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Living Well in the Digital Age: briefing for March 27 workshop

Summary: after carrying out an exploration into digital technology and Ageing Better, we are scoping a design kit and process for groups to use when planning support for individuals, and community programmes. The focus is now Living Well in the Digital Age. Our first step is a workshop exploring how the kit could complement Government policy on digital engagement and service transformation. David Wilcox and Drew Mackie March 2015.


* The workshop report is available here * Other exploration blog posts and articles

The exploration

After carrying out an exploration with the Digital Inclusion Group of Age Action Alliance into the idea of Ageing Better with technology, we decided to refocus on Living Well in the Digital Age.

Instead of thinking broadly about how to help older people use technology, and promote digital inclusion, we wanted to shift the emphasis onto how individuals could use whatever technology might be useful to them. That was because:

  • The adoption and use of all technology is personal, particularly now that people increasingly use mobile devices.
  • One of the main benefits of personal technology may be supporting health and wellbeing - again specific to the individual.
  • On both fronts the ideas of Digital Inclusion and Age are too broad brush: one size doesn’t fit all

At the same time we recognised that people’s friends, family and local community are hugely important because:

  • Technology may be just one way to help with communication and relationships: it is part of a mix
  • People need support in adopting and using technology
  • Many of the benefits to individuals will come from public services and local groups using technology more effectively

On the personal front, the recent report “I’m still me identified five key themes that older people say are key to coordinated support: independence, community interactions, decision making, care and support and terminology. Technology should, in part, map to those.

In the community and wider society, the availability of technology depends on the network of device suppliers, service providers and communicators. So although each individual creates their own technology environment, its components are determined elsewhere.

In thinking about practical next steps we needed to look at three levels: the individual; their community; government policy at local and national level.

Government policy: Grey Cells and Open Policy Making

The most accessible and useful framework for the next stage of our exploration is the Grey Cells model being developed by the Department for Communities and Local Government. This provides a blueprint for digital service development and digital engagement across all local policy areas, with a strong focus on health, wellbeing and quality of life. The aim is effective services, empowered citizens, reduced costs.

In our exploration we found that there is a lot of potential for the use of digital technology, but people don’t know what’s possible, organisations often don’t use consumer technology, levels of cooperation are low, innovation doesn’t reach the front line, funding will be tighter in future.

The policy challenge is that progress depends on development at local level, and the personal adoption of technology - so government can’t make advances in the digital transformation of services without addressing the issues above.

So it makes sense to explore back-to-back what the Grey Cells model will mean for local digital development, and what the use of digital technology at individual and community level can offer and require in a policy context. The issue is - how can we map top-down and bottom-up on to each other. That’s what we’ll be exploring in our workshop.

Workshop games and simulations

We’ve been using games and simulations to explore the adoption and use of digital technology since the 1990s, when we worked on how to help people plan local online learning centres even though they may not have used a computer.

More recently we’ve developed and tested some workshop methods to evolve what we call Living Labs - spaces to use online and face-to-face methods, to help create social ecosystems as the connected cloud of people and organisations, networks, content and tools that may be involved in sharing knowledge around a situation or topic, using a range of different media.

As a base for games and simulations we often use the fictitious town of Slipham to provide a context, with a range of characters and organisations and typical challenges.


In our March workshop we won’t have time to run a full simulation. However, we will be able to look at how we could take on the role of a group of organisations in the fictitious borough of Slipham that have bid unsuccessfully for funds to create a Living Well programme for older people.
* Here’s a similar workshop


The Slipham group decide to go ahead anyway - using the latest thinking on frugal innovation, crowdsourcing ideas, co-design, and use of digital technology.


The process that a local partnership might adopt, using our design kit

The group are using a design kit that follows the principles of the PSTN Transformation Approach advocated in DCLG’s Grey Cells model. Before the workshop the group has:

  • Identified local challenges, and queried a natural language database of stories about Living Well developed by Slipham University, to help generate project ideas. (Here's the real database, at City University)
  • Created personas reflecting people they aim to benefit.
  • Mapped local assets and relationships among potential collaborators.

In our workshop we won’t have time to play out a full simulation, but can look at the set of materials showing personas, project ideas, and an asset and network map. (Examples below are illustrative only):

Cards representing different personas. Workshop groups are asked to expand the persona stories.

barry and patrica

A range of apps, activities, projects and services that might meet the needs and interests of the different personas. They have to choose which are appropriate.

cards online

Each card links to online resources locally, nationally, or internationally. We already have a prototype web-based system.


Details of local organisations and what they can offer


Maps of local assets and organisational relationships. In a full simulation workshop, groups have to consider how these might be used to support people and projects - and what new relationships and collaborations may be needed.

The task, working in small groups, is to:

  • Consider the needs and interests of the persona characters, and develop project ideas to support them.
  • Review the asset and network map to identify possible project collaborators.
  • Develop an action plan for further project co-design, network building and evaluation.

Other simulations for the kit

The scenario described above is to help develop a community-wide approach. We have also worked on simulations for

The March 27 session should help inform development of a Living Lab design kit “for real” to include:

  • A framework for thinking about Living Well, and the challenges and opportunities of that in the digital age.
  • A growing gallery of ideas, projects and activities that will fit within the framework. The analogy is a store of social apps populating an operating system for an ecosystem. This might be the social ecosystem of a local community, or the personal ecosystem of an individual.
  • Linkages within the framework so that it connects ecosystems at different levels: the Grey Cells model at policy level; the social ecology of a local community, for programme development (as described here); the ecosystem of an individual enhanced by personalised digital support packages as we simulated herewith Age UK London.
  • A process model - like that in the diagram above - that relates to the PSTN Transformation Approach, and any other elements of the Grey Cells model.
  • Guidance on developing local asset and network maps, and other methods needed in the development process.
  • Linkage - if possible - with a version of the Care’n'share natural language database, so that case studies and project stories could be queried easily and linked to project ideas in the kit.
  • Links from project ideas to how-to and other resources.

In order to carry out this development we need support for:

  • Further exploration of the concept and practice of Living Well in the Digital Age - and how this may relate to the Grey Cells model, Local Digital, and Service Transformation. The aim would be a framework and kit that could be developed for other areas in the Grey Cells model.
  • Practical testing and development in one or more local areas
  • Prototyping and development of the kit, and a building a development community to support that. The kit will succeed if we can create a framework - like an operating system and app store - that will attract contributions.

David Wilcox 07970 621696 @davidwilcox

Drew Mackie 07515 386115

livingwell/workshopbrief.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 15:20 by

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