Engaging your users early on, starting from the design phase, is a key step for developing inclusive products or services. Find out bellow more about what co-creation means and how we use it to develop HEROES platform for recruiting caregivers.
1. What is co-creation
2. What is project HEROES
3. Co-creating an age-inclusive recruitment platform for caregivers
3.1. The co-creating experience in Romania
3.2 Key challenges
3.3 Key insights on what makes a good co-creation exercise
3.4 Practical tips for age-inclusive co-creation workshops (key take-aways)
Co-creation is defined as a form of collaborative innovation: „ideas are shared and improved together, rather than kept to themselves.” (source: https://fronteer.com/what-is-co-creation/)
The main advantages of a co-creation session is the opportunity given to the participants to empathized with the needs of others. Once the participants are told some details about the target user, they can discuss different perspectives in order to come up with a solution. That is why a co-creation session is a win-win situation for both parts: the user and the participant, because he/she sees that their contribution is valued.
The need for specialized health care is rising rapidly. Almost 90% of respondents in one European survey (Alber, 2004) felt that social and health care systems should help older people remain in their homes. To do so, they will require assistance – infrequent at first, with daily tasks such as groceries or seeing a doctor.
HEROES makes recruiting caregivers faster and cost-effective by outsourcing the screening of candidates to nurses and retirees, who review candidates remotely and online. This solves the problem of finding and recruiting trustworthy caregivers, which cannot be solved without the HEROES platform. The platform is intended for people of all ages, focusing on the challenge to find and recruit trustworthy caregivers. HEROES helps recruit these caregivers by outsourcing the screening of candidates to nurses and retirees, who review candidates online via the HEROES platform.
The HEROES platform builds diverse ecosystems at the community level. The HEROES platform directly engages families and care providers as recruiters, retirees and qualified nurses as reviewers, and, after the commercial launch, potential caregivers as candidates. Indirectly, we will be interacting with local businesses, home care providers, NGOs, retiree and nurse associations and local municipalities, thus bringing together diverse community groups and stakeholders as enablers of more connected, diverse, and caring local communities.
Developing a platform that serves all these types of users is a big challenge as they all have different needs and levels of technology adoption. Therefore, engaging our users in the design phase of the HEROES platform is a key step in our project, especially helpful in aligning expectations in the three countries of the project: Romania, Austria and Switzerland.
People are living and working longer than ever before, with four to five generations working side by side (source: World Economic Forum), creating opportunities for businesses, employees and society at large.
After a lifetime of work, retirees may struggle to adapt to retired life. They cannot rely on the familiar routine anymore and the opportunities for social interaction decrease drastically. Once work is just an activity of the past, one feels their help is not valued anymore.
With that in mind, programs that support the inclusion of elderly after their retirement are a must. No matter the changes in their life (retirement, health care problems), older people should feel an important part of the community they live in.
When designing programs addressing the elderly, inclusion starts from the design stage. Understanding their needs and preferences, how they interact with your products or service or their level of interest in using it are key to a successful design.
We believe that engaging the elderly in the design of the services dedicated to them is an important step towards an inclusive world. We cannot expect to understand every need. We can empathize, but the best answer to the problems that arise is found by the members of the target group. ”How can I help?” should replace ”I know what you are missing”. Asking more and supposing less, can invite people to an inclusive discussion, where their needs and thoughts are listened to.
We held 3 workshops and 3 one-on-one meetings in Romania, Timisoara. We managed to interact directly with 14 people, with an average age of 55 years old, most of them with previous experience in caring for others either in the health care system or at home. Each workshop was designed for a specific type of user: older reviewers, nurses reviewers and family recruiters. The one-on-one meetings were reserved for organization recruiters. Despite the pandemic situation we managed to meet in-person with all our participants, and this contributed positively to group interaction.
Each co-creation workshop followed a similar structure based on four main components:
1. Informing the participants of the study and asking for consent,
2. Detailing the overall HEROES Project,
3. Asking questions regarding the proposed use cases of the platform and
4. Creating space for feedback through open discussions.
In Romania, the trust aspect was top of mind of several participants. On one hand, families need assurance that once the recruiters (health care professionals and older people) select a candidate, they will be well matched with their loved one. On the other hand, reviewers (both health care professionals and older people) need to be well-equipped to evaluate a candidate and they also want to ensure they have sufficient and relevant information to assess a candidate’s fit for a specific case. These discussions help us better understand our users’ needs and expectations and refine our proposal.
To be able to grasp their specific needs and have a meaningful interaction, we held one-on-one meetings with three different organizations recruiters. We interviewed a private residential nursing home with less than one year experience, a young NGO planning to provide home care services for people with disabilities and an established NGO working in the care sector for over 30 years providing both home care and residential care. Even if we thought at first that the needs would be slightly different, we found out that an important issue was mentioned by all participants: the high turnover of carers. There is a high need for skilled and motivated carers to ensure sustainability and constant care. All three organizations considered HEROES a good recruitment tool that can save them money and time by making it easier to reach the right candidates.
Considering the project timeline and the pandemic situation, we were unsure whether we could hold face-to-face meetings and we prepared for both in-person and online meetings. Moreover, the pandemic situation hampered our ability to attract participants, thus we stepped up our recruitment efforts to ensure a sufficient number of participants.
Even if in Romania the concept of co-designing is a new one and given that at this stage, we only talked about the main functionalities of the platform (without visual illustrations), the excitement of the participants was palpable. The sessions were lively and filled with valuable information and vigorous debates.
- The motivation of the participants:
If participants feel that they are valued for their life and professional experience, they will be more motivated to discuss each question in depths. More than that, if the participants have an interest in the topic discussed in the workshop, they can be more engaged. Moreover, knowing your participants’ background, allows facilitators, to explain certain concepts and test new approaches by using comparisons relevant for the audience.
It was easy for participants who cared for a loved one tell us what makes a good reviewer, for example, as they were drawing from their own personal experience of finding the right caregiver.
- Adapting the wording to the participants:
Even if we discussed the same topic, the way we present it differed between groups.
We invested time in making difficult concepts, such as the technical functionalities of the platform, easy to grasp. None of the participants were digital natives, yet health care professionals and families were accustomed to using technology daily.
- Calls work best to introduce the study to participants
- Reminders ahead of the workshop do wonders in boosting participation
- A clear agenda for the workshop gives participants an instant understanding of what’s expected of them, and the time involved
- Invest time to translate materials into local language for a smooth workshop!
Tips for a seamless implementation:
- Choose an inclusive (i.e. accessible) location to accommodate the needs of people with mobility challenges
- Allow for extra time for breaks, to keep participants motivated
- Thanking participants for their inputs and show gratitude through a symbolic gift goes a long way! We chose an inexpensive yet meaningful gift – scented candles made from recycled cooking oil made by a group of people with disabilities from our local community!
Tips for following-up:
- Sending a summary of the key findings after the workshop is an engaing way of re-connecting with the workshop participants
Engaging users early on helps greatly refining a proposal that best suits their needs creating real added value on the market. Giving the magnitude of our project, it was important for us to have direct feedback from our different user groups early on in each country to ensure the local context allows for technology adoption of HEROES platform in all three countries.
As main conclusion, in all three countries families, as well as organizations like residential care homes, need time and cost-effective support when searching and hiring trustworthy caregivers. Nurses, retirees, and people transitioning to retirement wish for ways to be occupied, feel included and connected. Other reasons might be an additional income or lifetime experience to be recognized and appreciated.
Participants in the first round of co-creation workshops confirmed their willingness to use the HEROES platform and they are looking forward to testing the beta version and have a better feel of its usage. The next round of co-creation meetings will take place in late September and will allow participants to see the main steps and flows making their input even more valuable for the beta version of our HEROES platform.