I’m currently collaborating with Cognitive Edge developing a Sensemaker app for a mental health project I work with. Its about trying to understand the world through the eyes of people with psychosocial disability (PPSD). The key concept is self signified micro narratives- PPSDs or their carers relating stories of their choosing and explaining to us what their stories mean to them via 8 interactive screens. The app has English and Hindi interfaces and can be used on a mobile phone or tablet. Definitely worth a blog.
Here’s how it goes- A well-skilled community worker who already has a relationship with the PPSD and caregiver asks them to tell an important story from the previous week. The app, using verbal pictorial and interactive cues, gets them to explain why they chose it and what it means. Conceptually it is a way to get lots of ‘data-points’ in a complex field, preserve their richness and heterogeneity (they choose their story) and somehow make meaning (sense if you like) out of what, all together, they say. By analysing many stories, all in the same way we hope to build up a rich picture of what their world looks like. We can also look for changes over time by using the same analysis on stories collected say 6 months later.
The app has 8interactive screens, many of them with “traids” or “diads”. On a triad the PPSD slides a marker around in a triangular space with labelled corners. They choose the place that best signifies their story (that’s what self-signified means). In the example the corners are relating the story entirely to a person and their body, to them as an individual in a family or their place in their community. Of course all stories will be a mixture of these issues, the point is that PPSDs get to tell us what the mixture is in their story. When uploaded all their stories analysed together will tell us important things about what the world looks like to our participants. We can also subdivide our participants to look for important differences like say finding a cluster of women who feel their issues are about social isolation whereas men feeling problems are about physical health. Or carers feeling the issues are physical wheras PPSD feel they are about family relationships. After six months we might find the cluster moving- perhaps PPSD will feel their issues are much more about an interplay of themselves and their communities. Lets see.
Other questions ask the respondent to slide a marker between two extremes to where they feel their story lies. See the picture of the Hindi screen below.
There’s still work to do refining the tool but I love the thinking in this approach. Conceptually trying to get lots of small stories from people inside the system who, themselves, tell us what they mean fits well with my view that in complexity it is impossible to ascribe meaning from outside. I also like the idea that the best view of what the world is like for those we work with is a mosaic made up of tiny individual pieces from lots of participants. That it fits well conceptually is no surprise- Cognitive Edge’s founder is David Snowden whose view of complexity is foundational to my thinking. Practically I love using IT to capture and analyse a whole lot of stories and their meaning quickly, simply and in an interactive way. And about 15 minutes to complete an interview means it should be possible for a poor person with little free time. I’m enjoying the disparate specialities swirling around- IT, medicine, sociology, development, context… And I love experimentation. It might not work, but it is going to be fun. Watch this space.