Co-creating organisational strategy with Scottish Outdoor Education Centres

How can a service design approach help create organisational strategy?


Natalia’s masters project a focusses on co-creating organisational strategy with Scottish Outdoor Education Centres (SOEC).

SOEC is a Scottish charity and the biggest provider of outdoor education in Scotland, working to provide accessible outdoor learning experiences to children and young people.

Natalia project managed, designed and facilitated the process of re-evaluation and co-creation with the staff and management of the Scottish centres.

Natalia was able to undertake the role of both service designer and project manager in facilitating the process of organisational innovation. Natalia’s enabled the front line staff in SOEC to use their expertise to build a strategic vision, through a series of co-creative workshops.

As a result of this project, Natalia developed three concepts for the strategic growth of this SOEC: a volunteering scheme, low carbon strategy and a community garden and outdoor kitchen.

Transformational change for the centres is further outcome of this service design led project and this new way of thinking has been embraced and adopted by the SOEC staff.

Friends of Belmont, a volunteering scheme established during the project is planning to deliver a number of biodiversity and centre improvement projects.


Master of Design for Services

frontcoverAs one of my Masters Project deliverables I created a report entitled: The Service Design Approach to designing, facilitating and delivering organisational transformation through co-creative practices

Service design thinking and methodologies were used to address the Master’s Project research question: “How can the service design approach and co-creative practices lead to creating transformative organisational strategy for SOEC?”

This is a confidential report for the management, the CEO and the board of Scottish Outdoor Education Centres and the University of Dundee.


I would like to thank all the staff and the manager of the Belmont Centre, in particular, Brian O’Rourke, for their support and enthusiasm throughout this project. I have been warmly welcomed at the Belmont Centre and I felt a part of your team; this contributed to the success of this project and it made me feel lucky to have worked with you.

Dr Fiona Wood, my project supervisor, has been a lot more than just an excellent study advisor, her thoughtful and empathetic approach helped me during every step of this project. Thank you.

I am very grateful for the mentoring and guidance given by Fraser Bruce throughout my Masters year. Thank you.

I would also like to thank Hazel White for her advice and words of encouragement during the past year.

A warm thank you to Dr Alexandra Mazur, my mother, who has helped continuously during this Masters year and throughout of my academic career.

Finally, a special thank you to Craig Sutherland, for his time, expertise, high spirits and undeniable support.

Service Safari

SOEC Staff on the way to the Outward Bound Centre

A field research day for Scottish Outdoor Education Centres (SOEC) staff and management took place on Thursday the 7th of March. This day was organised by the manager of the Belmont Centre (part of SOEC), Brian O’Rourke, and it was a fantastic opportunity for the staff to get to know another outdoor centre in Scotland. I was extremely happy to be included in this wonderful research day and I prepared a few points for the staff to consider prior to our adventure. The aim of those questions was to start a clear thought process before arriving at The Outward Bound Trust, Loch Eil Centre near Fort William.

All the SOEC staff were extremely happy to take part in this great research trip as they were hoping to exchange knowledge and create contacts with a different outdoor centre in Scotland. The questions we started our day with were:


1. What do you expect to gain from today? (This helps to visualise expectations.)

2. Three positive observations at Loch Eil?

3. Three challenges at Loch Eil and how the staff address to these?

4. Biggest surprise of the day/shocking factor?

5. How can we relate this learning process to the Belmont Centre?

Speaking about expectations and aims of the day is useful as this ensures all trip participants have a full understanding of the purpose of taking a day off from their usual duties. As some of the staff have just started working for SOEC, the field trip gave them an opportunity to get to know existing staff and create a strong team spirit. I was extremely impressed with the co-operation and enthusiasm of all staff.



As we arrived in Loch Eil Centre, which is part of The Outward Bound Trust, near Fort William, we were warmly welcomed by their staff and our tour started. I found it extremely interesting that we decided to stay in one team, rather that split up into particular departments. This helped to bounce ideas and create a positive and inspired conversation. The professionalism of Loch Eil Centre staff was extremely appreciated as they played a key part in our learning process. Another advantage was that all staff got to know areas of the business they usually would not have any involvement in, for example, the whole team now has a better understaning of the maintenance of the centre as well as the duties of centre’s cook. This deepens the team spirit as staff can appreciate the skills that other staff bring in and how this develops the Centre’s Values.


The staff questioned why the Outward Bound Trust organise certain parts of their offer differently and this conversation benefited all, in the spirit of inter-centre collaboration, we were all learning from each other. The day was a huge success and we were all extremely happy to have visited the Loch Eil Centre.


We left with a thousand ideas and many priceless tips and insights about their way of working, their values, mission and focus. All staff hope that this relationship can be sustained and we would be honoured to welcome Loch Eil staff at the Belmont Centre to continue this newly established relationship.

The next step to my project at the Belmont Centre is to design and facilitate a workshop for SOEC staff and management to capture our learning and visualise the ideas for improving the centre. I am pleased to confirm that all staff are looking forward to taking part in the idea co-creation workshop as they would like to make change happen at the Belmont Centre.

My role as a service designer is to facilitate this process and make it a successful one. I am going to design specific exercises to help to realise the potential of staff and their ideas, as they are the driving force behind the development of the centre. I look forward to this creative process and I am going to illustrate it with images, photographs and blog posts to capture the learning and innovation happening at the Belmont Centre.


Dundee is Jamming City.

For the first time ever, Dundee was home to Global Service Jam which was hosted by University of Dundee in Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, sponsored by Taylor Haig, Leadership Development and Service Design Company and organised by Think Marmalade – a group of service design fanatics which I am extremely proud to be part of.


So what is Jam? What makes it Global? And what do services have to do with it?

A jam session happens when a group of musicians get together to practice and create music. It is free flowing and once the violinist creates a tune, the pianist will try to capture it (not copy!) and then the guitarist will add a bit at the end that just pulls it all together and makes it sound complete.

Jamming is learning, creating together and building on your partners’ ideas to end up with something unique and of value, not just to the group but also to the wider audience.

Jamming happens free style and it is a dynamic process but it has to be fuelled with just the right kind of petrol – Creative Thinking.


Jamming Globally means that people from all other the planet are all creating at the same time. It is like suddenly they all breath the same creative air that connects them and helps them grow. It would not be Global if they didn’t share their experiences both visually and verbally in many different languages but mostly the tongue of international support and friendship.

So they do just that, non-stop, Jammers Communicate through Twitter (#DundeeGSJ  #GJS13 #Thisiswhywejam ), Skype, FaceTime, Planet Jam and Base Camp (the last two are just special places jammers register and upload the results of their collaborative work). It gets busy as there were 120 Jams all over the world and they have 3000 Jammers scratching their heads and breaking their pencils all at the same time.

Often the internet is so overwhelmed by Jam News that many platforms of communication just can’t cope and refuse to work – this is where Jammers have to get even more creative to overcome those minor difficulties. An example of that happened here in Dundee, when we were talking to our Jam Friends from Mumbai in India: Skype refused to let us hear each other so we used very basic sign langue (yes, thumbs up and smiles) and we wrote our thoughts on post-it notes. It just added to the fun as we united to overcome this technology let down.


Why do we jam about services?

Because services are all around us – they really are everywhere. Starting from when you get that cup of coffee in morning (a coffee shop provides this service), to when you take your bus and train to get to work, ending with the local supermarket and their home delivery service. Don’t forget the hairdressers, your school, the post office and the petrol station. I really could go on like that for a while so I am going to stop here.

We live in a world run by services and it is in our own best interest that we start noticing those services. We are dipping in and out of places that provide services constantly – I am not just talking about the physical places like a coffee shop but also the on-line/virtual services like the service that helps you get connected to your friends, your online banking and the place you can order your cinema tickets from.

The service sector is constantly growing as we move on from a product based economy into an economy which generates most profits through services. Sounds positive? Yes, it is but there are still far too many services that are just not good enough or don’t even exist. There is still a big empty room that is just waiting to be filled up with a new useful, effective and efficient service.

Good and bad services change our world and that is why the aim of the Global Service Jam is to Change the World in 48 hours. Why only 48 hours – because this is how long we jam for – from Friday night, all day Saturday, until Sunday afternoon (don’t worry we sometimes stop to eat and sleep a little bit too).


One may think – Changing the World in 48 hours seems like quite a task, in other words: unrealistic, unachievable and slightly over-confident. Let me tell you now that the Jams are not about that. Jams change our mindsets and they change our thinking which often is the first step to changing our World and the way the see and interact with it.

We do change the world, we change our own world and if enough people do that and do it well, one day we will all see the difference.

Sometime the services that we create during the Jams change the world. Or to put it in a perspective, they have the power to change our local communities. Jamming is often Glocal. Think Globally but act Locally. Many of the services we prototype are for the local communities, they are specific to the jammers who worked on them, we are meaningful to them as these are the problems they try to tackle daily.

So Jammers from India try to develop the new housing solutions for their poorest communities ( and jammers from Dundee in Scotland design a service for their own poorest communities who have a problem with healthy eating, it’s called The Hive.

We are jamming about what matters to us because that is our reality. Groups form on the bases of interests so people who are interested in services that bring communities together jam together, likewise people who are passionate about the outdoor and growing your own food will form a team and jam together.

To add to this excitement there is a secret theme that all jammers start their brainstorming from, which is reviled at the start of each Jam. It is a big secret until Saturday evening, as Jamming Globally means that by the time our American Jammers find out the theme the Aussie Jammers already jammed about it for a good few hours. Nobody wants to spoil this international fun though so we keep the theme on the low.

This year’s theme ‘Grow>‘ has inspired a number of hugely diverse projects and by the end of the jam most participants would admit that their skills ‘Grew’ during this intensively collaborative process.

My personal experience as an organiser and Jammer of past Jams is an extremely positive one. I feel so happy to have been part of the organiser’s groups Think Marmalade, it gave me a brand new experience of what is means organising a 3 day event for about 70 people.


As much hard work as that is, it is also twice as much fun, watching the jam participants grow together, create meaningful ideas and make wonderfully unique friendships.

Dundee truly is a Jamming city as we were the 8th Biggest Jam in the whole world. And let me tell you that really means something considering this only was our 1st attempt of organising a Jam!

Getting the title of 8th biggest Jam in the World makes us very happy indeed, but it is being the Jam that started a new creative culture and a trendy tradition of Dundee Jams of the Future matters most to us.


See you next year, roll on March 2014.

Design in Action Chiasma Conference: Diabetes Type 2.

Design in Action, a national network of academia and industry organisations, working in knowledge exchange collaborations, organised the inaugural 3 day Chiasma Conference from 26th-28th of February. Design in Action believe in the power of design thinking and collaborative, multi-disciplinary team work and the Chiasma series of events were created to demonstrate the power of Design and inter-disciplinary collaboration within a creative setting.


I was extremely pleased when my application was accepted to participate in this innovative and one-off a kind event. I was looking forward to attending Chiasma for a number of weeks and in that time I researched the theme of this design workshop.

The Chiasma was centred around the biggest modern epidemic of Diabetes Type 2. A wide range of professionals, academia, designers, business and innovation ambassadors and some postgraduate students such as myself, dedicated an enormous amount of passion and energy to understand, define, and deliver possible solutions to this extremely complex and ever-growing problem of Diabetes Type 2.

Diabetes type 2 is an illness that affects more and more British citizen and currently about 4.2% of the population are suffering for it. If action of another caliber is not taken straight away, Britain and especially Scotland is on the way to becoming the new Canada or United States were one in 10 people is a Diabetes Type 2 sufferer.

This shocking fact is followed by a glimmer of hope: Diabetes Type 2 is preventable. Obesity is a huge risk factor for developing diabetes. There are also certain genetic factors which make specific groups of people more at risk of developing diabetes T2 such as family history of this illness and ethnicity. Additionally, there is another socio-environmental factor that seems to determine who is more likely to suffer from Diabetes T2. People who live in deprived and low-income areas are more likely to develop diabetes T2 and there are many hot-spots of Diabetes in Scotland, this is especially accurate considering people who live within council housing estates. For more information please go to:

There are many reason why the poor are more likely to develop Diabetes T2 and the key factor is Diet. Poor people often cannot afford to eat healthily and choose to buy ready meals as they may not be able to cook and cannot afford to waste food in case what they make is uneatable.

This lack of knowledge and food education is a true disadvantage to the poorer communities across Scotland.

During the Chiasma event, we were exposed to many statistics and data about how much the NHS spends every month to pay for Diabetic Patients’ treatment. It is estimated that Diabetes is the fifth biggest killer disease in the World. Last year the NHS spent £1o billion on Diabetes which is an astonishing 10% of the full NHS budget.

We were also exposed to real life stories from Diabetes Patients – stories of struggle, stigma, mental health problems (patients with Diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from depression) and pain. Cardiovascular disease, eye sight problems, kidney disease and limb amputations are amongst the complications that Diabetes Patients face throughout their illness.

This Chiasma was dedicated to developing and prototyping design centred solutions to fighting Diabetes, there were 6 different concepts and each team had a unique idea to help to prevent or fight Diabetes Type 2.

The concept that my team developed during the 3 day process is called: One lunch at a time.

It is focused on mothers who are normally the person that feeds the family, meaning: they buy the food and prepare meals for all member of the family. We decided that our service would work in Diabetes Hot-Spots across Scotland as we want to help the most vulnerable group. It comprises of community cooking group which offers lunches and teaches mothers how to cook healthily for their families. This project would work with partners such as NHS and community groups as well and Mother and Toddler Clubs.

I would be run by a group of volunteers as well as a small number of management staff and they would engage with local communities to re-create a healthy eating culture across Scotland.

My team will be creating a business plan within the next 5 weeks and we will be pitching for funding to support this project.

I am extremely pleased to have participated in this important event and I would like to thank Design in Action ( for all their hard work to organise Diabetes Type 2 Chiasma in such a great manner.

It has been a true success and a professional highlight of my year.

Mindfulness: why it matters?

Mindful Design Practice is Master of Design for Services module led by our course director, Hazel White.

Today marks the beginning of our 4 week  Mindful Design project.

So… what does Mindfulness mean? How do you know that you are practicing it? And why does it matter?

Everyone will have a slightly different view of what does it mean for them to be mindful and here comes mine:

Being mindful means that you are present in the current moment however you can still see you goals on the horizon line. It means to understand your background, know where you are heading and have a plan of getting there. Mindfulness is hard. Laziness is easy.

Practicing mindful design means understanding why you decided to become a design in the first place. It is directly related to your values. Your values are the things that are particularly important in your life, like a set of rules that you don’t compromise. It is how you want to live your life. Mindful Designers are selective and work on projects that mean most to them and complement their values. Filtering through a huge number of information to find only the right information is often one of the biggest tasks of a mindful designer. Along which knowing a thing or two about project management, empathy and your project’s position in the wider world.

Mindfulness matter to design practitioners because we often have to work out how not to get lost in “the noise”. Here, this could mean what is the best way to promote your project or which is the most successful way to engage with your potential users. It is also about asking the right questions, at the right time!

I am going to update my blog daily to illustrate the journey to Ultimate Mindfulness…