Digital training that supports front line healthcare workers




In 2017, Calvium and Self-Injury Support (SIS) collaborated to create 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 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.

In response to these challenges, Self-Injury Support (SIS) 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.

While the training workshops were always well received, it became increasingly difficult for some organisations to commit to regular face-to-face sessions. This was 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 aim of Emotivate was to help support staff across 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.

Prospective users would 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 had an intuitive design, given the broad target audience. To test the suitability of the features created in Phase 1, the app was trialled through a user testing programme supported by a number of local and national organisations. The feedback obtained from users during the trial period provided invaluable insights into the learning, reflection and interactive app features. The feedback aided the team to progress ideas for future development, which are pending 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 as 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. 

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

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. 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.

Naomi Salisbury, Director of Self-Injury Support

This functionality stemmed from what Self-Injury Support included 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 exactly what the app needed to achieve for its users. We created 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. 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.

Naomi Salisbury, Director of Self-Injury Support

Future Plans

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

Emotivate was delivered  as a streamlined 1st Phase project. It was used as a pilot trial for the target user group, who tested the app out in-the-field. The data gathered helped 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 was made 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

Got an idea for a digital product in mind and not sure how to execute it? Get in touch with us today for a chat 0117 226 2000

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