Making digital more inclusive

Recently, the digital design team hosted a workshop at the service design fringe festival 18

Hackney is one of London’s most diverse and dynamic borough and the Council services roughly 275,900 people who are from diverse backgrounds.

Therefore, as Hackney Council staff we have to make sure that we consider the needs of the diverse users and that we deliver services that are inclusive.

Also, because the digital design teams aim is to develop digital services so good that people prefer to use it, we need to make sure that we are putting people at the heart of service delivery.

We are making some progress in becoming more diverse and inclusive by:

  • Promoting equality and diversity through apprenticeship programmes
  • Making efforts to increase underrepresented people into the technology profession
  • Having a range of flexible working options
  • Putting together accessibility lab to make sure that there is no barriers preventing someone from using something
  • Collecting equality data from people signing up to online accounts so that we can better plan and deliver services that our users needs

However, we acknowledge that there is a lot more work to be done. Our aspiration is to not only do better for our users, but to also help the digital profession become more inclusive.

Hosting an event at the service design fringe festival 2018

Recently, we had the opportunity to do this at the The Service Design Fringe Festival 18, which brought attention to issues around diversity and inclusivity in the service design industry.

Part of the event, we designed a workshop that enabled us to have an interdisciplinary discussion about the issue of inclusivity within the service design industry and to collaboratively work out how to make digital and our work more inclusive.

The workshop was made up of 3 parts:

  1. Each table, attendees discussed how diverse they were, as a group
  2. Each table discussed their experiences of diversity and inclusion in their work, focusing on the teams they work in and projects they work on. In relation to the six areas of diversity aligned to those protected by UK equality legislation: age, disability, ethnicity or race, gender, religion or belief, sexual identity
  3. Each table worked out what changes they could make to become more inclusive in the next 5 minutes, 5 days and 5 months

In terms of how diverse the attendees were, we learnt that:

  • Out of the 17 people who attended, 12 identified themselves as female and 5 as male
  • They were from different background and industries, some from digital industries others were students
  • They were in the age range of  28-43 years
  • The had 0-20 years experience working in the digital field

As for the experience our attendees had with diversity and inclusivity when working in team and on projects, we learnt that:

  • Some of the attendees didn’t necessarily know how to discuss the topics. They had difficulties understanding the terminologies used in the discussions, for example sexual identity got mixed with gender equality
  • They generally feel that age isn’t as big a problem when it comes to work, sector dependent
  • They stated that it was difficult to talk about religion/belief unless it was brought up by the other person. They felt that festivities and events allowed for a more organic discussion to be had around religion/belief
  • They felt that there were lots of ethnicity and race diversity at student level but drops off when in a professional environment, particularly in senior leadership
  • They thought that there were mostly men in the senior management roles with pockets of heavily female-weighted leadership across the industry
  • That more technical roles tend to have a high male demographic
  • They thought that sexual identity is something that is not generally considered. This could be seen as a positive as people aren’t discriminating, but could also be seen as a negative as people aren’t able to talk about problems

Finally, the attendees were committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity by setting some actionable goals.  

The attendees said that they will do the following in the next:

5 minutes:

  • Sit at a table of people wouldn’t normally sit with
  • On a project, think about a level of stakeholder wider that they currently do
  • Reflect on the observations from this session
  • Use ‘shock’ facts to raise awareness of lack of diversity in their team, to their team
  • Start conversation with someone outside of their usual relationship demographic
  • Read up on inherent and perceived privileges around diversity

5 days:

  • Create educational campaigns for designers on how to consider sexual identity on projects
  • Set up face-to-face session with different people in the org
  • Within their own teams, run a session similar to ours
  • Open the conversation in a safe environment
  • Build a standard for age ranges in research on projects

5 Months:

  • Be a part of intergenerational mentorship
  • Widen team conversation to wider IT department
  • Raise profile of issue
  • Raise understanding and communicate negative impact of the issue
  • Challenge stereotypical thinking when encountered
  • Proactively approaching diversity of communities: raising awareness of the work that is done and spoken in shared language

What we are doing next?

We will continue to promote diversity and inclusion in Hackney.

We are committed to being a part of this conversation, so we are hosting a cross-government meetup about diversity and inclusion with Government Digital Services in early December.

If you are interested in replicating this workshop with your team, here is a link to the workshop and the script.