Kudoz started with the question: How do we reduce social isolation amongst adults living with cognitive disabilities? Ethnographic research showed that adults with cognitive disabilities were not just isolated from other people, they were isolated from novelty and learning. The lab team reframed the challenge: How can we tap into the community to create lifelong learning?
Kudoz was designed to enable lifelong learning and to reduce stigma around cognitive disability. The lab team designed and tested all the component parts of Kudoz, including new staff roles and training materials; a mobile app; a booking system and metrics.
It works like this. New Kudoz participants (aka ‘Kudoers’) create their online profile to make learning visible over time. This profile serves as a portfolio for potential employers, and includes the badges Kudoers earn. Next, the online catalogue supports Kudoers to choose and book experiences for themselves, promoting independence instead of making choices made for them.
Every learning experience is an in-person interaction between a volunteer ‘Host’ and a Kudoer, designed to enable learning through multiple senses. For Hosts, body language is important to understand Kudoers who are less vocal. During the experience, a mobile app prompts Kudoer to take photos to support their memory. These are uploaded as a slideshow on their online profile, sparking conversations to deepen the learning with people in their network (including family, friends, and service staff).
Kudoz tries to shift social services from operating as centralized institutions to decentralized platforms. This uncovers big and small organizational barriers that the lab has to address to move forward.
Background: The InWithForward Lab that led to Kudoz
InWithForward builds a robust Research & Development function inside and between social service agencies. Their hunch is that it's the best place to start systemic innovation since agencies have relationships with end users and with government funders. This lab is a partnership with three of the bigger disability service providers in Greater Vancouver: Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, posAbilities, and Simon Fraser Society for Community Living.
The partnership shares investment and risk, and provides leverage to funders. Having the lab located inside the agencies allows the team to daily interact with users to test Kudoz. It also exposes staff to a different way of thinking and doing.
Alongside Kudoz, the lab team works with agency staff to adopt and apply prototyping methods in their own practice over half a year. The lab also is testing new procurement processes and policies with the government funder and a wider group of service providers.