Getting to know an organisation

When I started Yellow Team in May 2018, the first charity we worked with was Richmond Hill Elderly Action.

They are a community hub in the third most deprived ward in Leeds. They offer all kinds of support to people in Richmond Hill over the age of 55.

The ask

Richmond Hill Elderly Action, like most charities, are amazing. They know their business inside out and they are passionate about making people’s lives better.

They are also an ambitious organisation. They wanted help to create a five-year business strategy and update their brand, so they gave Yellow Team a call.

We are going to call the charity RHEA from this point on. They prefer RHEA and it will probably make this post easier to read.

Getting started

Once I had agreed the brief with Darrell, the charity’s Project Manager, I assembled a small but perfectly formed team of volunteers.

This team included a Service Designer, a Content Designer, a Product Manager and a UX Designer. These wonderful volunteers came from three different government departments and one design agency.

It is important to understand the organisation you are designing for before you start designing

Our first priority was to find out more about RHEA as an organisation.

Our approach

Being a digital organisation our first principle is ‘Put the user first’.

Our plan was to carry out some research with the people who use RHEA’s services and other people over 55 in the local area.

We were then planning to get our team together with staff from RHEA to look at the research findings and take it from there.

Sadly that plan was thwarted at the last minute and we had to cancel the research day. Instead we got the RHEA team together for an afternoon and ran a version of the Google Ventures Brand Sprint.

Start with why

Our first exercise was designed to understand why RHEA exists. What gets the team out of bed in a morning?

We used inspiration from the famous Simon Sinek TED Talk ‘How great leaders inspire action’.

Simply put, this exercise asks the team to list:

  • The things their organisation does
  • The ways in which they do those things
  • The reasons they do them

Then they vote on the most important things.

IMG_1310 2

If you like you can turn that work into a short purpose statement, something like this:

At RHEA our committed and professional team of people provide support for people over 55 to make their lives better.

The important thing here though isn’t the output, it is the less tangible value of looking deeply at your organisation as a team.

The value of values

This exercise was about agreeing and prioritising RHEA’s values – the things that really matter to them as an organisation.

From Jake knapp:

Lots of companies list their values, but very few do the hard work to reduce and prioritise. And prioritisation is essential. Knowing your most important value makes decisions easier, clarifies your message, and sets you apart from the competition. It’s hard work but worth it.

We asked the RHEA team to silently list the values they think are important to the organisation. Then we asked them to call their list out and wrote them on a whiteboard.

After that we asked them to vote for their personal favourites. The group agreed that the top three values for RHEA, in order, are:

  1. Professional
  2. Empowering
  3. Trustworthy


We were just an hour in and we were already getting to know this organisation pretty well. And what a wonderful organisation it is!

Know your audience

Our next exercise was very similar to the values exercise, this time designed to get a clearer view of RHEA’s key stakeholders.

We used the same ‘note and vote’ pattern. This time asking the question ‘Who’s opinion matters most to you?’

The group agreed that their top three audiences, in order, are:

  1. Their members – people over 55
  2. The people who fund RHEA
  3. The wider community in Richmond Hill (because they are potentially neighbours and families of their target audience)

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This is a really useful insight because it helps us target things like user research, marketing and branding more precisely and effectively.

Eyes to the horizon

Our final exercise was about the future. Where do the team see RHEA in 20 years time?

Of course, this isn’t a planning exercise. The objective was simply to get the team thinking about the lifetime of their organisation beyond the issues and challenges that are affecting them today.

We put a timeline on the wall with 5 year increments and asked the team to tell us where they see RHEA at each 5 year point.


This was fascinating, and gave us a clear understanding of RHEA’s current trajectory.

It essentially told us that they would like to focus on perfecting their services and attracting new members before expanding their reach beyond their current scope in the late-2020s.

We can work with that!

What next?

Yellow Team will be continuing to work with RHEA over the coming months.

We will be doing some research with users to explore whether the current services are meeting their needs. We will be developing a 5-year plan to help RHEA compete for funding and we will also be doing some work to modernise their brand and visual identity.

If you would like to help us with any of this we could use your support. Please get in touch.


This work was an absolute pleasure. Special thanks to Matt Blackwell, Jonny Lawson, Darrell Xavier and the whole RHEA team for being such great people to work with.

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