they are running soon.

The team also shared some insights from recent research work around the future of retail and consumer psychology. This was particularly helpful for the Action for Children team for their pop-up stands and physical stores.

Week 3

One of the highlights this week was participation in the ‘Diversity on Engagement’ event organised by Idean, part of Capgemini Invent. The talk focused on diversity and inclusion within organisations as well as for users, and even within society more generally. The three talks focused on meaningful inclusivity and what that looks like, from serving vulnerable customers in the financial world to interactions between colleagues in the office. Aneta Perehinets, Action for Children’s junior product manager , described the event as: “an eye-opening event that crossed over with a lot of knowledge that was helpful to Action for Children as we are always focused on groups most vulnerable in society, whether it’s children, young people, or parents in the UK”.

Another highlight was Capgemini’s Customer Engagement and Idean teams’ away day that took place at our Accelerated Solutions Environment (ASE) space in London. The aim of the event was for our consultants and designers to use their skills and experience in solving challenges and identifying solutions for Capgemini’s charity partners: Apps For Good, The Prince’s Trust and Action for Children. Each team had a chance to pitch their solution to their assigned charity using creative ways to bring their solution to life. Gita Luz had the following to say about the day: “an amazing opportunity to get fresh perspectives and creative brains on a challenge we are constantly tackling, namely how to support more parents and families through our online services whilst also potentially generating revenue and attracting charity supporters so we can continue to fund crucial work that helps vulnerable children in the UK. I really appreciated how the teams took on board our insight and feedback from our experience of working with parents and how mindful they were of the constraints and challenges non-profits face in terms of budgets. This resulted in solutions that were achievable and practical while still ensuring maximum impact in supporting parents and helping children have the best start in life possible”.

 In addition to events, the AIE and Action for Children teams have been continually sharing ideas on UX approaches and projects within our pipeline to aid our respective goals.

Week 4

On July 3rd, Action for Children got the opportunity to take part in The Department for International Trade’s Great Entrepreneur Games at the ASE. They set up a tradeshow stand as a break from the pitching and panel discussions for entrepreneurs, investors and keynote speakers. The stand featured their work in both service and commercial offerings, and they displayed three key products they’re working on:

  • The Big Welcome, a digital service that looks to make the transition into foster care better for children and young people
  • Dots and Talk, online parenting services that consolidate trustworthy parenting advice and allow parents to speak to a childcare practitioner via live chat
  • Bump, a paid monthly subscription box for pregnant women, with 100% of the proceeds going back into Action for Children services

They were able to get live feedback on their work (especially as much of it still exists in trial and beta mode) while also learning from different entrepreneurs about the struggles of building their start-ups, and share learnings with one another as the Innovation team act as a sort of start-up within their much larger organisation. They spoke to different entrepreneurs about the scrappiest things they’ve done to get their businesses off the ground, with one of the most notable answers being “10 in an Airbnb for 5 people.”

They learned loads about the pitching process from everyone at the event and even got a shutout at the beginning of the event from Adele Every, so loads of investors, pitchers and panellists approached them throughout the day to chat. Many of them resulted with setting up real-world meetings and even some opportunities to collaborate in the future!

This week the AIE had a water utilities client coming in to discuss the future of their customer experience proposition. As well as discussing with them potential future innovation opportunities such as automation, virtual reality, leakage detection and proactive customer engagement, the AIE brought in the Action for Children team. The team discussed how they approach innovation with some key learnings around frugal innovation and validated learnings approach to experimentation. A theme that has become apparent throughout the residency is that companies that have a responsibility to design products and services for many, many personas (including vulnerable children) need to be taking a human centred design approach.

Week 5

Now into our 5th and final week with the Action for Children team! At the start of the week, we took time to understand what activities would complete the residency programme to finish on a high.

Firstly, word had spread fast across Capgemini that we had Action for Children in the AIE and the amazing work we had been doing with them. As a result, there was a large pool of people who were super keen to get involved in researching their chosen topic: a deep dive into digital products and services in the third sector. This is a hugely fascinating piece of research for many Capgemini consultants, enabling them to put their research and digital knowledge skills towards a fantastic cause.

We also put in a final ideation session to be hosted by the Action for Children team looking at what new fundraising products could be developed for corporates. The Action for Children team had already built out a large amount of research, both secondary and primary, through speaking to Capgemini as well as some of their other corporate partners. Through their detailed research they established several key themes that we would be exploring together and coming up with ideas for fundraising in the workplace.

Lastly, we set up a final knowledge sharing session to upskill both teams on a variety of topics, including designing digital products and services for children, a technology landscape review and a reflection on empathy in technology. Kate Stulberg from Action for Children gave an inspirational talk about how best to approach products for children. Kate is an UX designer who has seen it all when doing research with children, and she shared some fantastic tips and tricks, including contingency plans for when kids aren’t engaged and that you should never paraphrase as you always make assumptions when doing so.

Next, the AIE played back some research that it had been doing into the technology landscape for Action for Children and how it might incorporate it into its operations. The series of 9 technologies, use cases and products in the market were played back with a focus on how easy or difficult it would be for Action for Children to use. These ideas ranged from chatbots to sound analytics to blockchain tracking. All the technologies had a focus on how Action for Children could have a large impact at scale.

Finally, we heard from Gita Luz about how empathy needs to be at the forefront of technology. She highlighted within a few clicks of searching how much hatred there is on the internet and how technology can be a force for harm. However, it is not all doom and gloom! There are incredibly supportive communities on the internet – Humans of New York is a great example of that. Gita also highlighted Stop Funding Hate, an organisation whose vision is to clean up hate on Facebook, as well as other inspiring examples like running refugee camp simulation to deliver immersive experiences to the public. With a strong final message that technology is there to be used and it is up to us to ensure that it’s done for love and not hate – the world needs less trolls, not more. This was a huge message to finish up with in the final week and really confirmed that the Applied Innovation Exchange had learnt just as much from Action for Children as they had learnt from us.

We were sad to be saying goodbye to Action for Children, but the relationship is set to continue into the future. As well as several “build” projects in the pipeline with the team, we had discussed bringing them into sessions in the future as they become embedded in our ecosystem.

If you’d like to find out more about our residency programme, get in touch with the AIE team.

Author


Michael Atkins

Mikey has been at Capgemini for just under two years. Based out of Capgemini Invent’s Future of Technology practice, Mikey has been on secondment in the Applied Innovation Exchange for 6 months. He has a keen interest in innovation and work for social good and was on point for organising the London AIE’s first residency programme with Action for Children.

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