My Background and How it Informs my Approach

Just to give a little bit of an overview about how my background gives me deep insight into issues with the adoption of contemporary digital technology. One of the digital concepts I am most interested in is smart cities. Understanding the potential of smart cities requires thinking from a multidisciplinary perspective, it is as a least as much about understanding the urban environment as it is the technology. My first degree was urban planning, it included study of community development that is very much related to some of the citizen engagement ideas that is central to some conceptualisations of the smart city. Citizen science ideas, for example, are more about community development that technology development. My second degree was an MA in Sociology and Social Policy. Smart city ideas encompasses the internet of things, weaving monitoring devices into the fabric of the cities and homes that we live in. As technology becomes embedded into the urban environment, understanding its impact on our society becomes increasingly sociological. Some years later I started a management/ business development career in the voluntary sector. Due to the nature of the sector I was working in these roles were very much connected to community development, and as such have informed my understanding of smart cities. Alongside professional roles I served on many different management committees. These included the main culture and health boards in Sheffield, where alongside the city’s main leaders I helped devise strategy for the city and help review the performance of public, private and community sector service providers. Towards the end of my career in the community sector I took another postgraduate course, The Sheffield City Region Leadership Programme. The programme was designed to create a new generation of public sector leaders, giving participants skills in change management and innovation. The focus on public sector change and innovation is a perfect foundation for enabling cities to develop smart city approaches, and so it was a perfect foundation for my PhD. In my PhD, I studied how smart city and smart community approaches could be applied to improve efficiency.. My PhD focus was on the healthcare elements of smart cities, building on the community health understanding I had gained through professional and management committee roles. My educational qualifications and some of my publications and presentations are outlined in my university profile, here. When engaging in healthcare roles my approach is informed by my own lived experience as a cancer patient and now as a cancer survivor as well as by my professional and academic roles. By living through intense engagement with the healthcare system I was able to see what was great and what could be better. It was my personal experience that motivated me to later research and work in healthcare. My passion and commitment to user centred approaches are also very much informed by my experience of being a human that experienced service delivery that was not as human centred as I would have liked. Prior to moving into management roles I spent a decade as a professional circus and street theatre artist. During this time, I gained design skills through learning how to direct shows and facilitation shows through teaching hundreds of workshops to thousands of participants. More than anything else however my circus arts career gave me the ability to be creative, to innovate. Whilst working in the community sector I applied my creativity to develop innovative community service projects. In my PhD I applied my creativity to exploring creative approaches to improving public sector efficiency. Given everything I have outlined above, you might now see how I could have the perfect background to help your organisation develop innovative new service approaches and to improve efficiency, through the application of digital technology. If you want to discuss how I can help you or your organisation don’t hesitate in getting in touch, time is often crucial in this increasingly digital world that we all live in. In user research roles I have applied the qualitiative research skills developed in my PhD to bringing user perspectives into human centred design projects, mostly with public sector clients.  I have worked across product and service design projects where I have played a key role in integrating design within organisations and supported the capacity building required to make this happen.  In these roles I have applied both the understanding of digital transformation gained from my PhD and the expertise in research methods I gained from it.  The creative skills gained from my arts background and my management expertise have also been invaluable.

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