So first of all, to recap on our activity during the week leading us to today:
Day 1 – Introduction to the process, team-building, and being presented with the challenge: How might we engage SMEs in Birmingham to deliver valuable experiences for young people (16 to 20 year olds) who are able to engage.
Day 2 – Initial market research – going out on to the streets to talk to people – young people, small business owners, employment advisors – to find out what their experiences of work experience and the barriers to delivering or receiving a valuable / worthwhile experience have been, and think about possible solutions.
Day 3 – More detailed conversations with people to hone down their insights into the form of empathy maps – what do they think about work experience, what do they see and hear about it, and what do they do regarding it? From the empathy maps (an empathy map for the experience providers – businesses and other organisations – and one for the receivers – young jobseekers) we created solution maps – what will our solution provide to users as gain creators, in what way might it relieve the pain of providing or participating work experience, and what will our solution actually do.
Day 4 – Design! With the research done and our ideas reasonably well formed, Thursday was the day to actually start committing those ideas into something more resembling a product to take around and show people to say ‘how does this look as an idea? Do you think you would use it?’ and get their feedback. As a team of people fairly well embedded in digital solutions, we made our prototypes by drawing boxes on pieces of paper and in notebooks. Even a man such as myself who generally refuses to touch anything which looks remotely like ink unless it’s in a printer cartridge accepts that sometimes it’s just easier to use a marker pen to convey an idea. We did an initial paper prototype to take around in the morning, came back and adjusted it based on feedback, and then took the more refined version out again in the afternoon.
And by the beginning of this morning, with all the work we’d done during the week gathered together nicely on to the walls and connected together by a long piece of string, the room looked something like this:
(click the picture and drag it around to see the ghost of Nick!)
The morning’s first task was to crystallise all of our thinking about the business model of our platform into one big piece of paper on which we documented our customer segments and relationships, the channels of communication to our customers, the value proposition of our platform, the costs of providing the platform and the revenue streams it will generate (in this instance less tangible than cash per se), the key activities which will be done through the platform and the key resources that platform will have, and the key partners needed to help deliver the service the platform will provide.
And then it was time to prepare our final presentation as the culmination of the week’s work!
Before doing that we had a couple of brief detours – first to listen to part of a talk / discussion in the main part of the Impact Hub led by Indy Johar about the sharing economy and what that means – good and bad – for freelancers in the context of employment rights and access to things like personal finance, and secondly to give a quick Skype call to participants at the Birmingham City Council / Service Birmingham partnership day to brief them about the process we’ve been going through during the week.
Those diversions accomplished we prepared our pitches, and waited for the audience to file into what was actually a small room for a group of about 15 people drawn from the Birmingham City Council, Service Birmingham, and Impact Hub communities. In the spirit of a meeting of the Privy Council we didn’t have any chairs out, so everybody had to stand to ensure it didn’t drag on. Our pitch began introducing the stories of Michael – a jobseeker – and Jo – a shop owner, and their experiences and the problems they faced with doing and providing work experience, followed by our suggested solution, with a lively – in the supportive sense – question and answer session following.
And as we finished our time on this project, we looked back on the real purpose of the week: to trial out a process for an alternative way of working between BCC and SB staff to deliver projects much more quickly than we usually do, by instead of the old method of disparate individuals engaged in small pieces of activity passed from person to person spread out over weeks, and indeed months, to instead get a project team together in a room to devote focussed energy on the project over a short period of time, identifying the problem, mind-harvesting the barriers and the objectives, and designing – and, most importantly, testing with real users the solution in an iterative, agile approach prior to sending on to an implementation team to make real. As the group of five staff members sent away to test this way of working on a theoretical project, we’re absolutely convinced of the enhanced value of it as a joint practice for the future. And as theoretical the brief of the project might initially have been, we think the outcome just might have potential as a real thing worth implementing as well…