Making for good – Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable


As January turned to February and we all broke our new year’s resolutions, the &us team were heads down designing a recruitment journey to help grow the task force that would aid the fastest vaccination roll out in history.

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In week one, we painted our big picture. We generated hypotheses, gathered insight and developed user personas. You can read more about our week one approach here.  We had developed a tight brief and given ourselves two weeks to conquer the challenge.

We ended week one with a demo and the team were thrilled with the work we’d done. Abstract though it might have felt, they trusted our process and had faith that with one more week of work we’d be delivering a thing. 

What on earth do we do now? 

Day one, week two. The all too familiar feeling of Monday morning – 5 days til demo day and the realisation of just how much there is to do. You glance over the previous week’s deck which lays out concepts, hunches and hypotheses… can we really make something out of all of this in 5 days?! 

Week two of a sprint is about honing in. We’d done the expansive part, now to make. 

It starts with the game of collation and curation – delving into dusty corners and pulling Miro frame after Miro frame into a new clean workspace. It’s a case of zooming out on the zoom out, what is the thread that runs through all of this, what brought us here and how do we build momentum to get from A to B – or put more candidly – what on earth do we do now?!   

It can be a head in hands moment. It’s messy, it’s scary. It’s the time where it is all too tempting to abandon ship; “okay so… I’ll leave you, designers, to it!” and leave them in a sea of post-its and ponderings to put the puzzle together. 

Turning chaos into order 

As a team and a business, we’re getting better at learning to love this feeling. If it feels messy, it means you’re creating good trouble, and creating good trouble means you’re doing great, impactful work.

The trick is in ‘what’s next. Turning what can feel like chaos into order becomes easier if you set yourself clear goals and define your challenges. We had to design a pre-application process that helps the British Red Cross hit their ambitious volunteer targets. So, what makes this hard? 

We crafted our golden question and used our hunches and insights to answer.

What are the main reasons that people wouldn’t volunteer? 

  • People have no loyalty to the British Red Cross 
  • People have no trust that the British Red Cross will keep them safe 
  • People are unfamiliar with the application process 
  • People have a lack of knowledge about the opportunity, the commitment and the expectation

We were back on track and cooking with gas.

Defining the job of the thing 

The human-centred design puts the user at the heart of the experience. What would people need to be able to overcome these hurdles and obstacles? What does this thing or experience need to do to be able to help them move forward and take action? 

Back into Miro we went, we looked at user journeys and our insights from testing, creating 4 clear instructions for ourselves to follow: 

  • Inspire volunteers to make a commitment 
  • Guide volunteers through the steps
  • Reassure volunteers that there are adequate safety measures in place 
  • Educate volunteers and answer any questions they are likely to have 

Let the making begin 

We pride ourselves on always working in public. The best outputs are always those which are shared early and often. Designs were shared on Miro. Every couple of hours we scribbled on post its, and shared reflections on quick-fire zoom calls.

These four verbs – Inspire, Guide, Reassure, Educate – became our guardrails. Every time we had an output, we’d check ourselves against them to make sure we captured the essence, and when we thought we had, we’d see if other people agreed. We sourced colleagues for quick informal guerilla testing, designing mini-experiments to validate our work and push ideas further. 

Trust the process

Our final solution was a microsite where users would land following their initial communications about the opportunity. We hit our four verbs hard, creating something as informative as it was empowering. 

The team at the British Red Cross were thrilled with the output, recognising the value and the expertise of our approach; the going big before we go small, the chaos into order. We’d done it. We’d nailed the brief, built fantastic relationships with the team and challenged the status quo along the way. 

In those moments of terror where you’re not sure how to join the dots and “get started”, it’s important to remember that the process is the work. We were wrong to think we hadn’t “started” by week two. The hunches, the hypothesis, the blue sky thinking – those are all the things that shape the idea and make it great. 

The beauty of hindsight  

Our work with the British Red Cross has now finished, we’re a couple of weeks down the line and we’ve had time to reflect, retro, and share our process and output with the &us team in our weekly team meeting. 

Often, when you’re in a whirlwind of a two-week sprint, none of the processes feels like it makes sense. You’re in the thick of it, lost in the creative woods, thriving on the pace, pressure and collaboration. You have to have faith in what you’re doing and learn to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Every post-it, insight and hunch contributes to a better story, and the best stories have the best endings.

You can read our Making for Good with the British Red Cross series which covers why we started working with the BRCwhy we wrote a case study for work we haven’t started, and how we helped the BRC accelerate their volunteer journey.

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