The value of collaboration and working digitally

Alex Mckell

It’s been a few weeks since I completed my first online digital design sprint as part of the My Best Life project. The question we were answering was How might we improve the avaibility of services when and where young people need them?  There were several people involved in the sprint including 3 young people from UK Youth which I thought was great since the question being answered is in relation to young people. Therefore, there needs to be a voice present from that group, and it was great to see that being practiced in this design sprint. That voice was also present indirectly through the those involved in the group that come from a background of youth work.

Overall, I found the sprint a great experience and learnt a lot about doing a sprint online as well as developing my Miro skills. Very handy considering the online world we now find ourselves in and running future digital sessions. There were many things that were good about the sprint including the different exercises the facilitators used to answer the question. Such as the exercise called User Flow which got me to think about the step by step journey a user would take when engaging with an idea and I mean step by step. This changed my thinking and is something I will take forward in my work and apply when thinking about engagement strategies for any Leap piece of work.

I also enjoyed the various digital icebreakers especially Frankenstein’s monster where each member of the group had to find a digital image of a body part to build the Monster. I enjoyed this icebreaker because it involved doing something fun and having that experience of doing. I think the doing can get lost with online delivery which is often about the hearing and the seeing so this showed me how it can get incorporated in a digital session. Something else that stands out from doing this icebreaker, which can be applied to the overall experience of the sprint, was the way we collaborated and worked together to build this monster, with each person bringing something to the process and working in a way which valued whatever image they used. This captures my experience of this sprint because whatever ideas or thoughts people shared were treated with value and discussed which is, for me, important in collaboration.

In addition to the above, something else that I am taking away is the importance of the question and purpose of the sprint being clear to those involved.  I mention this because early in the process, there was a stage where participants weren’t clear about the question and this resulted in a lot of uncertainty when engaging in an exercise. What was great is that participants felt able to voice this to the facilitators who responded by reframing the question. Moving forward, the facilitators made it a habit to keep coming back to that question to make sure it was kept in mind by participants and to check understanding. I think this speaks to how responsive facilitators were to the needs of participant and that it is still possible to build trust and safety in the digital world. The facilitators did a great job at this.

A final reflection from attending this online sprint, the online world being one which I tend to keep at a distance, is that it showed me what is possible through online working and the benefits of working in this way. Benefits such as:

  • Accessibility and Diversity: working with a range of individuals from all over England, a range of ages and life experiences, skills and talents and how this diversity supported ideas to be challenged. Sometimes this cannot be achieved because of barriers that come in face to face working.
  • Flexibility it allows including time the session can take place
  • Interactivity it brings to learning

These are just a few and as a result, I am in less resistance to running digital sessions then I was before and am more open to delivering sessions in this way. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with people and having face to face sessions.  I know I am someone who feeds off energy from being around others and this is something that cannot be achieved through an online session. However, doing this sprint has shown me what value working digitally does have and what can be achieved.  Furthermore, when I see the question about what are we taking forward from the past few weeks and forming a new normal, doing Leap’s work on a digital platform is definitely something I’m taking forward and looking forward to sharing with others.

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