Create4Dementia winner announced

After three months, 15 ideas and dozens of conversations about technology and dementia, the winner of the Create4Dementia competition has been announced. Family Connections, an idea proposed by Ali Taylor, will be produced by iResources, a small development company based in Newcastle.

Family Connections will use family photos to help people with dementia identify important people in their lives. The app will bring together photos, including those from social media, to show family members and friends, and also the connections between. This combination of family tree and photo album can help people with dementia to recognise their relatives and how they relate to one another.

After Family Connections was chosen as the winning idea, local developers and small businesses were invited to submit tenders via the LaunchSpot platform, to bid for a work contract worth £20,000. These tenders were scrutinised by the community and finally judged by a panel of dementia and technological experts. This panel decided to award the contract to iResources, who they felt could best deliver the Family Connections app.

Once the development of the app is completed it will be made freely available to the community to aid families living with a diagnosis of dementia.


For more information please contact Nataly Birbeck or Kellie Morrissey.

Technologies and mental health

Digital Civics projects exploring technologies and mental health were showcased at a student-led mental health conference in Newcastle.

The fourth annual Mind the Gap Conference was organised by Nataly Birbeck, a Digital Civics doctoral researcher and included workshops, panel discussions and live music performances. There were also stalls showcasing local organisations working in the area of mental health, such as charities, meditation providers, and LaunchSpot.

The conference offered an opportunity to discuss and explore many different aspects of mental health. LaunchSpot’s opening competition, Create4Dementia, invites the public to submit ideas for technology they believe could help people living with a diagnosis of dementia. These ideas, having been collaboratively refined by the community, have now been judged by experts in technology and dementia and three ideas have been shortlisted for development. Small businesses and individual developers can now bid for a work contract worth £20,000 to make the winning idea a reality.

People attending the conference were interested to find out more about the ideas and the collaborative design process. Future competitions using the LaunchSpot platform could focus on other mental health issues such as self-harm and eating disorders.

Kellie Morrissey, a researcher involved with LaunchSpot, also ran a workshop session with Jayne Wallace exploring non-verbal communication with people with dementia. Workshop participants made playlists to investigate how music could empower people with dementia, and how fabrics and different textiles could be used to create engaging objects.

Other sessions focussed on subjects such as poetry, peer support and comedy relating to mental health, while discussion panels held throughout the day explored the particular issues around mental health for students, men, people with disabilities and those who are part of the LGBT+ and BAME communities or who belong to a faith group.

Students, researchers, clinicians and members of the local community all took part in the conference, which encouraged discussion about mental health issues. Platforms such as LaunchSpot suggest ways in which digital technologies can intersect with mental health and how technologies developed by the community could shape the way we think and talk about mental health in the future.


For more information please contact Nataly Birbeck.

Creating technologies for people with dementia

850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia, but new technologies can offer ways to help them and their families. With Create4Dementia, an online competition delivered by digital civics researchers, these technologies could be designed by the local community.

As well as proposing ideas for technologies to help enrich the lives of people with dementia, members of the local community will be able to vote on and discuss each other’s ideas and shape each stage of the design process. The most popular ideas will go forward to a judging panel, which will include experts from Dementia Care and Sunderland Software City, partners in the project.

Even the development of the technologies themselves will be open to the public. Software developers will submit bids to make the winning design a reality, which the community will be able to scrutinise. Ultimately the process will lead to a new technology for people with dementia, their carers and families, designed by people with experience of dementia, whether in the personal or professional lives.

“It’s exciting to be a part of a process which aims to give the designing power explicitly back to the people who will benefit from the technology at hand,” said Shaun Lawson, Professor of Social Computing at Northumbria University.

Kellie Morrissey, another member of the LaunchSpot team, added: “People with dementia are often underestimated – they’re often still able to contribute in many meaningful ways to their families and to their communities. However, with quite limited treatment available at the moment, it’s really important that we pay attention to the sensitive design of new technologies to help people with dementia live happier, more connected lives for longer.”

Create4Dementia is the first in a series of competitions to design technologies for mental health, all run through the LaunchSpot platform developed by Ed Jenkins at Open Lab. This allows for community participation in every stage of the development process.

Shaun continued: “Create4Dementia by LaunchSpot is the first foray into doing this on a wider scale than our usual academic workshops, and of course with the potential for real life impact at the end of the process.”


For more information please contact Kellie Morrissey.