Belen Barros Pena

Reintroducing values into exchange: co-designing contextual and practice-sensitive financial services with older adults.

This project will explore how underserved groups might be better served by emerging innovations in digital technologies. Specifically, the research will focus on the financial interactions that occur in networks of care, focusing on the experiences of people who care for, or are cared for by, family, friends and volunteers. Prior research has highlighted how financial transactions and interactions within care networks are critically important yet incredibly complex, requiring the informal sharing of money to pay bills on the behalf of those who are housebound, transparency in financial decisions made by family members, and the temporary delegation of powers of spending ones own money to other people. While many new technologies, such as Distributed Ledgers and crypto-currencies, offer opportunities to support these practices, traditional banks and the underlying technical infrastructures of payment services impede such practices from occurring in a safe and secure way.

The research will take a design ethnographic and co-creative and participatory approach to designing new technologies with participants. It will focus on a series of case studies, each related to a phase of design activity. Case study one will involve the conduct of ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative research with families and in residential care facilities, which will focus on identifying existing practices surrounding the management of finances in care networks. Case study two will involve conducting participatory design activities where multiple stakeholders (people in receipt of care, carers, family members, residential care professionals, and representative of financial institutions) will respond to the findings of case study one, and generate and evaluate concepts and ideas for new digital financial services. Case study three will involve the design, development and evaluation of a working digital prototype, responding to the findings of the earlier two case studies. It is expected this will involve the “in the wild” trial of new digital financial services with users.


I have been an interaction designer and user researcher for more than 10 years, helping companies and government organisations build software that makes sense to the people who use it. I am interested in participatory approaches to design, and in design within free and open source software communities.