Building a Resource to Support Neighbourhood Coaching

Part of the role of a Neighbourhood Coach is to get out and about in their communities and make new connections; forging relationships with people, organisations and places such as community groups, sports groups, clubs, local businesses, charities, and other community stakeholders, in order to build up a resource of ‘community assets’ or ‘local connections’ which they can ‘tap into’ whilst coaching customers.

At present there is no standardised way for Neighbourhood Coaches to collate or share these connections. More often than not, each Neighbourhood Coach keeps their own contacts on their work phones, laptops, tablets, or paper based notebooks. This can cause problems when it comes to sharing this valuable information with other colleagues who might need it. When Neighbourhood Coaches leave Bromford or have to spend time away from work, the connections can get lost. Without a centralised repository for community assets, colleagues who are permanently replacing those who are leaving or providing temporary cover will either have lengthy handovers or lose this information entirely.

Experiential evidence such as the feedback provided by colleagues in the Black Country indicate that a global resource for use across the organisation would save time and add huge value to the coaching work they are doing with customers. The importance of a trusted community asset directory was also highlighted as a key learning outcome in the social prescribing test we recently ran in the Black Country.

With this in mind, when the Locality Coordinator for the Black Country came to the Lab with an idea to explore ways in which Neighbourhood Coaches can record community assets on an easy to access platform, we thought it was a great idea. We’ve just wrapped up the first prototype and are currently planning a second round of more focused testing. Here’s a little about the work Jamie has been doing, and an introduction to the next phase of this work.

We worked with Jamie to scope two rapid prototypes:

  • Iteration 1 - Asking colleagues to use a spreadsheet to record and lookup community assets

  • Iteration 2 - Asking colleagues to use an app (prototyped using Knack) to record and lookup community assets

Through these prototypes we wanted to learn more about the practicalities of collating and sharing local information in the field and the different ways in which the data could be used to add value for colleagues and customers. The ultimate aim was to help shape some more detailed tests and start to tease out any future data/build requirements.

This activity was underpinned by the following draft design principles (we wanted to start with these and build upon them as we learned):

Solutions must . . .

  • Be accessible to all colleagues across a range of mobile devices

  • Be adopted and valued by all colleagues

  • Reduce net work, rather than adding another process

The two iterations were run in sequence and covered a period of around 6 weeks in total. Taking both into consideration, the following outcomes were reported by the Locality Coordinator against the objectives set out in the design brief :

Positive Outcomes:

  • All colleagues took an active role in both options, but as they had already recorded a number of assets in iteration 1, felt that iteration 2 somewhat duplicated what they had already done

  • Both options worked on mobile phones and tablets and network connectivity was not an issue

  • Colleagues were able to discover new local connections and during the test having a searchable database worked well and proved useful

Inconclusive Outcomes:

  • It wasn’t possible to evidence whether the directory could be useful in enabling colleagues (including Locality Leaders) to spot gaps in provision or potential partnership opportunities between localities

  • It wasn't possible to accurately evaluate whether the directory reduced net work

Next Steps

The initial phase of testing has now been completed and learning from the prototypes will be used to design a further round of testing. Following our recent Microsoft PowerApps Lab session, moving forward there is an opportunity to iterate this work by plugging the learning into a wider pipeline of work currently being scoped which is concerned with the gathering, interpretation and use of localities data in general.

We will be publishing more about the next phase of work over the coming weeks on our Exploration Pipeline.



Simon Penny, Design Lead

Service designer, passionate about using design to find innovative solutions to the most pressing social issues.