Reflections on remote design sprints

Nicola Pritchard

Cara Leavey, Policy and Programme Officer, at the Health Foundation, shares her reflections on participating in the the My Best Life remote design sprints.

When I found out about My Best Life back in January, I was excited to learn how similar it is to the Young people’s future health inquiry that we run at the Health Foundation. As Kathryn has already explained, our research agreed that in order to get the best start in life, young people need: a place to call home: secure and rewarding work; and good connections with their friends, family and community.

The design sprints offered a great opportunity to put pen to paper and think about some practical ways in which we can support young people to access youth services through a new app.

For me, the most important part of the design sprint was that there were lots of different people ‘in the room’ (or maybe I should say in the Zoom?!). There were funders, like myself, but there were also voluntary organisations that represent young people, some tech-gurus, and most importantly young people themselves. It’s an obvious point, but when we’re thinking through solutions to problems facing young people, we have to make sure that their voices are listened to and respected – especially if it challenges our own preconceptions.

Reflecting back on the design sprint, these were the top three lessons that I learned:

  1. What makes a good idea – The design sprint highlighted that it’s impossible to come up with the perfect idea all by yourself! The best ideas are challenged by others in the team, strengthened with their suggestions, and sometimes you have to pick and choose the best parts of an idea. The finished product really did feel like a team effort and you could see lots of different people’s ideas throughout.
  2. The role of funders in supporting good ideas – Building on the first point, the design sprint challenged my perception of how much power funders really have and how we can share this with others. Some of the other participants explained how all too often, funders make important decisions behind closed doors and have a lot of power deciding what is a good idea or not. Involvement is at the heart of the Young people’s future health inquiry and the design sprint helped me to think about more ways we can make sure young people have a say in our work.
  3. Design sprints can work just as effectively remotely – It was impressive how quickly Kathryn and the team were able to move their design sprints online! It’s important to remember that working remotely can’t exactly replicate how you would work in person, but it does offer new opportunities. For example, it felt easier to look back on the discussions we had over the four days, revisit ideas and see the journey we had been on. I thought a four-hour session would be exhausting, but doing some offline activities helped break up the session.

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