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The MyCompass Story

By Ben Weinlick, MA Senior Leader of Research and Social Innovation.
The MyCompass Story

How it began

After five years of exploring needs, prototyping and testing alongside people with disabilities, families, service providers and government funders we launched a social innovation in 2017 that aims to humanize the case management experience and transform how social service agencies plan with people served.

This social innovation in planning and case management developed in deep collaboration by Skills Society, Southern Alberta Community Living Association, myself (Ben Weinlick) and Lift Interactive is called MyCompass: People Powered Planning.

Humanizing planning and case management experience

We had four initial goals for MyCompass 1. We wanted to transform service planning from what can often be a bureaucratic, de-humanizing and less than engaging experience, into a delightful, insightful and truly meaningful collaboration. 2. We wanted to make it easier for people receiving services-and their families-to be at the helm when designing the service they deserve and want.

Humanizing planning and case management experience

We wanted to make it easier and more meaningful to follow up on plans so there is increased accountability that a person’s plan is acted upon and achieved. 4. We wanted the app to be a training and skill enhancing tool for human service workers who’s role is central in ensuring plans are high quality and centered on what a person receiving service wants and needs.

Why Build Something Like My Compass?

People with disabilities want good lives like any other citizen. Helping people with disabilities to plan and chart a course towards all the things that bring joy and opportunities can be complex and tricky to do well. Disability services as a whole have struggled for years to find the right processes and systems for planning that are humanized, consistent and flexible enough to be adapted to a person's individual needs. In the past when tools and systems for person centered planning were found and implemented, often the experience was a little bureaucratic, rigid and less than enlightening for people. The MyCompass Planning partners wanted to be part of building on the great work of person centered planning that's been going on for thirty plus years. And we wanted to take it a step further to harness new technologies that can help humanize interactions in how planning and case management unfolds.

Seeds Of The Idea

Innovation Often Emerges From Looking Outside Our Silos

Around 8 years ago my side project startup, Think Jar Collective was invited to Pixar studios for an event that aimed to intersect disciplines and provoke creative collisions between social causes, the design world and technology. It was there, learning from people with perspectives and disciplines different from mine, that I really got interested in finding ways to intersect Human Centered Design Thinking principles with disability service design. Design Thinking in a nutshell is about disciplined problem solving and really empathizing, learning and listening to the people we are trying to design solutions with. Since this creative collision at Pixar, Skills Society has also been integrating human centred design thinking into our social inclusion think tank process now called the Citizen Action Lab and Design Thinking has guided the MyCompass app design.

Design Interactions for Positive Change

Positive change happens less through designing stuff that asks people to think and behave a certain way, and more through designing the interactions and conditions for the positive change to emerge naturally.

There was a particular principle of design I heard at the Pixar conference from IDEO's Tim Brown that stuck with me and sparked what has become a guiding design principle of MyCompass. The principle is the notion that positive change happens less through designing stuff that asks people to think and behave a certain way, and more through designing the interactions and conditions for the positive change to emerge naturally. In other words, as people we rarely change, adopt values or behaviours when we are asked to, we are more likely to change or adopt a new positive value or behaviour if an interaction is designed that naturally brings that out. For example, I used to be horrible at keeping track of meetings and tasks because I just couldn't remember to bring an agenda book with me everywhere I went. Being told I should bring an agenda book and even realizing it myself that an agenda book would help, didn't cause me to change. What helped me finally make the change was when the new behaviour of having a smart phone and a calendar on my phone was introduced as part of a regular interaction in life in our times. This design principle of designing interactions for change really intrigued me. I realized that for years I'd been designing what had been considered generally successful courses for disability support workers, but that the courses mainly had a one sided approach of showing people the reasons they should have certain values and practices that support people with disabilities to have good lives. I began to wonder if a design for interactions principle could potentially amplify the impact of our values driven approach to change.

Re-designing Traditional Planning Interactions

We have designed interactions in MyCompass Planning where in a way the interactions can bring out the expression of values and behaviours people we support are looking for.

We have designed interactions in MyCompass Planning where in a way the interactions can bring out the expression of values and behaviours people we support are looking for. For instance one example is how we have designed humanizing interactions in how daily log notes are documented and recorded. Traditionally, log notes are necessary for reporting, but often the systems are unintentionally set up to cause support workers to focus mainly on whether there were any challenges to note. With MyCompass, we have designed an interaction through log notes where not only are the important traditional things documented but also an interaction is elicited to help spark story telling conversations and ways to visually document and reflect on cool things that happen in a person's day. This means actions which cause people to focus on humanizing interactions and story telling happen daily because of how the MyCompass interaction is designed. Anecdotally this is already showing promise as an impactful approach to supporting positive interaction and support between support workers and people served.

At Skills Society we still need to keep learning and leading the long term work of culture building, values and attitude shifts through our training and various workshops and flagship initiatives like Project Citizenship, AND it is important we keep exploring and testing innovative approaches to leading systemic change through things like MyCompass. Through rolling out MyCompass planning across Skills Society, SACLA in Lethbridge and further now across North America, we have a shot at making a positive systemic shift that truly humanizes the planning, case management and daily support experience of people with disabilities.

Huge thanks to the citizens with disabilities, self-advocates from the S AF in Edmonton and S AIP A in L ethbridge, family members, S kills S ociety and SACLA leaders from all levels in our organizations, Government of Alberta champions and Lift Interactive for sharing your ideas, insights and experience which has made MyCompass something quite special and impactful.