Irene, Richard and I spent 6 months (through the pandemic) designing a systemic intervention to promote organic social cohesion in communities across the Midlands by exploring ways to create a more socially enabled resident experience with increased opportunities for sharing, collaboration and support.
Population density is on the rise but so is social isolation!
We partnered with the Walsall Housing Group (whg) who have more than 24,000 homes across Walsall and are keen on improving community cohesion and providing a higher quality resident experience for their social and affordable rent homes. As service designers we saw an opportunity to design for existing properties with a mix of old and new residents.
Alarming rates of social isolation coupled with increasing population density means more disconnected community life but what does translate to for residents?
Solution: we asked ourselves, can the future of housing services be a more socially enabled resident experience?
Knock Knock taps into a unique leverage point.
We formed a hypothesis; a conscious approach to introduce people to their communities and integrate them with the space will promote stronger social cohesion.
From our research we identified 3 key areas to consider when augmenting a resident's social capacity. These were getting to know your neighbors, getting to know your community and developing a relationship with the location.
Knock Knock provides two tools, a social kit and a digital platform. The social kit contains fun items and activities to help you approach your neighbors, explore the area and establish a relationship with your community. Residents can opt in the social kit and it will come with default items that includes challenge cards and community postcards. This allows residents to engage with their neighbors indirectly through various nudge strategies. We also offer a digital platform that provides practical information and access to other community activities like a drop in tea session to meet other residents or our treasure hunt to explore the area and its community assets like local businesses, outdoor activities and more.
After our initial research phase, we ran the now 'classic' zoom workshop with Walsall residents and whg stakeholders. The workshop helped us unpack valuable information around the resident experience, customer journeys, organizational operational burdens and larger aspirations around community life
We brought our idea to life in pure pandemic style through a prototype website. The prototype was created with 30+ residents in London and Walsall between the ages of 24 - 65. You can check it out here
Through our prototype session with 25 residents in Walsall and London, we learned that there were nuances to delivering a socially enabled resident experience. We learned that while people have a high level of motivation to connect with other community members, they need some support to do things. Importantly our service needed to provide social opportunities with disguised social intentions, allow people to opt in based on their needs, be resident led and not seem forced.
Outcome: Piloting Knock Knock with 40 residents
Our concept received positive feedback from both whg stakeholders and residents who were passionate about bringing this concept to life with us. We are now in the middle of blueprinting early stage pilot programs with 40+ residents in 4 high-rise apartments to improve the feasibility of our concept and allow it to seamlessly integrate into whg’s operational model.
Knock Knock aims to help housing associations or letting agencies foster a sense of belonging for the residents in their communities and augment community cohesion.
Through access to Knock Knock’s tools, community stakeholders, housing groups and residents will be able to co-create their path to higher community cohesion through increased ownership of their community experiences and increased sharing, collaboration and support amongst stakeholders.
We believe that enhancing customer satisfaction will lead to better sharing of operational burden with fewer residents depending on organizational support to solve problems. From our research we’ve also identified that this can increase tenancy terms of residents, creating a win-win situation for both residents and housing service providers. We also speculate that Knock Knock’s extended community partnerships with local businesses, local council services and local community activities like clubs will improve wealth circulation in the local economy and make communities more resilient to change in the long run.
The Knock Knock effect: