Beyond Blue

Co-designing an urgent response to mental health and wellbeing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic

We partnered with Beyond Blue and people with lived experience of mental health challenges to explore the impact of COVID-19 and co-design initiatives to respond. Together we sought to transform the ways Beyond Blue delivers services, support, advice and information during COVID-19 and beyond.

An illustration from the project showing a sailing boat travelling through calm waters - that was part of a visual metaphor used to explain people's experience of managing mental health issues.
  • A deeper understanding of how individuals and diverse communities are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

  • A series of tangible and practical service concepts that can be immediately actioned

  • A three-year roadmap of initiatives, enabling Beyond Blue to transform their service delivery processes and technology infrastructure and deliver more value to their end users


Responding to mental health needs during a pandemic

COVID-19 is causing new mental health challenges and exacerbating existing ones. Beyond Blue recognised these effects but needed a better understanding of people’s diverse experiences to respond effectively.

Beyond Blue is Australia’s most established and trusted source of information and advice on mental health and wellbeing. They urgently needed to identify unmet needs and adapt their existing assets and services to help. Additionally, Beyond Blue identified a need to connect and build relationships with people who may not have experienced mental health challenges before.

A screenshot from the community platform used as part of the remote research process

During the process we used an online platform to brief activites, capture experiences and connect with research participants.

Building trusted relationships through an online co-design process

We spent six weeks listening, learning and facilitating idea generation with thirty community members with lived experience of mental health challenges. We supported the community to imagine new ways Beyond Blue could engage and provide value to them.

Co-design is a profoundly human process. It relies on real-time, face-to-face, tactile interactions, which are often facilitated via group activities. Conducting such activities remotely requires careful planning and consideration. Given the sensitivity of the subject matter, we needed to ensure that every activity and every conversation was conducted safely, with the necessary clinical support on hand to assist.

Despite the challenges and barriers of remote work, we were able to establish high levels of trust and deep relationships with the community.

A co-design worksheet showing the ideation process the participants were going to undertake
An idea generation worksheet that participants used with 4 idea spaces and instructions.

The ideation process used with the co-design participants to address a range of how might we questions generated from the research

The ideation process used with the co-design participants to address a range of how might we questions generated from the research

Adaptability, flexibility and accessibility – making remote research work for everyone

We recognised the unique needs of community members and designed a range of ways for people to receive information and engage with the community, based on their circumstances and preferences.

Communications included videos, town hall meetings, written updates and phone check-ins. Activities included individual tasks, group discussions and workshops, all with different ways for people to express their thoughts and ideas.

The multiple modes of engagement created greater opportunities for people to participate in the community, come back to conversations when they felt ready, and build outcomes collaboratively.

I loved this whole process. It made me feel valued and heard. The people involved (staff and participants) were all so lovely and it was a nice experience to be amongst it all.

Co-Design Participant

Viable, deliverable strategies for COVID and beyond

We used a co-design process not only to develop new ideas and strategies, but assess the value and applicability of Beyond Blue’s existing strategies and services.

We also worked with representatives from the executive, business transformation, clinical support and digital teams at Beyond Blue to identify inflight projects and initiatives that can be leveraged to respond to the needs and priorities identified through co-design. We evaluated every idea against the organisation’s strategy, internal capability and capacity and explored potential challenges and implementation risks.

This process resulted in thirteen product and service ideas and a delivery roadmap. Each idea was presented as a detailed concept brief, with a COVID-specific iteration of each idea as well as future evolutions to broaden its use and reach. We included implementation steps, dependencies, risks and other relevant factors critical to successfully executing on the idea.

A visual of a concept designed as part of the project - showing an app interface that helps people track their progress and access the support they need.
A concept designed as part of the project that shows a chat bot, an engaged community and video recordings of support sessions.
A concept designed as part of the project that shows matches for peer to peer support, wellbeing support being provide for classrooms and a personal hub detailing your access to different services.

A series of future state concepts designed as part of the project.


Using storytelling to build understanding

Alongside the thirteen ideas presented
we crafted the insights into a visual metaphor. We told the story of a community feeling at sea in uncertainty and their need for support to find a safer passage through the storms.

It gave Beyond Blue a tool to share the insights through their internal channels so the whole organisation could quickly get across the research. It also let the co-design community see their generous contributions represented.

A video storybook created as part of the project that told the story of the mental health experience and the support needed in an easily accessible way

A lasting impact

We are extremely proud and humbled to have been a trusted partner to the mental health sector during these difficult times.

This project was one of a kind. We engaged in deep and genuine ways with a community of people who were experiencing significant challenges in their lives. This engagement was conducted entirely remotely, and differences in the way people participated was truly embraced.

It was a critical and time-sensitive project for Beyond Blue. They urgently needed to understand the impacts of COVID, create a shared understanding across the organisation, and develop a clear vision and roadmap of work to move forward with.

This work is core to bringing our 2020 strategy to life


Subscribe to Paper Giant

Each month, our team share their thoughts on design-related topics, reflect on current social issues and share what’s happening in and out of the studio. We'll also include an invitation to our monthly meet up, Office Hours. We'd love you to join us.

Three paper airplanes flying through the air into people's inboxes.
Paper Giant

Paper Giant acknowledges the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung people of the Kulin nation, the Ngunnawal and Bundjalung people as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which our offices are located.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country on which we meet and work throughout Australia. We recognise that sovereignty over the land has never been ceded, and pay our respects to Elders past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain images and voices of deceased people.