Finalist 2021

Integrated journey maps improve the wellbeing and safety of children

Nous Group / Kirsty Elderton / Dan Fine / Alannah Tran / Bhairavi Raman / Victorian Department of Education and Training / Lisa Gandolfo / Susan Dobson / Biddy McPhee-Lam / Maxine Ewens / Loreta Camerlengo

To reimagine the way child information is shared, we worked with users to design network diagrams and integrated journey maps.

To reimagine the way information about children is shared among professionals, Victoria’s Department of Education and Training (DET) engaged Nous Group to work with participants in the child health, wellbeing, education and safety system to help design a web-based information-sharing system, Child Link.

Our approach was driven by human-centred design (HCD). After researching current circumstances, we engaged with future end users, including 72 practitioners from agencies and service providers, through 19 co-design workshops and eight validations sessions.

The result was insightful and beautiful network maps and integrated user journey maps that showed current and potential future experiences for participants.

Design Brief

Victoria’s child information sharing reforms are designed to support professionals throughout the service system to deliver better outcomes for children and their families.

Successive inquiries had found practitioners sharing information was essential to keeping people safe. But making this a reality would involve overcoming significant challenges, including helping practitioners understand their obligations, translating those obligations into practice, building relationships between people who work with children and families and shifting behaviours of people who have worked in their fields for many years.

The solution was Child Link, a web-based register that enables quick and effective collaboration among practitioners and is a starting point for sharing information.

DET is responsible for designing and implementing Child Link. To support rollout and change management, DET engaged Nous to lead the design research with end-users to understand their current experience of information-sharing and cross-agency collaboration and to reimagine the future with Child Link.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

In previously responding to this challenge there have been technology-first failures, where the needs of users were subordinate to the requirements of technical tools. Success this time around would depend on learning these lessons, so we sought to understand the context, environment, relationships and behaviours that drive information-sharing, being realistic about technology and taking a people-first approach.

We used HCD to understand current information-sharing and collaboration among agencies to support children. This included an understanding of the wider system, including organisations that support people who have experienced family violence.

Success required deep, early and sincere engagement with key stakeholders. We worked with practitioners to understand their current experiences, identify opportunities, and co-design future-state experiences.

To gain trust and insight from Child Link users, we developed engagement strategies personalised to each user group. These strategies involved aligning our consultation to the goals of users and an onboarding experience for each participant.

Communicating clear objectives and sharing information beforehand allayed fears this was merely a tick-box engagement.
In total we spoke with 72 practitioners, conducted 19 co-design workshops and eight validation sessions.

From this co-design process emerged several design products:

  • five current state journey maps, highlighting the current arrangement
  • five future state journey maps, highlighting the system view of a complex network of services and agencies
  • five current state network diagrams, which represent information flows between practitioners and agencies
  • five future state network diagrams, which represent indicative information flows and service referrals
  • a comprehensive insights report that brings together the threads of the research.

These products are being used to guide implementation, including messaging and communications, change management and training, along with the design requirements of the system itself. The products reflect the reality that practitioners need information that helps them understand the events and risk factors to make better informed decisions.

Design Excellence

Before we developed the network diagrams and journey maps, we invested time in understanding how they would be used, by whom and what for, ensuring the design would meet users' needs. The process was essential to producing outputs that were insightful, engaging and even beautiful.

Our contact with stakeholders – from management to frontline staff – helped us to understand the system and the regulatory landscape. We sought to understand the relationships between roles, inputs and outputs, sources of enthusiasm and frustration, points of friction and opportunities for improvement.

As we gained more detail we developed network diagrams, which proved valuable to participants and the project team.

Later we undertook a validation process with practitioners to confirm our interpretation and the accuracy of the design products. This deepened stakeholder buy-in and built commitment to the process, which was particularly important when contradictory accounts of the service system emerged.

The very process of research and engagement broke down barriers between agencies and departments, so people at different parts of the system understood the perspectives of one another in a way they had not done before.

Designing with the people impacted by the new system rather than for them moved stakeholders toward a shared understanding and greater engagement and endorsement of the reforms.

Design Innovation

Good system design takes a human-centred approach and good human-centred design takes a systems approach.

Our design demonstrated innovation in several ways:

  • We conducted design critiques with Nous experts in public policy, health and human services, and education to challenge assumptions and push the thinking. Our critiques brought together people with different perspectives to consider the work, ask questions and offer feedback. This created opportunities to spot patterns, problems and solutions and to rethink approaches if they were not delivering outcomes.
  • The journey maps took an established way of illustrating a system and elevated the sophistication so the system could be understood not just top down, but also bottom up and laterally. The journey maps could be layered over one another to see intersections and interactions between practitioners and agencies. The maps illustrate people going through a journey by identifying patterns and users with distinct behaviours. This includes non-linear journeys that intersect with many organisations and agencies.
  • Undertaking HCD involved extra complexity during COVID-19. Ideally we would have run in-person co-design workshops with participants, however with Victoria under lockdown and many participant cohorts, such as schools and the Department of Health and Human Services, facing additional workloads, this was not possible. We remained flexible in our approach, eschewing a “one size fits all” method, and made adjustments to ensure everyone involved could participate fully. Our philosophy for engagement design was “Getting it right, not being right.”

Design Impact

The lasting contribution of the journey maps to improved safety for children will be their ability to help policymakers achieve ambitious systemic and pragmatic individual change.

The journey maps help to define the vision for the system and users and then articulate the changes required, ranging from regulation and organisational structures to communication and change management. Guiding the changes throughout implementation is analysis of impact, both on the system and on individuals, including practitioners and consumers.

The journey maps show where Child Link can help but also acknowledges the complexity that remains for practitioners supporting every family in Victoria.

The research has provided insights for designing and developing an information-sharing system, influencing strategic policy, system usability, functionality and data. This provides an innovation that can be replicated by child welfare agencies elsewhere and by other information-sharing systems with complex stakeholder networks.

The products are valuable to a broad audience and will endure into the future. They were shared broadly with stakeholders from across the system, right up to ministers and departmental secretaries. Frontline practitioners and agencies beyond the scope of the work said they valued the artefacts and have used them for training and onboarding staff.

Ultimately, the work will help to keep children safe by ensuring vital information about their wellbeing and safety is shared with people who need to know in order to inform action.

Given the history of young people who have fallen through the cracks of the system, Child Link will have a fundamental impact on the current and future generations of Victorians.

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