Monday, 6 December 2010

TEDx: Design for Health

In October this year, I attended and spoke at TEDx Design for Health conference in Montreal. The talks were broad in scope, discussing how design and designers have been making contributions in areas of health research, products, environments, services and care.

I was invited to TEDx to speak about thinkpublic's project, Alzheimer100 which formed part of Dott 07 and has also had a lasting legacy which thinkpublic Founder, Deborah Szebeko and I wrote about in our 2009 paper, Co-designing for dementia: The Alzheimer100 project.

The conference organisers asked if I could speak about the project, its approach of co-designing the future of dementia care and the impact the project has had on national UK policy. One of the key ideas to emerge from Alzheimer100 was outlined as a recommendation in the UK government's National Dementia Strategy (2009).

To give a bit of background to the event, TED is a series of talks by inspiring people who have 'ideas worth spreading' (as per TED's strapline). All the talks are accessible on the TED website and TED presents people such as Bono, Richard Branson, Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, Malcolm Gladwell, Alain de Botton and the list goes on. One of my favourite talks is by Sir Ken Robinson on how school's kill creativity and I have been to the TED website countless times when I've looked to be inspired.

TEDx uses the same concept and principles of TED, only the TED brand is licensed out to organisations and institutions who can independently organise their own events. Having been a fan of TED, TEDx Montreal made me quite nervous. I was also battling jet lag (having arrived the night before the conference) and was one of the last talks of the day. But in short, the presentation, with help from thinkpublic, went well.

As mentioned, I spoke about thinkpublic's Alzheimer100 project. The project occurred in 2007 under the Dott 07 programme. thinkpublic used the approach of co-design to create ideas for what the future of dementia care could look like. A key part of the process was to create these ideas with people most affected by the disease ie. people with dementia and their carers (both formal and informal). The project resulted in a suite of innovative ideas, with a key idea being a signposting service to help people access local dementia support and services.

Presenting the Signposting Service idea at the Dott 07 Festival, 2007

It was this Signposting Service idea that inspired national UK policy recommendations to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers. My talk covered both the co-design process led by thinkpublic, and the legacy of the project which saw the signposting service, since renamed Dementia Advisors, be implemented in a number of sites across the UK in 2010 (at this moment in time, the Dementia Advisors service is now being evaluated by the UK Government). thinkpublic also kindly provided this 3-minute film to bring life to my talk and provide an neat overview of the project.

A100 (3 minute) from thinkpublic on Vimeo.

I always think how timely the Alzheimer100 project in 2007 was. Dementia is set to be one of the biggest social challenges of our time and a week before I left for Montreal, the World Alzheimer's Report was launched calling for all nations to make dementia a top priority. The report outlined key issues such as estimating that worldwide, the costs of dementia could top US$604 billion in 2010 and that currently, there are 35.6 million people living with dementia. The costs and number of people living with dementia are so phenomenal that there is no doubt we'll be hearing a lot more of this issue in the coming years. It'll be interesting to see where else designers can create a positive impact in helping address the challenges of dementia.

After the conference I had a lovely few days to explore Montreal. It's quite a European city, with strong French influences and very friendly people. The Latin Quarter, where I stayed and where TEDx was held, was very creative and dotted with wonderful eating places and shops. During my time in Montreal, I made the trip up to Mont Royal, with its expansive views over the city, and also went downtown, which was like a typical city of high rise buildings, shopping, museums and lots of tourists. It was a great time to be in the city as the leaves were turning colour for Autumn. As a final part of this post, here are some travel snaps.

The Hotel de I'Institut in the Latin Quarter where I stayed

The view from my room, looking toward Mont Royal and the Autumn coloured city

On the streets of the Latin Quarter (just up the road from the hotel)

On the streets of the Latin Quarter (just up the road from the hotel)

Downtown Montreal

The Plateau, which is heading uptown and toward Mont Royal

A view from Mont Royal

The Twin 6' Hearts sculpture by by Jim Dine (1999) outside the Montreal Museum of Fine Art (which had free entry to the permanent exhibition)

Chocolate fondue at Juliette et Chocolat