Bringing digital and data innovation to tackle climate change in London


About the design sprint

Over the course of two Mondays in May 2022, environment leaders from London boroughs came together with experts in digital, data, smart cities and behavioural insights to explore the question: “How can technology, data and innovative smart city approaches support the delivery of the capital’s climate goals?”

Held at the Trampery in Old Street, the two-day design sprint was designed and delivered by LOTI and the London Environment Directors Network (LEDNet), the network of London borough environment leads. The design sprint – which featured a series of structured activities to encourage creative thinking – focused on four of LEDNet’s strategic climate priorities: 

  1. retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency, 
  2. switching more of London to renewable energy, 
  3. reducing petrol and diesel journeys to tackle transport emissions and 
  4. helping London live within the resource limits of our finite world.

To support the rapid design work undertaken by participants, the Mayor of London’s office also hosted a number of focus groups with Londoners via the Talk London community, who discussed the emerging ideas developed on the first day of the design sprint to inform more detailed work on the second day. The outcome of the process was a set of 11 ideas for digital and data interventions which can be taken forward by boroughs and partners over the coming months.

Preparing for the design sprint

The design sprint was underpinned by LOTI’s Outcomes-Based Methodology (see below). where the process starts by identifying the real-world outcomes we want to enable.

LOTI Outcomes Based Method

So, to prepare preparation for the event, we held pre-workshops with LEDNet borough leads to draw out the key outcomes they wanted to achieve for London, and identified the problems councils currently face in each area. These were run by specialist facilitators were recruited to lead these and the subsequent two days of the Climate Design Sprint.

Day 1 – How might we…

The first day of the sprint was focused on exploring a series of “How might we…” (HMW) questions which had been developed through the pre-workshop process. This technique helped participants to quickly jump into developing creative solutions. 

Participants were first given the opportunity to explore each of the four outcome areas, HMW questions and meet the responsible climate directors at dedicated stations positioned around the room. Once everyone had a feel for the shape of the challenge, participants were asked to choose an outcome area to join and were taken through a series of exercises led by the facilitators. At this stage, nothing is off-limits; resource constraints and policy implications can be put to one side in order to let the innovative ideas start flowing. 

Participants were encouraged to individually draw up to eight ideas and then share them with others to spot similar ideas, address initial barriers and build a more sophisticated initial sketch of a possible solution. These solution sketches were then pitched and voted on resulting in the most popular ideas being selected to be presented to the Talk London panel.

Feedback from Londoners

As part of our commitment to user-centred design, we assembled two focus groups of Londoners to provide feedback on the ideas generated on Day 1 of the design sprint. The Londoners provided specific feedback on many of the initial solution sketches and more general feedback to help shape the design work on Day 2:

  • A general feeling that the government and businesses are not doing enough 
  • Being green requires a lot more effort 
  • The pandemic highlighted the power of real-time data
  • A need to facilitate switching behaviours amongst the less tech-savvy
  • Many solutions target those who are already engaged

Day 2 – Initial Ideas

Returning a week later, participants were taken through the feedback from Londoners and formed teams around the ideas they wanted to progress. The  day was focused on developing more detailed prototypes to begin to unpack the feasibility and desirability of each idea

Participants had their heads down in small teams working on storyboards, UX wireframes and posters to articulate the key value proposition of their ideas. At the end of the day, all participants talked through the prototypes that had been developed, highlighting further opportunities to develop relevant research and contacts.

Solutions Summary

11 solutions were developed over the course of the two day design sprint. Each solution spoke directly to one of the key London Climate Goals. The solutions varied in their likely complexity and impact, with some requiring relatively simple digital interfaces to move to a minimum viable product, while others require more complex institutional backing or supporting markets. 

The 11 ideas categorised by theme were:

RETROFIT

1 – Automatic Planning for Home Retrofits: A London-wide home database that can be interrogated by postcode and tenure to understand the energy efficiency measures allowed under local planning regulations. Connect to planning portals to incentivise those upgrading homes to retrofit.

2 – Home Upgrade Prize Draw: Londoners complete an online quiz to get tailored options to upgrade their home and be entered into a prize draw.

3 – ESG Investment Market Place: Create a market to incentivise investment for retrofit projects attracting ESG capital.

RENEWABLE POWER

4 – Citizens group procurement of energy and retrofit: Collective purchasing of energy and retrofit items: e.g. triple glazing, solar panels, heat pumps, etc. to reduce costs for consumers, businesses and public sector.

5 – Flats, Neighbourhood & City Level ‘Smarter’ Data Gauges: Help residents save money and collect data at a London level by using a trusted analogue smart gauge.

6 – Solar for all (even flats!): Establish the permission infrastructure and support for all buildings to buy solar panels together and share the benefits.

LOW CARBON TRANSPORT

7 – Citi-Nudger: Use environment and transport usage data to nudge residents to adapt their travel plans. Integrate with existing travel apps and generate greater insights for the city.

8 – Embedding The Future Voice In City Planning: Capture youth insights on climate change and embed them in policy and governance mechanisms. Ensure the youth voice is represented as those who will most directly face consequences of climate change.

9 – Re-imagine your street with Augmented Reality (AR): Use technology to enable citizens to see  the impact of changes in pavement width, cycle lanes, changes in traffic, greening, air quality, etc.

ONE WORLD LIVING

10 – reCare: A digital user interface that offers personalised help and information for residents who may wish to repair and upcycle their broken or faulty electrical equipment including how to fix or where to take it to be repaired.

11 – Carbon Foodprint Initiative: Browser extension analyses common recipe sites and analyses meals’ CO2 footprint. Supported by citizen research which is used to provide nudges for behaviour change based on personas.

View the 11 solutions in detail in the Summary Solutions Slide deck (Google Slides).

Next steps

After two days of development, many of the ideas will still require further work and research before becoming robust project ideas. What is clear is that the design sprint approach served its purpose well. Participants succeeded in bringing fresh thinking to these extremely challenging issues, and LEDNet was impressed by the quality and range of ideas.

Both LOTI and LEDNet will be meeting  to review all the ideas to see which of them can be incorporated into existing climate change delivery plans, which could be taken forward by LOTI, and which could be handed on to other partners. 

Please keep visiting on our Climate Goals project page to stay updated on where these ideas go next.

by Jay Saggar
29 June 2022 ·