People-centred research: the first step for design and innovation

“The only important thing about design is how it relates to people.” – Victor Papaneck

At Uscreates, we care about people. We don’t believe in innovation for innovation’s sake, but innovation that makes people’s lives easier and better. First and foremost, we need to understand the problems and challenges that people face. We are fortunate enough to be working closely with Nesta and the Open Data Institute on their exciting Open Data Challenge, a series of seven challenge prizes to generate innovative and sustainable open data solutions to social problems.

Our role has been to ensure that the innovative products and services teams are pitching are centred on the needs of the people who matter for the challenge. To help with this, we spoke to a diverse group of people and organisations, conducted qualitative research, and offered people-centered mentoring and advice to the teams.

We are happy to share all the insight we gathered around each challenge here, with the hope of inspiring anyone who works within these areas to create meaningful and targeted innovation. The insight is collated in concise, actionable, shareable and visual mini-reports. It communicates information in the form of segments, personas, journey maps, barriers and drivers, circles of influence, and inspirational ideas. So far, the challenge themes have been Food, Housing, Energy, and Education. We will be adding to the list as Nesta and the ODI announce more challenges.


A research mini-report on using open data to help people get better jobs or create new jobs. We spoke to employees and people who are between jobs or self-employed. We also spoke to employers across industries, and intermediary jobs organisations such as LEPs, local authorities, Job Centre Plus, support and education services, coaches and recruiters. The report shares insights on how these different groups define an ‘ideal job’, employee and employer journeys through transition and progression, personas, challenges, opportunities, and inspirational ideas.
Download the Jobs mini-report here.

Heritage and Culture
A research mini-report on making heritage and culture opportunities accessible to more people and more diverse people. The report includes a map summarising the heritage and culture stakeholder relationships. The report also covers insights from visitors, institutions, artists, curators and critics, marketing professionals, and funding bodies.
Download the Heritage & Culture mini-report here

A research mini-report on promoting healthy eating, sustainable food, and secure food chains. We spoke to over 40 key stakeholders; from diverse consumers, small-scale producers, multi-brand producers, and farmers, to specialist and online retailers, supermarkets, restaurants and cafes. We also interviewed public health specialists, food publications and the Food Standards Agency.
Download the Food mini-report here

A research mini-report to understand how private tenants, social tenants and local housing allowance recipients can get the best out of renting. We spoke to low, moderate and high-income tenants, landlords, letting agents, local authorities, and housing associations. We also spoke to other relevant organisations such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, housing charities and consultancies, and campaign groups such as Generation Rent.
Download the Housing mini-report here

A research mini-report on group buying energy, community-based energy efficiency, and micro-generation of energy. We spoke to local residents, community energy projects, energy-related not-for-profit organisations, local authorities, local businesses, and energy experts, researchers and academics.
Download the Energy mini-report here

A research mini-report on giving parents and their children choice around their schools and subjects, and engaging parents in their children’s education. The report includes insights from families whose children attend both primary and secondary school, teachers and local authorities.
Download the Education mini-report here

Find out more

Get in touch if you have any questions about the mini-reports, or would like to discuss similar challenges and ideas, drop us an email at We’d love to hear from you!


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