Birmingham maptastic

This is a slightly belated write up from the NHS Citizen event in Birmingham (details here) and is just intended to capture my reflections on the mapping exercise. Sometimes its good to let these things sit for a bit and so here are my observations:

We can’t map everything. Both of the mapping sessions we have done really illustrate the richness and complexity of the relationships within the NHS system but outside what is captured by the formal structures – and it sounds like the similar effect came out of Sunderland. This is not a surprise! However in designing this mapping exercise we need to make sure that we are really focused on what we need to support the discover layer for NHS Citizen and not let our (well – my) data lust get carried away.

Participants appear to prefer the visual method. We gave people the choice of data collection method and the vast majority (have not counted but around 20/24 from memory) chose to draw diagrams of their networks rather than simply report the data. The team also used a visual approach in Sunderland. This makes sense and should work well online as well so we will build on that

We can’t be greedy with the data collection. I think we are going to have to make a couple of sacrifices with respect to the data collection in order to make sure that we focus on the network contact that we can’t get other than from participants:

  • We’ll need to follow up with desk research to get twitter addresses and the other organizational information we were after
  • I am not sure that we can collect the relationship data that we wanted as few of the participants so far have been able to include this with any great confidence. I am not sure how much of a problem this is if we are just looking at mapping for the purposes of discover but I will leave the questions in for a couple more sessions before confirming this

We need to work out how to include individuals who have many ‘hats’. So many of the people we have spoken to have multiple roles within what will be the NHS Citizen system; Carers and service users are also often highly networked within the system and I think this needs to be captured in the mapping exercise more explicitly. I am thinking of doing this by asking these people to draw multiple maps for each of their contexts but I am not sure that this reflects how people see themselves – they are just ‘me’. This is an important aspect to understanding the flow within the discover space in the future – how much information/connection is passed institutionally and how much is as a result of informal or at least personal channels. This is perhaps something to consider with respect to how we think about identity management and the distinction between people acting institutionally and people acting as individuals. This relates to how we work with staff within the NHS and make sure that we are treating them (within the design) as citizens as well as employees. Anyway. More to think about on this one.

Be specific. I need to make sure we are disciplined in the data collection to distinguish between specific and generic instances of something like Healthwatch. In the network maps people are simply putting ‘Healthwatch’ and not saying which one. Picky point but will cause some issues down the line if I don’t fix the method!

Everyone sees things differently. Yup – this is the same point I noted in the next post – we are nowhere close to having common definitions of types and terms and my approach this time has been to code the data myself after the event and then send it back out (Note:  need to sort out a document store) for people to comment on.

The graph below shows the data collected from the session colour coded by the types as I entered them. The types are as discussed in the last post but with ‘Citizen’ added:

  • Blue: NHS
  • Green: Other Government
  • Burgundy: Citizens
  • Pink: Charity


Birmingham SNA graph

Birmingham SNA graph

Of course this graph is not a complete one – we will get very different data based on who is attending the event and how ‘sighted’ they are of the whole system.  I think we need to consider how we pass these maps to regional groups to build and develop (assuming that they will find them useful as well) and I will think about how we can do that in preparation for the next Birmingham event.

So – what’s the point??!!! Well – this mapping exercise is there to support the creation of the discover space and to inform the way in which we make the NHS Citizen system as open as possible. In design terms I think we need to take forward:

  • I’d like to try running two parallel mapping exercises – one based on individuals and the other based on organisations
  • We need to do follow up desk research to get some of the institutional data I had intended to capture as part of the exercise
  • We need a specific way of noting/coding our online/offline connectors as this is not coming through in this data

I also think that we should have an interim goal of creating some generic local map templates to use as a start point for the local mapping exercises – this will help with the design and perhaps speed up the process at the events.

It sounds like the event at Sunderland treated the mapping as a much more interactive exercise (see the webcast here) so I’d like to find out more about there. We plan to put the data collection online but it would be good to have a really good physical mapping tool as well.

If we all took one view of the world then this would all be very easy….but much less interesting

One comment
  1. Tony Hirst

    February 25, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Fascinating post – for reference, I ran with the idea of mapping the social networks around a couple of health related Twitter accounts in Birmingham, using a discovery approach based on mapping accounts commonly followed by a sample of the the followers of a particular target account.

    A quick write-up of the approach is described here:


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