Research participant writes on paper instead of using the online whiteboard

How we learned about what drives donations

We’re working for a mental health charity who wants to know what they can do better for millennials as donors, and to encourage them to engage more with the work the charity does. They came to us with a number of concepts they’d developed internally and we proposed research and co-creation to develop them further.

Setting up a remote co-creation workshop that is inclusive

The intention with the research design was to include a variety of experiences around social causes.

Throughout the recruitment process we ensured that participants came from a range of locations around the UK. And having the workshops online meant there were no travel barriers, which can otherwise create a concentration of participants around where the research team is based. We made sure to have representatives from all four constituent countries within the UK, and a mix of urban city dwellers and a selection from smaller towns and more rural locations.

Since all workshops were online we also wanted to ensure that we were not just including people who had high levels of confidence with online tools. We promised accessible sessions, with a choice of doing the workshop exercises on a digital whiteboard (Miro) or with a piece of paper and a pen and then taking a photo to send to us later. Around one third of the participants chose to use Miro to add their input, the rest used paper. It was really important that no one felt excluded if they did not want to use the digital whiteboard and this was well received by participants.

We also ensured participants had a variety of past experiences of social causes. This was both in terms of donating (from giving money, to giving time) and in terms of the types of organisation they support, which ranged from national charities to local community groups. The idea was to encourage people to bring in ideas and experiences from outside the traditional charity sector into this workshop.

Learning about motivations and getting developing ideas in a group setting

In the workshop, participants were taken through a series of exercises:

1. Everyone shared individual stories about how they engage with social causes

2. A guided group discussion on things people would like to see improved, called a ‘wish list’.

3. We presented the four concept directions based on the client’s internal brainstorming session.

4. Participants took notes on elements they liked or disliked and discussed them as a group.

Everyone was then asked to pick something from their own ‘wish list’ and what they liked about the concept direction to create a new service to support their individual engagement with mental health.

As well as recording what was said, we gave participants time to write down their thoughts before group discussions and while others were talking. This meant we could capture some of the unspoken insights. Everyone followed the same structure of note-making: starting on the left with the ‘wish list’, then feedback to the four client ideas in the middle, and then space to add their own ideas on the far right.

Co-creating ideas with high level concept directions

Because of the open exploratory nature of this session, we were mindful to avoid giving much detail from each concept. We kept it high level leaving space for each participant’s interpretation. Each concept was verbally introduced to the group and a few visual prompts were provided to illustrate the intention of the concept. No designs or interfaces were used.

Participants questioned some aspects of these concepts and projected their own experiences onto each concept to explain why they liked certain aspects and their concerns with others. The concepts provided a design language for participants to build their own ideas. Participants combined aspects of the concepts with their own ideas to meet their needs. They could also take the concept in a totally different direction, which was explored in follow-up discussions. This meant participants could happily play as co-designers of these concepts without the need for any specialised design skills.

We learnt how millennials see contributing differently

The workshops helped us to get a deep understanding of how millennials have a broader conception of how they might contribute.

People are eager to engage beyond financial transactions. People with a millennial-mindset do not want to simplify their contributions to traditional volunteering or financial donations. They are seeking a broader way to create value for a social cause they really care about.

Online platform speaks to this group naturally. There is a general understanding that online platforms will help open up the service and knowledge of a charity to a wider & younger audience.

New technology should prioritise safety and security. People felt that new ways of delivering the charity services should prioritise safety and security. They were particularly concerned about how conversations online can be easily misinterpreted and cause potential harm. So ideas to add gamification or an AI assistant should be treated carefully.

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