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barking and dagenham mentoring 2

Using design mentoring to involve residents in public service redesign


Barking and

Dagenham Council


Research Programme

Project brief

How to better involve residents and staff in designing aligned services to meet people’s needs.

Resident satisfaction surveys were up by 5% just six weeks after the programme

Working with Uscreates had a really positive impact on our organisation. We have achieved a transferable model for co-designing services that isn’t constrained by traditional limitations. Even the initially sceptical were excited by their involvement.

Sue Devitt

Housing Service Improvement Manager

The challenge

Barking and Dagenham council is faced with a particularly high demand for social housing, and a concurrent problem with mismanaged front gardens and fly-tipping. In many cases, the housing and environmental services that address these problems would naturally overlap. However, instead of being delivered in partnership, these have often worked in isolation, with services failing to accurately identify customer needs and missing an opportunity to deliver better services and cost savings together.


What was needed

The council needed to find a better way of involving residents and staff in designing aligned services to meet people’s needs.


What we did

As part of the Design Council’s Public Services by Design scheme, Uscreates worked as the ‘design mentor’ for the council’s housing team. Our brief was to use design principles to involve local residents and frontline staff in service design. As part of this process, we created a ‘Conversations for Improvement’ model. This trained and supported council staff to avoid making assumptions about what an area requires; to ask open-ended questions when consulting with residents about what’s important in service design; and to practice not jumping in with an answer or explanation when residents expressed dissatisfaction.

Instead, through vox-pop interviews and drop-in sessions with local residents, the council staff listened, reported back, and worked together to develop over 70 ideas for service improvements in the area. Through this process, and by engaging with residents at the school gate or as they went about their daily lives, the council was able to speak with people who wouldn’t normally engage with council consultations.

Examples of interventions:

In addition to service-level interventions, a film bank was developed through this work, with ‘Talking Heads’ video footage being captured over the course of research interviews, and then tagged and banked by the council. This means that for any future improvement schemes, council staff can simply search by keyword in the film bank, and hear what people think of a specific issue direct from the horse’s mouth.


The results

As a result of this work, resident satisfaction surveys were up by 5% six weeks after the programme. In addition, Design Council evaluation showed an estimated £30k cost saving to the council from going through the process of consultation and co-design.


barking and dagenham map
barking and dagenham map 2
barking and dagenham mentoring 2
barking and dagenham mentoring