CVT Connect is a private social network for adults with learning disabilities to stay independent in their homes and develop vocational skills.
Supported by Camphill Village Trust - a national charity that supports around 450 adults with learning disabilities in urban and rural communities - the charity encourages people to take a more active role in their community by co-producing projects.
Outcomes using this approach have been transformational. People have grown in confidence and self-esteem, in so doing bringing about the positive changes they wish for. We co-created the CVT Connect app using a co-production approach.
The design challenge
Successful co-production depends on finding engaging ways for people to collaborate, share ideas and turn plans into actions. This was a challenge for us initially as we had to learn how people with learning disabilities like to engage.
The ‘GOT IT’ team (a group of residents from Gloucestershire) recognised that people with learning disabilities are increasingly using digital technology.
They had noticed the growing use of tablets and smart phones amongst their peers, but felt anxious about using social networking sites due to complexity and perceived risks associated with sharing personal information.
Keen to explore how digital technology could support the charity, we were invited by CVT to co-design a digital app so that people could stay informed, collaborate on projects and develop digital skills.
Every aspect of CVT Connect has been co-designed by the people who are using it. Their initial brief was simple in that it had to be highly intuitive and easy to use. The app has been designed around four key functions:
1. Create a personal profile
The profile replicates a one page profile as used in people’s support plans or care files. Doing this digitally prevents important information from being hidden in a file to something that is dynamic, owned by the person and easy to update.
Staff and trustees are also encouraged to create a profile so that the supporter and supported can learn more about each other.
People can also create a ‘personal wall’. This is a space where they can use words, photos, symbols and emojis to plan everyday activities. Each user can choose who they wish to share their profile with, including their friends and support workers.
2. Share ideas
Users can create a shared wall around a theme or idea. People can choose to join a shared wall created by others and contribute ideas by placing a ‘postie’ with either copy, a photo, symbol or emoji to express their thoughts or attach a document.
3. Work together
The digital platform lets people plan and work together remotely. Once a wall is created, people can co-produce projects together. There is also a resource section where people can browse and select from a constantly updated digital library.
4. Keep informed
The digital noticeboards are linked to where people live and work. There are also noticeboards where trustees and staff can post accessible information and policies.
Digital noticeboards lets people with disabilities access up-to-date information to make choices. It is also one way in which people can use digital media to share their ideas and have a direct link with the governance of the charity.
CVT Connect encourages people to network digitally with added safeguards from local administrators who know each person in their CVT community. They offer help to ensure people have full control over what they do.
At the time of writing, positive impacts have included:
- ✔ 270 members of CVT have signed up and are successfully using the app.
- ✔ People with learning disabilities having co-produced an app and developed skills through this process.
- ✔ People are using the sharing walls to support work on their projects.
- ✔ The charity is building more equal relationships between staff and the people they support.
- ✔ Information sharing and communication has improved.
- ✔ The app is fun and supports social interaction through technology.
- ✔ CVT have been invited by a number of organisations to whitelabel this platform for other disabled people.
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