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Service Design Scotland Distanced Gatherings

Distanced Gathering

Supporting the service design community through lockdown

Just days after lockdown in the UK was announced we started working with Lorri Smyth in organising weekly online gatherings of the Service Design Scotland community. Lorri had worked with others in organising a successful meet up in Edinburgh earlier in the year, and we didn’t want lockdown to stand in the way of a clear appetite for networking. We also knew that some folk would be feeling isolated.

Seeing up to 60 participants every Thursday at noon on Zoom provides an opportunity for us to stay connected through a challenging time.

Photo by @dryanddusty on Twitter

The gatherings aim to provide a balanced conversation which helps us to learn from each other’s experiences of adapting our work to fit social and physical distancing restrictions, while trying to respond to the immense global challenges, but also to unwind over chats of the like of comfort food, music, lockdown entertainment and more.

At our first gathering we asked people what they wanted from the sessions. The five priorities were:

  • Broadening our network (beyond the bubble and beyond the UK)
  • Building relationships
  • Sharing experiences of how we are adapting
  • Reflecting on positives
  • Learning from our experimenting

We aim to do this by maximising opportunities for on-to-one or small group discussion. These are not webinars, these are gatherings, a place to meet and converse. We are a Scotland-based service design community – but some of us are not service designers, while others live far away from Scotland. All are welcome to join us.

The Distanced Gatherings use the hashtag #SDSGather on Twitter for the community to engage beyond the hour-long sessions, and prompt wider conversation in the Service Design Scotland Slack channel (for more information on how to join the Slack group, please email info@openchange.co.uk).

Photo by @SidlingBears on Twitter

Alongside all the conversations and discussions, each week we have a guest slot – people providing insights into different themes for discussions.

Our guest speakers have included NHS Surgeon Rod Mountain, who reflected on the changing environment of the Ninewells Hospital in Dundee under the impact of COVID-19. Highlighting some of the positive transformations triggered by the pandemic, Rod has joined us regularly to share updates on the community involvement in making scrubs for the NHS, and spoke about the privilege he feels through his job.

Andy Hyde, joined by Agnes Houston MBE, discussed the challenges of mobility for those living with dementia in a fascinating and inspiring conversation. As Agnes said to us: “welcome to my world”. Other weeks have looked internationally, with Ummi Jameel based in Brunei giving insight into social distancing measures from a post-lockdown perspective, compared with Jiaru Shi’s experience in Shanghai.

Ummi Jameel in Brunei and Jiaru Shi in Shanghai

We also welcomed the medical students who had launched HealthSHIP, a web-based volunteer scheme which supports health and care staff with errands, babysitting, and other essential tasks, launched in Dundee but now operating right across the UK.

A special guest slot on innovation in local government over the last few weeks brought together Kathryn Grace, service design lead at Leeds City Council and Colleen Henderson, business change manager at Aberdeenshire Council, both of whom shared some incredible responses to the constantly changing challenges councils face in providing citizens with a breadth of support in many previously unexplored areas.

In addition, #SDSGather participants and others from the service design community anywhere in the world have the opportunity to take part in Randomised Coffee Trials. Facilitated by Open Change, over 30 people are randomly paired up every week for a virtual conversation over coffee. The inspiration for this initiative has been taken from Nesta’s project, while other organisations, including Open Change’s Hazel White when working with Queen’s Young Leaders, had used the approach to encourage positive, non-siloed cultures in organisational structures.

Some #SDSGather participants have said;
sdsgather is rapidly becoming one of the highlights of my week”
“Took four weeks before I could look away from work… very thankful for the
 team hosting online meet-ups.”
“Thank you […] for always being the refresh button of my Thursday :)”
“the sessions have been brilliant. I’ve got zoom fatigue and would definitely not be showing up everytime if they weren’t short of excellent!”
“Thank you for facilitating these [Gatherings] – I really look forward to them each week”

To join any upcoming meetings, @openchangeuk on Twitter post free Eventbrite tickets in advance every week.

Post by Open Change Junior Associate Barbara Mertlova.

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