Last week the GSA Leapfrog team took one of our tools, co-​designed as part of the Tackling Loneliness project, for a demonstration and some user testing with a key worker and health and social care professional to get some experienced feedback and input. The tool is called ‘Stick With It’ and it aims to connect people in need of some social opportunities with local clubs, services and activities. It focuses on making a joint plan of action between a person in need of a little help and a person, like a key worker, who is providing that help.

Over a speedy lunch session we presented the story of the tool and how it had been co-​designed with a group of social activity providers, service providers, and health and social care professionals working across the remote and rural areas of Scotland. We gave a quick run through of how we thought the tool should function before handing over to our experts for some scrutiny and feedback. What we discovered was that the function of the tool, that is what the tool actually does, worked well and could be really useful in connecting people with social opportunities and helping to include family and friends in the process. The big insight for us was around the language we had used, both the written and the visual language of the tool.

The tool to this point had been co-​designed with our partners and so we were confident that the tool made sense. Yet, due to our time restrictions in the co-​design workshops, the language we had used and the look and feel of the tool had not been given as much attention as its underlying function. The result was something that looked to too ‘determined’ and ‘clinical’. The language we had used had a very formal and almost negative feel to it and, as was pointed out in the user testing, could put people off from using the tool. The tool should feel more like a phone call with a friend, rather than a phone call with your GP. Terms we had used like ‘issue’ and ‘concern’ had the negative connotations we should have been avoiding. Using the word ‘steps’ and ‘process’ when talking about how to get to activities was too prescriptive. This insight came only by engaging with some fresh perspectives from more of the people who will actually go out and use the tool.

What we took away from this experience is that we should always strive to involve a broad array of stakeholders in our co-​design projects, as we don’t always know where the expertise will lie that can really help move a project along. Also, co-​design can be an intense process, conducted over a relatively short space of time where the co-​design team spend concentrated bursts up close to their ideas. Taking time out to step back and take the outcomes of co-​design to engage with a fresh pair or pairs of expert eyes can help to spot some fundamental improvements that otherwise may have passed by.

The Stick With It tool is now available to download through the tools section of the Leapfrog website.