Surrey Update #3: Synthesis in our studio

For two weeks in December, four members of the Grounded Space team were immersed in a Surrey, BC community. We were invited in by Options Community Services and other community service organizations who were curious about our Quick Dive approach to user-focussed research.

Our mission?

To connect, listen and learn from service users and service providers about their experiences, including in a social housing complex, in shelters, and on the streets.

Our questions? Where do people go? What do they do during the days and nights? What stressors are in their life? What services are they accessing? How does the system define them? How do they define themselves and their roles, connections, skills, interests and aspirations? What is most important in life for them now? What is helpful help? What is unhelpful help? What informal supports do they have? What is their story, as they wish to tell it? What would increase their well-being?

We visited 32 organizations, and learned from 31 service users and 19 staff.

We connected over coffee, meals, interests and the power of a good question, an open mind and deep listening. Back at the studio, we have been immersed in the data over the past few weeks. Our processes? Segment the data in as many ways as we can dream up, look for patterns and themes, discern key pain points, look for the ingredients that contribute to well-being and thriving, and identify opportunities. Then we figure out how to present the discoveries through stories, visuals and activities.

What does the Quick Dive synthesis process look like?

We are wondering...

How do we acknowledge the recurring and often heartbreaking themes of trauma, loss, injury, boredom, confusion and lack of purpose that we heard, while also recognizing that some people have forged different pathways and found workarounds, reconnection, purpose and meaningful activity?

  • What if… we could foster informal networks for skill sharing?
  • What if… we could bridge people to different networks based on latent interests?
  • What if…there were ‘forward workers’ who helped people navigate systems but also connect to informal networks?
  • What if… there were workshops on poetry, creative writing, and art, as well as job hunting and resume writing?

Next week

We reconnect with Options Community Services staff and their community partners to ‘playback’ the stories, pain points and opportunities. This won’t be your typical presentation of findings and a laundry list of familiar recommendations, but rather an invitation into new ways of thinking about the people served and services provided.


dr. Jennifer Charlesworth

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