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The Five Conditions for Human Connection in Digital Services

[Update: free high resolution prototypes of our Human Connection Framework can be found here]

As part of the Catalyst we’ve been researching how to create human connection in charities’ digital services, and the relational wellbeing that can result from it.

We’ve seen a wide range of methods used to foster it: from shared reminiscence, to using voicenotes alongside website text. We now have somewhere in the region of 50 methods, developed from workshops with 60 charities.

From all of the methods we see a common theme. Reducing separation between us is the gateway to connection and relational wellbeing.

These methods seem to sit under the five headline conditions below. When fostered within digital services they reduce separation, create connection and relational wellbeing follows. When they are all applied at once, they act like a dynamo, each one promoting the others. Here they are:

  1. Acknowledged equality Building and acknowledging equality is a key condition for connection. This applies whether we are filling in a form together, using simple, inclusive language on our website or weaving reciprocity into the ways we interact with the people who use our web tools.

  2. Presence So much of how we interact is automatic — but automatic behaviours don’t foster connection. Maintaining presence does. Find ways to keep interactions fresh and new — engage users’ cognitive function.

  3. Agency How do you enable the people receiving your services to have a clear choice? A choice not only on ‘what’ you do together but also ‘how’ you do it. More choice leads to more meaningful connection which leads to more relational wellbeing.

  4. Accountability Connection is a two way street. Anonymity is only appropriate for a limited number of online interactions. So in the main, we should all use real names and photos to create the right conditions for connection.

  5. Whole self The more we bring our whole selves to digital interactions (as both provider and receiver), the more likely we are to build trust, then connection, then relational wellbeing. The safest, most clearly boundaried way to do this is what we call a ‘whole person check in’ at the beginnings of sessions.

We’re now moving to the next stage. This week we begin working with Grapevine and Hospice Hope to test some of the ideas that have sprung from our research and to learn from their incredible existing approaches, and applying their wisdom to digital experiences.

We’ve packed some of the methods for connection into a prototype framework to share to find out what’s useful, what’s not and what doesn’t make sense. If you’d like to test it, please do. You can find it here and for those of you who would like to have a play with it, you can do that too here. Don’t be shy — we’ve made a copy :-)

If this work resonates with you, please give it a clap or highlight elements you’ve found useful. That helps us to know we’re on the right track.


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