The town of Doncaster, a working-class community a few hours north of London, was home to one of the last coal mines in England. That mine finally closed for good in 2015, the same year that the British government compiled a report declaring Doncaster one of the “most deprived” communities in the country.
Enter Eclipse Experience, a research and design company based in London, who engaged in a two-month long ethnographic study of five Doncaster families to more deeply understand their day-to-day experiences. Partnering with Renaisi, a firm with expertise in social research and experience working with at risk families, Eclipse utilized a combination of in-home visits and mobile ethnography via dscout to connect with eight teenagers, to get a better picture of what family life in the community really looked like.
dscout chatted with Eclipse Experience Design researchers Elli Panagopoulos and Oliver Kastner about their work with the Doncaster community.
The impetus for the project...
Doncaster's local government, (the Doncaster Council) wanted to more fully understand the people in their community. They had done a number of surveys and had a lot of quantitative data, but they didn’t understand the why behind the data.
The Council wanted to get a really in-depth understanding of families across different income levels and with different support needs, so they realized they needed to commission an ethnographic study.
Ultimately, our work allowed the council to think in a more user centered way about their residents, and really bring to life the stories of the people that lived there. Having the photos and videos that we got from dscout was especially helpful for that.
Utilizing a two-prong approach with home visits and mobile ethnography...
With the in-home interviews, we started by asking everyone what a typical week was like, going through the Monday through Sunday routine. Part of that was understanding who else is involved in the family structure, like a grandparent who helps out by picking up a kid from class. Then we separated parents from the kids for the rest of the in-home interviews.
Some of the overall takeaways...
One big takeaway was making sure that the services that were offered could work holistically together to really make an impact. That was building on the connection we saw between leisure activities and mental health—that was something that came across clearly in our interviews, that kids who had more activities on their agenda were really happy and excited about those things.
Another takeaway was that the Council needed to provide more appropriate age-based services, things like training and employment opportunities for older teens who were starting to become more independent, and social spaces where kids felt safe.