If there’s anything that COVID-19 has taught us, it’s that we don’t need 18-month long working groups to achieve significant change.  

That’s why we’re learning from the tech-sector to bring about fast-paced, action-orientated projects that will deliver the same high-quality policy, campaigning and advocacy work that we’re known for – in less than half the time.  

I’ve chaired and been part of so-called “Short Life Working Groups” over the last three years – and none have been short, and it’s taken an age to achieve anything. Yet when COVID-19 came along, everyone put aside their hang-ups about change and took to it like a duck to water.  

After arguing for a free, national HIV self-testing service for over two years – the global pandemic saw HIV Scotland and Waverley Care just got on with it to deliver a brand new service in 4 weeks, and it has more than exceeded expectations.  

When we put our mind to it, have a collective goal and a shared ambition to get it right – we don’t need 18 months. Our latest project, HIV Services: Designing the Future, is learning from the tech sector.  

Have you ever heard of a hackathon? It’s a design event used all over the tech sector to develop services or products in a short space of time. They bring together experts, users, designers and tech specialists to develop something within a couple of days. If you’re not in the room, you’re not involved in the decisions.  

They are fast-paced, action-orientated and fun. They bring out the best in people to change something for the better – and that’s why we’re bringing this approach to our service design project. We want to bring out the creativity in people to design and create the most innovative solutions when they have never been more needed.  

Headed up by an expert chair – someone living with HIV – we’ll bring together key stakeholders to work online over 12 weeks in short, sharp bursts. They’ll use creative thinking, teamwork, and development & design skills to produce a blueprint for the future.  

COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to think about the future of HIV services, integrating digital solutions, outreach, and providing dedicated support to those who need it most. This is the perfect moment to design the ideal service – with the user at the heart of the process – rather than tinker round the edges.  If this pandemic is to leave us with any life lesson in the sector – it should be that innovation is possible, and we can do it quickly. Last year I participated in SCVO’s Senior Leaders Programme which provides access to the latest digital thinking and a network of diverse leaders from across the voluntary sector. This helped me to think more strategically about digital.   

We’re learning from other sectors to bring out the best in people to ensure people living with HIV can access the best care possible. Let’s think creatively about service design!  


Check out the SCVO events page for upcoming events and training sessions on these new ways of working and thinking creatively about service design.