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Over the last few months Co-op Members have been helping us think about how our Co-op might support them as they deal with life changes and some of life’s challenges.
Members joined in with several opportunities designed to find out more about the help they might need as they approached retirement. We also explored whether members would be happy to share their experience to support other members going through difficulties, such as debt. The purpose of these discussions was to see whether we could build digital products, such as websites or apps, that might offer members support at these times.
We started by speaking to members who were thinking about retirement. We heard their misgivings about pensions and how confusing they found the whole area of personal finance. We took these learnings and built a prototype website, that sought to bring members together in an online space to support each other as they looked forward to life after work.
We also came up with ideas for potential apps which provided other ways for members to co-operate – skills sharing, social activities or to model their income after they stop working .
We wanted to see whether people would be interested enough in this idea to give us their email address for early access and to understand how members would feel about the Co-op organising people around this topic.
25 members signed up in the first four days. This isn’t a lot of people, but most of the people (92%) who visited the website shared their email address, signalling that they were interested in this proposition.
We then went on to interview members who had been in debt and managed to get out of it or get it under control. We heard about how isolating being in debt is, and how the experience of sorting themselves out made members want to help others. So we focused on how members could give each other emotional support, and built a second prototype website to learn how Co-op members could connect over the issue of debt.
We asked members who had been in debt to sign up to write a letter to another member who was currently in debt. Next we put a call out for members who were currently in debt, asking them whether they’d like to receive a letter. We built a simple service that matched letter readers to letter writers, and acted as the intermediary between the two groups.
Hands up, this wasn’t a particularly successful endeavour. Seven readers and writers were matched, however none of the members who said they would write a letter got around to it. But that’s what digital discovery is all about – listening, building quickly, testing and learning and knowing when to stop.
Here’s what we learned:
- Members want to support each other socially and emotionally as they approach retirement
- Members are happy to share their experiences to help others
- We can build digital tools that help people think about their future
- But writing a letter was maybe just a bit too much of an ask this time
We’re using some of the findings from this work with members to help inform the work we’ve now got underway to develop digital tools that support communities. Watch this space.