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Co-designing an urgent response to mental health and wellbeing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic

By

  • Paper Giant
  • Beyond Blue

Description

We partnered with Beyond Blue and people with lived experience of mental health challenges to explore the impact COVID-19 is having on mental health, and to co-design initiatives that respond to those needs.

Over six weeks, we engaged deeply with an online co-design community of 30 people from across Australia: listening, learning, and generating concepts and solutions.

This project demonstrates the value of co-design to help organisations make sense of new challenges, focus and orient their response, and act with compassion and confidence. It provides a practical example of genuine, inclusive, respectful and purposeful co-design with people with lived experience.

Key Features

1

Through careful design and facilitation, we created an environment for our co-design community to safely participate in a wide range of reflective and generative activities and discussions in response to the challenges of COVID-19.
Multiple modes of synchronous and asynchronous engagement were developed to ensure that everyone had opportunities to contribute meaningfully to the generation, iteration and refinement of concepts and solutions. This community-led approach equipped Beyond Blue with practical, functional and actionable service ideas that are grounded in lived experience and real needs.

2

The ambiguity of a pandemic context demands ideas and solutions that respond to real challenges and will make a difference to people’s lives. By co-designing with people with lived experience, Beyond Blue can respond with confidence, intent and empathy.

The roadmap of work goes beyond addressing the immediate symptoms of COVID-19 and responds to the underlying and systemic challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. This strategic approach will enable Beyond Blue to create real and lasting change, working towards a future where “mental health” is not a clinical diagnosis or something to be fixed, but a part of our everyday lives.

3

This project sets a new benchmark for co-designing with people with lived experience in challenging environments. It demonstrates the considerations and conditions required to create safe, collaborative communities and involve those communities in helping organisations rapidly respond to challenges facing their clients and users. It showcases effective online co-design, best-practice community engagement, and how synchronous and asynchronous methods can be balanced for maximum user engagement.
While co-design is talked about extensively, there are few examples that are truly inclusive, participative, respectful and adaptable. This project is an exemplar of effective partnerships, deep listening, reciprocal learning and sharing power with communities.

4

COVID-19 has brought significant mental health and wellbeing challenges for people across Australia. Overnight, Beyond Blue needed to respond to the emergent needs of their existing users plus an entirely new group of people seeking help and navigating the mental health system for the first time.
By working with diverse Beyond Blue stakeholders and integrating community-led research and ideas with existing strategies, initiatives and capabilities, we brought clarity to Beyond Blue’s understanding of the challenges of COVID-19 and provided immediate direction to their organisation-wide response.
“I loved this whole process. It made me feel valued and heard.” — Co-Design Participant

5

Inviting people to share their personal experiences of mental health during COVID-19 required careful planning to ensure the safety of everyone involved. We developed appropriate care structures, including clinical support, regular check-ins and debriefings, access to professional services, and self-care tips, and made sure they were available for all participants and members of the Beyond Blue and Paper Giant teams.
We also made sure participants felt comfortable changing their participation level to accommodate the fluctuations in their daily lives, general wellbeing and mental health. These considerations allowed everyone to express themselves and dive into the co-design process.

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