Digital training that supports front line healthcare workers




Calvium and Self-Injury Support (SIS) have collaboratively created Emotivate, a mobile app providing practical training and support to health and social care frontline staff in emotionally challenging workplaces.

Self-Injury Support was founded in 1988 by a group of committed women who wanted to positively transform self-injury and mental health support services in their community. Their vision remains: that anyone who self-injures knows they are not alone; that everyone understands that self-injury is a complex and important issue we should all care about; and that together we can address both the causes and stigma of self-injury.

A key pillar in the work of Self-Injury Support is to provide training across multiple sectors to aid their mission. Many in support roles are lone workers with little supervisory support, in shift patterns that make release for training difficult, or in roles which are not prioritised for additional training.

To meet these challenges, Self-Injury Support (SIS) successfully obtained funding to create Phase 1 of a mobile app, called Emotivate. Emotivate is a training and support app for anyone in a health and social care frontline role – all of which can be emotionally challenging and draining at times. The users could be NHS staff, social care workers or those involved in outreach programmes.

Android Pixel phone with a screenshot of the Emotivate app in different training sessions
Emotivate leads users through a series of training activities in bite-sized pieces, including diagrams, quotes and interactive elements.

Using Technology to support frontline staff

Self-Injury Support’s in-person training workshops offer compassionate approaches for people being supported and those in supporting roles, exploring the impact of self-injury and mental health in individuals’ lives, and tackling the emotional challenges that come with it.

The training workshops are always well received, however it is becoming increasingly difficult for some organisations to make a regular commitment to face-to-face sessions. This can be due to a myriad of reasons including resourcing constraints, budget prioritisation, staff turnover and the practical implications of relieving staff of their duties in order to participate in a training workshop. 

The creation of Emotivate will help support staff across relevant sectors in health and social care, enabling them to feel more equipped to respond to those in difficult situations and to support themselves to process their emotions and experiences of challenging situations.

Naomi Salisbury, Director of Self-Injury Support, explains that prospective users will benefit from being able to dip in and out of training, and not be deterred by time-consuming features. It was also vital that the mobile app would be intuitive to use given the broad target audience. To test the suitability of the features created in Phase 1, the app is being trialed through a user testing programme supported by a number of local and national organisations. The feedback obtained from users during the trial period will provide invaluable insights into the learning, reflection and interactive app features, and aid the team to progress ideas for future development which will be achieved through further funding Self-Injury Support are striving to secure.

Project Partnership

Self-Injury Support knew they had a great idea, but this was a new approach for them – digital training wasn’t their sector or expertise. It was vital that they found a partner who would create a working first version not only for the right price, but create an app that would dazzle investors for the second phase funding. That’s where Calvium came in. 

Having worked together previously on a series of workshops, Self-Injury Support approached Calvium to develop Emotivate. It was a natural fit, says Naomi: 

“As an organisation that works in self-harm, we’ll quite often approach an agency for third party work and find the response is ‘no way’. But Calvium was perfectly comfortable with the mental health field and created a safe space for us to work together. There was never any shock at the subject material. They got that this was a social mission and understood what we are trying to do.”

Naomi Salisbury, Director of Self-Injury Support

Collaboration and education

With the initial detail in place, Calvium hosted a discovery workshop to ascertain what the Self-Injury Support team were looking for, and to explore the most suitable options for the Phase 1 of the app.

“I loved how the initial discovery phase was so open and low tech,” says Naomi. “We sat around scribbling on pieces of paper, trading ideas, taking notes from workshops on how users might actually use an app, and pairing them together to design what this thing should be. Very quickly it became clear what functionality was actually needed. It helped us focus on what Emotivate really was.”

This functionality stemmed from what Self-Injury Support includes in its existing training sessions, and what components work best in mobile app format. “With the app we wanted to break training down into bite-sized chunks”, says Naomi. “In our face-to-face day sessions we have four learning outcomes that take hours to go through, but in the app we can now break that into separate sections that take five or 10 minutes. It’s more accessible.”

The UX (User Experience) stage followed, during which Calvium worked with the client team to map out what the app needed to achieve for its users, working towards the creation of a system of wireframes, that communicated how users and information would flow throughout the app, solidifying the whole team’s understanding of what would be created.

Working iteratively with Self-Injury Support, the design process continued to create a visual design of the interface that was separate to Self-Injury Support’s main brand identity, allowing the project to stand alone and build under its own steam as future phases are introduced.

Development was a smooth and fluid process, using the designs and user stories from the discovery session to ensure we created the best possible first version of the Emotivate app.  Once Quality Assurance (QA) testing had taken place internally, the User Acceptance Testing period (UAT) began. As this was a new experience for Self-Injury Support, a session was held at Calvium HQ involving key project stakeholders in both the client and Calvium team. This session included executing test plans, reviewing the app on multiple devices and fine tuning Emotivate, ready for the user trial.

This agile approach meant that the solution was being refined throughout, with additions and amendments coming from both the Self-Injury Support and Calvium teams.

Our expertise blended with the translation of paper-based and in-person training exercises into simple digital tools that could be self-directed and completed at the user’s own pace. These took the form of self-reflection techniques made into interactive sequences and learning delivered as step-by-step guides.

“One of the most exciting aspects of the project was seeing ideas turn into content,” says Naomi. “The creation felt like a partnership, we’d brainstorm ideas, workshop and test them, then Calvium would come back with working functions. It was a collaborative process that has led to a lot of little innovations within Emotivate.”

Looking to the future

For Self-Injury Support, the creation of an app-based training tool was a leap into the unknown. Armed with the expertise of Calvium – as both collaborators and consultants – the Self-Injury Support team now have the confidence to move forward and strive to obtain further funding to take Emotivate to the next level. 

Emotivate was delivered on-budget as a streamlined 1st Phase project. It is currently in use as a pilot trial for the target user group, who are testing the app out in-the-field. The data being gathered will help inform future iterations of the app and the continuing development of the training that Self-Injury Support deliver.

“Our timeline and budget didn’t allow for Emotivate to have an individual data tracking system built into it,” says Naomi, “But Calvium still created markers into the app, ready to be expanded upon once we get future funding. It means we’re future-proofed and ready to go.”

The prototype is available for selected test users and investors alike, in line with the roadmap that the team had set out. The foundations for future functionality were designed into the Phase 1 wherever possible, leaving a path open for the app to grow with future time and funding.

“Besides gaining a really impressive product, working with Calvium has helped us work out where we’re going next. We’ve got a process and a plan in place – something we can be proud of rolling out.”

Naomi Salisbury, Director of Self-Injury Support

The need for organisations to share important work has never been greater. And the opportunity never more exciting. If your organisation needs a digital platform to reach new users and leave them with a lasting impression, then please get in touch with Calvium today.

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