Running Design Sprints to Support Parents of Children With Disabilities

Can Design Sprints be used for bettering our community and fostering positive social change? Studio Cocreatie proves they can! Find out how in this article.

Design Sprints are great for making headway on big decisions, aligning teams, and solving complex business challenges. 

This is why tech giants, corporates, and startups alike have long adopted Design Sprint as their go-to tool for staying competitive in the market.  

But can Sprints be used for achieving something bigger than just a business KPI? Something like solving social injustice, giving back to our communities, and spreading positive change? Spoiler alert: yes!

We reached out to the Design Sprint Masterclass alumni and asked them about how they used Sprints to solve impact-driven challenges, and their stories blew us away! Read on to find out how Michiel de Vos from Studio Cocreatie, Marcel de Groot, and Yvonne Haneman from Informal Care Project teamed up with Ground8, a local organization based in the Netherlands, to positively impact the lives of parents whose children have disabilities. 

Haven’t heard about a Design Sprint before and wondering what the whole buzz is all about? We got you! Read this article to find out what a Design Sprint is (and why companies all around the world go crazy  about it!)

The Start of the Project

Studio Cocreatie's main focus lies in applying Design Thinking and Design Sprint to take on pressing social issues, bring the society forward, and bridge the gap between organizations, policymakers, and people.  

Together with Ground8, an organization that empowers local neighborhoods by creating bottom-up movements through learning labs, the Cocreatie’s team initiated a project around the problems parents of disabled children face by organizing informal care.

To ensure all relevant stakeholders had a say in the process, the team invited local welfare organizations such as Tandem (informal care), SIG (professional care for disabled people) and STG (organization for local voluntary assistance to disabled people).

Supporting parents of children with disabilities

Finding out their children need structural special care is a very emotional, and vulnerable moment for the parents. 

At the same time, it’s the moment when they need to start organizing their family life anew. They step into the whole new world of hospitals, care, welfare, schools, and subsidies.

The most challenging part?

There’s no roadmap or blueprint available for these situations. Care is often decentralized, and navigating the bureaucracy of caring for someone with a disability, while balancing one’s one emotional state is tough to say the least. Under this immense pressure, a staggering 60% of parents end up with a burn-out, while their home-situation does not allow for it. 

Time to take action.

Want to learn more about the Design Sprint? Join Facilitator Club and connect with experts in the field

The Sprint Team

The Sprint team included 7 participants, each of them bringing a different and relevant perspective on the subject

  • The Decider: a father of a disabled child
  • Product Owner: informal care consultant
  • Legal Expert: an informal care broker
  • Social Designer
  • Theater Maker
  • An entrepreneur focussed on reorganizing local societies 
  • A Facilitator 

The Sprint Questions

The Sprint team decided to focus on the following Sprint questions:

  • Can we improve the lives of parents of disabled children? How can we help them on a short notice and in the long term?
  • How can we capture and share the experience these parents have?
  • How can we have organizations solve the problems who seem unsolvable?

The Expert Interviews with caregiving professionals and parents of children with disabilities revealed the daily struggles the families face and unearthed some patterns:

  • Parents struggle to balance the requirements of their day job with their situation at home
  • The laws and rules for getting help differ per municipality, making experiences exchange between families from different municipalities difficult.
  • There is no step-by-step plan for providing informal care, which makes it difficult for families to create long-term plans.
  • The importance of mental support for both parents and children is recognized too late, making families vulnerable and prone to burnouts. 
  • Families are often operating reactively, without having the time and resources to create a longer-term plan. 

During the mapping phase it became increasingly clear that the Sprint team needs to focus on the stage when children get diagnosed and parents need to create an action plan: The crucial period in which the parents need to reorganize the family life and need the most support. 

Testing the Prototype

As the result of the Sprint, the team came up with the concept of an integral neighbourhood company–a place where parents can get help with finding solutions on a very local level. Exploring how the neighbours can help, connecting to other parents in similar situations, and getting access to local organizations.

The three main elements of this concept included:

  1. A One-Stop Shop: one window for all your questions. A place for parents to get help on a short-notice, so they have time to adjust to the situation,  as well as having a reference partner for planning out long-term solutions. 
  2. Community for parents, where they share their stories and experiences, ask questions and stay up to date on the latest developments.
  3. A learning lab where organizations can work together on the problems.

The prototype took the form of a consultation between a parent and a professional informal care consultant, which were arranged via a Zoom call, and received an overwhelmingly positive feedback form the parents. 

The Outcomes

The most important outcome of the Sprint was the start of the One-Stop Shop by Tandem. The team rolled out a  PR campaign with radio interviews and magazine features ahead of the launch, which attracted other organizations who are willing to contribute and cooperate. 

The team has also worked out a value proposition and a business model, and started an online meet-up community. The students from Hogeschool Inholland CityLab are currently working to further establish the community through mini-sprints with parents.

But while the launch did bring a lot of positive attention to the issue, and generated urgency among the policymakers, there’s still work to be done.

While the test results on the prototype were good, the turn-up rates at the One-Stop Shop are below what the team had expected. The team continues to work to uncover what is stopping the parents from using the service, which threshold needs to be lowered, and how to give help to as many parents as possible.

Did you run a Design Sprint that tackles a pressing social issue or helps better your community? Submit your story here and we’ll share it on our channels!

Want to stay up-to-date on this project and follow other exciting initiatives from Studio Cocreatie?  Then check out their website here.

Michiel de Vos

Co-founder of Studio Cocreatie. Bridging the gap between organizations, policymakers, and people.