Katie Brown

| Elegant Social Design

Katie Brown

Katie Brown began working with the intersection of Mental Health and Digital around 8 years ago.

Her mission is to document, amplify and engage a cultural shift around creativity and wellbeing in our lives and to evidence its true value as an economy in its own right.

Passionate about social capital economies, she is developing her expertise in bringing together disparate fields and is currently researching and developing arts and entrepreneurialism.

Katie is currently writing a book looking at this through a political lens. She utilises methodologies that have led her to develop her own Elegant Social Design - getting to the core principles of meeting need and desire, and designing simple and elegant, socially aware sustainable businesses.

An example of the work that Katie is involved in can be seen through the Mental Health Innovation Labs - working through the Cernis Partnership. Her role has been described by the partnership as the 'brains behind the idea' for the highly successful design approach, and now grant funded programme. The first of its kind in the UK.

How do you make waves, Katie?

Through meaningful connection and design.

What are the top 3 things that people most ignore about digital well-being?

- Its omnipresence

- That it is about the ‘way’ we engage as much as engaging and not engaging

- That the idea of offline and online has changed – a more holistic view of our lives in terms of online engagement isn’t something people give a lot of thought too. Other than a sort of black and white – or “this is good or bad”…

What's your personal story with digital wellbeing?

When I first realised the role that digital would start to play in mental health and wellbeing 8 years ago it looked like a given to me. And I loved the unchartered territory, being an adventurer at heart. That being met by a constant barrage of ‘no way, that will never happen’ by the healthcare system was a defining moment.

It was So obvious to me (and of course in retrospect to everyone) but the online world was a completely different place then.

I’ve learnt to pursue my vision, I’ve learnt that I am a visionary.

And I now know that visionaries aren’t always (ever?) listened to at first. So you have to go do and stop waiting for someone to say: “hey, great idea!”. This is why I’ve moved on to looking more at the intersections of things. The areas that don’t yet fit together.

What would be a real breakthrough, in your opinion, or put in other words: If you had a magic wand, what would be the future of digital when related to mental health and if it's not looking good, what's the plan to tilt the world upside down?

I think this is where the online and offline being part of a whole merges. A breakthrough would be the practice of healthy wellbeing being part of a person’s deliberate consideration. The way good diet or exercise is. And that translates to the idea of a wellbeing Pound – valuing the spending of this. And where this ties with traditional mental health services in the UK is that this more preventative approach would mean they could focus on the much more sharper end.

I’d like to see health services shifting the control more – at the moment, even with digital development networks within the NHS the framework to access this as an innovator or developer is so time consuming and costly. Innovation needs to be agile and quick. And it’s still very service focused. More so than I like. I want to design around people and need – there’s a tension with that and the outcomes that have to be measured for government policy.

If I had a magic wand I’d rethink the whole mental health system, start something new. But we are where we are. I operate around and outside it, but I can because I have operated within it. There’s a school of thought with artists such as Picasso: “You put the time in learning the traditional methodology. Once you’ve done your time, you can break free and rethink it”

Only we’re taught health is health and this is this.

I don’t see that. What I see is solutions, people, needs.

What message would you like to send to your future self?

Ah, I write short stories and have a bit of a following online of them. One of them is entitled “In which my future self sends me a message”. In it I say ‘don’t listen to any more bollocks’ But to send to my future self... :Yeah, I can see you, I’m on my way."

Could you share three amazing people who inspire you and you would encourage us to know about or rediscover?

Esther Dyson – pattern recognizer – digital, in space, health - see an article here about The Efficient Networker

P J Harvey – truth teller, musician

Jacqui Dillon – serial sexual abuse survivor, Chair of the Hearing Voices network, activist

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