case study

How a Government Organisation Evolved to Embrace Ethnographic Methods for Service (and Team) Resilience: The Case of the Canadian Digital Service

Presentation slide: photograph of a diverse group of people waiting outside a building with a "Service Canada sign", most are wearing masks.
MITHULA NAIK Canadian Digital Service, Treasury Board Secretariat, Government of Canada COLIN MACARTHUR Universita’ Bocconi Government websites and online services are often built with limited input from the people they serve. This approach limits their ability to respond to ever changing needs and contexts. This case study describes a government digital team built from the ground up to embrace ethnographic methods to make government services more resilient. The case study begins by tracing the organisation’s origins and relationship to other research-driven parts of its government. Then it shows how the organisation’s structure evolved as more projects included ethnography. It describes various approaches to locating skilled researchers within bureaucratic confines, as well as what responsibilities researchers took on as the organisation grew. It then summarises researchers’ experiences with matrixed, functional and hybrid organisation schemes. The case study concludes explaining how embracing ethnographic approaches...

Navigating the Next with Resilience: Global Portfolio Strategy in a World of Uncertainty

Giulia Gasperi presenting at EPIC2022
GIULIA ELISA GASPERI TRIPTK SAM HORNSBY TRIPTK KATE MCTIGUE TRIPTK NICHOLAS PEDEN TRIPTK Apparel & footwear (A&F) give us social identity, protection and a means of self-expression. But in a pandemic these ways of thinking about clothing are essentially pointless. When the world shuts down and stays at home, how are A&F companies supposed to figure out what’s next – and how to gear themselves up for the future? At TRIPTK, we created the What’s Next Desk, a ‘what do we do about it next’ set of strategic and tactical actions for a global leader in apparel & footwear to respond to the behavioral shifts in consumer trends during COVID-19. We believe ethnographic research is a powerful approach for connecting companies to the people, communities and culture they serve. And when the world shuts down and we’re forced to throw the classic ethnographic playbook out the window, we still believe the ethnographic approach is possible and preferred. We believe that at its core, ethnography promotes empathy,...

The Future of Hygiene: Constructive Expansive Futures

SIDDHARTH KANORIA Quantum Consumer Solutions DIMITRI BERTI Quantum Consumer Solutions CHRISTI KOBIERECKA Unilever There has been significant interest in Futuring as a discipline after COVID-19, as multiple industries are beginning to interrogate their post-Covid future. Quantum Consumer Solutions and Unilever came together to interrogate the post-COVID future of hygiene in Europe, to inform brand and product strategy for Unilever. This project took a culture-first approach to futures, with a diverse and inter-disciplinary team working together using an Agile approach. Using a mixed-methods approach, the team used a combination of digital ethnography, speculative design and an Opportunity Spaces framework to distill the future of hygiene into ten Opportunity Spaces for Unilever. Readers can expect to learn more about why a culture-first approach to futures is recommended, how speculative design could represent an ‘ethnography of the future’ and how a simultaneously analytical and creative approach to futuring could be...

Designing Virtual Primary Care: Desire or Dread? How Structural Forces Shape the Anticipation of Futures

MARIE MIKA GRH+DOD* ARVIND VENKATARAMANI SonicRim The COVID-19 pandemic changed many healthcare companies' priorities and dramatically accelerated the drive towards increasingly virtual health care. Grand Rounds Health*, a healthcare startup, decided the time is now to launch its virtual primary care offering. It was assumed that a rural, lower-socioeconomic population would be more eager for, and best served by, virtual primary care, given their greater geographic distance from clinicians and other assumed access deficits. However, ethnographic research revealed that it was the urban, higher-socioeconomic population who both reported far more favorable experiences with remote care and more eager anticipation of virtual primary care. This is partly due to different technological experiences and ecosystems, but more directly due to differing trust in and agency with institutionalized health care. Ultimately, this case study reminds researchers that our experiences are shaped and limited by our social positions, and that we cannot...

Building for the Future, Together: A Model for Bringing Emerging Products to Market, Using Anticipatory Ethnography and Mixed Methods Research

Adobe Inc. Applied ethnography practitioners are often charged with learning from existing or potential customers, for a product that is either familiar to them or close in nature to what they have used before. There are particular challenges for emerging technologies, where the market is much less defined. Applied ethnography has the potential to help…

Reconnecting with the Public: Participatory Research and Co-creations within and outside a Public Institution

LOK YI LEE Brandnographer XINYI JIANG Brandnographer Despite constraints on face-to-face meetings and social distancing policies under COVID-19, with the help of online tools, Brandnographer successfully conducted a series of online activities to facilitate stakeholders from different age and background to immerse themselves in situated scenarios, then to design and visualize their ideal public services in the future. This paper discusses how a participatory approach and design thinking framework have helped the researchers and decision makers collect thick data from the service users, transform user insights into prototypes for reiteration and concrete design principles. On the other hand, how the blurred identities in between observers, participants and designers have stimulated discussions and design possibilities by supplying real-life scenarios and evaluation on solution feasibility. Article citation: 2021 EPIC Proceedings pp 43–57, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...

Anticipating Needs: How Adopting Trauma-Informed Methodologies During COVID-19 Influenced Our Work Connecting Frontline Workers To Temporary Housing

MEREDITH HITCHCOCK Airbnb.org SADHIKA JOHNSON Independent (formerly Airbnb) This case study argues that all research should be trauma-informed research. It asserts that because researchers cannot anticipate everything about research participants’ needs, histories, and context, taking an approach that assumes all participants are more likely than not to have experienced trauma should be the paradigm for researchers. Even before receiving formal training in trauma-informed research, incorporating methodologies from trauma-informed research can make all researchers more human-centered. From March–April 2020, researchers from Airbnb conducted research to help launch a program that provided free or discounted accommodations to COVID-19 frontline workers: Frontline Stays. The researchers needed to conduct research with both frontline workers and Airbnb hosts who were temporarily opening their homes to them. Some of the researchers had received formal training in trauma-informed research. Others did not have the training, but...

Anticipating the Unanticipated: Ethnography and Crisis Response in the Public Sector

CHRISTINA CHEADLE Stripe Partners HANNAH PATTINSON Surrey County Council This case study emphasizes the importance of ethnographic research in the public sector, specifically regarding emergency preparedness and crisis-response. In the summer of 2020, Surrey County Council in England commissioned a mixed-method Community Impact Assessment to better assist and serve their residents during the Covid-19 pandemic. Stripe Partners conducted the place-based ethnographic work, helping discover insights that led directly to strategy change. The ethnographic and quantitative research went hand-in-hand and led to rich and meaningful insights that were able to confidently convince decision makers to create change. Our ethnographic work validated many of the quantitative findings, while simultaneously providing the depth that allowed them to accurately and most usefully allocate resources for change. We researched how local communities had been affected by Covid, conducting on-the-ground interviews in seven different towns in the region....

Demonstrating the Impact of Ethnography: Chad Maxwell on ROI and New Kinds of Ethnographic Value

"Case studies are about impact and results that were driven by great ethnographic work." Chad Maxwell, Chief Strategy Officer, KSM & Co-chair, EPIC2021 Case Studies
Welcome to EPISODE TWO in a series of conversations with some of the makers and speakers of EPIC2021—a global, virtual conference and community promoting ethnography for impact in business, organizations and communities. In this episode, Luc Aractingi talks with Chad Maxwell, Chief Strategy Officer at Kelly Scott Madison and co-chair of the EPIC2021 Case Studies Committee. Find out how ethnographers demonstrate the impact of their work, and how ethnography can create new kinds of value in the future. TRANSCRIPT LUC: Hello and welcome to EPIC interviews, a series where we get to know the makers and the host of the conference EPIC. This year our theme is anticipation, and today we'll be interviewing Chad Maxwell, who's Chief Strategy Officer at KSM. Chad, thank you for coming. We're very excited to have you here today. Could you tell us more about your role at EPIC? CHAD: Sure. Thanks for having me. It is great to be here. My role at EPIC is I am one of the chairs for the case studies section of the conference. LUC: Could...

Fighting Conspiracy Theories Online at Scale

REBEKAH PARK Gemic DAVID ZAX ReD Associates BETH GOLDBERG Jigsaw This 2019 project conducted in the US and the UK sought to understand which conspiracy theories are harmful and which are benign, with an eye towards finding ways to combat disinformation and extremism. This case study demonstrates how ethnographic methods led to insights on what “triggered” conspiracy belief, the social and emotional roles conspiracy theories played in believers’ lives, and how conspiracy belief was often a reflection of a person's general sense of societal alienation. We discovered that any extreme version of a conspiracy theory could be harmful. The findings of this project changed how the client—and by extension engineers behind major tech platforms—understood harmful conspiracy-related content, and led to a refinement of the algorithms defining the discoverability of this content. The aim of this project was to scale and amplify through algorithmic interventions the work of individual debunkers. Keywords: Conspiracy theories,...

Harnessing Empathy To Scale A Healthtech Startup During The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study Of myICUvoice, A Communication Tool Designed For Critical Care

NADYA POHRAN University of Cambridge & SympTech Ltd TIMOTHY BAKER SympTech Ltd SIMON PULMAN-JONES Emergence Now AMY WEATHERUP AJM Enterprises This case study explores the scaling experience of an early-stage healthtech startup company called myICUvoice. During the Covid-19 pandemic, myICUvoice rapidly scaled from a single intensive care environment to being widely used nationally (UK) as well as globally. We explore why and how so many volunteers were motivated to donate their time and expertise to help scale this early stage startup. Specifically, we examine the roles that empathy played throughout the scaling process. There are three distinct types of empathy that we have identified in our story: em-pathos, empathetic understanding, and mass-empathy. These each had a distinct role in driving the startup forward. Importantly, we note that human-centered design (which often focuses almost exclusively on achieving empathetic understanding) will immensely benefit from considering the multiple types, and multi-faceted...

Scaling Experience Measurement: Capturing and Quantifying User Experiences across the Real Estate Journey

REBECCA J HAZEN Zillow Group GENNY MANGUM Zillow Group TOM SOUHLAS Zillow Group Zillow is undergoing a major evolution, transitioning from serving as the world's largest digital marketplace for real estate advertising into an end-to-end platform to support customers across the phases of buying, selling, and renting homes. As Zillow expands into more transactional spaces, the company has recognized the need to develop a clear and actionable understanding of users and their experiences as they interact with our products and services. To address this need, we set out to establish an Experience Measurement program to provide organization-wide visibility into how well our Zillow experiences meet users’ needs and expectations as they progress through their real estate journey. This program will enable teams to gain insights at the intersection of attitudinal and behavioral experience data and lead us to our end goal of empowering informed decision-making across all levels of the experience and organization. In this paper, we...

Who Cares Where?: A Pivotal Ethnographic Study for Italian Hospital Homecare

ISABEL FARINA Experientia srl ELENA MESSINA Experientia srl MICHELE VISCIOLA Experientia srl ELENA GUIDORZI Experientia srl CHIARA AGAMENNONE Experientia srl DARIA CANTU’ Experientia srl The case study presented is an in-depth view on the project “Casa nel Parco” (translated as “the House in the Park”), a three-year, European-funded project (ERDF Funds 2014-2020) in the Italian region of Piedmont that involves 4 hospitals, 2 large companies, 14 small-medium enterprises, 2 universities, and 2 private research centers. The goal is to research and innovate hospital-homecare services for elderly and ALS patients, as well as their caregivers, through the implementation of e-health solutions. The uniqueness of our case study lays on the fact that our ethnographic work was pivotal in shifting the narrative of closed hospital ecosystems (Goffman 1961); where those outside of the hospital environment are not viewed as credible or essential sources for improving the care system. In this...

The City as Organization: Ethnography for Alternative Futures

JORDAN SHADE International Business Machines Corporation, A Functional Democracy HAL WUERTZ International Business Machines Corporation, A Functional Democracy In this case study we use ethnographic outcomes from the study of the employee population of IBM, to inform new experiences for improving civic engagement in the resident population of Austin, Texas. In doing so, we experiment with a technique in speculative ethnography that uses research insights from a variant population with a variant challenge for in-depth explorations of a possible future. We demonstrate, first, that while in speculative thinking big ideas can be imagined, transposing ethnography enables a richer exploration of possible futures, and thus, further depth in ideas. And second, that by combining speculative thinking with existing ethnography, researchers and design teams can unearth bold experiments and jump start a design process that drives quicker learnings and impact in new contexts. Keywords: Culture Change, Speculative Design, Civic Engagement,...