SupportingJustice.net wins Gold in the Good Design Awards ‘Social Impact’ category!
This week we’re excited to confirm that the SupportingJustice.net online resource has been recognised with an Australian Good Design Gold Award in the social impact category.
By Michael Haralambous, Senior Adviser, Research and Advocacy
The Good Design Awards is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious design award programs. It showcases superior examples of good design to a national and international audience. The award for SupportingJustice.net acknowledges the innovative design process that went into creating the online resource. The process drew in stakeholders from across the criminal justice, disability and social service sectors, and people with disability and lived experience of the criminal justice system in a human–centred design process. Its methodology adopted aspects of system thinking, creating the first iteration of the Supporting Justice System Map to identify strategic opportunities for the resource to have the greatest impact.
To reflect on the award recognition and the impact of the resource one year on from the website going live, I spoke with CIJ’s Dorothy Armstrong and former Paper Giant designer Kate Goodwin. I’m a Senior Adviser at CIJ and joined the team in 2019 as a criminal law practitioner to help develop the online resource. Dorothy Armstrong joined CIJ shortly after as an adviser and peer support worker on our Supporting Justice project and was instrumental in supporting the lived experience involvement in the website’s design process and in giving her own lived-experience expertise to the process. Kate Goodwin was design lead for the project for Paper Giant, she has since moved to Europe where she is pursuing her passion for systems design work.
Included below is an edited version of our discussion that highlights some of the impacts of the design process on the final product, the impact on us as the project team, what has stayed with us and what we hope others can learn from the SupportingJustice.net.
What part of the design process do you think had the greatest impact on the final product?
As part of the design process, the design team at Paper Giant, Emma Blomkamp, Hope Lumsden-Barry, Reuben Stanton and myself, coordinated a series of co-design sessions with groups of stakeholders, including people with lived experience of disability and justice involvement. Seeing those people with lived experience of disability and justice involvement sitting in the same room, at the same level as magistrates, potentially someone they had been sentenced by, in a co-design context was incredibly powerful in terms of its impact on the final product.
The biggest impact was watching those ‘penny drop’ moments for someone like a magistrate, hearing first–hand how fundamentally difficult it is for someone with disability to navigate the criminal justice and support systems and how disrespected and unfairly treated they are. As a result of hearing something like that, seeing a motivation to want to make change and the participant realising ‘gosh, I’ve got the power and ability to take action, from where I sit in this system’.
From a final product point of view, being told these things fundamentally shaped how we designed the information in the resource and the things that came out of it. We might assume because someone is a senior figure in the justice system that they already know how to engage with people with lived experience of disability in the court room or in the lawyer-client meeting. But what the design process revealed is that these senior figures who we look up to can be just as lost in these things as the rest of us are. It made us realise what kind of information and help professionals need to do a good job and to try and reduce the anxiety and the pressure in these interactions so they can be respectful and supportive, and establish the best course of action for the client. It led directly to the content strategy of the resource generally and in particular to design of the Guide to Effective Communication.
Dorothy Armstrong who was a project team member and peer support advocate, was fundamental to this work. She said, ‘just ask the question’ of clients and defendants, and so being able to put that into resources that have come from that co–design process to help professionals to understand here’s how you ask those questions, here’s the language you use, here’s how to be respectful, thoughtful, and uphold the human rights model of disability in your conduct – that’s really powerful.
I would say for me, somewhat similarly to Kate, the ability to communicate – primarily with Kate about the work that the design team was doing and how I understood what they were doing and how to make that simpler and easier. Having a relationship with Kate, a trusting one, that I could actually talk to her about some different areas. For example, Kate could talk to me about something in the systems map and I was able to talk about a particular experience. Kate allowed me to humanise design principles, I think that made an incredible difference to the process.
Fundamentally, I wasn’t just a part of the process – I was a welcome and invited part of that process. Throughout the whole design process, the space was given to build that relationship with Kate and the design team. I would not have contributed or have been impacted in the same way if I was just called in on one occasion to talk about something on a one off. Being part of the whole process allowed me to understand that process and contribute meaningfully to the design. It allowed me to build the trusting relationship without which I wouldn’t have been able to participate and probably wouldn’t have wanted to.
To be able to participate fully allowed me to tell the truth about my experiences and work with Paper Giant. Naturally, going through that relationship coming to the end of the design – there was so many learnings for me that have helped me on my professional development.
The design process included some incredibly unique moments, including a round table where magistrates, support workers and lawyers contributed concept ideas with people with lived experience. There was a palpable shift in the power dynamics on that day where professionals were asked to cede space and time to people with disability and hear very confronting feedback about those people’s experiences moving through the criminal justice system.
The evaluation we ran of the design process showed that experience in particular left a lasting impression on the professionals, in some cases challenging some long-held beliefs about courtcraft and practice. The process enriched the final product, but it was also very generous to the people who were part of the process in terms of giving insights into their practice, space for reflection and learning.
It can be really hard for people in the legal profession to admit that they don’t know everything, that they might not be the experts in their client’s experiences and needs. Being able to have people with disability and lived experience of the justice system embedded as part of the design process for this project meant that the final product has resources which reflect those needs in a really genuine way.
What was the most memorable aspect of the design process?
I was presented with the criminal justice system in a way that I have never experienced before. Still when I think of the systems change map, I am so overwhelmed by all of the different parts of the criminal justice system. That was a real moment for me to change my attitude towards the people, the staff that work in the criminal justice system. Looking back, I can see that my thinking was quite small to my own experience. Being part of the [mapping process] it really opened up what the criminal justice system looks like. I have a greater empathy for the people who work in the system and a deeper desire to work with those people, to get good outcomes for them also.
Visually, when I saw it without reading it, the size of it alone – and then starting to engage with the personal history factors [bubbles] – I was so overwhelmed. I could see that it was true and accurate but to see it all together to have been someone who has ticked a lot of those bubbles – instead of knowing those things internally, seeing those things connected to the criminal justice system, it let me understand the depth and width of the system that I had never considered. Having that information outside of myself impacted me so much.
For me, realising that not just people like myself but that the people who work in the system are also impacted by the system along the way – that was a big moment for me. We are all very much impacted by the criminal justice system, just in different ways. Correctional Officers can go home at the end of their shift, prisoners can’t, but they’re also impacted – just in different ways. To go to a job that is traumatising, with high potential of violence, that’s really terrible, and for that to be an expected part of your job! The map helped me see and understand that.
The importance of relationships in the justice system and the correlating importance of communication has really stuck with me. The website has resources to try and enrich those rushed interactions between lawyer and client to make sure critical information about reasonable adjustments and support needs are conveyed.
As a practitioner, I’ve always understood the importance of communicating effectively with my clients. What has stuck with me from the design process of the website, is how misguided some of my techniques had been in the past and what type of impact that might have had on clients with disability. It was very confronting and has had big impact on the way I think about my practice and the power dynamics in the criminal justice system.
The importance of communication, respectful and effective communication, is something that we worked really hard to convey through the downloadable resources. I’m really happy with the final product and I think the resources it holds for practitioners addresses a real need in the criminal justice system.
Working closely with people with lived experience of disability and justice involvement in the co-design process with Emma Blomkamp, and then prototyping and crafting the resource. Particularly with Dorothy Armstrong as the peer support worker and adviser being a core project team member. I mean, we established a rhythm of working together quite intensely.
Dorothy, because of her lived experience, has such a powerful and meaningful story that she was able to trust me and share with me that and then allow me as a designer to come along and say ‘OK, I’m going to ask you some difficult questions at various moments’ but having that trust to be able to ask her those things and to be able to work together to see what that looks like in the real form and final product – her and I working together to work out the size and shape of what the final information needed to be. That was very memorable, that process – particularly the trust and the rhythm of working – I haven’t worked in that particular way before.
Another thing that was memorable for me was designing for and with people with lived experience, and consulting with disability advocates on ways to deliver this information and draw in expertise from that world. I’m talking now about the invitations that went out to participants in Easy English with guidance and assistance of groups like VALID. It was memorable for me because it reminds us that we should go to people with experience in those fields and we shouldn’t just assume that we know how to do it all just because we’ve been doing design research for years.
The third area, seeing the power of the systems map. It was foundational to determining the points of intervention where this resource was able to assist and hopefully continues to assist. Hope Lumsden-Barry who led the communication design of that piece, a lot of work went into thinking how to visually communicate the information, it wasn’t just about putting circles and lines on the page – it’s a thoughtful representation of what we learned. It was really interesting seeing the capacity of the map to give people empathy for others in the system – seeing themselves in the system and where they have opportunities to make change.
What do you hope others will learn from the SupportingJustice.net design process?
The website’s design process demonstrated that embedding lived experience in product and system design work is not only possible, but extremely valuable – necessary in many ways – to achieving results that have meaningful impact. I think there is a tendency to put this type of approach in the ‘too hard’ basket. I hope that people see this project as a roadmap for how they might progress beyond that thinking and see opportunities for human centred design and lived experience expertise in their work.
I know from the reception of the website and the feedback that we’ve received, that more people in the justice system are starting to take seriously the need for lived experience to inform the way we deliver services in our courtrooms, legal offices and corrections systems. I think this process demonstrates that people with lived experience, particularly people with disability who are often underestimated and spoken for, have a lot to offer to a design process to ensure that it is rooted in what is actually needed, not what professionals might think is needed.
For CIJ, we learnt a lot from the project and we have worked hard to continue to build the capacity of self-advocacy since we completed the design work on the website. Just last week we received news that the Voices for Change self-advocacy group have received two years of capacity building funding from the Commonwealth Government. That means that it will be easier in the future for people to find people with lived experience, particularly people with ABI and lived experience of the justice system, who are ready and able to participate in policy work, product and service design. We’ve continued to carry the momentum that we gained from the design of the website and I can see that this is starting to move people within the criminal justice system to think differently about what is possible and who should be involved in creating change.
The website project was an important part of our ongoing Supporting Justice project. It helped us gain momentum and stakeholder engagement around a tangible product. That momentum and some of the feedback we received through the design process has fed into the broader supporting justice work which is a system change project aimed at addressing the overrepresentation of people with disability in the criminal justice system. One thing that this experience can offer to others attempting system change work is the real benefit of having something early in the process which is tied to a tangible outcome – system change work can otherwise be challenging to focus stakeholder energy around – the website allowed us to test some of these ideas and prototype our system map, socialising some of the broader project’s aim with our stakeholders.
I would hope that people are impacted similarly to how I have been by the map. I really hope that it would motivate people to once and for all to confront and deal with the problem.
Just thinking about the system map – it looks out of control. Your first reaction might be ‘we need to cover this over with dirt and start again’. But I hope people can come away with an understanding that there are ways out. I would hope that they come away with hope and be encouraged that there are people who share their desire for change are trying to achieve it. There are a lot of people working towards that outcome, it’s not that hard to come together and make that system different.
What I mean by come together, myself as somebody who has had experience of the criminal justice system and who has an acquired brain injury, because I have been invited and respected as a human being in spite of my experiences, welcomed into the conversation with other people, professional people who can impact policy change. Because I’ve been able to talk with people like that I’ve seen change take place. I’ve been incredibly welcomed to share my experiences, to perhaps, influence change.
I hope that other people would learn or realise that, it can make all the difference to listen to somebody with lived experience if you’re a professional and the same problems are repeating themselves. It can be really helpful to talk to the people who are subject to those bad experiences to find ways of working differently. I think the value of connecting with people with lived experience – those results have started to show already, the difference that it can make. It’s not just for the benefit of the people with lived experience, but for the benefit of everyone who is involved – you’re not expected to know everything, have all the answers, between us we can have a better understanding.
The first step to solving intractable problems is to understand the system in which the problem exists. Without doing this, we might find ourselves investing in and building things that are not effective and may even make things worse.
In this project, to enable the understanding of the system we had a series of activities, we had the advisory committee and we had the broader project which was able to channel some of the things that were out of scope for the resource. There were fundamental mindset shifts in terms of how people see the system. There was genuine empathy for people with lived experience in terms of how unsupported, unrecognised and disrespected they can be, and how diverse their needs are, how difficult it is to access housing and support services. So it wasn’t just saying, oh, it’s really hard, it was moving beyond and asking ‘so now what can and will we do about that?’
I hope that people see this as an example of more inclusive program and policy design. Participation in the project design process made the stakeholders sit up and realise the importance of including people with lived experience in program and policy design. It has been fantastic to see that steps are being taken to make that happen.
What was the lasting impact on you personally from working on the project?
It’s made me want to go deeper into doing systems-led design work in areas of social impact. I’ve realised this is the type of thing I would like to commit my design skills to over a long stretch. This project went for 9-10 months which is a relatively long time in the consulting world, but system change work is complex and takes many years.
It’s made me consider my role as a designer and what I can do to effect change in the world. Also, the fact that as a designer, I’m making things and putting things into the world. If I’m not thinking holistically or the consequences of the things I create I might land up doing a significant disservice to the people who end up getting touched by that particular product or service. It’s changed me as a design practitioner and it’s changed me personally. I had never worked so closely before with people who had been through the experiences that Dorothy and some of the other participants had gone through and that was very grounding – realising the power and privilege I have. Then thinking about how I can work with and learn from different communities and people with lived experience, using design for “good”.
Working as part of a multi-disciplinary team to create the resource allowed me to see the criminal justice system in different ways. Part of that was having the space and time to genuinely engage with people with lived experience, I can’t overstate how great of an impact that had on me. Another part of seeing the system differently which was unexpected, was seeing the reactions of the design team in particular to things in the justice system that had been ‘normalised’ in my practice life. It was a good reminder that the way we do things, just because it’s the way we’ve done them for a long time, doesn’t make them humane or effective. Being privy to those reactions, having to explain what it was that they were witnessing in our court visits and unpacking what was said in co-design sessions, helped me reflect on what type of legal practitioner I’d like to be in the future, but also, the type of legal system that I want to contribute to shaping – certainly it is one that doesn’t shock a lay person for its lack of empathy.
The website itself, first and foremost, it’s so incredible and I’m still so taken that it was created because there wasn’t anything – I had no experience of something like this when I was part of the criminal justice system. The wonder of having this resource created and seeing what went into creating the resource. There is information for a wide variety of people, information for solicitors, magistrates, carers or support workers, for the person themselves. The different elements that were put in there, to my understanding, it’s the first time it’s been done. For me, if I was going to court, the resources on the website would help me communicate with my solicitor. But if I didn’t have any type of support, the way the website creates opportunities for me to help myself – it’s legitimate resource that I could have most of my needs met.
Most of all, that I was listened to, that it was considered to be of value and that the things I said were implemented into a resource for every and anybody else is pretty life changing. To acknowledge that I was a welcome part of this process, I was listened to, I was believed and accepted and it’s a part of the final resource – that’s life-changing.
The SupportingJustice.net project formed a part of CIJ’s broader Supporting Justice project. You can read more about the project and sign up for project bulletins to be kept up to date on its progress on this link.
The full project team who worked hard to deliver the award–winning website include:
Paper Giant: Kate Goodwin, Emma Blomkamp, Hope Lumsden-Barry, Reuben Stanton
Centre for Innovative Justice: Dorothy Armstrong, Michael Haralambous, Stan Winford, Anna Howard