Louth County Council has piloted a new training resource, the Healthy Ireland Design Innovation (HIDI), which assists cross-departmental staff to apply the principles and goals of ‘universal design’ to their local economic and community planning activities. Taking a ‘universal design’ approach provides an ‘awareness framework’ to align innovation across the varying strands of local service and activity planning. As a result, staff can better plan for the integrated health, wellbeing, and participation of all our citizens.
Much of the implementation of recent public policy strands in Ireland addressing inclusivity, sustainability, health, and wellbeing have been converging in objectives and actions that comprise the Local Economic and Community Plans (LECPs) developed within the framework of Local Government planning and delivery. Universal Design is emerging as an inclusive approach to innovative environmental, product and service design. It can guide practice and underpin the development, delivery and evaluation of outputs that span the needs of all citizens in the many dimensions of their lives that fall within the influence of local government actions. Inclusive design is not just for children, families, older persons, or persons with physical and/or intellectual disabilities, it’s for everyone, being together, and sharing a place. The overall learning objective of the HIDI training resource is to raise awareness, up-skill, and foster a deeper appreciation of Universal Design (UD) principles, design goals, and application guidelines across many areas of integrated local county and community development as they relate to promoting health and wellbeing for all. Recognising the important role of the social and physical environment towards positive health outcomes, the HIDI course should help support participants to understand, and undertake more inclusive local planning, design, alignment, implementation, and delivery. The programme is aimed at, and co-designed with, a wide range of stakeholders across diverse disciplines. It is implemented as a series of 4 inter-related modules that are available online and can be completed over a half-day.
- MODULE 1: PRINCIPLES. Module 1 provides an overview of the principles and goals of UD and how it fits within a range of local social and environmental policy and strategy development frameworks affecting health and wellbeing. It addresses place and belonging, planning and design, health and well-being, universal design, drivers for change, addressing accessibility, legal and guidance frameworks and practicing UD.
- MODULE 2: PRACTICES. Module 2 explores a wide range of application areas within domains addressed by LECP/HIDI objectives where UD practices can be applied. It addresses the questions of when and where can universal design be applied in the development and delivery of Local Economic and Community Plans, and healthy county plans.
- MODULE 3: PROCESSES. Module 3 is to introduce the recently adopted standard IS EN 19161 2019 – and explore how it might be adopted within organisations involved in HI/LECPs so that their strategies and plans are Designed for All, and reach the widest range of people.
- MODULE 4: PATHWAYS/TOOLS. Module 4 provides an overview of the issues to consider, and some of the mechanisms available to teams and groups when bringing forward innovative solutions across the LECP/HI application spectrum. The module explores what tools and techniques are at our disposal, and how to channel conflicts into impulses for more inclusive innovation.
The draft on-line programme was piloted in March 2022, with 28 participants enrolling from across all departments. Feedback from the pilot demonstrated its positive value as a training and support resource to help develop more integrated and coherent LECP and Healthy Ireland plans that are both inclusive and sustainable. Before wider roll-out, the development team suggest the following proposed improvements are considered:
- Trial HIDI beyond the boundary of a local authority to a wider range of local collaborative stakeholders (the health services, children’s services, the garda (policing), the community and voluntary sector, economic and enterprise partners )
- Further advance on-going discussions with Institutes in relation to its accreditation within local authorities and across the public sector
- Consider how it might be re-packaged/modularised to address the varying needs of different user groups with different experience levels and purposes for engagement.
- Liaise with related bodies, to ensure and highlight its complimentary nature and value, so that it can align as a supporting resource and framework for organisations directly or indirectly impacted by Universal Design.
- With a very high dependency upon new participatory and co-design development principles and techniques, examine how this dimension can be strengthened within the resource/programme.
- In collaboration with relevant partners, consider its repurposing (or a follow-on format) where it might transition from a learning resource to form part of a more general purpose desk-top guide.
Overall, the HIDI training resource, has been viewed as a very practical and relevant innovation that brings a universal and inclusive design coherence and enhancement to local economic and community planning and services design.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Universal design sits beside many other resources, guidelines and toolkits from statutory agencies and advocacy groups carrying various levels of enforcement, domain authority, or under-pinning evidence bases. It is difficult for cross-departmental staff to approach design from a common perspective and to achieve consistency. There is a need for a synthetic resource that can draw these approaches into a more unified framework that can make it easier for local authorities and their partners to work together with a common understanding. HIDI aligns three innovative aspects to address this unmet need:
- Governance: to ensure that the voices of the many stakeholders are taken on board in shaping its development
- Research: to ensure that the resource is based upon the most up-to-date information sources
- Design Development and Pilot Testing: to ensure that the resource is appropriately designed to be successfully delivered in the diverse operating contexts of relevant stakeholders
What is the current status of your innovation?
Louth County Council are committed to the value of HIDI innovation, both as a cross and inter-departmental resource for integrated community planning, and as a collaborative resource for inter-agency (mostly health services) and cross sectoral engagement and cooperation with relevant CSO/NGOs. It is preparing to iterate a series of follow-on pilot testing in the following contexts:
With the local and regional Health Service Executive – particularly the health promotion/ health and well-being group, the disability services group, and the older peoples’ services group
Getting it reviewed by several stakeholders
Exploring its accreditation
Collaborations & Partnerships
Roderick Bond Service Innovation is a company providing consulting on a range of public policy issue. Rodd is an architect by training and is renowned for his work in Age Friendly and Universal Design. Rodd is also Chair of the Louth Age Friendly Alliance.
Rodd was ably assisted by Caitriona Shaffrey from CPA Architects. Caitriona has served as Honorary Secretary of the Institute of Design and Disability
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The pilot focused on local authority staff ranging from technical to professional and administration. Those with little prior knowledge of UD came away with an understanding of how vital UD principles are in our daily work and for those technical and professional staff it was a reminder of the value of applying UD in their everyday work
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
28 participants took part in the pilot. The impact was most obvious for those with no previous understanding of UD. Those with previous experience mentioned the value as a reminder of the benefits of applying UD in their work. Feedback was very positive with participants noting the specific value of the practices module. The benefit of an available training and support resource will have a continued impact on participants in their daily work. The results and impacts were measured by gathering feedback on the day using MentiMeter, from staff members after the event and from reflections by the design team. In the future, it is expected that the course will be tailored to deliver departmental specific modules throughout LCC. It is expected to roll out the modules to other local authorities through the CCMA of which Louth is a member. There is also an opportunity to consider the project’s orientation and delivery to a wider range of stakeholders (Health Services, Police etc.).
Challenges and Failures
The main challenge in delivery of the project occurred due to Covid restrictions. Delivery of the modules had to be adapted from a face to face delivery concept to an online delivery. The modules were adapted for delivery via Zoom which worked well but limited somewhat the interaction between the design team and the participants. Another challenge encountered by the delivery team was the varying levels of awareness of Universal Design among the participants. However, this challenge has presented an opportunity to fine tune existing modules and to design modules for both specific departmental needs (Planning and Design vs. Customer Service) but also to design modules for varying levels of awareness and knowledge.
Conditions for Success
Leadership and guidance from the CE and Management team in Louth County Council is a basic requirement for driving this project forward. Continued support will be needed to roll out department specific modules within Louth County Council. Along with support from the council itself, support from our CE is the key to progressing the project beyond the limits of the council. As a member of the County and City Management Association the CE can highlight the modules and their value to the 31 local authorities in Ireland. Human and financial resources will be needed to improve and replicate the project and to further finesse and professionalise the modules, however there are opportunities to avail of grants to do this. Supporting infrastructure and services will also be important to expand the reach of modules. Having the investment of structures such as the CCMA and the Local Community and Development Committee in the project, will ensure buy in and replication of the project
There are endless possibilities to replicate and extend the modules. This will allow for delivery of both awareness level specific and departmental specific training in the use of UD in our daily work within LCC. There is also an opportunity to fine tune the modules for delivery to targeted groups and departments in other local authorities and public services such as technical staff or customer service. The flexibility of the online modules will allow for them to be refined and delivered to other stakeholders such as Approved Housing Bodies, the Housing Agency, The Centre of Excellence for Universal design, Disability groups and through students. Refinement of the modules to cover specific topics such as Dementia friendly UD, would broaden the reach of the project. The need for an on-line, desk side resource for service design innovators was highlighted during the pilot and again this is an opportunity to create another innovative aspect to this project bring real value and benefits
The learning from the pilot project fall into two categories, content and delivery. Our feedback indicated that the content of the pilot modules needs to be pitched at the correct level for different audiences. Adaptation of the modules will be needed to reflect the level of knowledge and awareness of participants. Feedback also raised the need for more concrete examples of good and bad UD practice especially for those with a limited knowledge of the concept. The importance of having an engaging presenter will improve the modules both online and face to face.
The main learning from the pilot is the flexibility of the project. Because the modules had to be changed to an online presentation due to Covid, going forward the modules can be delivered as pre-recorded modules online, face to face presentations and in a hybrid model if needed. The flexibility of designing multiple need specific modules means they can be delivered individually or as a package of modules to suit the audience
We are happy to share the modules at no fee within the Local Authority structure and to other interested stakeholders. We will need to revisit the modules to allow for design and delivery with professional recording which can then be made available to those interested in learning about UD.
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