The National Centre partnered with the Experience Design Group (XDs) and Big Radical on a Design Jam workshop, inviting creative minds from various sectors to prototype innovative ways of supporting people with depression and those closest to them through digital solutions.

Facilitated by Big Radical’s Strategy Director and founder of the XDs, Alex Barclay, the workshop brought together UX and software developers, data scientists, strategists, psychologists, clinical psychiatrists, businesses and academics. In two productive days, the teams came-up with and presented fascinating designs and ideas. The winning idea will progress with the aim of taking it on the journey to market, mapping the barriers and opportunities along the way.

Teams were carefully crafted to ensure participants could capitalise on the rich source of knowledge and experience available. They left rigid thinking at the door and opened their minds to new, open and creative exercises taking them along a structured path.

The National Centre promotes university-business collaboration across the UK and this Design Jam was a practical way of visualising how collaboration between distinct sectors can surpass their individual silo (and potentially less impactful) wins, and create more realistic and well-rounded win-win ideas.

Feeding into the National Centre’s Digital Healthcare and Healthy Living Task Force, the workshop drew on previous research by the XDs, and a review of the national and global landscapes by Elsevier. Experts at NHS England, clinicians, patients, academics and businesses also gave insights. The XDs research team focused on different elements required for a comprehensive understanding of the issue and context prior to delving into solutions on depression, existing games technology and the current landscape.

Day one began with the research and insight work, the Design Jam brief, aims for the weekend, the outputs needed to be designed specifically for people supporting those with depression and presentation of the outcomes used to evaluate the final designs:

• Increased understanding of depression experienced by 18-24 year olds starting work or at university.
• Improved ability to spot symptoms of depression in their peers, friends and family.
• Increased ability to take effective action; for example, help friends who may be experiencing depression seek professional help.
• A reduction in the escalation of depression.
• Reduced costs of mental health care; both for the NHS and for the people requiring support.
• Increased community cohesion by combatting stigmas associated with depression.

The process was intense within a strict schedule, while providing structured exercises and time for creativity. Each team developed a persona of someone supporting someone suffering from depression, and ‘walked’ them through a user (depressed person) journey, highlighting how their persona could best support them. The teams then started to formulate their hypothesis, tested initial ideas and ended day one by formulating the ideas into stories and early prototypes which would then bloom into full business plans and prototypes to be judged against competing teams.

David Docherty, National Centre CEO, encouraged the teams by reminding them of the bigger picture they were contributing to said that what they were doing will help our work in digital research and aid in health care.

James Woollard, a Consultant Psychiatrist promoting creativity in technology for mental health care, provided supportive encouragement to the teams and ensured the thinking remained firmly outside the box.

Jo Pisani, Senior Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and chair of the Task Force’s Digital Games for Mental Health workstream, joined the judging panel and described the thinking behind selecting the winner. This included the use of different types of digital platforms, innovation, investment opportunities, sound business models and outcomes for those suffering from depression (listed above).

But in the end, there could only be one winner and the prize went to ‘ALTRU’ with an inbuilt app that encourages people to reach out and help others in need.

Watching these collaborative and creative juices flow was inspirational, particularly seeing the quality products that came out of the two days. Another example of evidence of what well-organised creative multi-sector collaboration can achieve – let’s do more of it!

by Isabel del Arbol Stewart

National Centre Senior Programme Manager
Digital Healthcare and Healthy Living Task Force