‘Grouple’ & The Living Well with Dementia launch

Grouple is a ‘collaborative caring’ tool I have been working on for the last 5 months with a team of designers. Supported by the Design Council in conjuncation with the Department of Health, Grouple is one of five projects aimed to help people live better with dementia.

The Design Council run a series of challenges.  To find out more about this challenges and the others, please visit their website.

Thursday 26th April was the launch event for the projects at the Design Council and what a fantastic event it was! Each project had its own area to display their work and Paul Burstow, Minister Of State for Care Services came along to provide an opening speech.

The room was full of dementia experts, all eager to hear about the projects and understand how design can play a role in helping people live better with dementia.

The Design Council had created a series of displays explaining the role of design and importance it plays in social projects. The key words were ‘human centred’, ‘visual’, ‘iterative’ and ‘collaborative’. These words are essential parts of the design process – the end user must be the main focus at all times, the design needs to be appealing and easy to understand, the design has to evolve from learnings over time and being open to a others ideas and suggestions throughout means your end result is more likely to be a success.

There was something special about the reflection of the word ‘collaborative’ on the floor to reinforce the message!

The Projects
Dementia Dogs
have designed a blue print for training ‘career change’ guide dogs to become help for people with dementia, Buddi have designed a prototype wrist band to prevent people with dementia from wandering, Trading Times have designed a service for helping primary carers find appropriate work while caring and Ode have designed a prototype scent timer to encourage people with dementia to enhance their appetite.

The five teams had 3 minutes to stand up and explain what their project was about. It was a great way to gain a concise understanding of the challenges each team decided to face and their outcome.

Project Grouple
Grouple is a caring and sharing tool for families living with dementia.

The aim is to relieve the isolation and stress of the primary carer by sharing care, extending the family network and encouraging others to become involved. Based on a timeline, the family can post events, view other people’s events, spot patterns over time and plan for the future. The idea is to encourage families to discuss dementia to reduce the stigma, support each other through out difficult times and remember the good times.

We have a working prototype which four families are currently testing and we are now looking for more families to test the site to enable us to develop the system into a public beta for the end of the year.

Valuable insights have been appearing from families using the system. Patterns have been forming, communication has been improving and stories of engagement have shown through.

There are 670,000 primary carers in the UK  who all help to save the NHS £8billion! These carers need support and we really believe that our system is a valuable tool to help.

We are currently looking for partners, organisations to collaborative with and people who can help us scale the prototype and get it to market!

There is an explanitory animated video on the Grouple website with a feedback section and a place to leave your details if you’re interested in finding out more or joining us on our journey. You can also help raise awareness by following us on Twitter @GroupleCC

WhyNotAssociates have created a series of films to explain the challenge and projects which can be seen on the dedicated Living Well With Dementia website.

Thank you to everyone that came to the launch and the exhibition.

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Inspired by children

The Design Council’s Water Design Challenge has given me the opportunity to work with pupils at a secondary school to help them understand how design can be used to reduce their water consumption.

Today was a kick off session with the pupils to discuss the findings they had discovered from doing an audit on the school’s water consumption. Maybe I was a little naive as to what they would have discovered or maybe I am not used to working with eleven year old girls but I came away really impressed and inspired.

We discussed water consumption in general to get them thinking more broadly than water use at the school and when showing them the virtual water chart, one girl boldy told me that ‘we should not worry about the amount of water in meat production as animals are treated badly, not given enough water to live on and are injected with antibiotics!’ I only had a two hour session to inspire and guide the pupils and had not prepared myself for answering comments like this!

Using the Design Council’s ‘double diamond‘ design process we were able to throw all their ideas onto the table, let the range of ideas be very broad and then see how they could be used to define the brief. I love the fact that the girls had really explored the school, noticed every single dripping tap, are concerned with families in Africa not having enough water to live and feel that this year’s school fund raiser should not be throwing wet sponges at the teachers as it is bad for the environment.

I felt so happy that girls who haven’t chosen their preferred subject route at school yet can be this passionate and knowledgeable about environmental issues. I was expecting to need to really tease ideas out of them but instead had to really work hard to make sure their ideas were captured properly.

The pupils have two weeks now to define their idea and come up with a brief that they want to develop. I’m so excited to see what update they email me on Monday so I can see how best to guide them down an effective, engaging and creative route.

Taking part in this challenge has really made me understand the power of empowering the younger generation. Give them a subject that they can relate to (I asked the pupils to list the moments when they use water in their day and one of the first ones was ‘when I go swimming’ – I hadn’t thought of that one!), add some creativity, tell some stories and they will run with it. Guideance, of course is essential to keep the ideas flowing in the right direction but the fresh minds and active brains are priceless!

My thoughts are now looking at how we can get children involved in other environmental problem solving. Has anyone considered an OpenIDEO platform for children?


Since writing this blog post I’ve read a great article about how ‘children are among the world’s most important innovators’ in Knowledge Wharton Today – worth a read!

Design Ambassadors profiled on the Design Council website

I have become a design ambassador for the Design Council’s Water Design Challenge.

The challenge is being run by the Design Council in connection with Southern Water and schools in the south east. The aim is to engage key stage 3 students to understand the environmental effects of water usage and use their creativity to find ways to reduce the amount they use. The ambassadors will be working with the teachers but will be there to engage with the students, help empower them, get them to be creative and promote design.

Last year Common Ground won the challenge with ‘The World’s Smallest Water Exhibition’ – a fantastic water exhibition housed inside a porta-loo!!
Common Ground

This year’s design ambassadors have a profile page on the Design Council website which explains why they believe in and why they are taking up the challenge. Have a look at the diverse range of designers getting involved: Design Ambassador Profiles