This week we launched a new digital service to help people in Camden get food support during the COVID-19 crisis. This is the result of just 4 weeks of work; it has been a truly great project to be part of, and I have enjoyed working alongside Time to Spare, other teams at Camden Council as well as food banks and volunteers organisations.

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The project was born as an emergency response to the original risk that families would stop receiving school meals in half-term and winter holidays, and to provide support to those worst impacted by the COVID-19 economic crisis. …

Why do I always rush when I write these notes? Or at least, I rush in my head. Like they don’t deserve too much time. Like other people would probably write them a lot faster than me! 😆

What’s new this week

I’ve recently joined two new projects in Camden; They are both inspiring and useful for residents, but very different between them.

Contact Camden

Our goal is to make it easier for people to contact the council. We will do this by redesigning the end-to-end journey for people when they get in touch via phone, email, the website, face-to-face or any other channel. Internally, there needs to be a better use of data, to have a unified view of citizens.

This is not a new ambition for Camden. I spent the last few days reviewing the documentation and extensive research that already existed. That meant looking over demographics and quantitative data, trying to figure out the missing gaps and angles to develop a more human-centred approach. …

In the last couple of months, I have been conducting user research with people whose situation was already vulnerable before the outbreak… and then, with those who had suddenly become at risk because of it.

Stay Home Stay Safe. Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash.
Stay Home Stay Safe. Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash.

While the COVID-19 health crisis has deeply impacted people who were already in a disadvantaged position, the truth is that all of a sudden, we could be talking about nearly anyone: that friend who is between jobs and who is taking a bit too long to find their next role; the single parent who sees all childcare options vanish overnight; self-employed folks whose phones stop ringing, going hazardously quiet; or it could be someone who is at home with an abusive partner. It could be any of us. …

Illustration of an eye looking at documents through a magnifying glass and page with sketches and diagrams.
Illustration of an eye looking at documents through a magnifying glass and page with sketches and diagrams.

I wasn’t sure whether to write anything this week. Things have gone a bit quiet; as I mentioned in previous notes, the project I was initially working on at Camden Council had to pause due to the current crisis. I then began to work on the Covid-19 response. Even though it was great to see others again and to have the opportunity to contribute to what they had done, the first stage of development ended soon anyway. Now is the time to define the priorities for the next months. …

I am writing these notes a little too late again, but I didn’t want what has happened in the last couple of weeks to slip by.

What’s happened in the last two weeks

We had to put on hold the project I was working on to focus on other pieces of work around the COVID-19 response. Good Work Camden will be crucial in the near future to help rebuild the economy and reduce the impact of the crisis. However, at present it’s more urgent to focus on getting direct help and support to residents and connecting them with the volunteer services in the borough.

Camden Council has done a great job at mobilising their resources, working together with other local authorities and FutureGov to come up with quick and effective solutions, like the coronavirus help directory and the beacon platform. …

This week we wrapped up prototyping and content design and worked closely with the devs to deploy the service and have it working on a live environment.

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My cat seems fascinated by Figma’s connecting nodes. In this picture, it reminds me a bit of the spaghetti mess that was Facebook’s Origami a few years ago.

OK, new personal challenge, let’s see if I can write these weeknotes in less that 10 minutes, keeping in mind that perfectionism is the antidote to creativity and that writing something is better than nothing at all. I’ll do it Craig David syle (i.e., Monday, Tuesday, etc) with a touch of Tim Ferriss (Five-bullet-Friday) at the end. Excuse me if I type too fast.

Monday was a bank holiday, so it doesn’t count — what did I do? Can’t remember. Move on.

Tuesday The devs were busy building the new digital service. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any live code to test with yet, so we decided to postpone usability testing to next week. We had already tested the prototype recently and were already reaching data saturation. …

That’s right; you get two weeks for the price of one because I forgot/was too lazy/didn’t feel like writing anything the week before. With everything that is going on, you’ll have to forgive me.

We need to find light in times like these. Within ourselves, but also in the things around us and in the work that we do.

Illustration of a woman reading a book. The cover says ‘How to keep calm when all you want to do is panic’.
Illustration of a woman reading a book. The cover says ‘How to keep calm when all you want to do is panic’.
Illustration by Alessandra Olanov

Creativity is love, and love beats fear.

Being creative and connected to others is the perfect antidote for anxiety and the overwhelming succession of news we can’t control.

So what have I done over the past days to be more creative?

  • Be curious. Learn about new things, get new skills, read stories, talk to people… we’ve gotten so good at videoconferencing and calling, now we can actually try and have a conversation. …

This is the week most of us began working remotely “all the time” and started feeling a bit trapped inside the house.

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Illustrations by Ale Giorgini

Dear reader of the future, this week many of us have been confined inside our houses trying to prevent the spread of a new virus. So much has already been said and tweeted about coronavirus and COVID-19 that I am going to leave it there and not add anything else. Dear reader of the future, you can google it if you really want to know about it. That is, if Google still exists in your time.

So the week started on a Monday, like weeks usually do. Wait, no. That’s terrible. Scratch that, let’s start over again.

What did I do this week? I did A LOT of things. Contrary to my belief that working remotely full time would lead me to long walks in the park with my dog, I discovered that remote work is a never-ending list of things to do, with piles of laundry clothes and unpaired socks in between. And that unless there is good communication with the team, it can feel quite lonely too. So the first thing I learnt is that exercise, regular breaks and routines are essential, as it is to take time off. I would say I started the week OK, then it went down and then up again. …

How am I feeling? I am tired. It’s been an exhausting week, emotionally and psychologically draining, mostly because of everything that’s going on with the coronavirus outbreak.

This week I helped facilitate an ideation workshop with the Inclusive Innovation Camden team. The goal was to bring together Camden residents, planners and developers, to see where their needs intersected and how we could all combine our brains to generate as many ideas as possible in a short amount of time. 🧠✍️🧠✍️🧠✍️

The session went great, but since then, changes have happened so fast, and new measures have been announced. These days we are all exploring videoconferencing options to keep ourselves and others safe.

It all seems so dystopian! On Tuesday I started wearing a mask 😷, I guess more for psychological reassurance than for anything else, and getting into the crowded tube at peak hour trying my best not to touch anything, especially my face. …

The One with the Blueprint

Monday: Started the week with a blueprint workshop to map out our service to enable residents find employment support in Camden. Lots of post-its, brown paper, you know how it goes!

I often use the analogy of a restaurant to describe what a service design blueprint is. If you haven’t heard it, imagine that you own a restaurant. You provide a service to your customers, cooking for them and serving them food. The ‘frontstage’ part of your business is what your guests see (the visible part of the restaurant) and the ‘backstage’, what they don’t (i.e., the kitchen, the office…). Dividing both areas is the door to the kitchen, or “line of visibility”. To design the best experience possible, we need to take into account everything that happens from the moment they first hear about your restaurant, walk through the door and place an order, as well as what needs to happen in the kitchen and even in the office before, during and after. …


Mar Murube

Design and stuff

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