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Service Design (MA)

Wanqi Fang

China has 40 million stray dogs - around one-fifth of the world’s population. The stray problem is multifaceted and to address it, the service would have to meet the needs of animal rescuers, owners and the great society.

Animal welfare in China has its unique form led by individuals, who are stretching thin to handle the influx of unwanted animals without professional knowledge to maintain a shelter, let alone an efficient animal rehoming system. Only 11% of pet dogs were adopted, despite the increasing ownership in the booming market, while many of them end up being returned for behavioural problems, such as destruction, barking and inappropriate toileting, they are unable to manage. However, it's often not only a pain for adopters but it's also a major factor in troublesome pet ownerships.

Wanqi Fang is interested in social innovation, bringing changes to groups that haven't yet benefited from design. Before studying Service Design at the Royal College of Art, she worked as a UX designer, product manager and start-upper in a number of areas: from social networking to mobility, purchase power and technology for children.

Prototyping Examples

In cultures with advanced animal welfare systems, positive reinforcement, as a practice of animal behavioural study, has been adopted to develop a better understanding of and build a cooperative relationship with dogs. 

This insight into other operations set the tone for the rest of the project. Where the intervention was quickly narrowed down to three areas along the adoption journey: how people arrive at the decision of getting a dog, how people decide to re-home a dog and how people live with one. 

While staying at a high level of the ideation, I actively involved stakeholders, including animal rescuers, canine behaviourists, pet owners, startups and more in multi-tracking prototyping. Working adaptively, I was able to make more evidential design decisions while moving forward with new questions. The three high-level concepts were finally iterated based on their values, look and feel, and road-mapped as the key parts of the service ecosystem. 

MintKids
MintKids Happy Rehoming Guarantee — A walkthrough of the journey of Happy Rehoming Guarantee

MintKids is a set of services: Happy Matching, Happy Rehoming Guarantee and Happy Living Together, that improves pet adoption and ownership experience.

By embedding animal behavioural knowledge, MintKids helps people to make informed adoption decision, accomplish the changes of the pet’s arrival and establish a healthy long-term relationship.

In accordance with the insights of the underperformed adoption among individual rescuers, MintKids is designed to support their animal rehoming process as a third party and help them achieve better success in sustainable animal rescue.

MintKids Happy Matching

When getting a dog, many people make their decision based on the way the dogs look or by their breed; on one hand, the majority of rescue dogs is mixed-bred and aged, which means their chance to be re-homed is rare before getting known. On the other hand, whether a dog suits people’s lifestyle determines a good, happy ownership and can avoid problems like a non-family type of dog living with children.

Happy Matching, as a matchmaking service, helps people find the right dog by simply answering a few questions about lifestyle, household situation and ownership experience. When an adopter is not satisfied with the matching result, they can still be informed about the challenges they might have to face if they choose based on their preferences.

MintKids Happy Rehoming Guarantee Screens

The first weeks of rehoming are crucial to establish good dog behaviour and build trust, however, many adopters find it overwhelming with a completely new experience and a whole new set of challenges and end up returning the dogs to the rescuer.

To test the value of intervening at the earliest possible moment in adoption, I worked closely with rescue volunteers to give timely support to their adopters for pet behavioural problems like destruction or barking. After rounds of iterations, the project showed an impact on stakeholders. Firstly, it made some adopters reconsider their decision on returning the pet after things became manageable again. Secondly, it is desired by the rescuers as a patch to their existing adoption system due to their limitation on giving sufficient support. Finally, experienced owners found it as an engaging way to enhance their relationship with their pets.

Happy Living Together

As an extension of Happy Rehoming Guarantee, Happy Living Together aims to empower more owners, not only adopters, to foster a great long-term relationship with their pets by making the resources accessible and suitable for everyone.

As I started the research, financial weakness was inevitably seen in every animal rescue individual and group. While many systems in the rest of the world rely on donations, it is very much unlikely for this to be sustainable in China. For MintKids, seizing the demand from the growing pet-owning population is a great chance to be self-sustainable.

A snapshot of animal rescue in China — There are countless individuals taking the social responsibility to keep the wandering animals under the roof, stretching thin to handle hundreds to thousands of unwanted animals; Rescuing from abandonment, breeder, dog meat truck or even mass-killing. They are left with no support nor stable financial income, not trained to maintain a shelter and has no professional knowledge about animals. With the overwhelming workload and the financial stress, an effective rehoming system becomes very luxurious.
Xiao Bai (Little White) — Xiao Bai is a puppy of four given birth by a dog that was abandoned.
Hua Hua (Flower) — Despite the name and size, Hua Hua is a frightened male dog. He stays out of the dramas in the herd.
Tian Tian (Sweetie) and her children — Tian Tian is a dog neglected by her owner, she's very friendly and tries to interact with any human she runs into on the street, which, at the same time, is not good for her wandering life. She was rescued by the rescuer and then found out pregnant.
Mao Mao — Mao Mao is a male dog who grew up in the shelter, he was found a puppy being abandoned. He is friendly and super strong with a huge capacity for eating,