Social Impact Weekly Blog

Week 1 27/08/2019

Today we were introduced with the people who would be teaching and guiding us for the next six weeks. Learning names and recalling specific facets is hard for me due to having Executive Functioning Disorder. This is the reason I take such extensive notes, so that have a record of what I have learned/want to learn. Repetition is the best way to get things to stay in my head! I will do my best to keep this a readable as I can while maintaining the spontaneity of my note-taking.

Note taking page 2 of many
Note taking page 2 of many
Week 1 Page 4
Week 1 Page 4

I must represent what I have learned and the creative solution that we will devise, and have an understanding of how to place myself within this. 

We looked at the design system, and I recognise this an iterative process, I wrote “Not linear” which is a good description of how my brain processes information.

We spoke about Design Thinking, and I believe that I can build upon this for my own research process. Design thinking was explained as a Bucket of tools that we can use to create the solution.

We did several exercises in class; we followed a process of orders of design, thinking of a product or services that we think is a good example of design, reflecting on it and then sharing with the room as to where we thought it belonged.

The only services I could think of at the time was McDonald’s, I wasn’t sure if it was a good example but when we dug down deeper we discovered that McDonald’s is very successful with its product design, not just here in New Zealand but globally. We spoke to someone from our class with the intent to draw out a story, any story, which I found interesting and learned a lot about a classmate that otherwise might never found out.

We spoke about the Characteristics of Design Thinking, I highlighted the comment Fail Fast, quick testing before you waste time (and money) which I feel is relevant to myself as I sometimes have a habit of focusing what is in front of me and neglecting the bigger picture, or spending a lot of time on something only to realise that it isn’t going to work. It would be much better to rule it out or in with expediency. I wrote think fast/fail fast more than once in my pages of notes, along with we can’t change the world overnight and show don’t tell.


One thing I wrote down which stands out to me was that there is not just one way through and that the design process can hold the catalyst for possibilities. I always say that I need that one good idea, often it’s a gut feeling. The good thing about this design process is I am learning to quantify, assess, and explain that instinct and frame it in a way that (hopefully) is accessible to everyone else.

Another thing we started to discuss was having an ethical approach to research, and since my own Master’s project is human-centred and will include ethnographic research this is of particular interest to me. Something I highlighted was to acknowledge that my involvement might go beyond the interview, and for my project, as it’s so personal I need to consider not only what this is going to bring up for my interviewee’s but what this might bring up for myself.

Download a PDF of the notes I took during class: Week 1 (2) Week 1

Week 2 17/09/19

Weekly Check-in

This week is the first week back after the midsemester break. I have taken 52 pages of notes for this class, so I will attempt to summarise. First, we check-in, answering the questions:

What am I finding challenging?

Worrying that there isn’t enough time to complete what needs to be done. Team finding a common path to follow.

Where do I feel comfortable to learn?

I am most comfortable with were my expertise lay, creating engaging content, advocating for mental health awareness and equality.

What tools did I find most useful?

Engaging with the services at AUT and speaking to those that work there.

What challenges are helping me learn about myself?

Working as part of a team and managing my expectations of what we will get done in this time frame.

What would I do differently if I had a chance?

I would, as always allocate more time to active research and data collection.

What worked well?

Talking to other people with more knowledge of this area and learning from their experience. Learning about different perspectives.

Stakeholders Conversations

Today we had a conversation with the Stakeholders of the Health and Disabilty Support services. I took extenstive notes from these speakers, due to some of my notes possibly being identifying to the speakers I will keep my comments here brief.

The stake holders gave us an over view of how their services functioned, including things like how to enrol, cost, open hours, they are aware of some of their shortcomings and seem to be working on resolving this internally, and pointed out that their website needed overhauling. Overall I infered that they concerned about the number of students who are not seeking their services, and seemed commited to providing the best possible care for AUT students. Multiple times in my notes I wrote the word Ethics, in reference to the councelling services, in regards to how to promote the service.

One thing I piicked out from this discussion was that they are not wanting some kind of social media campaign and that if they had a magic wand the first week of University would be about how to support people, teaching them about the services such as the medical and health centre.

Observe, immerse, engage

We spoke at length about the interview process, about observation, not making assumptions, immersing ourselves in our user’s point of view so that we see it though their eyes. When we have a  good grasp of the issues the subject is facing we will be better equipt to design solutions that best work for the end-user.

Part of this is learning how to listen to your participant, and not (or try hard to not) insert your assumptions into what they have to say. This is referred to as Empathetic Listening, and a skill I feel I need to practice much more. We spoke about how to interview, asking why, not asking questions with one word answers, not to be affraid of silence etc.

I got to test run these new skills with Leonie, in which I was to discover the best meal she ever had, and then design a solution around this. I was left with a craving for seafood and a good bottle of beer! Below is the drawing I created for her.

From this exercise, I learned that asking open ended questions is a lot harder than I remember, and that perhaps years working as a Weight Watcher Coach, learning how to stop people from talking too much has programmed me. Practice makes progress, so I will endevour to keep practising.

Building your research kit

build your reasearch kit

We spoke at length on how to write our research questions, here are some of the notes I have taken. My group will be meeting soon to discuss this and plan our inception survey, and one on one survey questions.  

Week 3 24/09/19

check in

This we reflected on our first attempt at conducting Ethnographic Research, with the Intercept method. Which entails going to where you desired interview subjects are and seeking out those who are happy to talk with you for 10-15 minutes.

I felt awkward and clumsy the first three attempts, and discovered that I am good at engaging in conversation, following threads, but I am no good at keeping track of the questions I have to ask or writing any of the answers down in a cohesive way. Which makes unpacking the interviews twice as hard as I am trying to decipher my writing. This is why we were told to conduct the interviews in pairs. In the interests of trying to fit everything into my schedule, I attempted to do this solo to start with. Today (25/9) we went as a trio to conduct some intercept interviews and found it much easier to have me do the taking, Ning to help keep me on track with the questions, and Julie to write the notes. I believe that we gained some interesting insights from our second attempt.

During this weeks class, we worked together to unpack and correlate the data that we had gathered and spoke about the importance of capturing unbias results. I also had Quantive versus qualitative research in a way that really clicked with me.

Quantitative = leans towards numbers and statistics.
Qualitative = Feelings, emotions, and more nuanced.

And how a marriage between these two approaches create a great tool for capturing good information.

A stand out realisation was that I will need more than just myself when conducting field research for my own Master’s project; to capture good reliable data I am going to need help. I also have the statement “Follow where they lead in the conversation” and “What people do can be different to people say.” As stand out quotes.

Made me realise

One thing we discussed today which is something I have been pondering for my own research is the importance or repositioning of language. And this context the naming surrounding mental health. Leonie told us that her child’s school they refer to it as ‘Mental Fitness‘ which I believe describes it will and opens the topic up to be more easily spoken about with those who shy away from the term mental health, or team that phrase with something being wrong with struggling with it.

mental fitness

We spent a part of this session discussing some of the main points that we had become aware of during this process, below are a few of the notes I took. I feel that the perception of the service is a very important factor in this problem.

unpacking step one

From where we wrote on three different coloured post-its, one for positive comments, one for negative comments, and one for the key values that the subject holds. From this we spaced them out, making sure to keep our subjets separate, placing the comments that were related together.

Next, we cluster our findings into headlines with the intent to discover any immerging themes ready to share this with our group. Once we have done this we can start to reframe the problem.

This is part of making sense of what we learned from our survey recipients. To better understand this we examined our insights from our data but looking at the things that are actionable and specific, requiring us to take an intuitive leap. This is what I learned from the research, and what opportunities the research has created. This process is not linear, it’s iterative, and aligns with how my thought process usually works.


To ‘mine’ these insights we wrote out separate ‘Point of view‘ statements for each interview, addressing who we met, I kept this to a general description of the participant as this survey is anonymous. Then ‘it was amazing to find’ statements, and then finish off with ‘It would be a game-changing if …’ then followed up with the group activity of creating a synthesis of this by wriring a sentence about the insight, and several more to elaborate. This task certainly takes advantage of the post-it notes! Although this is a very good way to quickly move around your data to make sense of it. I will write more about these insights in Our Design Challenge page. 

post-its everywhere

Week 4 01/10/19

Week 4 check-in:

This week we delved deeper into the insights we have picked out of our intercept interviews. Gaining insights (good insights) was trickier than I first figured. A statement such as “Out of sight, out of mind” Needs further unpacking, such as, what does this mean? What is the insight this statement give us. In insight hangs on the fact that students will forget about the Health Centre if they’ve only been told about it once or twice. Part of the problem we are solving for is how to ensure that the Health Centre sticks in their mind, so that if/when they might need the service they will remember that it’s there.

Here are some of the main insights we have picked out as the our main focal points.

Insights 1
Insights 1

From this point we drilled down again, picking out the main sticking points. After a discussion with Rose, we could label the point Ning and I was trying to make with the phrase ‘Cultural Qualifiers’ referring to how much influence any particular student’s culture and upbringing has on the way they engage with Health Services.

Developed Insights
Developed Insights

From these insights we created a question, a ‘How might we?’ statement that can be used to inspire solutions. This is called Ideation; where the goal is to be as creative a possible. I am a big believer in solving problems this way. I often say that you never know what might spark an idea, and even the most ridiculous remark can lead to a really good solution.

Our question: How might we make information about the health Centre more memorable so that it is easy to recall or access when needed? The idea behind this being that many students have at some point been told about these services, but by the time they might need to use them, they have forgotten about them.

Together Ning and I delivered to the class what we learned during our data gathering phase, while doing out intercept interviews, told the class what the question we had come up with was and then posed that question to them, urging them to be as silly as they wanted to be, and to not be held back by self-imposed limitations of what  they might believe is possible. They did not disappoint.

Ideation Action Shot
Ideation Action Shot

Once the class had written their ideas on post-it notes (no idea too stupid) we asked them to expand the ideas. Any/all of the ideas whether it had been their original idea. One idea sparked by the questions: What are some ways to make learning about the Health Centre memorable was ‘AUT Zoo’ which by its self seems silly, but expanded ideas pointed out that the Auckland Zoo and AUT could do a collaboration and another idea was expanded to SPCA puppies/adoption.

Once they had completed this task I asked them to step back up to the wall again and add what they thought that this idea might achieve. For example, having a pet patting day held at the Health Centre would be good for student moral, and can be used as a tool to entice students to the Health Centre where they could be engaged in conversation, with the end result having a memorable and rewarding experience which ensures they will recall the Health Centre fondly AND remember that it exists.

Below is the finished ideation wall, which made me feel very happy to look at, especially how people drew right on to the paper to expand their ideas in a visual way.

Group Ideation Board
Group Ideation Board, click the image to read text.

Once completed the Ning and regrouped for the next stage, which was taking the ideas and placing them in a four-square grid with a value range between hight value/high confidence of success, to Low value, low confidence of success.

Being able to see the ideas like this meant that the ideas that had the highest chance of success and the highest confidence of being able to achieve would cluster in the top right-hand square. Which you can clearly see happened in the photo below. Then we had three stickers each, we were to decide which idea we liked the best and assign two stickers, we would assign one sticker to the 2nd best idea.

It wasn’t planned at all that Ning and I would make the same exact choices, but both ideas I think are good ones and I am looking forward to the prototyping stage next week.

Four Square Success Scale
Four Square Success Scale

The two ideas we are going to be Prototyping are Vinal Floor Stickers and Puppy Patting. I am going to create a focus on how these ideas are going to work, such as the floor stickers working in an unobtrusive way to consistently remind students where the Health Centre is and what services they provide, and the puppy patting can entice students to the Health Centre and open conversation about what the services the Health Centre provides.

Week 5 08/10/19

Week 5 check-in:

What am I finding challenging?

The main thing that has been challenging is finding enough time to fit in everything. This weekend I drove my children down to Mt Ruapehu to see Snow for the first time, so this limited the time had to spend working.

Where do I feel comfortable to learn?

I felt that designing the posters were in my wheelhouse, so it was easy to create. I think that learning about the actual needs of the students helped me in crafting these.

What tools did I find most useful?

Relying on the information that we had gathered from the research stage was useful, along with the brainstorming sessions we did last week.

What challenges are helping me learn about myself?

I would say time management and also fitting in my time is good. At first, I didn’t want to take the time out at the weekend, but I came home with a much more positive outlook.

What would I do differently if I had a chance?

I’m not sure I would have done things differently.

What worked well?

Working in a team with Ning has been great, we have been able to meet and easily bounce ideas off each other to craft a plan that in my estimation has the best chances of working.


This week is about developing a prototype, with a strong emphasis on doing so quickly and cost-efficiently. we spoke about taking a human-centered approach, wherein which we create a solution either alongside the user, or seeking feedback from those who would be using the product.

Without gaining this sightful feedback on your product design, you don’t have any reliable information that your concept will work. It’s easy to ‘fall in love’ with your idea and become blind to faults it might have. Taking a human-centred approach will ensure that you look at your ideas with balanced opinions, that will test your assumptions.

We talked about learning early, and often. Which refers back to the sentiment of failing fast, something I am learning to embrace. With each idea, there might be parts that fail, but still, have parts that work well. The idea is to maximise the idea’s workability while minimising cost.

We spoke about how to test our prototypes and gaining feedback from our target audience. For this, we will prepare 2 to 3 set questions to gain insight into how well our ideas might work. With this feedback, we will be able to tweak our prototype by unpacking what is working, and what needs to be improved and then retest.

From the feedback we gain we should be able to notice if there any themes emerging, we can ask our selves “What am I hearing?” “What does this mean?” and then, “What are you going to change, scale, up/remove?” So in the end, what we develop is informed by what we are hearing.

Making our prototypes

Google developed the first iteration of the google glasses in one hour, with this in mind it took a fraction of that to come up with our first concepts of the Call to Action stickers that Ning and I plan to place around the AUT Campus.

While I focused on creating our call to action badges, Ning worked on developing her idea of creating a ‘pet cafe’ environment at the Counselling service. While I do not believe this is a viable idea, I do like the idea of creating an event that creates a positive experience surrounding learning about the Health and Wellbeing services on the AUT campus.

I also printed out lots of versions of our badges, which we then cut out and set out to stick them up around WE block, so that we can monitor how well they work. I was immediately rewarded by seeing Students looking at them as they made their way through the self-opening doors.

As an added testing bonus, I learned where I am unable to stick up the badges, as the Security Guards removed them. Later in the evening, I ran into them in the elevator, and they jokingly suggested they were going to take me to jail for putting them up everywhere. I explained what I was doing and why I was putting them up everywhere, and they agreed to leave them up.

Below are photos of the badges up on the walls and doors, along with the snaps of the students looking at the badges as they pass through the gates.

Our next step is to talk to students and gain their insights into how well our prototypes are working, next week, we will be unravelling these insights and hopefully fine-tuning our concepts.

Week 6 15/10/19

Week 6 Check in:

week 6 check in, I had a great week, we got some great feedback on our prototypes

Feedback and prototype development. 

An important step in ensuring the success of a human-centred design solution is testing the prototype, by getting feedback from our target audience. To achieve this I placed printed version of the call to action stickers around campus.

Once our prototype call to action stickers had been in place for a number of days we set out to intercept students and gather feedback. Some evidence of them working was achieved by stationing ourselves in a corridor when we had the stickers fixed to the automatic opening doors. In this position we were able to observe students reading the information on the prototypes.

Based on the feedback gathered from user testing we discovered that although the call to action stickers were well received they were still in need of improvement. We heard that they were ‘too wordy’ and that having too much type on a circle was hard to read. We also heard that they needed to be brighter so that they were more eye catching. Students liked the placement of the prototype, having them on the automatic opening doors ensured that any student who was passing though read the call to action

I was pleased to see included in our feedback the suggestion of providing these call to action stickers in different languages. This was an idea we wanted to implement, but in the interest of testing fast created our intimal prototypes in English only. As suggested in the feedback I reduced the amount of overall text and increased the size of the main message.

Story telling via walkthroughs

Our final week is dedicated to learning about the value of the walkthrough. We had 45 minutes to create a visual representation of our research breakdown that will illustrate the insights we drew our conclusions from.

The purpose of a walkthrough is to ensure that the client feels confident in the solution you have created and gives them an opportunity to provide valuable input. This method of displaying the process can also energise and generate excitement about the developed solution, and also gives an opportunity to create new connections.

Photo of the visual walk though we created for the stakeholders. On the wall were picture sof the process we took, like the post it notes we wrote on, the photos we took of our prototype testing and our final design.


I personally felt that I learned a lot in the last six weeks. The process that we followed and the information I learned about human centered design and the ethnographic reasearch we understook will underpin and inform my own Masters Research.