How can we…Creatively stimulate a focused and critical national discussion with a diverse range of citizens about the future of England’s food system and eating habits?
The National Food Strategy is the first independent review of England’s entire food system for 75 years and it embraces many organisations and there is a general call for evidence covering the whole industry and citizen assemblies. The project is being scoped by Policy Lab but for Royal College of Art’s team, we are assigned to develop own project around food and food production that will become part of the review and be tested with people around the country.
Project's main Contribution
- Visual Design: Visual Identity | Tool Design
- Board Game Design: Game Structure | Graphics
- Exhibition Display
- Collected more than 50 raw datas
- Conducted real workshops with stakeholders
Understanding Food System and People's interest
We started our project by doing research to understand the current food supply chain system from field to fork. We realised that the system is so complicated so that it’s almost impossible to capture whole problem in which food system has been expanding globally. After understanding complexity of the food system, we decided to focus on Consumer’s experiences and thoughts as our primary area.
Our team member went out outside afterward to take short interviews with consumer at supermarket, food canteen and street, and while the interview we used “Speculative Scenario Images”, “Fact Card” and “Voting Card” to understand what topics trigger people’s interest. We found out that although consumer are well aware food issues, such as food waste, plastic packaging and animal right, people don’t talk about invisible topic without giving small cue/information such as bio diversity, labour’s condition etc. Therefore, in order to spark diverse conversation, it is better to provide variety of topics to think critically.
After the user interview, we also realise that we can’t predict conversation’s direction because each person have own concerned area such as personal health, packaging and nutrition information, and once the group conversation started, people exchange and elaborate their knowledge spontaneously which is really good take-away for us as finding.
Learning Conversation Pattern
Our team explored to understand what’s good conversation is and how to facilitate it in good manner. We started to find differences elements between good and bad conversation, and defined key elements of good conversation as “Interesting” , “Fun”, “Reciprocal”, “Build Up”, “Acknowledge” and “Good Tempo”.
We back to our first user interview stages to analyse the conversation how people’s conversation journey look like from the beginning to the end. While looking at the level of engagement during the conversation, we found people are more engaged when they are talking about personal experience, something related to culture or worries about food issues. So in order to keep people engaged, conversation should be related to people’s food experience, not about global scale food topics.
As our aim was to spark conversation which should interact with other people. We had an interview with V&A’s food exhibition curator telling us how to make a balance between informative and provocative. She also told that a tangible object or experiences help to trigger people’s imagination and conversation so that we took away the suggestion.
What’s we found key elements of conversation
- Provocative People are easily provoked by tangible object close to their daily lives.
- Unpredictable It’s difficult to predict conversation direction.
- Build Up Some group could spontaneously build up on own knowledge during conversation.
After the research and the interviews, we summarised key elements for national food conversation. We need to make the conversation through tangible objects as mush as possible because people are easily provoked by tangible object close to their daily lives. And they need information to think bigger picture of food system. According to that, we defined the key elements of a good conversation.
Firstly, the provocation should be tangible and accessible to people’s daily lives. The conversation should be interesting and informative, which will broaden people’s understanding of food system to help them discuss critically and deeply. In the end, there should be consistent interactions after the conversation.
In terms of who is our audiences, as the stakeholder are so huge so that we can’t deal with all so that we decided to focus on consumer. Moreover, Policy Lab and Independent team already arranged citizen assembly which included workshop, conferences and online activity. Because of the ongoing situation, we decided to focus on more specific groups whose engagement with policy making tends to be low compared to active users such as under-age groups, living in rural area who is often difficult to engage due to its location and people who is quite user groups for policy making.
Our Design Principles for the conversation
#Inspiring Our conversation should be positive, and provocative.
#RightSetting Touchpoints for conversation should be accessible in a food related environment from people’s daily life.
#DownToEarth Conversation starters should be tangible and related to people’s daily lives.
#Informative Not only based on people’s current understanding and knowledge
Iteration and improvement of prototypings
We scoped the user groups and in order to attract them, we came up with 3 different tools: Pop-Up Exhibition, Pub Quiz and Board Game. In order to validate the ideas, we tested prototyping which we included different contents, provocative and informative information and observed how people reacted to the ideas. In addition to it, we tried to validate how tangible objects sparks conversation.
One of the good finding was that in order to get deep insight, facilitation is necessary element of conversation. For example, we put provocation idea flyer under tray at canteen and observed it, however people enjoyed chat with friends so they didn’t pay attention to the flyer. Another key point was to make it fun. While playing first prototype of the board game, people didn’t enjoy a lot due to lack of explanation and game’s structure, therefore people didn’t engage well with the food topics.
After the failures, we improved the ideas and picked up key elements and contents and had a feedback session with Policy Lab. They were interested in our ideas, especially with fun elements because policy maker always struggle to engage with the user groups we mentioned. And we knew that campaign budget was not huge so that we needed to consider how easy to deliver to the whole country without delivery cost so Policy Lab also appreciated our consideration.
Public Exhibition and Stakeholder Real Workshop
We summarised and polished our three outcomes, and exhibited at Royal College of Art’s Working in Progress Show, which opened to Public for 5 days, and organised real workshop with stakeholder by using the board game and the Pub Quiz. While the exhibition and the workshop, we got really good feedback such as:
“The object caught my attention because of foods and unusual display setting and the information gave me new perspective to think about our food system.”
“There game and Pub Quiz are really good because it’s attractive to those who are not interested in talking about serious policy stuff and it’s really easy to deliver!”