Hackney Spacebank: Weeknote, w/c 2.9.2019

Cute piglet crossing a finishing line

Our discovery phase is officially “done”. We did our final feedback session with the community halls team on Wednesday. We used this time to present our ideas for improving the experience of accessing and booking community halls and hear back from the team about which ideas to prioritise. 

Here’s some things I am particularly proud of:

Adversity breeds innovation

We always struggle to recruit research participants. This is because we need to speak to a particular subset of people that are hard to track down. Sam and Winston have chased down every lead with patience and determination. We’ve experimented with recruitment surveys (a simple google form) on Facebook, Twitter and links in email signatures. To find “untapped bookers” we did desk based research to find groups that were meeting up in the borough and followed this up with emails inviting them to have a chat with us.  

Experimenting with a kanban approach

This probably needs a separate blog to unpick why we tried this and what we’ve learnt. In brief, the team felt constrained by defined sprints, so we opted to try using a kanban style of managing our backlog and time. Working in sprints was a real sticking point and I’m pleased that we came up with a different way of approaching delivery and the openness of the team to try something different. 

Working with colleagues from housing services

There is a wider review underway of community halls. Their approach and time frames are different to ours, but we’ve found ways of working effectively together. We’ve attended their fortnightly project review meetings and they have participated in our show and tells. We’ve introduced some agile techniques; for example, using a standup format to shape the agenda of the review meetings. 

What happens now? We’re unsure at the moment. We’d love to move into an Alpha phase* but we need to see how this fits with wider review. We also need to make progress with work with libraries. We promised them “a thing” and we need to get cracking now we’ve finished the community halls discovery. My reflection is that Spacebank is two streams of work under one vision. Juggling our responsibilities to the services we are working with is uppermost in my mind. 

*We call this prototype phase at Hackney 

Hackney Spacebank: Weeknote, w/c 27th August.

It’s been all about tying up loose ends this week. Made harder by a bank holiday on Monday. I’ve grumbled about bank holidays messing up my sprints in previous posts. Perhaps the problem is with my planning… 🙂

We’ve finished the analysis of our interviews with external and internal bookers. Thanks to Sam and Winston for facilitating the affinity sort with the whole team. It’s more work, but we all have a collective understanding the user experience, which is invaluable. 

We managed two interviews with untapped bookers. It’s not enough to generate insights, but we have flavour of their experience. There’s more to do here and something we will return to. The team have put in a lot of effort to tracking down this elusive potential user group. It’s been a time consuming task and taken longer than we anticipated.

We had to make a tough decision and de-scope interviews with Tenants and Residents Associations who manage community halls. We hoped to get an idea of how they organised access and bookings. They are not our primary focus at the moment, but something we still keen to learn about further down the line. 

Next week, it’s our final feedback session (show and tell). The focus will be on testing out ideas for a possible Alpha phase (we call this prototype phase at Hackney). We want to get a sense of priorities from our stakeholders. 

Finally, my thanks to Neil for his comment on last week’s musings. We love feedback, it helps us get better. I’ll be adding links to research summaries in future weeknotes and work on getting the broken links fixed on Pipeline. 

Hackney Spacebank: Weeknote, w/c 19th August 2019

A highlight from this week has been our feedback session with the community halls team and stakeholders. In agile parlance this is a “show and tell”. We are experimenting with naming it differently to see if it encourages wider participation. 

Our key aims were to:

  • Playback what we’ve learnt from our user research so far
  • Gather feedback on the findings
  • Identify where we might have gaps in our emerging learning

We wanted to create an environment where attendees would feel comfortable and able to contribute. We jumped on a bus and headed to Stamford Hill where the community halls team are based. We left our agile paraphernalia* behind. Instead we used flip chart paper and some simple feedback forms** to generate discussion. Naturally, we provided snacks: sweet, salty and healthy to cover a range of preferences 🙂 

We knew we would be parroting some information back to the team they already knew. We wanted to test their reaction and sense check our understanding. This included:

  • Communication with bookers is largely over the phone, this is quicker than using email
  • Gaining access to halls often relies on a third party
  • The booking process can be challenging for bookers and administrators

The response*** was reassuring – we are on the right track. Crucially, we wanted to understand where the gaps in our research might be. The team helped us identify the following areas:

  • Free use/ priority policy for residents
  • Understand what happens in the 2 week notice period
  • Council payment process

In the next feedback session on 4th September, we’ll be presenting some hypotheses based on alleviating pain points for community hall bookers and the team. 

*Postit notes and sharpies

**From the excellent Seeds of Change facilitation handbook

*** There was good challenge too

Hackney Spacebank: weeknote, w/c 12th August

Meet the unicorn of omniscience – handsome isn’t he.

Three things you need to know about Spacebank this week:


1. The end of our discovery is looming

We are aiming to finish our discovery work on community halls by the end of August. There’s nothing a deadline to help us focus on what’s important vs. what’s nice to have. The trick is finding the sweet spot of knowing enough to make a decision about what to do next, rather than chasing the unicorn of omniscience. 


2. Observation of community halls team

Our researchers Sam and Winston spent a few hours observing the community hall team this week. They shadowed colleagues who are responsible for one-off and repeat bookings. It was great to experience first hand how the team deals with enquiries and handle bookings. This extra detail really adds to our understanding about the process. Thanks to Coralie and her team for giving us their time and insight. 


3. Up next

We’ve got a feedback session next Tuesday with stakeholders. We’ll be sharing what we’ve learnt so far and what we’re planning to do next. Hearing what they think is really important to us – good or bad. Their feedback will help shape where we focus our efforts in the next couple of weeks.

We’ll be analysing all the data we’ve gathered from our interviews with the community halls team and existing bookers. We are looking for themes within and across both groups and using the information to build journey maps. We’re also organising interviews with colleagues who use community halls and “non-bookers”. 

Hackney Spacebank: Weeknote, w/c 5th August

Community Halls Discovery – Trello board

The team is a bit depleted because of annual leave, but work is still progressing at a good pace. We are about half way through our discovery phase. A big thank you to our colleagues in the community halls team, housing and the NCC team for generously giving us their time and expertise. 

A few highlights:

  • Completed initial interviews with the community halls team
  • Successful recruitment drive for research participants
  • Visits to community halls

We asked potential research participants a few questions about their experience of booking community halls. This was to get a flavour of what they used halls for, how they booked, and what they thought could be improved. These are early insights, which we will explore more fully in 1-2-1 interviews. Suggested improvements focussed mainly on:

  • Cost
  • Condition of the venue
  • Booking process

What’s next?

We are continuing our interviews with people who book community halls. We will also be talking to internal users, including colleagues from public health, Hackney Learning Trust and Hackney Works. 

We are keen to speak to people who don’t book halls. We want to understand the barriers to accessing space from their perspective. The team are getting creative in the search for elusive “non-bookers”. User research requires some serious sleuthing skills – Sam, Winston and Joy could have lucrative side hustles as private detectives. 

Our next big task – an epic in agile parlance – is to analyze all the research findings and start to identify themes. More on this over the next couple of weeks.