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Empowering Citizens as Agents of Change: Design for Solutions in a Post-COVID World
Beyond immediate impact on health, the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to leave longer-term impact on our community. Reduced economic activity has contributed to a number of residents without jobs, heightening financial insecurity and mental stress. Circuit Breaker and safe distancing measures have been associated with increased isolation, a reduction in social interaction and access to healthcare, built-up tensions at home, with reported increase of domestic violence.
A post-COVID world will be very different from the world we hope we can return to.
Social distancing has, and will continue to impact the way we live and interact. Short to mid-term challenges include: access to care, keeping fit, maintaining healthy relationships with family and friends and ensuring the mental well-being of vulnerable groups.
To support the community to adjust to a post-COVID world, MOHT – in collaboration with National Council of Social Service (NCSS), Design Singapore Council (DSG) and National University of Singapore Institute of System Science (NUS ISS) – launched Design4Impact, a health and social care initiative for Singaporeans to help fellow Singaporeans.
Design4Impact is an initiative that empowers social-minded groups to come together, identify pressing health and social needs of Singaporeans affected by COVID, and be given the skills, resources, training, support and networks to innovate and develop sustainable, community-owned solutions to these problems.
Design4Impact is the first design initiative to traverse the health and social care sectors. Care models designed take into consideration that social, behavioural and environmental factors play a big role in the health and well-being of patients. The effort will be piloted in Greater Jurong Lake District, with a view to scaling the more successful ideas.
These efforts will see community providers, grassroots organisations, VWOs, patients, caregivers and volunteers coming together to co-design solutions not just for the immediate problems, but also to re-imagine a future post COVID -19.
For a start, the team will solution around three key issues faced by the community, namely: social isolation, continued access to health and social care, and facilitating physical and mental health during and after COVID-19.
Over three weeks in June and July, DSG and NUS-ISS facilitators will conduct virtual design thinking workshops to take participants through the full design thinking cycle with an experiential output-focused, impact-inspired programme designed both to introduce key concepts, tools, and skills, as well as encouraging a collaborative, co-creation focused approach to future solutioning.
Training, which comprises plenaries, breakout activities, coaching and user testing sessions, will be conducted via videoconferencing and collaborative digital platforms. Mentorship will be provided by health and social care practitioners.
On completion of the programme, participants should be able to use key design thinking tools and have an increased awareness of the benefits and opportunities of using design thinking in complex settings.
Whilst low fidelity prototypes will be initially created, participants with the winning entries will be granted seed funding to kickstart and implement their solutions with opportunity for larger funding sources for longer-term projects. Participants will continue to receive post-training support, with links to relevant resources and networks in the community.
We envisage that in the not-too-distant future, we will build a community of carers and empowered citizens in a vibrant health, social care and design ecosystem offering peer support and building community.