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1 May 2024

Police Scotland: User-centred design and data development day


At Hippo we know data and the remarkable power of harnessing it in the interests of citizen level projects. Frankly, we can do some really cool, really important stuff with data. The real challenge, however, is to create something of value that organisations can genuinely use in a safe and effective fashion, in a way that benefits end users.

Getting that right in any organisation is important.
Getting that right in law enforcement is essential.

Police Scotland Dev Day

Hippo were privileged to welcome a mix of Police Scotland colleagues for a Dev Day in Edinburgh recently. Most of those who joined us had never worked within a user-centred design framework. With the support of our facilitators, the delegates engaged in pop-up user research to understand who they were designing for, and why a data product could be useful within the scenario set. It was remarkable to see the enthusiasm for which they took to the task, using processes that were new to them and layering that deep professional insight.

Any Dev Day, (also commonly known as hacks or hackathons) is mulit-faceted and can vary in terms of structure, scenario, and projected outcome. Essentially, the aim is to bring a combination of subject matter experts, technical experts and facilitators together to solve a problem and produce working prototypes or action plans. These outcomes are designed to accelerate the development of software applications, business services (internal or external) and more.

In this case, members of Police Scotland from a wide range of functions were joined by a Hippo team consisting of user researchers, software architects, delivery managers, service designers and UX designers.. By the end of the morning the room had produced what was effectively a set of draft design principles to hand to the technical teams for alpha production. This is a staged process that can sometimes take weeks to get to, but by showing up with a creative mindset they nailed it within a few hours.

Same day outcomes

By the afternoon, the tech and data teams had produced software prompts which were inspired and written by design principles produced that very morning – a set of instructions that direct software to respond with actionable insight.

A feature of Dev Days is the show and tell at the end of each session. These staging posts encourage a cross-team understanding and emphasises learning outcomes that improve the end product. During the afternoon show and tell, the whole room was able to see how the code had been created and how design rules they had drafted that morning on post-it notes made it through to a working full-stack prototype.

And it wasn’t simply one scenario and one solution: the Police Scotland delegation, supported by the Hippo research and technical experts, had three working concepts up and running by the end of the day. That is impressive in itself – but over and above that is the fact that these were informed by user needs.

In a networking session following the event, Police Scotland commented on the unbelievable volume of work that had taken place in one day. One of the attendees, a police officer with no prior knowledge of artificial intelligence, engaged in conversation around responsible AI, discussing specific products to keep users’ data safe and how to implement organisational guidance so that colleagues can understand when and when not use AI products.

Future applications: a massive opportunity for society

It doesn’t just finish at the end of the Dev Day, however – the event outcomes give Police Scotland working prototypes that this important civic institution can use to iterate and produce something important from.

And that is the challenge.

If a business can produce a new piece of software using our user-centred design principles and advanced software capability, that is a great thing – efficiency and profitability should flow from that.

If Police Scotland gets that right, however, that saves lives, often in the most challenging of situations. In policing, understanding user needs, minute by minute, is the difference between a life saved and a life lost. Harnessing data and a keen understanding of whole population needs can help make individuals safer.