MIND - Mental Health Charity
Mind is the largest mental health charity in the UK with 151 Local Minds and National Mind, built around a federated model. The Point People were commissioned in 2014 to design and build a digital platform (it became Open Hub) that would facilitate the federation of Mind to operate more like a network, increasing connectivity of the network, facilitating greater knowledge sharing and with an overall intention of achieving greater collective impact.
Team: Jen, Cassie, Amanda, with MA Works.
Why did we do this work
We had previously completed a Discovery phase for this work, undertaking 3 months of interviews with different Local Minds and other stakeholders in the network.We were attracted to the ambition of the brief and the potential for collective impact. This wasn’t a simple product or service design brief, it was multi-faceted and would make use of a range of our skills and experiences. The three elements of the work also felt like a timely and important challenge. As more organisations evolve into networked structures, ways of designing for network connectivity and engagement will become a growing need. With a dispersed workforce or membership new tools are needed to enable distributed learning. And with reduced resources, networks of organisations need to coordinate better together to achieve collective impact.
What was our approach
We needed to design an approach that would increase knowledge sharing across the network, create more collaborative relationships and coordinated action in the network, re-vitalise the sense of a shared common goal (improving the lives of those living with mental health across the UK) and have a functioning technology platform that the network felt ownership over, having participated in its development. We mapped all of the different strands of work onto the agile development process that we were using for the technology platform so that it became a trojan horse for practicing the new ways of operating/behaving across the network and towards the other outcomes we needed to achieve. This was a year long piece of work that involved a Project Lead who focussed on how the platform would integrate into National Mind as an organisation (a cultural change piece).
We had a Network Lead who focussed on weaving the network together through different engagement activities and developing stronger relationships for knowledge sharing. The Design & Technology Lead worked with MA Works (as the technology build team) to do user research, co-design and user testing in sprints with the network, moving from Discovery into Alpha. We convened two different groups of Local Mind and National Mind staff each month to test and design prototypes of the platform through an iterative process. After six months the platform went into live Beta. The Point People team finished their role in the work by going on a road trip to meet with Local Minds and support them to sign up to the platform.
At the point of handover the Open Hub dashboard had 10 working features that included profiling and discovery functions so that people in the network could find “people like them”, find skills or find resources. Operational functions so that Annual Returns and other reporting and financial modelling could be done through the platform. There was also a Collective Impact function that visualised the collective outcomes of the network as a whole. In the early stage of the platforms use the opportunity to do more with data wasn’t acted on, however we had designed in the structures for making better use of data and left recommendations for MIND on how to do this. The Open Hub continues to be used and developed by MIND, with the support of MA Works. 18 months later 100% of the 151 local Minds are signed up on the platform. This means that over 500 staff across the network are actively using it. It is now the sole place where annual returns are submitted by each local Mind (which brings a great opportunity for gathering data to evidence collective impact), it also has functions that connect people and resources across the network to one another, and with access to data generated by the platform National Mind are now able to tailor skills development to different sizes and types of Local Mind throughout the UK.
Any connections with other work
We were able to bring some of our individual experiences of designing for networks to this work. Some of the Point People team had previously worked for SIX (Social Innovation Exchange), Somerset House Trust and the Global Canopy Project, designing ways to strengthen their existing networks or start membership networks.
What else is on our radar in this space
We recommend using an agile development process as a trojan horse for culture change. The Government Digital Service blog and Citizens Advice blog are both useful resources for doing digital transformation work. There is a whole body of work that has come out of the States on Collective Impact (SSIR) and whilst we haven’t seen a huge adoption of this here in UK, it is an approach that will become increasingly in demand as a need rather than a option.