Four weeks ago we began a series of larger themes to accompany our normal Lab work. We used the term 'Wicked Problems' to help articulate much broader areas such as unemployment, health or fuel poverty.

A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve - but they can be tamed.

Our last 20 days have been spent talking to lots of people, diving into data and going to conferences , immersing ourselves as much as possible in the problem.

We've interviewed lots of people using our download technique. Download is really simple. A 30 minute interview, no more, no less, in which people are asked five questions:

  • What are you currently doing to tackle this problem?
  • What will you do next?
  • What would be an incrementally different way to tackle it?
  • What would be a radically different way to approach it?
  • Are there approaches that would be truly transformative?

We'll be sharing the results in more detail but the headlines are:

  • Bromford and other community partners are doing some amazing things employing the latest build techniques and new forms of investment. 
  • There's a raft of excellent toolkits and advice for people. A google search on help with fuel poverty will give you 14 million results. Helping people with this is a very crowded market. 
  • Technology is developing at an astonishing rate and giving people more control over their fuel useage than ever before. 

(If it sounds like there's a but coming you'd be right. And it's a big but.)

But, we've found there's an imbalance in a lot of the approaches. Too often the solution is focused on the property , not the people within it.

People are complex and messy creatures. They don't always behave as planned. We've found examples of us trying to do the right thing (installing smart meters with cheaper tariffs) and then the customer doing something different (swapping the meter to a more expensive pre-pay token version.) 

This isn't 'customer blaming' - just an example of how we've failed to fully understand the issue from a user point of view.

So the focus of the next eight weeks is clear: we need to have a blended approach that tackles home efficiency at the same time as understanding the person. 

Where will we start? 

We are going to pick a couple of customer profiles to begin with. Trying to solve the problem for everyone will just mean we end up doing nothing.

We are then going to imagine what a personalised package of care could look like to them. This will include some creative approaches but also the blindingly obvious (asking them, for instance).

And then we'll be doing some tests to take us through this winter and develop some more proactive work we can be doing all year round. You're really not best placed to tackle winter deaths in November.

From our early work we are incredibly excited. There's some great things going on that (surprise surprise) don't always connect and make impact.

Connecting it around the customer based upon their aspirations , requirements and lifestyle is an obvious place to start.