Service Design Scotland: Distanced Gatherings

Our last Distanced Gathering was on 25 November 2021. Thank you to everyone who joined us along the way, it’s been a pleasure hosting.

In this document, you will find outputs and conversation records from all Distanced Gatherings since the first one in March 2020.

You can also learn more at

#SDSGather Distanced Gatherings originated as weekly online meet ups of the Service Design Scotland community, as a response to lockdown and the global pandemic. Maintaining the original format, the Gatherings were then run as a monthly events (every third Thursday of the month), organised by Lorri Smyth (Sopra Steria), Mike Press (Open Change) and Barbara Mertlova (Open Change). We had participants from all over the world, and your professional background does not have to be in service design. Below, you can find conversation records and resources collated from all previous sessions to give you a flavour.

Thank you to all our brilliant Guest Speakers who have shared part of their work with us - Hazel White, Ummi Jameel & Jiaru Shi, Cassandra Baiano & Ron MacDonald, Andy Hyde & Agnes Houston MBE, Colleen Henderson & Kathryn Grace, Rod Mountain, Rachael Hood, Kevin Ditcham Erin McAuliffe, Vasia Christoulaki, Dr Dhruv Sharma, Dr Sarah Drummond, Kirsty Joan Sinclair, Ross McCulloch, Jon Gill, Dr Alyson Walker, Leah Lockhart & Fionn Tynan-O’Mahony, Sophie Dennis, Hena Ali, Tash Willcocks, Adam St.John Lawrence, Marina Terteryan, Stéphanie Krus & Angela F. Orviz, Lenka Murova, Galdino Pedron, Lynne Martin, Alex Clarke, Sonia Napolitano, Sarah Hill, a special Gathering curated by Rod Mountain & Aly Walker, Wendy Brawer, and Sam Groves.

We adjusted the format according to what you thought in July 2020, and at the beginning of 2021, we again asked for your thoughts on what was next for the Gatherings. Thank you for your role in helping this project and our community evolve. If you have any other feedback, we’d love to hear it - contact

The sister initiative of the Gathering - Randomised Coffee Trials - recently published a reflection on the year of over 400 brief encounters. In the blog, you can also find out how to join.

Practitioner Stories is an interview study collecting stories of Service Design in the Scottish public and third sectors by Angela Orvitz, Stephanie Kruz and Serena Nusing which emerged out of the Gathering.

Thank you to everyone who’s joined the community. We hugely enjoyed holding these events.
Lorri, Mike & Barbara

Here is a list of conversation records and resources from all previous Gatherings.

#SDSGather 31

The Autumn series of the Distanced Gathering looked at themes related to COP26 – the 2021 United Nations climate change conference.

Guest: Our last special guest was Sam Groves - User Research Lead at Scottish Government. Sam is also a Trustee at Bike for Good - a Glasgow charity and social enterprise that promotes cycling while supporting skills and development for young people and improving mental and physical wellbeing. We explored issues around people-centred design, sustainable transport and the joy of cycling.



Talking Points:
The Gatherings keep the same format and always reflect on how our past week had been in the first discussion. The next topics were -

The Silent Shout Outs (sharing of opportunities, tips, and questions) from each session are shared on Twitter via Barbara’s account.

Thank you for your time with us,
Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 30

Returning after the summer break, the Gathering now has a website to give it a home, and we are trying a new, forward-planning approach - the year of the Distanced Gathering will be split into groups of three’s which will focus around a particular theme. The September, October, and November events are looking at themes related to this autumn’s COP26 – the 2021 United Nations climate change conference.

Guest: Our Special Guest was Wendy Brawer - an eco-design pioneer, based in New York City. She is the founder and director of Green Map System, which engages communities in 65 countries in mapping local natural, cultural and green living resources. A TED Resident, Wendy is involved in climate, cycling, solar, and green infrastructure projects around NYC and beyond.



Talking Points:
The Gatherings keep the same format and always reflect on how we have been in the first discussion. The next topics were -

The Silent Shout Outs (sharing of opportunities, tips, and questions) from each session are shared on Twitter via Barbara’s account - find them here.

Until we meet again,
Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 29

This event focussed on the question of a people centred NHS - How do we design a better experience of healthcare?

Guests: This Special Distanced Gathering was curated by Rod Mountain, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee and a V&A Dundee Design Champion. Rod was in conversation with Dr Alyson Walker, consultant paediatric anaesthetist at Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Children, and service design evangelist in the NHS.



Talking Points:
The Gatherings keep the same format and always reflect on our past week in the first discussion. The next topics were curated by this month’s Special Guests -

The sister initiative of the Gathering - Randomised Coffee Trials - recently published a reflection on the year of over 400 brief encounters. In the blog, you can also find out how to join.

Practitioner Stories is an interview study collecting stories of Service Design in the Scottish public and third sectors by Angela Orvitz, Stephanie Kruz and Serena Nusing which emerged out of the Gathering.

The Silent Shout Outs (sharing of opportunities, tips, and questions) from each session are shared on Twitter via Barbara’s account - find and share the shout out from this session via this link.

Until we meet again,
Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 28

At this Gathering, we explored the theme of Home - what does it mean to you?

Guests: The Special Guest of this event was Sarah Hill, designer at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and to our great pleasure a Gathering regular.



Talking Points:
The Gatherings keep the same format and always reflect on our past week in the first discussion. The next topics covered -

The sister initiative developed from the Gathering - Randomised Coffee Trials - recently published a reflection on the year of brief encounters, of which we’ve had over 400. Read more in our blog.

Practitioner Stories is an interview study collecting stories of Service Design in the Scottish public and third sectors by Angela Orvitz, Stephanie Kruz and Serena Nusing which emerged out of the Gathering.

The Silent Shout Outs (opportunities, tips, and questions) from each session are shared on Twitter via Barbara’s account - find and share the shout out from this session via this link.

Until we meet again,
Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 27

The theme of this event focussed on design futures, and how to encourage and support young people into design. 

Guests: The Special Guest of this event was Sonia Napolitano of the V&A Dundee Young People’s Collective.



Talking Points:
The Gatherings keep the same format and always reflect on our past week in the first discussion. The next topics covered -

The Silent Shout Outs from each session are shared on Twitter via Barbara’s account - find and share the shout out from this session via this link.

Reminder of our Anniversary gift to you - Now That’s What I Call Distanced Gathering vol 1 playlist.

Until we meet again,
Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 26

This event celebrated the Distanced Gathering’s first Birthday. Thank you to all of you who have been part of our journey and we look forward to what comes next.

Guests: The Special Guest of this event was Alexandra Clarke, Senior Service Designer in health and social care at Healthcare Improvement Scotland. With previous experience that includes Snook and the Scottish Government, Alex offers some unique insights on how service design can meet the challenges of post-Covid recovery.



Talking Points:
The Gatherings keep the same format and always reflect on our past week in the first discussion. The next topics covered -

The Silent Shout Outs from each session are shared on Twitter via Barbara’s account - find and share the shout outs from this session via this link.

As an anniversary gift, we’d like to share with you these curated playlists that include all the music we’ve played since the start of the Gatherings. 

Until we meet again,
Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 25

Guests: As this week’s Special Guest, we welcomed Lynne Martin. Lynne runs the Creative Accelerator Programme for Elevator - a network of centres that support entrepreneurship and business development in Scotland. She describes what she does as “working with people that make and do brilliant things, helping them to understand how they can develop and move forward with their business ambitions for their creative practice.” She maintains her practice as a singer and performer - and is seeking to revive the forgotten century-old Dundee practice of herring dressing.


Talking Points:
The Gatherings keep the same format and always reflect on our past week in the first discussion. Then, each session explores a different theme - this week we focussed on Resilience.

The Silent Shout Outs from each session are shared on Twitter via Barbara’s account - find and share the shout out from this session via this link.

On 8 April, the next Distanced Gathering will celebrate its One Year Anniversary. We would love for you to join us in the session - book your FREE tickets today.

Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 24

Guests: Our Special Guest in this edition of the Distanced Gatherings was Galdino Pedron, designer, ethnographer and futurist. Galdino is research fellow at Envisioning in Nuremberg, as well as a business mentor for startups. He’s also been a regular at our Gatherings over the past eleven months.



Talking Points:
The Gatherings keep the same format, but explore different themes in each session. The only discussion we keep is the opening paired chat reflecting on our past weeks. The rest of this session focussed on future of cities.

The Silent Shout Outs from each session are shared on Twitter via Barbara’s account - find and share the shout out from this session via this link.

Lorri took a well deserved break this week, but on 18 March, we will all be back in full force and we look forward to seeing you then!

Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 23

Guests: The Special Guest in this Distanced Gathering was Lenka Murova, Creative Director at indie publisher Knight Errant Press. She joined us to discuss the power of storytelling by and for people who are under-represented in our cultural landscape and how Knight Errant Press are supporting new writers to find their voice.


Talking Points:
The Gatherings stick to a familiar format, but explore different themes in each session. The only discussion we keep is the opening paired chat reflecting on our past weeks.

The Silent Shout Outs from each session are shared on Twitter via Barbara’s account - find the shout outs from this session here, and please do share them with your networks or connect with those that are relevant to you.

Thank you for your part in the Distanced Gatherings. We look forward to seeing you next time!
Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 22

Guests: For the first time, some of you took over the guest slot and helped facilitate a few of the breakout questions. Thank you to Stéphanie Krus and Angela F. Orviz, our brilliant Special Guests, who with Serena Nusing have been collecting stories of Service Design in Scotland for a research project that they shared in detail with us.


Talking Points:
The Gatherings stick to a familiar format, but explore different themes in each session. The only discussion we keep is the opening paired chat reflecting on our past weeks.

The Silent Shout Outs from each session are shared on Twitter via Barbara’s account - find the shout out from this session here, and please do share!

Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 21

Guests: Our first Special Guest of 2021 was Marina Terteryan. Marina is an LA-based design leader using her experience in service design, education, social justice and behavioural science. She set up LA’s first independent service design studio - The Why Lab - and the world’s first service design podcast - Why Service Design Thinking. Marina has also helped organise LA’s service jam and supported the 2018 Dundee GovJam.


Talking Points:
The Gatherings stick to a familiar format, but explore different themes in each session. The only discussion we keep is the opening paired chat about our past weeks.

The Silent Shout Outs from this session have been shared on Twitter - find here and please share wide with your networks!

Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 20 - Christmas Special

Guests: Our Christmas Special Guest was Adam St.John Lawrence.


Talking Points:
For our festive special edition of the Distanced Gathering, we invited you - the participants to design the session. Three of you were selected to pose a question for discussion in breakout rooms during the event.

Jean Ferguson asked us; ’What is your favourite memory of 2020?’.
Linn Vizzard’s question was; ‘What are you letting go of as we close this year and move into 2021?’
Sara Reid posed for group discussion; ‘If you could pick one problem to have the same level of attention and priority as the covid vaccine, what would it be?’
Following on from our Guest Speaker, we dedicated the last group breakout conversation to a bit of reflection. ‘What have you learned this year? About anything. About your work, your community, yourself, about what’s important.’
And the last Waterfall chat of 2020 looked ahead; ‘What are you most looking forward to in 2021?’

The Silent Shout Out from this session has been shared on Twitter - find here.

#SDSGather 19

Guests: Our November Guest was Tash Willcocks, recently appointed Head of Learning Design at Snook. Previously, she was Director of Masters Europe at Hyper Island, and a few weeks ago, she co-founded the Design Education international community. She’s a world class designer, brilliant and distinctive illustrator and charismatic public speaker, with a passion and reputation for radical innovation in design education.
Tash shared with us her insights from Hyper Island and its impact on design education, spoke about her next challenges at Snook, and introduced the idea behind the Design Education Slack community. Delving deeper, Tash reflected on what some of the broader opportunities for design education in the world today might be. Tash was kind to collate and share many helpful resources which you can browse below.

To connect with Tash on Twitter or Instagram - @tashwillcocks

Sir Ken’s Talks:

Improv resources:

Talking Points:
This month, as Lorri took a well deserved break, we were joined by Open Change’s Hazel White (also author of all Distanced Gathering graphics) to co-facilitate the event.

Per the habit, we opened with paired breakout conversations that invited participants to reflect on their past week. The second paired conversation which followed focussed on comics. More specifically, we were inspired by the Beano comic - published in Dundee since 1938 - which has produced its first ever version aimed at adults, the ‘Beanold’. With the idea that it may not be the last, we asked; “Who would you like to see in the next adult Beano, and what comic persona should they have?”

The first grouped conversation tied some of the world events taking place over recent weeks with the theme of this session - education. Groups of 3-4 participants discussed this question - “How can we better educate for democracy?” And after our Guest Slot, Tash suggested to think about this - “If you were to disrupt education within the design sector, what would you do? Tomorrow, in 2 years, 5 years....”

Within the now established format, the Silent Shout Out followed, which lets people share their work, offer volunteering and job opportunities, and exchange ideas. All entries have been shared as a Twitter thread here.

As today, 19th November, was Discovery Day in Puerto Rico which celebrates the landing of Christopher Columbus there in 1493, we decided to close off with a focus on personal discoveries, asking “what personal discovery has given you the most joy - and why?” This was done in the familiar form of a Waterfall chat - which gives 60 seconds to type an answer and then participants are prompted to press send all at the same time so that responses come flooding in the chat like a waterfall.

Thank you for your part in this constantly developing project. We hope you enjoyed another one of our sessions, and we look forward to seeing you next month - for our Christmas Distanced Gathering on Thursday 17 December, 4.00 - 5.00 pm UK time.

Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 18

Guests: Our October Guest was Dr. Hena Ali, who we also had the pleasure to regularly meet at many previous Gatherings. Hena is a senior lecturer at the Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London as well as teaching on the Postgraduate service design course at LCC in Lonson. She is a UK based designer, researcher and academic. Dr Ali’s research interests are wide and include communication for sustainability, service design innovation, and collaborative design.

Higher education has frequently featured in the headlines over the past few weeks. How challenging has this time been for students and staff wasn’t the only focus of our discussion today. We looked at some of the positive aspects of this challenge facing service design education, and touched upon a proposed collaboration between the Gatherings and education - with the idea that students may create visual representations of our Gathering conversations. No less importantly, the conversation reflected on Black History Month, asking how design education might better reflect and support our diverse culture and economy.

To connect with Hena on Twitter - @HenaAli10


Talking Points:
After dedicating the first paired conversation to a reflection on our past week as has now become a familiar session opener, the second paired breakout reflected on this week’s government Reskill, Rethink, Reboot headline campaign, by answering the question of ‘What advice might we give to someone in our lives on how they can hang onto their dreams and creative ambitions?’ We felt it was essential to dedicate part of the event’s focus to Black History Month (October, in the UK), reviving a resource that this community collated a few months ago to support us to “do the work required to be better allies in our professional and personal lives”. Following from the Guest slot, the next question expanded on the subject of its conversation, asking ‘How can academia collaborate better with other organisations and communities?’ Closing today with the usual Waterfall chat, participants thought back to first lockdowns as they were asked to share what they learned during that time about their personal resilience that may help them cope with the potential second lockdown.

As this Thursday seemed a popular date for events, the Gathering saw a spin off in the form of its case study at the UCD Gathering later that day at 6pm.

The Silent Shout Out from the 19th session has been shared as a Twitter thread here.

Thank you for your part in this constantly developing project, we hope you’ve enjoyed another one of our sessions, and we look forward to seeing you next month - Thursday 19 November, 4.00 - 5.00 pm UK time.

Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 17

Guests: Our Guest speaker at this Gathering was Sophie Dennis - a project lead, coach and mentor. Her work cuts across service design, UX and agile. She’s worked in local government, DWP, university sector, Public Health England as well as the private sector - and now as a Lead Service Designer with NHS Test & Trace. Many of us know Sophie as the chair of Service Design in Government Conference, or also as a regular at our previous Gatherings. 

With Sophie, we spoke about the challenges and learnings from working on NHS Test & Trace, as well as about the upcoming UCD Gathering and the importance of empowering people’s voices.

To connect with Sophie on Twitter - @sophiedennis


Talking Points:
Today’s session focussed around digital literacy and technology, while maintaining a key human focus. After reflecting on our past week in pairs, we had another paired conversation revolving around our favourite apps and why we enjoy them. In groups of three to four, we then discussed how we can improve digital literacy in our families and communities, sharing initiatives we know of or have been involved with. After the conversation with our Guest - Sophie - another discussion in groups explored how we can navigate in a challenging or hostile environment and how we can stay positive in difficult circumstances. We wrapped up the session with a three-word story about Summer 2020.

The Silent Shout Out from the 17th session has been shared as a Twitter thread here.

#SDSGather 16

Guests: Today’s speakers Leah Lockhart and Fionn Tynan-O’Mahony came from Design Justice Network to introduce the emerging network in Scotland and its work in design justice.

They have kindly put together an introductory slide deck to refer back to, as well as Leah has shared many links which she thought might be relevant in answer to some of the questions.

To connect with Leah on Twitter - @LockhartL
To connect with Fionn on Twitter- @fionntom

Talking Points:
Per tradition, we opened the first paired discussion today asking how the past week had been for participants. Despite running monthly now, this quick conversation at the beginning works as a check-in, and helps each of us share the mindsets we’re in. The second question discussed in pairs focussed on U-turns. While in politics, we often consider changing our minds to be a weakness and to signal indecision, Mike said today that on personal level, being open-minded is seen as a strength. So we asked our participants what have they learned when they had to make a personal u-turn?

Continuing within the theme of learning, both as the topic of today’s Gathering and of the front pages of all British news over the past couple of weeks, the next question posed to groups was: How do we continue to learn and grow beyond the classroom. What / who is our greatest source of learning?

The last breakout room was introduced from Lorri’s conversation with our Guests, Leah and Fionn. What might we need to unlearn in our design approaches to achieve greater justice and equity in our work?

Next, the Silent Shout-Out invited an opportunity to share or ask any questions about projects, ideas, or to make announcements, with highlighted focus on shadowing opportunities. For greater accessibility, we have gathered all shout-outs into this Twitter thread. Please feel free to retweet and engage with the Tweets, and use the hashtag #SDSGather to stay in touch with the community.

Leaving us with some food for thought, in the Waterfall - which is when we ask a question and give everyone a minute to type it in the chatbox, before instructing everyone to press return at once, which makes the answers flood in one after the other like an imaginary waterfall - we asked: In your field of work, what is the most important thing you’ve learned that you would like to pass on to the next generation?

Earlier this week, a Slack conversation explored a platform called YoTribe, which aims to recreate the real-world environment of being able to approach a person or a group, rather than having to be invited into a conversation. We decided to trial that as an ‘after-party’ space for anyone who wanted to stay around after the Gathering.

Thank you to all of you who have joined us back and to all the new faces, and we look forward to seeing you next month!

#SDSGather 15

Guests: For the Guest slot today, we brought back four of our brilliant Speakers from previous Gatherings.
The very first Guest we ever interviewed fourteen weeks ago, Ummi Jameel, a Strategic Designer at BCG Platinion, then gave us a glimpse into what would be our future from Singapore / Brunei. Ummi updated us on the ups and downs of her experience during Covid-19 from the other side of the world, including her recent flight where she was the only passenger on board, followed by a 14-day quarantine in Singapore. Kevin Ditcham, Delivery Manager at the Democratic Society, who along with Erin McAuliffe spoke at the 7th Distanced Gathering told Lorri and the rest of us how the pandemic has escalated calls for greater democratic participation and engagement of communities.
For the second two returning speakers, Mike welcomed Colleen Henderson, Business Change Manager at Aberdeenshire Council, who in the 5th Gathering along with Kathryn Grace from the Leeds City Council, gave insight into how local authorities have adjusted in a responsive, agile way to the pandemic. Wrapping up the Guest segment, Consultant Surgeon Rod Mountain reported for the last time on how the pandemic has shaped and positively transformed some of the ways in which the NHS operates and responds to crisis.

Talking Points:
One more time, 56 participants of today’s last session opened up about how their past week had been. Then our second paired conversation looked to summarise a theme running through all the Gatherings - learning points. What have we learned from this experience, what are some of the lessons of lockdown that we want to carry forward? Previous Gatherings had addressed this in many ways; from self reflection, to lessons to be learned by the service design community, to skills and tips for recipes or playlists to listen to. Today, we looked at our stand-out takeaways. Some of the learnings have related to technology & online collaboration tools, including Zoom for which “these gatherings have been a brilliant lesson” and even calling for a format ‘recipe’. Many of us are learning new ways of working, and implementing new aspects into our routines, whilst other lessons taught us to recognise the importance of reassessing our priorities, learning how to slow down and making time for ourselves, as well as making connections virtually and reuniting with old friends.

Outside these outputs, in the #SDSGather team, we have 15 folders with data from each of the Distanced Gatherings. Although some you today mentioned that the idea of every single word written into the chat-box over the past fifteen weeks being recorded is a “scary thought”, today’s group discussions were coming up with ideas on what we can do with all this data. As Mike (definitely on the spot) counted, on over 1000 occasions people had put in the chat window how their week has been, what they’ve been feeling, what they’ve noticed, what they will never go back to, how they want things to be different, and much more. Some of you would like a comic book, others look for a play, many times a Sentiment Map has come up. Either way, we all agree that this has been a pivotal moment in our history as a community and as humanity, and it should be recorded somehow.

While we reflect on all this, many other excellent opportunities are shared in the Silent Shout-Out. We have gathered them all into this Twitter thread to make it best accessible. Please feel free to retweet and engage with the Tweets, as well as the hashtag #SDSGather helps the community to stay in touch.

With today being the last Gathering, we closed off with a bit of reflection - what has been each one’s key takeaway? Overwhelmingly, the responses said ‘people’. Being able to stay in touch, find new and refresh old connections, getting inspired from others in the community or even sparking collaborations. And although time has often been our enemy, cutting some of those amazing conversations short, you have said that thanks to the Gatherings, you’ve met many like-minded, inspiring people, and the session have in one way or another been a positive contribution throughout lockdown. As one of the messages read - “Everyone just wants to connect.” So we hope to stay in touch.

Thank you to all of you who have joined us at any point along our journey, it’s been a pleasure.

Lorri, Mike & Barbara

#SDSGather 14

Guests: Dr Alyson Walker is Paediatric Cardiac Anaesthetist at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow. Alyson has been using a design thinking approach and bringing in a range of design expertise for her Theatre Improvement Initiative, which aims to transform the experience of her patients, their parents and carers. She says that the Initiative has been born out of love and frustration, which together fuelled her passion to take the things that kept being spoken about that they needed improving, and turn such conversations into an energy which creates something practical. She sees a positive tension between the set ways of working within the NHS and introducing service design into healthcare, trying to marry both into one and balance each other out. This video, which we showed at the end of the Gathering, Alyson says explains why she is so proud to work as part of her team.

The links Alyson has shared with us:

Talking Points:
We start the Gathering by catching up in randomised pairs on how our past week had been. This part helps us to energise into the session, brings a sense of familiarity, and allows to pause and reflect on how quickly we move forward during this time.
As the pandemic continues to develop, and lockdowns around the world change, some of us have started to look forward to the prospect of a holiday. With the next paired question, ‘What is your post-Covid dream holiday?’ we looked to challenge the tourism industry, as after the pandemic, it will require a wholly new mindset to be tackled effectively. Some of today’s participants are starting to refocus more local, but emphasising the craving for an open space. Visiting our families stands out, but we also see mentions of virtual travelling as a method of connection intertwined with cultural education.

Many of our discussions have been rooted in the present, focusing on how we are feeling right now. Today, we invited you to look ahead. How do we hope to look back at this time in five years’ time? As in one of the earlier sessions, the community hopes to take this opportunity to reflect, re-examine the way we work and interact with each other, and we’d like to hold onto the lessons we can learn from this experience. Throughout all weeks, the themes of slowing down and prioritising better have kept re-emerging.

The chat with our Guest again provoked many thoughts and hopefully inspired future conversations between the design community and healthcare. As Alyson spoke about rethinking our expectations and experiences of operating theatres, the following group conversation looked at how we understand what goes on inside an operating theatre - and how could we make it more open to people to understand and find it less intimidating. This discussion brought out interesting suggestions ranging from comics to filmmaking, to practical techniques, all of which underlined the role of visualisation, as well as crucially a human-centred approach.

The next recurring segment is the Silent Shout-Out, which presents an opportunity for any of our participants to make announcements or ask questions to the wider community. We have gathered it into this Twitter thread, to share effectively and make it accessible. Please feel free to retweet and engage with the shout outs and pass on recommendations.

As mentioned, next week’s Gathering is set to be the last in the form we have come to know it. Which is why we opened it up to you - with the Waterfall finish - to find out what questions you would like us to discuss in the 15th session. We have received some brilliant ideas and will aim to make the final session as interactive and as truly yours as we only can.

Thank you to all of you who have joined us at any point along our journey. If you’d like to come say goodbye, book your tickets for next Thursday via Eventbrite here.

#SDSGather 13

Guests: Jon Gill is a mobile filmmaker, storyteller, trainer, and apart from other things, Jon runs a series of #MadeOnAMobile workshops. This is a programme designed to develop confidence in capturing, editing and sharing stories using smart phones and tablets. Jon spoke about the power of storytelling, sharing his belief that we as humans are hard-wired for absorbing information through stories. The work Jon does makes digital storytelling accessible to almost anyone, as it proves that all you need is a mobile device to effectively tell a story through video. Thanks to Jon for joining us, especially on what is a special day to him - best wishes on your wedding anniversary Jon!

Jon has shared a couple links with us:
The mystery box – JJ Abrams.
The Danger of a single story – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Talking Points:
In our opening today, it was a pleasure to share a shout out to one of our regular Distanced Gathering participants, Laura Duarte. Laura with a group of teammates from MA in Service Design at LCC won this edition of the Student Service Design Challenge, with their project ‘I :heart: women’. The focus of the project was to tackle heart disease as the #1 killer of women worldwide. Their WomenToHeart service helps women to identify and communicate heart symptoms via metaphors. Read more here and congratulations again, Laura and team.

Similarly as in the previous session, once randomly paired discussions reflected on how our past week had been, we recalled the importance of memories, and asked what are some of our stand out memories of eating with others. We believe a meal is where we share our stories, celebrate relationships, and create new memories. Indeed, that has been reflected in some of the responses, with people mentioning how they missed cooking for others, and enjoying the time to get to know people and connect over food. Staying true to the Scottish origin of these Gatherings, potatoes were repeatedly mentioned as the key food-related memory.

Per tradition, as we moved onto the first group discussion the topic invited a more serious consideration, turning attention to communities and caring. How do we go about creating more caring communities? With the pandemic, we have seen a steep rise in volunteering, looking after our neighbours, and supporting each other within communities. The OECD suggests an opportunity to rethink how we organise education and embed teaching in communities, and our returning guest, NHS Surgeon Rod Mountain believes health and social care can be transformed as we have seen in the past few weeks. Our discussions suggested that it may not be about building, but rather sustaining and making visible what already exists. We need to consider physical spaces and shared experiences, and how that translates online. The theme of online underlined most of the thinking, with attention returning to how we define communities, how we make them inclusive and take the digital into the real world as we move forward.

After the Guest slot, Jon guided groups into the next exercise. We had four minutes to plot a story with a beginning, middle and end. Some of those might be pitched to screenwriters later, as the #SDSGather repertoire spans Omelette Stories, Zombie Apocalypse, and excitingly, some featured the Distanced Gatherings themselves;
“We were going about our lives, then the pandemic stroke, we all got stuck indoor. Never able to come out, the only way out, an SDS lunch chat!”

The Silent Shout-Out where anyone can make announcements, ask questions, or share a thought with the community is gathered in Twitter thread for best accessibility. Please feel free to retweet and engage with the shout outs. If you have any ideas on how we can improve this, please do get in touch (

This week session’s finish reminded us of the official beginning of Summer, which is scheduled for this Saturday at 5:43pm, UK time. In Finland, the day is celebrated by Juhannus with its lakeside bonfires, Tirana is Iran’s midsummer festival with poetry reading, and other cultures celebrate summer throughout June. Some of our plans include online Stonehenge, hoping for good weather so that we could enjoy gardening and a glass of Prosecco outside, but if that fails and we welcome summer with some truly Scottish weather, we’re ready to wear sunglasses indoors. See more here.

It’s great seeing new faces, as well as the familiar ones on screen, so as always, thank you for your time with us, and we look forward to seeing you next week.

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Guests: Ross McCulloch is Founder and Director of Third Sector Lab – Glasgow based digital agency training charity staff to use digital more effectively. The thoughts he shared with us today focussed on empowering charities to use service design, but understanding that they have been doing ‘natural’ #servicedesign for years, without possibly labelling it as such. So how to best build on that? Ross mentioned that in his experience, charities responded incredibly quickly to the needs during Covid. His work revolves around helping charities to understand that everything they do, all their work - online and offline - is a service, and it is necessary to help them make the best use of the digital assets available.

Talking Points:
The beginning of the session recalled two projects which the Distanced Gatherings have been interacting with throughout - Mega Mentor, which we heard Kirsty speak about in detail as the Guest of last week, and Angela and Stephanie’s research project focussing on social infrastructure, trying to learn more from the Service Design community in Scotland. They are planning to collect stories from practitioners in the public sector and the third sector, to explore what have been some of the learning lessons, where we are, and where we want to go as a community. They have written a blog post with all the details, and they are also calling out for recommendations on who some of the interviewed practitioners should be.

As always, first paired conversation took us through how our past week had been, and afterwards guided the discussion towards performing arts. Being close to people is what the performing arts, such as live music, theatre, dance… are all about. The very survival of the performing arts depends on us all hanging onto those moments of magic that only performance can give us. To remind ourselves of the importance of that and how performing arts can make us feel, we shared some of our performance highlights and promised to remember these when performers are trying to rebuild their sector.

Next, groups were invited to talk about the potential positive legacy of COVID-19 for the future of towns and cities. Just like the London’s cholera crisis led to a sewerage system and straighter roads, or New York’s cholera outbreak in the 1830s meant establishing of the Central Park, what can the way cities deal with the crisis mean for their future?  

After the Guest slot, the conversation built on Ross’s contribution, as participants were asked how they would support charities in embracing service design, if they had two hours to donate to a charity each week. The points coming out of this discussion are summarised in this post.

Now as a recurring segment, the Silent Shout-Out provided another opportunity to share, announce, or ask anything out to the wider community. To make sharing these as accessible as possible, we have created a Twitter thread detailing each shout-out. If you have any ideas on how we can improve this, please do get in touch!

With the Waterfall chat finishing each session, we have tried to relate the topic of the posed question to some of the most relevant themes of the week. As such, this time we focussed on statues, or more particularly the persons celebrated by statues. Who or what should be celebrated with a statue in 2020, anywhere in the world that you live? The responses focussed frequently on women, even mentioning our Mums, as well as migrant workers, the NHS and other professions which have been instrumental in supporting us through these difficult times. However, some of our statues would also depict teacakes and the perfect sourdough loaf.

Thank you for your time with us, we look forward to seeing you next week.

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Guests: Kirsty Joan Sinclair, who has regularly joined us over the past 10 weeks at the Distanced Gatherings, is a hugely experienced service designer. Her portfolio spans Snook, working with FutureGov, and other projects focussing on public sector. Now, she has co-created Mega Mentor.
Less than 3-weeks in running, Mega Mentor is a global mentoring service for those ready to step up into design leadership roles. Those with experience offer the time they do have to a variety of progressing designers, to help on project challenges and career development. 

Find Mega Mentor on Twitter - @mega_mentor, or go to
To connect with Kirsty on Twitter - @kirsty_joan

Talking Points:
We kicked off today’s session joined by Rod Mountain, with updates on the project which partly originated from within the Distanced Gatherings. Rod invited us to an event - Hospital ‘Grand Rounds’ - which he hosts to “thank everyone that has been involved in the scrubs, gowns and PPE work that has been done locally, in support of the COVID effort”. You could also hear Rod on BBC Radio news, reflecting on the value of partnering between NHS, manufacturing and the design community in Dundee.

Before proceeding with the usual format of the Gatherings, Lorri guided us to reflect on the global anti-racism solidarity protests, and posed the question of how might we, as the Scotland Service Design Community, be a valuable asset and help.
We invite the service design community and beyond to use and contribute to this Padlet board of resources, focussing on educating ourselves on matters of of race, systemic oppression, and the history of BAME communities.

Then, after two rounds of paired conversations checking in on our past week and discussing how we can lift each other up, the theme of summer sparked the next grouped discussions. What random act of wildness would you choose to do? This was inspired by the more than half-a-million of people signing up to the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild campaign, in which people pledge to undertake daily “random acts of wildness” throughout June as part of the campaign to appreciate local nature and benefit from time in green space.

Kirsty led us into the final group discussion, asking us what we would like to spend 30 minutes learning about. Lorri has summarised the outcomes of this discussion in a Slack post here. We have also shared all shout-out opportunities from this week in a Twitter thread, following a very appropriate note about increasing accessibility - thank you for the feedback on the format of how we share our Outputs! And to wrap up, we each chose one thing that we would do in the coming week to lift somebody else up.

Thank you for joining us, we will see you again next week!

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Guests: Dr Sarah Drummond is co-founder of Snook, CycleHack, Dearest Scotland, and more, as well as being one of the Good magazine’s 100 extraordinary individuals tackling global issues in creative ways.

Sarah reminded us of the importance to check in with our unique privileges, also acknowledging that some of her own privileges have been what’s been helping her get through the lockdown. Beyond some of the personal achievements such as organising a variety show with her new guitar, stopping drinking, or running up to 10k, Sarah touched on numerous things the lockdown experience has brought to prominence. She highlighted the benefits and pitfalls of digital transformation, pointing to the staggering number of 1.9m households in the UK without access to internet and digital technology. When focussing on positive outcomes, Sarah mentioned some projects she has personally been involved in such as The Catalyst, a recipe catalogue for charities to help with digital transactions by learning from one another’s services, as well she highlighted housing of the homeless.

She’s shared some brilliant resources with us to elaborate on the points she made.

To connect with Sarah on Twitter - @rufflemuffin.

Talking Points:
In celebration of the tenth Distanced Gathering, we returned to conversations with which we had started this project. How has our week been? What are some of the things we’ve been noticing? Once we reflected on this in pairs, the conversation shaped around the theme of changes. In group breakout sessions, we looked at some new or reinvented services witnessed since the lockdown. Which ones have stood out and why? After the guest conversation conducted by Lorri with Sarah, it was Sarah who led the Gathering into the final questions to consider. “If you could keep one ritual that’s had a positive impact on your wellbeing for you during lockdown that you’ve initiated, what would that be? If the experience hasn’t brought any new rituals or rhythms, how would you focus your energy on what’s good for you as we emerge from lockdown?”

Keeping up the intention to provide opportunity to the network, Silent Shout Out followed, which we will collate and share shortly, along with the positive finish themed around one wish each of us had for a future change.

Thank you for joining us, and to sign up for next week’s 11th Distanced Gathering - Eventbrite.

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Guests: Dr Dhruv Sharma is User Research Lead at the Scottish Government. He shared a provocation on the need to rethink how we establish rapport in user research, and the need to get service design thinking into user research.
I just wanted us to pause and take the conversation away from technology (our needs), and back to users’ needs when working with them remotely. Thanks to all that came along!
To connect with Dhruv on Twitter - @DhruvSharma101

Talking Points:
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, with the theme of Kindness. Our discussions, too, focussed on that. We started with paired conversations about how we have kept in touch with friends and family. Frist group breakout session reflected on the experience of kindness under the challenges of COVID-19, and invited us to think about how we might apply the lessons of kindness in shaping our future. Building on the points from Dhruv, another group discussion suggested ideas on how we could get some service design thinking into user research. After the weekly Silent Shout Out which will be available shortly, we shared acts of kindness that have stood out for us during lockdown in the ‘waterfall’ finish.

We had invited participants to contribute a picture that best captures their week. Browse the gallery via this link.

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Guests: Vasia Christoulaki is Director of Service Design at Design4Future. She joined us today to share insights about Greece’s management of the response to COVID-19. She recounted fast and agile reaction as some of the key aspects for why it might be that Greece has experienced incomparably lower numbers in fatalities to coronavirus. More than that, Vasia mentioned the crucial role of the genuinely empathetic approach from their government.
To connect with Vasia on Twitter - @VasiaChr, or you can find her on LinkedIn.

Talking Points:
Today’s discussion started with reflecting on high points in our week. Group breakout sessions focussed on the future of education - how could we learn differently? What are some of the positive alternatives? As well as that, we looked at what are some of the ways we are learning to improve our individual and collective resilience.

We have introduced Silent Shout Outs, giving everyone in the chat an opportunity to share, announce, or ask out to the community. We share these on Twitter, you can find last week’s Silent Shout Out here. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Finishing on a positive note, the session reflected on things we’ve been noticing.

Video interviews with our previous guests Rod Mountain:, and with Colleen Henderson:

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Guests: Today’s speakers reflected on engaging the public in participatory projects. We had Rachael from @TheLensCP, and Kevin and Erin representing @DemSocScotland. The Lens develops intrapreneurship, transforming existing organisations with the mindset of an entrepreneur. Rachel spoke about the importance of meeting the needs of people and focussing on culture, before ideas can start developing. You can see intrapreneurship pitches at The Democratic Society Scotland support inclusive, democratic participation, encouraging participatory government. Kevin drew attention to Public Square, which is an action-research programme to understand how citizens can be more involved in making local decisions.

Talking Points:
This session focussed on challenges in our past week, and looking at the positive transformation emerging under the pressure of the COVID-19 crisis which we’d like to carry forward. We tried to imagine how countries across the world may use this opportunity to design the nation they want, proposing the question of “how can we do that?“.

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Talking Points:

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Guests: In our guest slot this week we looked at the impact of Covid-19 on local government, in particular how it innovates at a time of crisis and the implications for the future of service design and delivery. Discussing this was Colleen Henderson, business change manager within customer and digital services at Aberdeenshire Council and Kathryn Grace, service design lead at Leeds City Council, GovJam pioneer and leading service design community builder.

We later conducted a video interview discussing those points more in depth with Colleen -

Talking Points:
We gathered contributions our very own lockdown playlist on Spotify.

Is there a song that sums up this strange time in a lyric or a mood? Or do you have a song that you put on to get yourself going in the morning? Is there a song that reminds you most of someone you can’t be with right now?

Add yours to the Fun Retro Board

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Guests: Andy Hyde described his work on designing dementia friendly travel and he was joined by Agnes Houston MBE, dementia campaigner and activist:

Talking Points: We shared our favourite comfort foods that we are turning to during these times

Add yours to the Fun Retro Board

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Guests: Cassandra Baiano and Ron MacDonald shared their experience of HealthSHIP.or - a web based support platform for NHS staff during the current situation enabling medical students to support their colleagues on the front line of care. It has been adopted across the UK - and Ireland as well

Talking Points: We discussed our how we were making the most of our daily 1hr of time allowed out of doors

Add yours favourite places to roam to the Fun Retro or Google Map

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Guests: Ummi Jameel joined us from Borneo & Jiaru Shi joined us from China to share their experience of life under lockdown from the other side of the world. And, NHS Surgeon, Rod Mountain joined us from outside his theatre to share his hopes and thoughts.

Talking Points: We discussed what online resources we were turning to during this time to keep connected and entertained

Add yours to the Fun Retro

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Guests: Hazel White from Open Change offered to give brief talk about coping and resilience, and will be drawing on her recent work with NHS Scotland.

Guest speaker was Hazel White - Tweet @Hazelonewhite


Fun Retro
Hazel's Sketchnotes