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Christine Hemphill : Winner of the 2024 Great Companies International Women Entrepreneur Award


Name: Christine Hemphill

Business Name: Open Inclusion

Location: London, UK , United Kingdom ( UK)

Establishment (Year): 2015

Category: Health & Wellness

Profession/ Specialty: Disability and Age-Inclusive Research and Innovation

Social Media : Linkedin


Company Detail:

Open Inclusion is an inclusive research and design consultancy based in the UK, operating globally. They work with clients to help them understand and improve their customer or citizen solutions and experiences, particularly considering and designing for the needs of older and disabled people.


Open, founded and led by Christine Hemphill,generates authentic insights by engaging with their pan-disability and intergenerational community through 1:1 usability testing, qualitative design and quantitative market research, to inform more inclusive design and human-centred delivery.


Open’swork helps their clients more broadly understand diverse perspectives so they can practically and efficiently improve and innovate. Through co-creation with disabled researchers and community leaders, they ensure that their research is inclusive, enjoyable, safe, insightful, and valuable. They work across the full spectrum of customer experience, including digital and physical products, services, environments, and communication. The practical insights generated inform design decisions, and therefore experiences, that are more accessible, secure, efficiently usable, and enjoyable for all. As Opensummarise it in their tagline - Broader insights. Better solutions!


Unique Selling Proposition or Competitive Advantage:

Open Inclusionare one of the global leaders in inclusive research, design, and innovation practices, and have reach to a global community (directly and through partnerships) that is the largest specifically disability-inclusive and age-inclusive insight community that they are aware of. As a result of their reach and inclusive research capability, Openworks with global commercial organisations such as Google, Microsoft, Spotify, Coca Cola, Walmart, Molson Coors, and Kingfisher Homewares supporting their teams to better understand the experiences that mainstream or internal researchers may describe as “harder to reach” or may have less experience to understand in the context of more diverse lives, personal experiences and adaptive approaches.


They also work with third-sector organisations such as the Valuable 500, RNIB, the Centre for Ageing Better, Shaw Trust, Motability Foundation, and AbilityNet. Lastly, they work with government organisations and academia, from the NHS Test and Trace App, DWP online processes to training doctoral students at the Institute of Human Centred AI, University of Surrey in disability-inclusive research practices, or immersive innovators for StoryFutures (Royal Holloway, NFTS and Brunel) and InGame (Abertay University, University of Dundee and University of St Andrews).


Challenges Faced During the Journey

The commercial market for what Open Inclusiondo was undeveloped when they started in 2015. The key players were not agencies but universities such as the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design or NGOs such as the RNIB. These were non-commercial entities where their primary goal was delivering great inclusive design education or advocating for the blind and partially sighted community. Openhad to work differently to build brand awareness, develop the market, survive and thrive. For them losing money wasn’t an option as this was what they did, not an offshoot of a bigger entity that could afford to lose money on research if necessary in the short term. Every project needed to be delivered fully, efficiently and delightfully for their clients.


They had to open up thedisability and age-inclusive insight market to start and build the business. Building awareness of the limitations of research that systematically excluded disabled people and the recognition of the value of more inclusive insight had to come before they could sell anything to anyone. It took patience.The team developed their skills as thought leaders sharing knowledge and practices through conferences and other events, while developingsome great allies and early clients who proved the value through case studies in order for them to build more stable demand and grow.


Advice for Women Entrepreneurs:

Christine would ask of potential entrepreneurs (of any gender) ifthey really, genuinely love what they are setting out to do? Do they deeply care about succeeding in it? If not, it will likely get too hard at some point along the way.

 

If they do really feel a passion for what they are setting out to do, find an amazing group of people to support them both as core team members in the business and as advisors / critical friends. Thengo for it with all they have. It will be hard. It will test them. It will take from them more than they expected. But it will also be worth it. It will give back in many ways (not just financially) if they can navigate the journey, continue to adapt and have the energy and courage to persevere.

Even if for some reason it doesn't work out, if they truly love what they do and why, it will progress their skills and experience so that they are always learning, lifting their capabilities, connections and knowledge. This is likely to open other paths to progress the underlying idea and purpose to continue it in some new or varied form.

 

Christine’s favourite quote about innovation and entrepreneurship is from Jacqueline Novagratz (Acumen). She talks about the need tobalance humility and audacity to succeed. Humility to keep listening, learning, adapting and growing, audacity to keep true to yourgoals, values and purpose as youdo so.




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