PROBLEM SOLVING BOOTHS WERE THE IDEA OF A YOUNG PERSON: THEY TURN THE IDEA OF HELP-SEEKING ON IT'S HEAD
Problem Solving Booths began on a fresh November day at Camden Lock in London in 2016. Three of us arrived bundled up in thermals, hats and scarves, carrying two picnic chairs and four Domino’s pizza boxes. We also had a couple of pens and some brown parcel tape from the local pound store. We quickly realised that the pen nibs were far too small. And, if I’m honest, that we were feeling pretty nervous and apprehensive too. So, we headed across the road into Campbell's Canal Cafe, sat down and bought some coffees. We also asked if we could borrow a big, chunky pen. "What do you need it for?", they asked. "A Problem Solving Booth", we replied. "What's that?", they asked. "We're not sure", we replied, "but it's something about enabling conversations". "How many pens would you like?", they answered.
The idea for Problem Solving Booths emerged during a walk taken by Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Charlie Howard, around Queen's Crescent Market in Camden. Having recently had a child and looking for her next "thing", Charlie took to the streets to ask people what would make a difference in their community. "A Problem Solving Booth right here on my street", answered a young man in the queue in the sandwich shop. "A place where people can go with the stresses in their head and where we can help each other". The idea was genius and Charlie's thinking built on it quickly. "Maybe we could try one here?", Charlie suggested, "we could do it together". The young man smiled at Charlie and said "yeah maybe", then his phone rang and he ran off down the street. We never found out his name and haven't seen him since. He likely has no idea just what his throwaway words have since inspired.
We've been running Problem Solving Booths ever since all over London – from housing estates with Bengali interpreters to Camberwell Green, Hounslow High Street, the Piccadilly Line and the main thoroughfare to Euston station. And everywhere we've been, people have loved the simplicity of the idea and the design. Many have said that we need them all over the city and more importantly, that they would use them: both to give help and to receive it. Lots of this work has been done in partnership with ThriveLDN, a citywide movement for mental health, supported by the Mayor of London and the London Health Board.
We've progressed beyond London and having national and international conversations! It's really pretty cool. Perhaps we can come to your street next? In fact, you can make this happen. Check out our tools and run a Problem Solving Booth yourself!