Aims of the project:

  • To improve access to appropriate local support services and information about the service (Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Partnership).
  • To make it straightforward for users to reach out for immediate support in times of crisis.
  • To reduce first line support demand on the service

EdinburghApps civic challenge programme, run by the City of Edinburgh Council, offers the opportunity for teams to create and design concepts and solutions, focused on helping the people of Edinburgh using Council data. In 2014 the challenge competition took place and TM&R Ltd were successful in pitching a solution for “How to make it possible for people who have been supported by Council services to stay safe”.

Crucial to the project success was moving analogue data held in multiple locations onto one online sustainable open data application that provides city-wide subject specific data on organisations, courses, events and contacts. This required collaboration of multiple partners, the development of the database underpinning the application, open to all and providing a mobile interface for users. This demonstrated the benefitsl of sharing and publishing open data on a city-wide basis.

The project used user research and co-design approaches to understand the problems encountered by the user group, and work with the Serenity café in Edinburgh and its customers, to co-produce an application which would meet their needs and was owned by the community. Multiple test cycles and iterations were carried out working with the client group. Each of the success factors (see above) had user stories attached.  A user story described a specific piece of functionality from the perspective of the user.  This ensured the app achieved a user centred design and easy to use interface.

Key challenges and how were these overcome:

  • Logistics: the company was based in Fife but needed to work closely with the client base in Edinburgh.  Face to face workshops were required for Phase 1 which slowed down development, but once the relationships were established more could be done virtually.
  • Learning curve: for all involved in the project there was a steep learning curve as there was no equivalent to the application that was being developed.  This was mitigated through use of a Council Project Manager who was experienced at delivering complex projects, and through using different sources of knowledge both locally and in Fife


Key success factors:

  • To reduce first line support demand on the service
  • To deliver a sustainable online open data application that provides city-wide subject specific data on organisations, courses, events and contacts.
  • To develop a mobile application that would provide daily support for its users:
  • To help users keep track their appointments and commitments, related to managing their recovery.
  • To keep users up-to-date on events organised by the council or by members of the recovery community that might be relevant to their recovery.
  • To allow users to look back at daily messages to support motivation to stay on track.
  • To allow users to access mindfulness activities, particularly during a crisis/emergency.

Key learnings:

  • EdinburghApps was an innovation for the Council and was the first civic challenge programme in Scotland, starting in 2013.  Each year that it ran new learnings were built in, with new formats and approaches tried out. There are now established organisations such as CivTech providing this type of challenge opportunity in Scotland. However, there are still opportunities to develop civic challenge programmes that tackle difficult problems that require something other than products, and should be looked at end to end.
  • TM&R Ltd was formed when they won EdinburghApps, so the Council also provided business development support and guidance to help the company navigate its first year of business. It was a risk, developing the product with a new business, and it delivered due to the company and the Council’s PM dedication to the project. It would be better to work with an established SME. There were benefits though in the knowledge and experience, and fresh thinking that came with this new company
  • The project had a very focused brief and delivered to this. It involved the Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Partnership, Edinburgh Council, the Serenity café in Edinburgh and a range of customers and clients.  The company was based in Fife, so it was challenging arranging the necessary workshops and test sessions to suit all those involved in the project. A local business could have reduced time on the project.
  • Many of the development products were new to the company, the Council and to customers. New open data was created in developing a database of support organisations and events which had been on paper previously.  This has proved of lasting benefit to the Council and the Partnership whilst the app has reduced first line support demands for the service.
  • It was essential that buy-in was achieved for all stakeholders – Council, Partnership and clients – to ensure project success, and sustainability.  Early joint meetings and workshops plus the continued involvement of the Council’s service manager made sure this happened.

Organisation: The City of Edinburgh Council

Delivery agent: TM & R Ltd

How long has the project been operational:18 months

How long the project took from concept approval to implementation: 18 months

Funding: The Service department provided funding.

Total project cost: £23,000

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