Connected Thought were engaged by Hometown Plus Ltd to seek funding to explore how society could unlock the power of ‘community’ to combat the growing crisis in mental health and wellbeing.

Having written the bid that secured funding from Innovate UK, we had 6 months to carry out research, stakeholder engagement, concept ideation, product vision, and manage the design and build of a working proof of concept.

The Concept

The Wellbeing Network is an intelligent software app that connects individuals and organisations within the boundaries of a geographical ‘community’ in order to:

  1. Monitor the mental health and wellbeing of individuals in order to intervene early and when support is needed.
  2. Identify individual wellbeing goals and influencing social factors that are impacting a healthy mind.
  3. Personalise support based on individual needs, influencing social factors, and goals, including connections with relevant local service organisations as part of a holistic, inclusive, community network approach to improving mental wellbeing.
  4. Track and Measure the social value organisations generate by helping their volunteers, colleagues and beneficiaries improve their mental wellbeing.
  5. Report annonymised and aggregated data that can be used to identify potential trends between social factors (determinants) and poor mental wellbeing, funding opportunities based on successful outcomes, and gaps where service provision is needed


The Unmet Need

A whole-community approach to mental health is needed that considers the impact of social factors (i.e. loneliness) rather than just ‘treating an illness’ (Kinderman, 2019). Success requires understanding whole-community capabilities (including non-medical), matching to individual needs and evidencing impact (TNL, 2019). The current ‘treatment’ model, and the platforms that support it, fail all three (Kingsfund,2020).

Wellnet offers a step-change in supporting mental ill-health, especially in under-privileged communities: intervening early, saving costs, and improving wellbeing.

The Problem

A community-focused Wellbeing Network attempts to address a number of opportunities and resulting problems:

The NHS favours operational models that intervene early to ease the pressure on primary care.

  • Apart from continuing to spend money on awareness campaigns, how can we reach and monitor the mental wellbeing of individuals within the community so that support can be offered at the earliest sign of need?

The NHS’s Social Prescribing model aims to unlock the assets within communities to help ease the burden on primary care.

  • How do we connect and match the assets and services to the needs of the individual, but more importantly, how do we then monitor the impact of those assets to ensure they deliver value? Also, how do we identify what assets and services are missing?

There is a growing understanding that mental health is not simply an ‘illness model’ and that external social factors and determinants play a critical role.

  • How do we begin to understand what social determinants play what role and how do we provide the data needed from which to make informed, strategic decisions?

Community wellbeing is inclusive and requires a ‘whole system’ approach where every individual and organisations, across all sectors, benefits and has something to offer.

  • How can we engage all three sectors to work together for the wellbeing of their colleagues, volunteers, beneficiaries and customers?

Research shows that approximately 50% of therapist appointments are not attended and that the NHS finds it harder to encourage ethnic minority groups to use the services available.

  • Inclusivity is a key tenet of community wellbeing, as is the rights of privacy. How can we engage audiences that do not trust ‘the system’ and then support them effectively on their well-being journey?

Product Vision

Target Users

Individual : The individual is the person who accesses the app to monitor their wellbeing and access support. 

Gateway Organisation: The most effective way to reach the individual is through an organisation. This might be the place they work, via a GP practice or through a social or leisure facility. We call these organisations ‘Gateway’ as they provide a gateway to multiple individuals. These organsisations become part of the Wellbeing Network.

Support Organisation: Some Gateway organisation will also offer services that can support the mental wellbeing of the individual . For example they may offer a drop in centre, cafe, yoga classes, formal support through a charity, or informal support through an organised peer group.

Enabling Organisation: An organisation, most likely public sector, that enables the Community Wellbeing Network to flourish by playing an active role in the development and rollout locally. For example the local Primary Care Networks, local authority or local business and VSCE infrastructure organisations.

Expert: Individual experts, such as a therapist, financial advisor, housing officer and so on, whose expertise can provide support to the individual.

Content Creators: Individuals and organisations that create content (podcasts, events, online courses) that offer support to the individual. 

High Fidelity Prototype

To help present the vision we created a high fidelity prototype that walked through key user journeys. Examples included:

Registering with the Wellnet app

The data stored about an individual using the Wellnet app is OWNED by the individual. 

Referral agencies either provide a referral code that an individual can use to access their local Wellnet community or an individual can self-refer. During the sign up process, the individual is provided the opportunity to enter a name they would like to use.


The Assistant (Chatbot) guides the individual through a four-step onboarding process: (1) Option to add a ‘Wellnet Buddy’ which can be a family member or friend who the Individual trusts; (2) Option to watch a welcome video from a local stakeholder (e.g.,GP, Mayor); (3) capture what the individual wants to get from the Wellnet community (Wellbeing Goals); and (4) complete a quick mental wellbeing check-in. At the end of the onboarding process, the Individual receives an ‘achievement’ to add to their profile.


Based on the information provided by the Individual, the Assistant creates a ‘personalised safe space’ with access to tailored support that adapts to current needs. Over time, the Assistant will:

  • Monitor the Individual’s mental wellbeing through regular check-ins.
  • Identify the external social determinants that might be impacting the individuals mental wellbeing (loneliness, poor housing). This information will be captured in a couple of ways: (1) pre-designed ‘conversations’ that use logic decision trees where the Assistant invites the individual to interact; (2) natural language processing ‘conversations’ where the Individual replies to a prompt or begins a conversation with the Assistant.
  • Personalise support based on what the Assistant learns through the check-ins and interactions; plus the individuals wellbeing goals. Support includes recommended local services, events, and online resources, such as courses and podcasts).

Appointment Management

The research carried out has shown that managing appointments is a key breaking point in the current system. An individual with poor mental health has already overcome significant hurdles to even make an appoint with a GP, or talk to someone. To then have to wait between appointments to speak to Link Workers, then local service providers, and even therapy services, provides plenty of opportunities for the individual to withdraw. Through API’s third party appointment systems could integrate with the app, enabling the Assistant to know when the Individual has appointments coming up. The Assistant reminds the individual in advance and asks them to confirm if they are going, with the options ‘Yes’, ‘Maybe’, ‘No’. Each response is followed up with further questions if need be. For example, if the Individual responds ‘Maybe’, the Assistant will ask for the reason why. The reason might be because the Individual feels nervous, in which case the Assistant can ask if the Individual would like their Link Worker or Wellnet Buddy to join them.

Service and Gateway Organisation Platform

The platform enables a ‘Wellnet Community’ to be created that covers any geographical region, for example ‘The Stoke-on-Trent Wellnet’. Organisations from all sectors, based within that community, can join their local Wellnet Community. When joining, each organisation must select if they are a gateway and/or service organisation. For those that select ‘service’, additional functionality enables them to add details about the wellbeing service they offer. Gateway organisations join the Wellnet community because they want to invite their volunteers, colleagues and beneficiaries to benefit from regular wellbeing Check-Ins.

Gateway Organisation Dashboard

The Dashboard provides each organisation with aggregated and anonymised data that provides an overview of the mental wellbeing of their colleagues, volunteers, and beneficiaries. For the PoC we have included data relating to general mental wellbeing, average scores for loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Crucially, the dashboard will also include links to hints, tips, and local services that each organisation can access in order to improve the average scores in order to support those involved. At no point does the system provide the results or details of each individual’s engagement with the Assistant. A future release would also provide data showing trends over time by gender, by age, by type (volunteer, beneficiary, colleague), and by project (service). This would enable organisations to ascertain if they are helping improve mental wellbeing or not.

Proof of Concept

We designed and managed the build of a simple browser-based chatbot PoC that demonstrated elements of the vision outlined above.

Please note:

  • All check-ins are 100% confidential. In the PoC we only score the individual for what are known as the ‘common mental disorders’ (anxiety and depression), using the GAD-7 scoring framework (anxiety) and PHQ-9 (depression). For this PoC the only social determinant recorded and scored was level of loneliness.
  • We have created a dummy organisation so that you can see a live organisation dashboard and also access the the Assistant to create your own personalised Report. Please note that as this organisation does not belong to a live Wellnet Community, the links for local service support and signpost services (both on the dashboard and personalised report) have been disabled.
  • The live demo has not been designed to work on a mobile phone.