The co-design process
ChildStory began life as the frontline systems replacement project of the Safe Home for Life program. A great deal of work has been done to understand the root causes of the problems with our current technology systems and the needs of current and future users of child protection IT systems.
We soon realised we needed more than just a replacement of our existing technology, we needed a system that was capable of placing the child at the centre of our work, a system capable of telling a child’s story.
To help us understand how our clients, frontline staff and partners use technology to interact with us and each other, we used a process called co-design. Co-design is a human-centred way of creating technology that recognises that people are the experts in their jobs and lives.
Using co-design we developed a deep appreciation of the needs of the people who will use our IT systems, and those that will be impacted by those systems.
We first mapped the child journey to understand the different stages for a child in the protection system, the challenges at each stage and what we could do to help.
The ChildStory team have used many different co-design approaches with FACS staff, our non-government partners, carers, kids and families to gain valuable insights into the world we are trying to improve.
At co-design workshops, a learning environment is created in which experiences, ideas and meanings are created and shared with participants. We conducted a series of co-design workshops with a range of stakeholders. Some workshops focused on mapping current processes and understanding frustrations and process bottlenecks. Others focused on idea generation to come up with new IT services that could better support FACS workers and families.
Members of our team shadowed frontline workers. We went on trips to visit kids and watched staff interact with current IT tools and systems in the office. We observed pain points and considered what day-to-day life might look like for frontline staff if they had better technology. We saw firsthand that casework is best done with social interactions and relationships, not time-consuming paperwork or IT processes.
Co-design relies on making ‘things’ (objects and visualisations), which we can use to think and talk with. In early 2015 we sent instructions and craft materials to FACS offices and asked them to create a collage to depict a part of the child journey, such as adoption or leaving care. These collages let us see where people on the ground felt the challenges lay. They identified key problems and were used as conversation starters during the first co-design workshops.
Some FACS workers wrote a diary for us over a two-week period. This included information about their day, what went well and what didn’t. They also wrote a letter to the ‘queen of FACS’ telling her how to do things differently and how they’d like the future to look. These activities were done independently and gave us a good understanding about the needs of staff.
Our team spent considerable time meeting stakeholders in the FACS ecosystem. We spoke with:
- carers to understand what challenges they faced caring for kids and how better access to information could support them and the kids in their care
- young people who had left care to understand the challenges they faced during care and when leaving care
- non-government organisation partners like Family by Family and external organisations such as Whalan Public School to understand their needs
- FACS workers in regional and metropolitan areas across NSW to understand what they need, how they work, the tools they use and how improved technology could make an impact.
The data from these interviews helped us construct our requirements for the capabilities of the new IT services.