Pumpkin Lab is a team within the Service Planning and Funding Group in NCSS. Established in 2014, it aims to catalyse innovation in the social service sector by inspiring possibilities through design, testing, sharing and scaling best practices across the sector, with technology as an enabler. Pumpkin Lab partners with stakeholders from the People-Public-Private sectors – from non-profits, social and healthcare organisations, government agencies, enterprisers, designers and individuals to turn these possibilities into reality.
Keeping in line with Singapore Government’s move towards a Smart Nation, constant innovation is regarded as key to ensuring that the social service sector remains relevant while being impactful in protecting and enhancing the wellbeing of those they serve.
Back in 2013, NCSS saw a potential in the use of design thinking methodologies and decided to form an innovation lab to focus on this. NCSS started by hiring people with design thinking backgrounds to complement existing staff who were familiar with the social service sector, as this would help to bring new viewpoints and perspectives as well as different “ways of doing” into the organisation. Pumpkin Lab was also given the space to experiment and learn, using an iterative approach on different projects then sharing the learnings with the rest of the organisation.
Design thinking consultants and NCSS staff discussing the caregiver journey during a design thinking workshop.
In the initial phases of a project, Pumpkin Lab worked with several social service agencies and service users through a design ethnography process to understand their issues, identify current trends and uncover their pain points. This approach helped Pumpkin Lab to ascertain the key issues that resonated with the stakeholders, and to dive deeply into these issues and challenges. They then worked with organisations that were keen to prototype some of the concept ideas from the project and facilitated the process via linkages with potential partners and resources, as well as through developing relevant indicators, metrics and evaluation to assess the efficacy of the solutions.
The process included design ethnography to better understanding user needs, to co-creating concept solutions, prototyping, iterating, evaluation and sharing of knowledge. It presented a continuous learning journey and engagement of social service agencies and partner agencies to build a connected and collaborative ecosystem of support to address user needs.
Ventillator App, which enables caregiver to vent emotions and find support, was one of the outcomes of the Who Cares? Transforming the Caregiving Experience project.
An example of a Pumpkin Lab project using a design ethnography approach is Who Cares? Transforming the Caregiving Experience in Singapore.