Tool Stories: Swallows

Blank swallow cards CrossReach

Capturing conversations

Design researcher Leigh-Anne Hepburn is the first to pick a tool from the Experience Labs for our Tool Stories series.

Leigh-Anne led the recent Crossreach Confidential Connections project. Crossreach is a charity providing counselling services across Scotland. Their main centres are in the central belt, although they have outreach posts in other areas, including the Highlands and Islands, and Moray. Due to increasing demand for perinatal depression counselling, Crossreach wishes to consider opportunities for using digital technology to deliver services.

The Labs explored the experience of counselling, from the perspective of both people experiencing perinatal depression and counsellor. Participants’ experiences were recorded using specially designed tools bearing the image of a swallow.

Here, Leigh-Anne describes the tool and the effect it had on participants.

Design researcher Leigh-Anne Hepburn with swallow cards

Design researcher Leigh-Anne Hepburn with some of the items from the CrossReach project. Image credit: Hannah Laycock.

“For Crossreach, we were looking for something that represented a journey. We came up with the idea of the swallow.

“It has a lot of cultural interpretations. It’s used in seafaring – sailors used to get tattoos for every 5,000 miles of a journey. But there are also other interpretations: freedom, motherhood, faith, steadiness and lifelong partnership. Those interpretations fitted in quite well with the Crossreach values and about that journey through a counselling experience.

“We laser-cut swallow tags and while participants were sharing their experiences, we used the swallows to capture conversations. The swallows were hung in a row so that as well as people sharing, their stories were visualised. Everything that went up on the line became shared knowledge.

“We asked both groups, health professionals and past service users, to map their journey of experience through the counselling service. We used the swallows to map the points of interaction with the service and what it felt like for them. The swallows represented each point of their journey.

“As well as acting as a prompt to begin conversations and sharing of experiences, the tool worked to break down barriers. Because the Crossreach project tackled a very sensitive topic, it was often challenging for participants. This was perhaps the first time they had recounted their own personal experience. They were going back to a point in their lives that was challenging and something they hadn’t revisited in a long time.

“I feel the tools enabled them to do that in a much more careful and considered way.”

Swallow templates Crossreach

Participants filled in the swallow templates and hung them on a line. Image credit: Hannah Laycock

Read more about the Experience Labs on our Research pages.

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