Getting to Better

Welcome to Overlap's Getting to Better, our blog for stories, insights, and industry trends surrounding social innovation, capacity building, design thinking, and human-centred design.

Evaleen Hellinga

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How to Use an Empathy Map

July 06, 2017

An Empathy Map is one of those tools that we always keep in our back pocket because it often produces an "aha!" moment and it is incredibly versatile.

Originally developed by Scott Matthews, Empathy Maps provide a process for empathizing with your own customers, service or product users, or stakeholders. They help us dig into a person's experience of the context in which we interact with them.

Continue reading to learn how to use an empathy map as a research tool and scroll to the bottom for a free download to try it yourself!

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6 Design Books for Your 2017 Reading List

January 23, 2017

Are you beginning 2017 resolved to learn a new skill, to work differently, to be more creative or to stand out as a leader in your field? Design thinking is a burgeoning practice based in empathy that is changing the way work is done in a wide variety of fields, yielding new insights into old problems—from creating more patient-friendly healthcare experiences to court reforms in the Yukon that are increasing access to family justice to building AirBnB's understanding of why hosts reject guests.

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Service Standards: Establishing the Bottom Line

November 29, 2016

 Great service delivery can be a tough nut to crack. In Canada, we pride ourselves on publicly funding many of our social services to make them widely accessible—and that's something we should be proud of. A shortfall of our system is that providers often don't feel they have enough money to provide the same kind of top-notch services that privately-funded social services can afford. It's easy to become very focused on the basic end of actually delivering the service—as long as Cory has someone to call to make an appointment to address his mental health challenges, and he eventually does get to speak to a qualified person, we're delivering the service. It's easy for the other details to become extraneous. 

But those details are important. How the service feels is a crucial aspect of the service's success. How might we ensure a great service experience? 

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5 Ideas for Libraries as a Community Support and Refuge

November 17, 2016

"I just got out of jail and the library is where I'm going to figure out the rest of my life."

One of the many virtues of public libraries is their accessibility. A library is one of few spaces that are truly open to anyone and everyone. That, coupled with the wealth of knowledge and resources that libraries offer means lots of people who are facing challenges in their lives seek refuge and support at the library. In our library community engagement, patrons express a deep appreciation for the library's sense of comfort and safety.
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3 Occasions for an Empathy Map

November 04, 2016


An empathy map is a way for you to understand the experience of an individual or a group. It’s a tool to help you empathize in a meaningful, useful way. You might have guessed, after reading about How to Use an Empathy Map, that the tool gets pulled out of our toolbelt often. We use them all the time in our work. Find three ideal opportunities for filling in an empathy map below, and scroll to the bottom for a free tool download!

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How to Facilitate Inclusive Ideation

August 17, 2016


Generally, the reason we bring a group together is to accomplish things we can’t accomplish on our own. Leveraging the inherent diversity of expertise, of experience, and of perspectives in the group will get you to your most innovative ideas in an ideation session.

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Designing Better: a Case Study in Human-Centered Design

August 08, 2016


Human centered design is an immensely powerful concept and practice. Its power is illustrated in our recent project with the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo-Wellington-Dufferin, investigating how we might improve the system of mental health and addictions services for adults in the region.

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How Does Patient-Centred Design Work?

June 21, 2016

How do we create positive, lasting change in our patients' lives?

"The first thing we do is talk to lots of people. [Institutions] find this really scary—they don't always want to talk to their end users, because I think they're worried we might not be able to solve the problem. The thing is, you don't have to solve the problem. But you should recognize that it is a problem."

Watch Overlap's CEO Brock Hart share reflections and stories  at KW Counselling's AGM about his experiences driving patient-centred design. Thanks to KW Counselling for the opportunity to share!