This year, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales (LBF) launched their new inclusion funds, aimed at supporting organisations who are led by and for people with lived experience of racial inequity or disabilities.
This is one of many unrestricted funding programmes offered by LBF, but what makes this one different is that it was co-designed with people from organisations who may benefit from this fund.
In April 2022, Hyphen8 partnered with LBF to design a new fund that met the needs of those who are eligible to apply for funding. So, with our user-centred hearts at front, our Service Design Team led LBF through the co-design process to create a brand new fund that really listened to the needs of its users.
Learning how to co-design services
The first step was to introduce the team at LBF to the service design process. We delivered a one day introduction to service design course, where the team were able to get stuck into designing their own services. They created their own user research plans, experimented with ideation techniques and presented their final ideas.
The team were then equipped to create their own plan for co-designing a fund with community organisations. Hyphen8’s Service Design team acted as a sounding board and advisory figure during this stage, ensuring that the team’s plan was realistic and that they had the support needed to deliver their outcomes.
User research and focus groups
The next, and arguably most important phase of this project, was to carry out user research. The LBF team wanted to understand:
- What barriers community organisations faced in accessing funding?
- How can a funder support small community organisations to develop?
- How can funders involve community organisations in the funding process?
We supported the LBF team to facilitate focus groups with a range of staff members from community led organisations to explore these topics. This enabled an open forum for the participants to share their experiences and frustrations of accessing funding. We were able to use these insights to plan co-design days where we used service design methods to develop ideas for a brand new fund.
Collaborating and co-creating
We supported LBF to plan and deliver two in-person co-design days with members of the communities and organisations the new fund aimed to support.
Participants were split into groups, facilitated by a LBF or Hyphen8 team member. Each group had a design topic to consider:
- How can applications be more accessible, simple and flexible for applicants with diverse needs?
- How should funding decisions be made?
- What could peer support and networking look like?
The groups carried out a range of activities that helped them to work towards a vision for the fund, culminating in prototyping their ideas using scissors, glue, coloured paper and pens!
As service designers, we wanted to encourage participants to breach the boundaries that they had felt previously restricted by. Just because something has always been a certain way, this does not mean that the future cannot be different. The key principles that came out of the co-design days were:
- The funding application process should not be a burden to smaller organisations who do not have the capacity to invest a significant amount of time in it
- Accessibility needs to be considered from the outset – organisations need to know there will not be any barriers that will put them at a disadvantage
- People from the target communities should be involved in decision-making, as they often understand their community’s needs better than funders do
- Participants wanted additional support for organisations before applying and during the application process
The co-design days were a great way for a diverse group to come together and help LBF to understand how they can create a new fund that isn’t a “one size fits all” approach.
The key outcomes of the service design approach for LBF in the design of their fund were:
- Pre-application support: LBF have included multiple methods for those considering applying to find out more about the fund, including a webinar and link to book a call to discuss the funding opportunity with a member of the LBF team
- Participatory approach: LBF are recruiting a community panel who will have shared responsibility in deciding who will be awarded, this was a keen suggestion from the co-design participants so that decisions can be made by those who understand the need most
Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales are a great example of how funding can be designed to work for even the most inexperienced applicants with limited resources.
We’re keen to support others in the sector to create ways to make their funding more accessible, not only to reduce barriers to funding, but to improve the ways of working so that funders can get the most out of their teams and systems.
Many of the changes are already being applied across our wider work and there’s no going back to the old ways. For now, we take a breath, see what works and what doesn’t, then we go again making the next round better.