October 14, 2022 by 4 Comments | Category Connecting Scotland, Digital Citizen Unit, Digital Scotland

Blog by Eilidh Mclaughlin, Head of the Digital Citizen Unit, Digital Directorate.

I wrote my first ever blog a couple of months ago. Everyone was very kind and it got some good feedback. So I thought I would follow it up…

So welcome! Salutogenese! Saluto-what?!

No it isn’t cheese. More’s the pity. Or a welcome in any language (*as far as I am aware). It originated in the health space and relates to looking at factors that support wellbeing rather than at those which are creating the problem. Using a salutogenic approach means examining a whole range of factors – including environmental, social, emotional and intellectual – to promote good health rather than just tackling illness. In societal terms, and in Scottish Government terms, this means looking at a person centred approach. It means dealing not just with the perceived problem or the issues the problem creates, but actually making an improvement to someone’s life that can have a ripple effect to other parts for that person or for those they love.

The word spoke to me. It reminded me that we have opportunity to do things differently; to really embed the Scottish Approach to Service Design; to be thoughtful around the messages of people like Hilary Cottam. It made me realise that although I have spoken before about designing for the 20% and not the 80% in society, it is more than that, it is involving them at every step of the way. We cannot seek to resolve matters for people, we are here to facilitate resolving matters WITH people.

But why is this important? It is fundamental, not just important. It speaks to respect. A development of trust, in partnership, and open engagement. These are factors underpinning the Digital Citizen Unit I lead in the Scottish Government. The ethical approach we are adopting to our work requires us to think hard, seek and engage, embed views and work on feedback. It requires a solid evidence-based approach focussing on supporting others rather than just treating the issues that they face.

Motivation in this space is HUGE. It cannot be underestimated. How many of us are really motivated to do the hoovering?? What do you get out of it? A clean floor. Yes, but then someone walks on it. What about exercise? What about protecting others? What about pride in appearance to others? What about pride in the home? What about doing it out of love to care for someone else? These are the motivational factors that need to emphasised. Connecting digitally is exactly the same.

What stops people from being connected digitally? Mistrust? Or something more intrinsic to them: poverty, disability, lack of understanding? Someone I was speaking to recently told me about the concept of FERC. I loved it. FERC = frustration, effort, risk and cost. These factors must be considered in weighing up whether someone wants to connect. They all can be considered in supporting wellbeing too (yes, I know, salutogenese). Getting past the frustration by use of positive motivation, putting in the effort with someone to help them, cutting their risk by making them feel safe and doing so at no cost to themselves other than a little time. Each person is unique in their FERC though and each time this must be considered on a personal basis. By bringing the user into that process, we are putting those who benefit at the heart of what we do and supporting their wellbeing.

I have a niggle though.

What about ethics? Is it always the right thing to do to connect someone digitally? There are so many arguments in this space, pros and cons. A lot of individual factors come into play. What about comprehension and the ability to understand the abstract? What’s the cost in terms of the climate? Are we sure that everyone understands where their data is at all times? What about when it all goes wrong? These questions are important to ask. They are more important to answer, but again, not on your (or indeed, my) own. Ethical questions such as these can only be considered by a view from all backgrounds, sectors and experiences. This is, again, about ensuring that the user is at the heart of everything we do. Not the theoretical user, the real user.

But that is, sadly, the hardest part of all? Genuinely, how do you get people involved in their own salutogenese? You, dear reader (I now feel like Jane Austen), can help. If this blog has interested you, share it, talk about it, use it as your motivation to consider what is out there that you can get involved with. This doesn’t have to be with government, or digital, it is what interests you. Start anywhere, follow it everywhere. Who knows where it might lead? But I have a hope that, maybe, just maybe, it will lead you back to helping me in my mission to help others. Most things do result in helping others. We are after all, human. We can all use a bit of salutogenese.

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  • Eilidh McLaughlin says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences John!

  • john mortimer says:

    The issue of understanding the complex needs of citizens is something that is desperately needed today, because we have designed our services to bested alone. And we require citizens to themselves come to those services. I undertook a ICS systemic design in community health and social care (local authority & NHS) recently in England, and the most difficult thing to do with the team of front line professionals, was for them to discard their assessment rote, and try and understand the true systemic needs of the citizens they were dealing with. The purpose of the prototype became ‘ help me to live a good life’
    Eventually, we managed and then the transformation that came from engaging, developing trust, and then understand, was the starting point of doing as you describe in your blog. The results were a whole shift in mindset and ways of working.

  • Eilidh McLaughlin says:

    Hi Paul

    Thanks for the comment, I like the feedback! I tend to approach it from the other angle. I believe that if you can design for the 20, then a lot of what you do (if not all) will suit the 80. It is harder but more effective and you really get to the people who are at most need. You also don’t exclude them and disengage them from the outset. The article was trying to make the point that we should stop treating symptoms (the problems) and try and treat the want, which would usually relate to the need in the first place. I am glad it has provoked thought!

  • Paul Carroll says:

    Interesting shift – starting a design process by asking what someone wants rather than what’s the problem we need to solve. Presently we’re asking from a local service provider perspective and the perspective is ‘can that save us money.‘ FERC. Ideally digital saves money for the 80% so we can design for the 20%. We need some evidence though.

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