Researcher Blog 3: Dr Remi Bec – Our French Mascot runs a workshop and ponders ‘evidence’ in design health research

Canada Post 3

Welcome to the third in a series of researcher blog posts on Remi Bec’s mission to share his experience of Designing in Health with Canadian researchers. The last post can be found here.

About the author

After studying model making and space design in France, Remi Bec completed a PhD exploring the use of games to promote physical activity. Following this, Remi was seconded to the Translating Knowledge to Action team (TK2A – part of the CLAHRC YH) where he was the design researcher lead based at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. He has now returned to Lab4Living where he is leading on the ‘Play‘ theme within the 100-year Life project. 

He is also director, founder of a social enterprise, GoFit4Fun CIC, which delivers services in the community to fight social exclusion and sedentary behaviours through the co-creation and play of games.

In this post:

Conducting a workshop at Quality Forum 2020 conference and reflecting on the impact of applying design research methodology and methods in health

Quality Forum 2020 workshop: “Using creative methods to co-design better health care experiences”

Top news: We have a plan, the reality is different, we adapt the plan, it is a successful workshop!

This was a grand day to keep evangelising Design and disseminate the co-design methods we conducted at TK2A as it was the day of our workshop. The workshop was part of the Quality Forum 2020 conference in Vancouver, BC, however it was taking place at Health Design Lab (HDL) at Emily Carr University.

QF20 workshop

QF20 workshop

The aim of the workshops were to:

  1. deliver a hands on workshop to experience  the design research methods applied on a range of health related projects for the past three years;
  2. share the upcoming findings of the evaluation study we have conducted at TK2A to demonstrate the benefits of applying design-led methods in healthcare.
QF20 workshop

QF20 workshop

We had 22 participants in our workshop and they all arrived about 30min late as the bus, which was taking them out the conference place to the Health Design Lab at Emily Carr University, was delayed! The workshop was hence intense so we adapted the pace so that participants didn’t have too much time to think with their head, only with their hands! The atmosphere felt really good and people were laughing and nodding. The friendly atmosphere allowed us to have a vote among all participants and the couple of organisation members present to take 10 extra minutes to wrap up the presentation and keep a few conversations going. Unfortunately, time ultimately caught up with us and we had to skip the final activity. After everyone left we tidied up the room and the participants along with our host at HDL, Andrew, took a bus back to the conference venue. It was nice to hear from Andrew that numerous discussions took place in the bus and people were impressed how quickly design methods can generate visual representation, which helps to better understand experiences, and concrete ideas quickly. I was also so surprised about a new follower on my Twitter account who summarised here the step by step process of the workshop we conducted along with comments that clearly showed they had understood what we were on about 😊. Felt so good!!! But after that plus jetlag we were really knackered and that night I slept like a baby / or a log / or a baby log 😉.

Our workshop at the Quality Forum 2020 Conference

Our workshop at the Quality Forum 2020 Conference

Designers in Health – A common issue arising as much in Canada than in the UK

Top news: Designers united to redefine the ‘evidence’, the gold prize in quantitative research

A presentation delivered by Lisa Boulton from HDL at the Quality Forum conference provoked lots of reactions from the crowd – Love a good design presentation! The project Lisa talked about reported some participatory work they conducted to improve the life of people living with dementia in care homes. In this project, HDL collaborated with Emily Carr students who went to the care home and gathered stories from the people living there. As dissemination, students created different tools to report the stories of the older people they interviewed: mainly zines (I was one of the lucky one to get an actual copy made by a student involved in the project 😊) and short animation videos. The videos were very creative and cleverly put together, using the voice of the patients interviewed to tell their experience and what they’d wish to see. Lisa used these videos as part of her presentation which made it very engaging and well-paced. As a result of the project the team created a general structure that all care homes can use. By Fall 2019, 16 homes had received this package and by Spring 2020, 55 homes will have received them.

Lisa Boulton from HDL presenting their work around Dementia at the Quality Forum conference

Lisa Boulton from HDL presenting their work around Dementia at the Quality Forum conference

The crowd at the conference were very responsive. There were some comments about how good both the approach and the presentations were, and some attendees also hoped at a later stage in their life they would be place in a care home that is developed by HDL; this was so pleasing to hear. Everyone likes being told that you’re doing a good job, but it felt these comments came from the heart, from people who are on the same page, in the same boat, who get it. These supportive people who are interested in seeing and doing something else, open to new practices and want to genuinely change the lives of people for the better, these are the people that make me want to keep doing what I do!

And then came that question: “How do you know you’re making a difference? How do you measure it? Have you got any evidence to support this?” This is always such a tricky question, especially when you’re designing in health! Lisa was trying to defend herself the best she could and I felt I had to take the mic too and ask these people what do they mean by ‘evidence’ and challenge them on this.

Lisa Boulton presenting the work and some of the zines the students co-created

Lisa Boulton presenting the work and some of the zines the students co-created

That question of evidence is something I struggled with from the start of my ‘Design in Health’ PhD in March 2010 (10 years ago!) during which my interdisciplinary team of supervisors had different perceptions as to how they wanted me to proceed. But guess what, it was my PhD and it was in Design! We do need to stick to our field, yet we might want to think of better ways to develop the ‘evidence’.

One outcome of my PhD that I just started exploring again through conducting a workshop at the IASDR 2019 is about collecting various forms of ‘evidences’ that informed both the development of knowledge and of prototypes through an iterative process. I am currently trying to write about it and hopefully this coronavirus will give me more time to do so!). The approach in Design is holistic and will therefore be able to provide evidence, but not as the one defined in Health. So the person asking this question will have different criteria for defining what evidence is and will expect to hear a specific answer that cannot be answered by a designer. I will never be able to conduct research in Health and I will forever struggle to answer questions that requires health expertise… Because I am a designer! You’re not going to ask your bricklayer to fix your plug socket! They might work well together and even if nowadays it is easier to find a builder that can do both, they usually just collaborate well together. You are not going to ask your carpenter to fix your car. However, the carpenter usually needs a car and the garage owner will need a roof! We therefore need to stick to what we are doing and find other ways to generate evidence that is inherent to our practice and field so that we, design researchers, can measure and demonstrate the benefits we can bring, while ensuring that this evidence is recognised and seen as beneficial to those from other disciplines (e.g. Health) who draw conclusions about this evidence using different criteria.

Next time: We will demonstrate how keen Canadian Health researchers are to involve end-users in the process and how clever the medical education is to achieve this!

About this blog

This trip to Canada (Vancouver BC, and Montreal, Quebec) was made possible thanks to NIHR CLAHRC (TK2A theme) and Lab4Living (Sheffield Hallam University) in the UK. I, Dr Remi Bec, Design Researcher, relate in this summary my Canadian experience and therefore this entire content is my views and opinions only, not the ones of the funders. I also apologise for some of the content I relate since there might be elements of the stories that might not be fully accurate. Some details might have been forgotten or changed slightly but it is not to better fit my story – it is solely I have exchanged so much and interacted with so many people along the way that my little brain cannot retain it fully!