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Listening, the art of design

How an organisation better known for face-to-face service delivery landed on an app through co-designing a solution.

Developing an app wasn’t what Red Cross first set out to do. The mental wellbeing app, My Team, came from a determination to create lasting change for some of Australia’s most vulnerable people – people living with mental health illness.

So how then did a not for profit more attuned to delivering face-to-face services land on a digital solution?

Co-designing the answer

It seems so obvious when said aloud, but to develop something useful for a cohort of people, you start by listening to those people.

That's where co-design came in.

The co-design approach was developed in Scandinavia in the 1970s. It enables a wide range of people to make a creative contribution in the formulation and solution to a problem.

“It felt like we were just kind of getting swept under the rug,” Marcus told us about his experience before getting involved in the co-design process. “We weren’t necessarily listened to."

Marcus has lived with depression and generalised anxiety since he was a teen.

So we got people together, who like Marcus, have lived experience of mental health illness.

Stories brought to life

Co-design took us from beachside Queensland, to outback South Australia and out to the Goldfields in WA.

We talked with mental health consumers, support workers, local service providers, family and friends.

The sharing of experiences gave us deep insight into the challenges.

Each of our co-design participants put a human voice and connection to lived experiences.

People bravely shared their stories of mental and physical ill health, poverty, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and trauma.

Time and time again, we were overwhelmed by people’s willingness to share painful and deeply traumatic experiences.

They did it because they hoped it would help create a more positive future for others.

That kind of giving is awe-inspiring.

And, that kind of insight made My Team come to life.

Stakeholders

Initial ideas

Final concepts

Our team 

What we discovered through the co-design journey is that people want human-centred, flexible supports – as long as they are the right kind, at the right time.

They told us that a handful of trusted people to turn to, at the right time, can be all you need.

At the same time, we observed how more and more people were reaching out to digital solutions for help.

Together the co-design team came up with up a staggering 112 initial ideas and developed eight final concepts.

What the process landed on is a digital platform where someone living with mental health concerns can form a team. The team stays connected, they support and encourage. They are there when face-to-face connection isn’t possible.

Marcus describes the app as giving him support through the ups and downs of his mental health illness.

“For me that means the tough periods in between doctors and specialists, during rocky medication changes, or something as simple yet agonising as getting out of bed becomes.”

Good idea, done well

What we saw in the process was the power of co-design in and of itself.

As one of the co-design participants told us, “I’m grateful for having people willing to listen to and understand my personal struggle”.

Another remembers the experience as, “amazing, exciting - being part of a journey that is authentic and gives community a voice”.

And these words from Marcus.

“The care, and safety, and non-judgement I experienced in my interview was incredibly rewarding.”

Remarkable people like these allowed us to build a solution with real heart.

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