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After a horrible cyber attack, we helped Hackney Council get back on their feet and build better tools than what they had before, rather than just getting their old stuff back.
Local government
Policy areas
  • Social care
  • Technology
  • Service design
  • User research
  • Design
  • Research
Point of contact
Jaye HackettFounding partner

From 2021, colleagues helped Hackney Council’s social care service recover from a devastating cyber attack. Vital case management software was taken offline, and all production data was encrypted and held for ransom.

Hackney was using old legacy technology, and restoring it was a years-long process. So, we worked to decrypt the lost data at the same time as building a new suite of modern, collaborative tools for social workers.

Our approach was fast, nimble and agile, designing and building product features in days that would normally take weeks or months. We worked under incredible uncertainty in a risk-averse environment to deliver an ambitious collection of tools that improved on what came before, rather than just reproducing it. We took inspiration from other sectors and introduced product design patterns that were novel to social care, such as the kanban board interface common to tools like Trello and Jira.

We also saw this as an opportunity to deliver bottom-up, “small c” change in the social care service itself. Our service design approach used a “trojan mouse” philosophy: often teams have their hands tied by old legacy software, so by breaking that constraint we can encourage new ways of working without the expense and inertia of a large, formal change programme.

For months, Hackney’s strategy had been purely to restore their original compromised systems, but the speed and quality of our work encouraged them to see the cyber-attack as a once-in-a-generation chance to bring real, transformative improvements to social care practice.

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