SEPA week 06

SEPA week 6

This week’s broad context

A busy week with internal research participant outreach and depth interviews kicking off in earnest. The team has been energised by the insights and conversations coming from depth interviews with Environmental Protection Officers (EPOs) and by making wider cross-departmental connections at all levels. I managed to keep my confidence intact and kept my promises to myself from last week. This week has been a really good week complete with moments of feeling euphoric 😀 Our team has clicked into place and we are working well together. We are making good progress by using a divide and conquer approach, keeping each other in the loop via Slack and protecting time for sharing insights face to face regularly. I can safely say this is one of the most interesting, challenging and rewarding jobs I’ve ever worked on.


In this phase of discovery we are taking sideways glances, making loads of friends and lifting up departmental rocks. Calibrating. This week our UR/SD team has been spreading its wings and every new person I met paints more detail into the landscape picture of how I understand the way our project fits into the organisation. It is not unusual that we are still finding our place and it is not a comment on the organisation. SEPA is the most varied and complicated organisation I’ve ever been in and it’s never a good time for service designThose things combined naturally mean a slow start but now we’re accelerating at a very fast pace.

There are two zoomed out high level threads running through my head with everything I’m doing right now:

Minimise cannibalism– Although my day-to-day is working on one scoped project, I have a responsibility to see a bigger picture and put pins in relational points and patterns from outside the scope. I want the thing I leave behind to be seen as part of a whole and something that is easy for the organisation to pick up and run with, not something that’s cannibalized after I leave because the work has been carried out in isolation.

Work to the Campsite Rule– I’m borrowing this phrase from a wildly different context but I’m flipping it, mixing it and the core tenet still applies. Here the Campsite Rule is: leave the place better than you found it.

Practitioner notes

Some cool practical things I thought were really interesting, fun and helped me learn. Hit me up any time to talk and share ideas.

Establishing research and design practices

SEPA is on a journey to finding its footing in deploying user research as normalised practice across the organisation. We have practice to build on from projects that have gone before, including collaborations with the Scottish Government, and what we put in place can be picked up and developed. We had great conversations about securing written consent from internal research participants, something that was new and counterintuitive to some colleagues. We know from other UR work done inside SEPA and from some of our own previous research work that talking through this consent is helpful for a couple of reasons:

  • It means consistency over all research participants, regardless of where they’ve come from;
  • It is an explicit marker to distinguish an interview from a casual chat. Don’t get it twisted: my approach is conversational, not an interrogation. However, by setting out some ground rules of ‘I respect you, your time and your privacy’ it gives people a feeling of trust that they can share their stories safely. It’s also a benefit that I am an outsider striking this agreement.

Our consent form and its accompanying discussion guide are super straightforward and lightweight and they are really useful (I’ll post generic versions online later.) By building on previous practice, we are helping to strengthen what might carry on as standard UR practice for SEPA by SEPA in the future and that’s a really exciting thing.

Information management

Now that our UR/SD team of three is out and about creating information assets, we’re starting discussions about how we store, label, index and link data for traceability to any future speculative design decisions. I’m an information management nerd and this kind of stuff gets me pretty excited, especially when I’m in a mixed team of people I’ve never worked with. I don’t know what my colleagues’ regular practice or preferred methods are and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we come up with together for this project. We’re doing some insight synthesis in the next week so we should start to build this out then and I’ll detail in an upcoming weeknote.

Outreach and recruitment

We’re putting together plans for internal outreach and recruitment for all sorts of insight gathering. The staff group is very dispersed with some areas being quite remote and distanced from two big central belt offices. I’ve been thinking about using the internal mailing system and creating something like call to action cards as well as pop-ups in common areas/tea points to get the attention of staff who might not otherwise see what we’re doing and get to be involved. Again, I’ll detail in weeknotes how these ideas develop.

Next week is developing information management, internal outreach and carrying out interviews. Watch this space…

Posted in: Weeknotes

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