Shelter service strategy + projects

As the first Service Designer for the largest housing & homelessness British charity Shelter, I championed Design Thinking across the organization, with a focus on improving the crucial services provided to people in urgent need of help with housing.

By acting as a ‘hands-on’ Service & UX Designer and actively engaging with senior management stakeholders, I successfully contributed to Human Centred Design becoming a key element of Services’ division long term strategy.

Year & location

2017 : 2020 - London, Uk

Category of work

Service Design, Strategic Design, UX Design

Team composition

Snr Service Designer [Me], Product Managers, Lead UX Designer, Developers

Introducing Human Centered Design to Shelter

When I joined Shelter, there was a limited understanding of Service Design throughout the company, so I had to start from the ground up to establish the discipline.

To familiarise myself with Shelter services and identify opportunities, I began conducting contextual user research. I learned how complex it is to engage with vulnerable people, from ‘recruiting’ to actually carring out research activities with somebody who is or will soon be homeless.
Reviewing existing bibliography and in-depth analysis produced by our researchers proved useful but it didn't provide a full picture. That’s when I started mapping things.

By developing a system map at Shelter, I was able to ‘connect the dots’ and find areas for improvement across different areas of the organisation.
Designing a user journey map helped to visualise what an ideal experience could look like for a person seeking advice and how it compared to the current experience. I was then able to effectively communicate that vision to decision makers at Shelter.

As I started to implement digital products I saw there was a clear need to introduce Service Design principles to the longer term strategy, but there were some barriers to achieving this.

I learned that ‘starting small’ was the best approach and began to build relationships with key people across the organisation so that I could understand their needs better. Once we'd built trust my team was able to guide stakeholders along the design process whilst addressing things they cared about. That’s when they started to gain genuine interest in Service Design.

By leading a number of research and co-ideation workshops, I helped our team to create a service strategy and a roadmap of product-services and interventions that would get Shelter closer to the ideal advice journey envisioned earlier. As a team, we then went on exploring these opportunities.

Some of the solutions we successfully implemented include:


London, UK

Improving our helpline to reach more people in urgent need

How we improved Shelter’s helpline to reach thousands more people in urgent need of housing & homelessness expertise.


London, UK

Making it easier for people to access Shelter's Local Advice Services

How we implemented a new way of looking for face-to-face Shelter advice in a local area and simplified things for our staff.

Following these successes I was asked to ideate and facilitate a strategic session with senior stakeholders which contributed to Human Centred Design becoming a key element of the Services’ directorate long term plan.
As a result, the team I was leading expanded to include another service designer, two user researchers, two product managers and a developer.

Building on the previous work, we focused on:
• a digital solution that provides personalised advice to people whose problems are not as urgent
• defining the taxonomy + information architecture of 1300 pages of housing law content to allow our colleagues helping people faster and better
redesigning Shelter's face-to-face services by looking at the entire local system - including service offering, policies, roles & responsibilities, partnerships, data flows and interior design.

Despite the multiple challenges faced along the way - the depth and variety of work our team was exposed to testifies the great potential of Service Design to deliver meaningful and consistent solutions at all levels - from strategy to implementation, from micro-interactions to systems.

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