Tech for Good Build grantees’ journey so far - and how you can follow the same path

Tech for Good Build grantees' progress so far, in their own words - with links to the tools and approaches they've been using.

Five months ago, 20 Tech for Good Build participants embarked on a journey to develop or repurpose digital solutions meeting pressing social needs, against the backdrop of the pandemic. In order to shape their respective digital products and platforms, grantees have been following a structured design process consisting of four stages: Mindset, Discover, Define and Develop - and have recently submitted their progress reports for the Discover phase.

We wanted to share some of their key learnings and insights with you - but not just in the form of one-dimensional words and quotes. We’re really keen to make the Tech for Good programmes that we support as open and valuable as possible, so in this blog we’ll be linking each step of Build grantees’ progress with practical tools that you can use to support your own digital project journeys. 

The process that grantees have been following is mirrored in our Digital Toolkit - a new resource that lays out the same clearly defined phases and the tools to use at each stage. So you can follow what grantees have done so far, step by step - and then move ahead to later stages too! The stages follow naturally from each other: you might not need to use all of the tools in each phase, but it's worth taking a look through to ensure you've covered all bases; this will give you the soundest foundation on which to build and develop. 

The toolkit provides not just the practical ‘how you can do it’ in terms of the downloadable tools themselves - but also the ‘why you should do it’: the theory and the reasoning behind the systematic approach. Plus we’ve signposted to additional reading and resources where possible. And a top tip: if you get stuck at any stage and need an expert helping hand, reach out to Digital Candle and ask your question to one of their 450 specialists!

We hope this is useful - please dive in, and do let us know your thoughts! Drop us a line to hello@wearecast.org.uk with any questions - or any suggestions for additions to the toolkit.

The Discover process in grantees’ own words - and where to find the tools they’ve used 

We’re highlighting eight key stages along the Discover journey: knowledge boards, desk research, user research, user journeys, user needs statements, 'how might we' statements, reuse and getting everyone on board. For each of these, we’ll share quotes to give a snapshot of how the tool or approach has helped to inform grantees’ progress so far - and then will share links to downloadable tools, best practice advice and other resources.

> Knowledge board

A simple but very effective tool for mapping out knowledge and key assumptions, determining priorities and preparing for the user research stage.

How it has informed grantees’ progress so far:

"We carried out a knowledge board exercise to help us to identify our key assumptions. We have identified some assumptions that we have already tested to some extent. Other assumptions are based on our experience of working with our users on a daily basis, and require a small amount of testing to confirm.”
“We have created a tiered knowledge board to create separate user research strands. During constructing our knowledge board and planning our user research, we identified five strands of users, related to our current data challenges. We have sent a tailored user research survey to each group with questions bespoke to their role.”
“In (previous) projects we produced knowledge boards and conducted user interviews and testing, which was our basis for mapping our key assumptions here. Initial assumptions were: young people have a distrust of services like ours based on past experiences, want to stay informed, able to make decisions and lack confidence reaching out. There was therefore (an) opportunity to improve service delivery if we understood these assumptions more deeply.”

Where to find the information and tools you need:

> Research: desk research

Once assumptions have been identified using a knowledge board, the next step is to prove or disprove these assumptions via desk research and / or user research. Here, we’re looking at desk research - that is, the process of tracking down existing insights and information.

How it has informed grantees’ progress so far:

“The assumption was made that children would like to access follow-on programmes after completing the original programme. We have not directly tested this assumption with the children because of the restrictions and we do not have the direct contact with the children. Therefore, we have examined the feedback children have provided in their evaluations. The children commented that they wished the programme was longer, and they could continue to work with the facilitator.”
“(With regards to our assumption that) many young people struggle with their mental wellbeing, research shows that 1 in 8 children have a diagnosable mental health problem (NHS Digital, 2018), less than 1 in 3 children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition get access to NHS care and treatment (NAO, 2018) and 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14 - highlighting the importance of early intervention (Kessler, 2007)."

Where to find the information and tools you need:

> Research: user research

Another key research step after completing knowledge boards is user research - that is, gathering a clear understanding of the behaviours and needs of the people affected by the challenge your project is addressing. User research will help you will prove or disprove the assumptions identified in your knowledge board.

How it has informed grantees’ progress so far:

This is the step of the Discover journey for which we’ve had the most overwhelmingly positive response, in terms of how the approach has enabled grantees to gain an accurate picture of their service users’ needs and behaviours - so that products and services can be designed according to those needs. We’ve included a few quotes below - and put the rest into an animation, for ease of viewing this blog. 

"We recently carried out user interviews to discover what has made users contribute to comparable resources in the past, to influence the design of the resource and specifically how users will make contributions. The results of these interviews will also help us develop the next round of user interviews which will focus on the development of the resource in more detail."
“(We originally assumed that we) would need to ask people to take action for gender equality, whereas user research undertaken indicates that our educational and activism content is something people want rather than need to be persuaded to take up. We are therefore moving our incentives further down the user journey to keep them taking action over time, as opposed to focussing on incentivising people to take their first action.”
“Our recent research changed our understanding of our assumptions: while the assumptions were validated, we had a deeper understanding of the causality behind why young people had a distrust of services; this was drawn out through our research and we have been able to refine our assumptions to add more detail.”

Where to find the information and tools you need:

> User journeys

User journey maps show how your users find you and use your services. They can help you gain a deeper understanding of your users' behaviours and needs, as well as where the pain points are in your current service.

How it has informed grantees’ progress so far:

“There are different user journeys from the chatbot to our advice and casework team. We needed to undertake user research with people who have needed advice in the past, to give us a sense of what works and what doesn’t work in the referral process- in particular, what the human connection points were. (We'll also) test with service managers from our member organisations to find out the best ways of getting from the chatbot to the caseworker appointment."
“For those participants who had initially accessed our helpline, we gave them a scenario for the (website reporting service) and asked them to walk us through how they would go about finding advice and support via the website. For those participants who had initially accessed the website, we gave them a scenario for the helpline and asked them to walk us through how they would go about finding advice and support via the website."
“To explore (ways to) capture the information from community groups better, we have mapped (one of our centre's) intake process and have gained a better understanding of the range of community groups they receive referrals from, and the pressures they face. We have also identified partners to be involved during the next phase to explore this further.”

Where to find the information and tools you need:

  • In our new Digital Toolkit: Video guide - and user journey mapping template.
  • Plus, see real life user journey maps created by The Matthew Project and The Scout Association as part of Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response; search for ‘user journey map’ on Catalyst’s Open Working page.

> User needs statements

After you've done some research with your users, it's normal to end up with lots of different insights - and it can be hard to work out what to do next. User needs statements are a great tool to distil what you've learnt in your user research, and make sure you're still focussing on what your users' needs are. They also make it much easier to prioritise where you want to focus on for the remainder of your project. 

How it has informed grantees’ progress so far:

“We have spoken with 18 service beneficiaries, four volunteers and one caseworker (and mapped their needs as user needs statements) - e.g. ‘As a person seeking advice, I want to tell my story once and once only so that I don't feel retraumatised’; ‘As a volunteer, I want more guidance...about what to do when I receive an enquiry’ and ‘As a caseworker, I want as much support as possible to reduce my admin load (e.g. volunteers adding data to the case management system).’"
“15 young people...worked through the design double diamond and co-created excellent tech preferences, behavioural and mental health subject related insights to inform the next stage of the project including the user need statement: As a young person aged 11 - 14...when I am feeling stressed, anxious or down, I need safe, accessible, on-demand, culturally appropriate information and tools so that I can connect to information, ideas and tools that build resilience and promote wellbeing.”
“If we better communicate a journey through our services, it will lead to better understanding and working relationships. (This is reflected in our user needs statement): As a young person, When I am going through significant changes and being supported for independent living, Help me to understand in a way that I can ‘hear’ how the process works and what I need to do, So that I can trust the support I’m getting and move closer to my independent life.”

Where to find the information and tools you need:

> ‘How might we’ statements

This is where you can begin turning your research into ideas. ‘How might we’ statements are a useful tool to help you generate ideas for solutions to your users’ needs.

How it has informed grantees’ progress so far:

“The research has highlighted two distinct problems. We want to prioritise the first (fast track cases) and explore how we might be able to make the data transfer between organisations quicker using existing purpose-built solutions. Within the context of the fast track cases, (we want to) generate ideas to our ‘How might we’ (HMW) statements and start to draw up a plan as to how we might test these ideas systematically - e.g. ‘How might we help folk tell their story once and once only?’”
“The research themes generated further ‘How Might We’ (HMW) questions. The collaborative group voted on HMW questions to establish the key priorities. The research findings that were determined to be of the highest priority included: ‘HMW help young people understand more clearly what the agreement is between (us) and them?’ (and) ‘HMW help people understand how long the process of moving towards independence is going to take and how long we will support them?’"

Where to find the information and tools you need:

  • In our new Digital Toolkit: Guide to writing 'How might we?’ statements
  • Plus, see real life ‘How might we’ statements created by Back Up Trust, Global Link (Lancaster) and Just Like Us during their respective Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response programmes; search for ‘how might we’ on Catalyst’s Open Working page.

> Checking / reusing what already exists 

Before you start building your solution, it’s well worth dedicating some time to exploring existing tools, services and solutions. There is a growing culture of reuse and sharing - and so it may well be that another organisation has tackled the same challenge as you and has shared useful materials and resources: taking inspiration and information from these can save both time and money, as well as reducing risk. 

Again, this stage of the Discover journey was one where grantees shared a lot of information; we’ve selected a few key quotes below and put others into an animation for ease of reading.

How it has informed grantees’ progress so far:

“The problem has already been largely solved - for a different demographic - by (an existing) app. We are reusing this technology and tweaking it for the community (we serve). This gives us quite a lot of confidence in what we are doing, as (the existing app) is successful and regularly populated. We believe the technology will also solve the same issues we have identified for the community (we serve) - namely that there are many events going on, but people do not know about them.”
“We are utilising our contacts to develop the best possible solutions. We already know of at least two universities who are working on data analysis capabilities that may be similar or relevant to what we need, and we are currently in conversation with them. If the solutions provided by the universities are a good fit, we will then begin to deploy them for our project. If they need adapting, we will continue to consult with them, (and our tech specialists) to create a solution that works for us.”
“"Research unearthed similar platforms in existence, (and) an online platform for members (which) seemed to have the relevant amount of detail when signing up, plus functionality once part of the program. We met with the founder and learnt a lot about his thought processes in making the website, his approach and the challenges."

Where to find the information and tools you need:

> Getting everyone on board

Once you know where you are headed, it’s vital to put together the right team - and get the rest of the organisation on board too! 

How it has informed grantees’ progress so far:

“One of the key insights gained from this work so far is the benefit of having a cross-organisational group working on this journey. Having organisational buy-in has been key and will be even more vital as we move to a prototyping stage. Having a shared understanding of the goals and ways of working means the knowledge gained does not just sit with the team of the project lead. This will help make any service delivery more sustainable and have better integration from the beginning.”
“(It’s important to) make sure your project is properly resourced. Prior to starting, we identified the need for additional resourcing and engaged a Project Manager. This has provided really valuable additional capacity, insight and experience, plus the added benefit of an external perspective from outside our charity. We’ve selected the most appropriate team members to attend workshops based on topic; attending the same sessions as a team has really aided progress."

Where to find the information and tools you need:

  • In our new Digital Toolkit: 
  1. Guide to creating positive relationships with your team
  2. Team activities to set your project up for success
  3. Mapping your team’s digital capabilities


Expert advice sessions

Grantees moved through the Discover process with the help of regular sessions with our coaching experts at CAST, as well as peer learning meetups. At various points along the journey, we also built in online workshops led by external specialists. We asked each of these to write a blog in order to share the learnings more widely; you can find these below:

So what’s next? 

What will grantees be doing as they move into the Define phase…? Take a look at this animation for a snapshot of participants’ plans. We’ll share their progress in a forthcoming blog - but if you want to dive into Define for yourself, our Digital Toolkit contains a wealth of information on ideas generation / prioritisation, consequence scanning, reuse, prototyping and sharing learnings - take a look here.


Article by Sonya Hayden

Image by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

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