Delivering Workshops: Finding the Right Balance

In the last week of January, LOTI conducted two workshops with leaders of Digital Inclusion and Adult Social Care, that took opposite approaches. One approach used hands-on, playful experiences facilitated by the team to inspire new ways of looking at problems. The other approach was more hands-off, where our participants drove the conversation, and the LOTI team was able to disappear into the background and take up the role of the fly on the proverbial wall.

In this blog, I share reflections on these two approaches along with recommendations for when each approach is most useful.

Workshop 1: A hands-on approach with London ADASS

As this was our first interaction as a group with the Directors of Adult Social Care across the London boroughs, the goal was to align on preferred futures, identify challenges in achieving them, and find innovative solutions and quick wins to address those challenges. We started with the ‘Art of the Possible’, where the directors learned about four inspiring pieces of work in adult social care carried out by London boroughs and their partners. Having set the tone for the day, we then moved into our ‘preferred futures’ activity, using LOTI’s outcomes-driven methodology as an anchor.

A road on the floor of a room with traffic cones and speed breakers on itLOTI’s ‘preferred futures’ activity is where participants  envision a path leading to their preferred future or outcome, and identify challenges along the way. This activity had all participants gather around the ‘road’ and use props to indicate the different types of challenges they foresaw.  

Potholes indicated parts of the system that are broken or in disrepair and need to be fixed, speed breakers indicated hurdles that might slow us down along the way, and traffic cones indicated things that may need to be navigated around or might need us to find new approaches.

At the end of this activity, with a long list of challenges and solid discussions on their nuances and what it would take to fix them, we then used our service innovation cards to think of how we might fix the potholes, navigate the speed bumps more smoothly, and get around the traffic cones safely. 

Where is such an approach useful?

  • Chronic, complex challenges: Ideal for addressing complex issues or exploring future scenarios where there is a need for new thinking
  • Stakeholder alignment: Particularly beneficial for bringing together stakeholders who tend to work separately as part of the structure of their organisation
  • Innovation and inspiration: Suited for workshops aimed at fostering creativity and exploring innovative solutions to problems.

Workshop 2: A hands-off approach with Digital Inclusion teams

This workshop aimed at supporting boroughs in articulating their digital strategy, diving deeper into crafting business cases, intra-council collaboration, and designing metrics for Digital Inclusion programs.

With active engagement from the community and co-designers from the borough, we had a strong grasp on what participants wanted to talk about, innovations and recent successes in some boroughs, and nuanced ideas on the challenges boroughs face. We used this understanding to create loose structures for the workshop and have boroughs themselves lead conversations through the day. We started the day with the boroughs reflecting on and articulating their digital inclusion strategy using our Digital Inclusion Strategy Canvas, an adaptation of the Business Model Canvas.

Participants of a workshop sitting around tables facing a screen displaying an agenda

After borough teams had organic conversations around the usefulness of the Canvas, they then moved into one of three breakout sessions, whose topics emerged from the Canvas, and where discussions were driven by boroughs themselves. Each breakout session asked a ‘How Might We’ question and followed the structure of 1-2 boroughs sharing their work or experiences as provocations which then sparked a discussion.

Throughout the day, the LOTI team was able to step back, be keen active listeners and observers, and only stepped in to keep time and support with any questions.

Where is such an approach useful?

  • Engaged community: The success of this approach stemmed from participants being part of an engaged community where such conversations were already underway. This allowed discussions to move beyond initial tangents that are common in first-time gatherings
  • Knowledge sharing and exchange: The approach worked well as many of the solutions, questions, and innovations live within the digital inclusion teams in the boroughs
  • Capacity to do the leg work: The capacity of the LOTI team and our co-designers to work behind the scenes to synthesise conversations and previous workshops, send out user-friendly surveys, and thoughtfully piece together the structure of the day was critical to the outcomes on the day


Some of my reflections from these two days include:

First, there is space for and power in play, even in the most serious and challenging issues facing local government! Using their hands to work with traffic cones and potholes on fake roads made with tape allowed our participants to:

  • Step away from the screens and sheets they see in their day to day and be fully immersed in the activity
  • Talk about challenges in a more nuanced way (“Why is this a traffic cone and not a pothole?”)
  • Bring constructive levity to the challenges they tackle on a daily basis

Second, workshops start before the day you meet, and should go on for long after

  • The digital inclusion teams in London have cultivated frequent interactions, allowing us to design in-person events that seamlessly align with offline conversations and real needs.
  • We also came away with a reaffirmed belief that workshops are only one touchpoint in a longer term journey with our members. This lens allows us to prioritise what makes most sense for that particular moment rather than take a more short term approach of stuffing the day with bits and pieces that leave participants feeling drained and conversations remaining superficial

So what happens next?

We love to collaborate, share our thinking, and improve our tools. Feel free to contact if you would like to learn more about using specific tools or if you need a thought partner in bringing a service design mindset to your team or work. We are building out service design resources including workshop design guides, activity kits, and frameworks adapted for local government which will be available on our website soon.

Service Design

Anjali Moorthy
20 February 2024 ·
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