Service Design Academy

An Innovation Framework to Support the Health and Wellbeing of Aberdeen’s Young People

children playing sport

Co-creating an innovative and sustainable framework to support community led projects through Service Design

INDUSTRY* Education, Third Sector, Health, Wellbeing and Sports.

The Challenge:  The Wood Foundation wanted to support the creation of a new framework for community led projects which connect, engage and support young people in new ways through sport.

The Approach:  A service design learning programme covering user research methods, ideation, prototyping, and implementation support built skills and capabilities to identify the needs of young people and radically re-think provision to co-design innovative new projects.

The Outcome: One charity re-designed their service provision, business planning & operations. Service Design provided space, process & an opportunity to reflect, reset and refocus  on providing high quality support for young people in some of the worst areas of deprivation in Scotland.

The Impact:  Pilot programmes included initiatives that enabled young people to connect with sport by providing appropriate clothing, mental health support, food education, young leaders, and work experience programmes, broadening the scope of support and the ages of young people involved.

Re-imagining funding and support opportunities

The Wood Foundation (TWF) has offered strong financial support for many years to the health, fitness, and wellbeing of young people in Aberdeen. Just one example is the Russell Anderson Development School (RADS). RADS provides quality fitness and health coaching to young people aged 4 -11 in one of Aberdeen’s most deprived areas. As well as increasing opportunities for exercise and encouraging healthy lifestyles, the coaching programme supports communication, social and life skills.

TWF recognised the opportunity for its support to evolve towards the development of more innovative and sustainable projects to meet the challenge of improving the health and wellbeing of young people in the community.

TWF wanted to develop and support a new framework of community- led projects that concentrates on what communities need, rather than dictating where funds will go or asking organisations to bid against each other for funding. They envisaged enabling collaboration and connection across the city for the benefit of young people.

By building the skills sets and capabilities of health and wellbeing partner organisations to fully meet the needs of young people in their communities, it is hoped that the partner organisations will collaborate, as well as involving their communities and team, on the co-design of new and innovative project proposals. Critically, they should build resilience through discovering new sources of sustainable income.

The Service Design Learning Experience

The Service Design Academy (SDA) worked with TWF to identify a shared problem statement, to connect partner organisations while learning the service design process. Five full days of interactive, engaging and impactful sessions were delivered online, for delegates, alongside representatives from TWF.

The sessions were designed to fully engage delegates with group work to encourage shared thinking and collaborative working. Service design principles influenced the workshop design positively with an equitable approach – all voices must be heard. The activities promoted group and independent discovery.

“How might we work together to remove barriers for young people and co-create new, exciting, and innovative ways to positively challenge sport, health and wellbeing in Aberdeen?”

Embracing the learning for success

The process was much more than just training, it enabled delegates to practice service design tools on organisational problems, ideate solutions, develop, and test their ideas in an atmosphere that was conducive to collaboration rather than competition. RADS have

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To support partner organisations SDA hosted individual data analysis and reflection meet-ups 4 weeks after the workshops. These allowed organisations to reflect on their time with SDA and start to formulate plans and proposals for funding to present and share. 

This was an integral part of the process, that enabled SDA to identify where additional support was needed but also to gain invaluable feedback on delivery approaches, learning materials and facilitation

Service Design Outputs and Outcomes at RADS

RADS had taken the opportunity to stop, reflect and re-design their future services. They built service design into regular meetings, providing an equitable and creative space for the rest of the team to join the service design journey.

User research and the ideas generated were the catalyst required to drive change with purpose and momentum.  RADS prepared a service journey map, co-created new “Pilot Light” initiatives and collectively ranked their priorities, planning each topic with a service design approach, even creating personalised service design tools inspired by their experience through the training.

A Business Model Canvas created a new proposal based on the acronym STEPS = Social, Thinking, Emotional, Physical Activity and School.  This was a collaborative effort giving everyone input, including schools, teachers, young people, and families to design the best initiatives possible. 

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Radically improving and expanding service provision

Four months later, the impact of embedding service design across the organisation is clear.

RADS have completely changed the way that they work involving Trustees, volunteers, and coaches at a strategic level and giving their young volunteers a platform to grow in ability and confidence.

RADS work is targeted to focus on local areas with high deprivation levels, and their mission was never to gain new business but to radically improve and expand on their services. Service Design has allowed them to do this, but also identified those who require their support, but for whatever reason, were previously unable to take part.

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Many of these children have very little “discipline” and family guidance to attend after school clubs, RADS are delighted that they will have a purpose and a means of “getting young people off the streets” and into meaningful and impactful programmes.

children playing sport
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SDA consultants supported different learning styles, were mindful of differing levels of comfort and experience that the delegates had collaborating remotely. The skills, expertise and lived experience from the delegates contributed to the workshop outcomes. The collaborative processes created an environment where everyone had a role to play in innovation and improvement, a new culture that allowed people to imagine alternatives and allowed them to come to fruition.




– Data analysis and reflection meet-ups 4 months post-training, provided a short timeline which encouraged the partner organisations to take next steps quickly and allowed SDA continue support going forward.

– Facilitating collaborative working across organisations, previously seen as ‘competitors’, helped to solidify their common goal and created a network of allies to provide support across their shared area of work.

– Iteration is a huge part of the way RADS work now.

– Improved relationships with schools.

– Gained a huge confidence boost, especially regarding creativity.

– Adapting and collaborating much better as a team.

– Have engaged in new partnerships



Katie Murrie, SDA Lead Consultant

Claire Hartley, SDA Consultant 

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