Service Recipes: Moving from Alpha to Beta

Published on
September 9, 2020
in
Updates
Chris Thorpe
With Service Recipes having completed its Alpha phase, we've opened up three pieces of work to take the project through its Beta phase.
Bowl of tomato soup

We're delighted to say that Service Recipes has completed its Alpha phase and we've just opened up the tender application process for three discrete, but interlocking, pieces of work to take Service Recipes through its Beta phase.

Before I talk about that I want to remind people a bit about Recipes, including how the project started and how it accelerated due to urgent response to COVID-19, and to give an update on some of the great things that have happened as a result of the recipes we’ve shared so far. 

Recipes are designed to help you reproduce, with adaptation if needed, a service that another organisation has developed for its users. In some cases they act as an inspiration or a starting point. In other cases they act as a checklist of things to do and tools to use to deploy a service - all recipes contain a set of instructions to follow.

Recipes are a product in the "Reuse" strand of Catalyst. We know, from experience and research, that amazing things happen when people reuse things that other people have made. We know from research that this can lead to increased digital confidence in an organisation or team, that it can lead to lower cost of development and maintenance, and take less time to deliver to users. 

Reuse doesn't have to be verbatim copying either; in many cases you will want to adapt the thing being reused to the needs, expectations and behaviours of your users. There's no point in copying something if your users don't behave in the same way. 

The Service Recipes platform came out of a piece of work by a service design consultancy called FutureGov. They had worked with Essex County Council to catalogue and describe the underlying activities and patterns of interactions between people and the local government services that they used. They called this Service Patterns. The services are described free from any of the implementation details, and as such are very neutral ways of describing interactions. We at CAST felt that there was something interesting in this as a contribution to Catalyst, and we undertook a period of discovery research with Alessandra Canella of FutureGov to understand how Service Patterns could be used in the charity sector. 

This research led us to feel that the patterns were not enough to enable reuse to happen. In the charity sector some patterns could be implemented in many different ways. In other cases there were far less. We felt we needed something which made the pattern, and the solution for it, more actionable and reproducible. As a result, Service Recipes was created.

We were beginning to enter some proposition testing for Recipes when the COVID-19 crisis hit. We realised that there were many things organisations were having to do for the first time and we quickly turned our prototype into a live service. It was done in under two weeks by digital product designer Guy Moorhouse, reusing a commodity Content Management System called CraftCMS: the source code will be made publicly available very soon. 

We also engaged a wonderful group of Service Designers from Snook (Olivia Holbrook, Rachel Chung, Juliette Fournier and Meg Douglas Howie) to "collect" the recipes by interviewing charities and building a template where charities could eventually self document. We also used some of Nissa Ramsay's skills in understanding changing organisational needs in response to the crisis, to proactively look for organisations finding solutions that were reusable by others. This partnership of FutureGov, Snook and CAST spent three months building, observing, learning and iterating on the alpha of Service Recipes. We were delighted when charities were using the recipes or inspired by the recipes and we used feedback to improve the product. If you'd like to hear more about how one charity used a recipe, there's a podcast from Charity Digital where Fareeha Usman from Being Woman (the publisher of the recipe) and Eve Critchley from Hestia (the consumer of the recipe) talk about how it has helped both organisations.

We've now had enough positive feedback and we've observed enough activity to feel confident about moving Service Recipes forward as a product. We feel it has successfully completed its alpha phase and it's time to begin building the beta of Recipes with some new areas of focus:

- we want to focus on the underlying taxonomy (dictionary) of service patterns, life events and beneficiaries. The work from FutureGov with Essex used the excellent taxonomy created by the Local Government Association. A taxonomy provides a stable, concise and consistent way to describe things so that they are comparable with one another.

- we want to push on with the backlog of recipes and create many more: we have over 20 recipes live, but many more in progress and many more offered. We want to create an even more streamlined process for capturing recipes and to work on "self-serve" mechanisms for organisations to share their work.

- we want to understand how recipes can drive the reuse of products that are designed to be openly available. One element of the grants being distributed under the Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response is that the outputs of the work - content, code, user research, design and lessons learned - must be made available under an open license. We know that simply making something open does not lead to reuse; there needs to be a lot more documentation, and we think that recipes play a huge part there. We also think that understanding the patterns, life events and beneficiaries of a service at the earliest point in its inception is important, and so we're looking to weave the Service Recipes product and process into the development of new products.

Timeline

For each of these areas of focus - building the taxonomy, building a publishing programme, weaving Service Recipes into new projects - there is an opportunity to tender for work on that focus.

Applications open today, 9th September

Questions can be asked for the next 14 days until 23rd of September

Applications are due in just under three weeks’ time, by 23:59 on 29th September

We are aiming for work to start on the Beta of Service Recipes by early/mid October

I'd like to finish by thanking all the charities who published recipes, and to the people in the combined team made up of FutureGov, Snook and CAST. The project worked well because different organisations brought their unique skills, knowledge and abilities together as one team. It's something we hope will happen in the next phase of Service Recipes. with the right partners to take this to eta and even greater impact.

Onwards!

Image by Foodie Factor from Pexels















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