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MY ROLE:  research alternate ratings systems, create sketches and focus on the "first impression rating screen" low-fidelity wireframes, test with users

GOAL:  participate in ongoing digital civics research at Newcastle University Open Lab by creating and facilitating activities in a participant-focused design workshop



Newcastle University Open Lab


Researchers at Open Lab conducted a systematic search of all the interview data to identify potential issues in the social lives of older people living in Wingrove (where participants spoke of aspects that had had, were having, or could have an effect on the quality, quantity, perceptions or satisfaction with social relationships). Of these, the research team selected four clusters to focus on in a design workshop, to broadly fit under the theme of "How might we increase opportunities for (positive) social interaction for older people living in Wingrove?"







Our student team of three designers met and debriefed with the lead researchers on the progress of the research and expectations for the upcoming design workshop. 


absence of a shared community feeling

there are few local places to socialize

not knowing one's neighbors well

activities offered are not always conducive to socializing

Artboard 1.png

In the proposed activity, participants will begin with one piece of paper with the question, “How would you solve this problem?” based on one of the four focus clusters that the group decides to focus on earlier in the workshop. The original writer of that paper will have one minute to write about the idea. Then, after the minute, the participant will pass the paper to the right. After receiving another paper, the participant will read through the previous idea. They will have one minute to build off of the idea written by the other person and further elaborate on it. After every round, participants will keep passing papers until the original participant receives the paper they had at the start.

Idea Circle


This activity allows the participants to think in an abstract manner about the problems in their community. Participants will agree upon a famous character, real or fictional, that everyone is familiar with. The goal is to use the famous character as the decision maker in the community, participants will ask questions such as, "What personality traits does this character have?" and "How would our character solve problems in our community?" This exercise is collaborative among all group members. 

Famous Character

Backwards Thinking.png

This activity flips the usual brainstorming process and encourages participants to think of ways to make their community worse. The group will list out different aspects that would detriment their community. This task should be easy for the participants; the challenge comes when the group takes these negatives and attempts to flip them to positive solutions instead. Reversing the process can frame problems and solutions in a new way, and could inspire ideas that would otherwise be overlooked. 

Reverse Brainstorming


Eleven participants aged 60+ attended the design workshop, and were arranged into three groups. After introductions, each group was free to generally discuss the problems in the community before beginning the activities. Each group was allotted 10-15 minutes for each activity, loosely timed based on the direction of the discussion following each. 


Group 1 focus: absence of a shared community feeling

Group 2 focus: there are few places to socialize

Group 3 focus: absence of a shared community feeling

Each group chose one focus cluster introduced by the research team. This served as the framework for their ideas and discussions moving forward throughout the workshop.

Idea Circle

Scannable Document 8 on May 18, 2018 at
Scannable Document 5 on May 18, 2018 at
Scannable Document 6 on May 18, 2018 at

Famous Character

Scannable Document 2 on May 18, 2018 at

Reverse Brainstorming

Scannable Document 3 on May 18, 2018 at
Scannable Document 8 on May 18, 2018 at


After gaining insights from the design workshop, we arranged our findings into common themes.

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 10.35.26

Each researcher searched through their notes and the activity materials to find points discussed throughout the session. We compiled our sticky notes and iteratively mapped out the most stressed points. We clustered this data into themes, and most ideas fell under three: Community Centers, Cafes and Pubs, and Infrastructure


After reviewing the outcomes from the workshop and our final themes, our team sat down with the research group to discuss and analyze next steps for the future of the community. 

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-18 at 9.45.39 PM.

Participants in the workshop were open to collaboration, creativity, and genuinely enjoyed discussing the problems of their community. They stressed the importance of community driven events, and places to get together in their community, rather than traveling to find activities or meeting spaces. 


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