Creating a safer night out in Manchester

Client: CityCo Manchester + Greater Manchester Police
Focus: Design Thinking
Project Duration: Three Weeks

I. The challenge

How can we design a support tool for a Manchester night out? A night out that helps you consider how to engage with what the city has to offer in a safe and enjoyable way, and what to do if things start to go wrong?

CityCo is an independent membership organization covering 1000+ companies across the Greater Manchester area including international head offices, SMEs, banks, hotels, property developers, architects, retailers, universities, restaurants, theaters and more.

What is the Night Time Economy?
t is business activities that commences after day time employment or education, mainly licensed activity such as drinking alcohol, late night dining, live music, dancing and gambling.

Why is it important to the “health” of a city?
The night time economy is worth 6% of UK’s gross domestic product or £66 billion annually (Night Time Industries Association).

II. Reinterpreting brief

With a such a broad scope of the initial brief, we delved into exploratory research to understand different scenarios of things “going wrong” on a night out. In comparing them we realized that they all have a common party: bystanders.

Why bystanders?
Empowering this group presents significant potential to alleviate the resource and budget constraints faced by the Greater Manchester Police Department and the hospital systems.

Major findings included:

  1. Presence of other bystanders reduces helping behavior in an emergency, especially in low-danger situations (bystander effect)*

  2. Bystanders chose to respond in less than 20% of situations**

  3. A high number of pre-hospital deaths could be prevented if  bystanders performed simple first-aid maneuvers, however  first aid intervention is infrequent***

*The unresponsive bystander: Are bystanders more responsive in dangerous emergencies? PETER FISCHER*, TOBIAS GREITEMEYER, FABIAN POLLOZEK AND DIETER FREY Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany, European Journal of Social Psychology
**The unresponsive bystander: why doesn't he help? by Darley, J. M., & Latane, B. (1970). New York, NY: Appleton Century Crofts.
***Source: J Oliver, G & Walter, Darren & Redmond, Anthony. (2017). Prehospital deaths from trauma: Are injuries survivable and do bystanders help?. Injury. 48. 10.1016/j.injury.2017.02.026.

Given that bystanders are less likely to take action in the presence of others when there help otherwise could potentially help in situations from escalating, we re-framed the original brief as:

How might we encourage and empower bystanders to take action when confronted with distressful situations without putting themselves in danger?

III. Developing the solution

Experience Journeys

We analyzed publically available records to understand the different offenses in terms of their timings, frequency, etc., and highlighted the four most common ones. We were also conscious that our solution has to consider the safety the bystander therefore our solution can be only applicable for certain types of “situations”. Based on all of this, we created four different journeys based on different situations a bystander might encounter.

Ideation Tools

We used several ideation tools such as role playing, where we role played different companies (e.g. Google, Nike, Mobile, Security, etc.) to understand how they might approach our brief. We then conducted a “negative brainstorming” exercise exploring the negative/unintended consequences of the different solutions.

Business Viability 

We mapped the different solutions onto a prioritization grid to determine solutions that would provide the most impact while being reasonably easy to develop and implement.


We selected the top three compelling solutions to present to the client during our mid-project check-in.

IV. Guardian Bee (solution)

Synthesizing our findings with feedback from the client and expert interviews, we devised Guardian Bee, a mobile application connecting qualified and willing network of volunteers to keep Manchester safer.

The app is designed to be used by any bystander witnessing a distressful event by creating a quick report alerting  other volunteers with the proper qualifications within the vicinity.


Main Features

  1. Create request
    Create a request  volunteers within the vicinity. For situations deemed too dangerous to intervene, the app directs to contact authorities.

  2. Guidelines
    Review guidelines for how to approach the situation.

  3. Communicate with volunteer
    The individual can communicate with the other volunteers via chat to update them on the situation's developments while waiting.

  4. Staying up -to-date
    There is a "local events" section to inform of upcoming training opportunities, etc. to help stay up to date and qualify to volunteer for a wider range of situations.

Design considerations:

  1. Integrating authority expertise
    We are leveraging the expertise of CitizenAid, a charity whose mission is to prepare individuals and communities to help themselves take appropriate action in dangerous situations.

  2. Building community
    research suggests that building a sense of communal identity would be vital to the adoption of our solution, therefore, we co-opted the Mancunian “Bee” identity.

  3. Awareness and increasing knowledge
    Given that the vast majority of public is not aware of the bystander phenomena, our solution would need educate and inform.

  4. Creating a volunteer network
    Research demonstrated that people are more likely to act in such situations when they feel they have others that they can rely on or help them.

Mitigating risks

  1. Encouraging taking action in a measured way
    The design needed to provide accurate and best-practice guidelines for situations where determined it is safe for the volunteer to take action. We integrated CitizenAid's guidelines given their authority and expertise. Providing a "team" approach to resolving the situation helps inspire confidence to take action in a safe, measured way.

  2. Verifying volunteer profiles and accreditation
    To prevent abuse of the system, personal identification information will be requested to create profiles and accreditation would be verified.

  3. Privacy
    Since the application requests image as evidence when creating a new request for help, any image take would not be stored locally on the phone. Taking screenshot of the screens would also be disabled.

V. Client feedback

“This is a great idea for empowering individuals to contribute assistance but the thing I liked most was the concept of joining up volunteers. This is a real challenge that we currently face, including for the NTE and this platform gives an effective solution to a practical problem. It was good that the group had considered the possibilities for misuse and pro-actively addressed them, rather than just failing to see any potential limitations, which can often be tempting.”

Fraser Swift, Strategic Development Directorate, CityCo