Power Tools:
Co-designing Supports with People Using Services

By: Janeen Halliwell

How might we engage people, and their families, in more meaningful and purposeful ways? This question has been plaguing the human services sector for decades, and for many organizations it is a top priority. Why? Because without the input, insights and involvement of people and their families, organizations are left to make assumptions about stakeholders’ needs. When wrong, time and money is spent on delivering bland, mediocre services, putting out fires and sometimes mending fences.

Let’s be clear, these results do not come from a lack of trying. Many organizations formally introduced methods to gather input from their key stakeholders as early as the 1980s, as a way to develop and assure quality community services. Asking people and families for their input through surveys and focus groups were at that time a significant stride forward.

Fast forward to 2017. One key trend influencing the evolution of human services is the shift from governments issuing transfer payments to organizations, to providing people and families with funds to directly purchase services from organizations. People and their families are becoming the ‘customers,’ and organizations must attract them and satisfy them.

Like all businesses, human service organizations need to stay attuned to the types of services current and future customers want. To achieve this, organizations are searching for purposeful and meaningful ways to come clear on their customer’s needs – to move beyond focus groups that skim the surface, and dig deeper to produce insights and involve people in co-designing their supports. By adapting creative problem solving and design thinking tools and techniques, PMB created “power tools” that do just that. Adapted for use by people with various disabilities, mental illness and sensory impairments, power tools are catalyzing change by completely and wholly involving the people, as well as their families, in the co-design of supports and services.

Check out this video of the Community Living Prince Edward County Advocates participating in PMB’s Co-design Learning Lab, and see for yourself how power tools empower people to not only identify the challenges they face but also generate solutions to solve them. The icing – with the use of creative problem solving and design thinking tools, people using services and their families are engaging in meaningful and purposeful ways to co-design the supports and services they are looking for now, and will be seeking in the future.

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Janeen Halliwell has spent the last 30 years working to improve quality, advance new thinking, and drive innovation in health and human services. A Principal with People Minded Business, she and her business partner, Jennifer Keilty-Friesen are on a mission to introduce creative problem solving and design ‘power tools’ to people using human services worldwide, with the aim to elevate their involvement to co-designers of services. Janeen has worked in Canada, USA, Australia, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Tanzania, and has taught for two universities. She is also the founder of ‘We Move Forward,’ a 4-day International Women’s Day Conference held on Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Follow her on Twitter (@janeenhalliwell) and Linkedin