Where the Magic Happens: Highlights from SIX

Key learnings from places of vulnerability, emergence & gratitude
C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

During the close of the seventh annual SIX Summer School, 150 bright-eyed participants chatted excitedly in a room overlooking Vancouver’s False Creek, a scenic inlet separating downtown Vancouver from the shores of Vanier Park and Fairview. The organizers shared their final words. Six ambassadors — participants chosen to witness key themes — offered concluding insights on empathy, empowerment, courage, beauty, power and love, and generations. The room’s energy was almost palpable. Things were coming to a close.

As the coordinator of the Summer School and Social Innovation Week Vancouver, I had the opportunity to offer my own final words. The thoughts I shared were those of boundless gratitude. I admitted that the largest event I could recall organizing was my twenty-fourth birthday party. The jump from local social planner to lead coordinator of an international conference was not part of the career plan. And yet the faith my supervisors placed in me opened up the opportunity for me to dive into something completely unknown. As I stood overlooking the crowd, knowing that my team had co-piloted this event to success, I felt deeply humbled.

A month following, my sentiment of thankfulness is the same. In this post, I offer four of my personal highlights from the global conference and the week’s flurry of concurrent social innovation events.

Creating the Conditions for Social Innovation
C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

Our visionary maestro, Al Etmanski, guided the SIX organizing team on a journey to “get social innovation into Canada’s water supply.” Al, along with Tim Draimin and Cheryl Rose, perceived the global SIX Summer School as a unique opportunity for Canada – our nation’s time had come.

The SIX Summer School created the conditions for an international group of radical doers and thinkers to convene with local and regional changemakers. From government and activist organizations through to businesses and foundations, Canadians of all stripes participated in SIX, gaining new connections and insights. It was through intentionally linking local Canadians with global practitioners that some of the greatest value of SIX and Social Innovation Week was realized.

Vulnerability is the secret sauce

In the early days of developing the conference program, the Canadian team was bent on creating something different. Our team had the privilege of attending numerous conferences and we knew we didn’t want to simply create a container for the same conversations. We wanted to shake things up! We wanted people to feel a little uncomfortable. That is where the magic happens…

Where the magic happensAlthough the conference program had three themes – society, sector and self – “the self was our secret sauce,” as BCPSI partner Ken Gauthier identified.

During the first full day of SIX, participants were welcomed with the local traditions of the Musqueam People, involving a purifying cedar brushing ceremony and evocative song and dance. The opening plenary was a deep exploration into vulnerability, led by two of Canada’s leading social innovation thinkers, Frances Westley and Vickie Cammack. The visceral cultural experience and thought-provoking morning dialogue were designed to open participants’ hearts and minds to vulnerability. Empathy, humility, and honesty with oneself lay the groundwork for understanding how to make change.

“If we are afraid of our desert places then we become more afraid of the vulnerability outside ourselves — of the other” – Frances Westley 

Putting Faith in Emergence

In order to execute on Al’s grand vision for SIX Summer School Vancouver and Social Innovation Week Vancouver, I had to put great faith in my team, our 22 partner organizations, my own abilities, and the elusive magic that is emergence. I believe emergence is about letting go of control and expectations and allowing ideas and actions to happen organically. When you make room for people to animate a space, you empower them to create something awesome – truly awe-inspiring. It was our team’s responsibility to highlight the opportunities of SIX for innovative organizations, embrace ambiguity, and allow the cultural norms of our partners to inform the week’s direction.

Boundless Gratitude

Most importantly, what stays with me is the gratefulness I feel for working with so many incredible people. Our partner organizations could not have been more creative, thoughtful, positive and driven to make Social Innovation Week the success that it was.

C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

As I move on from my role, I will reflect fondly on the time when hundreds of Canadian and international leaders came together to celebrate social change. Now, more than ever, I believe that we can learn more together by learning from one another. Together we can start to understand where to leap next.

Who organizes SIX Summer Schools?

Since 2007, each Summer School has been co-organized by the global partner, Social Innovation Exchange, and a local in-country partner. This year, there were two local partners – BC Partners for Social Impact (#BCPSI) and Social Innovation Generation (SiG), representing British Columbia and Canada respectively.

Print Friendly
Bookmark and Share

Microtainer: social innovation & lab links we’re following (June 2014)

C/O Archivo Diario

C/O Archivo Diario

This mini blog, or bloggette, is part of our ongoing effort to spread information that we think will be interesting, insightful and useful to lab practitioners and the lab-curious. Below is a collection of resources that crossed our desks over the month of June 2014. In no particular order:

  1. Recognizing that the physical environments we work in affect our levels of creativity and imagination, Nesta is commissioning a study and paper on “Innovative Spaces” that will explore how the design of our work spaces affects innovation (Also on the topic of how to design spaces to encourage creativity: Make Space,” a book by Stanford’s D.School ).
  1. The “Systems Changerswebsite, a project led by The Point People, is full of excellent resources and thought pieces. Of particular interest is their piece on the Character Traits of System Changers, which include: 1. Not being afraid to think big – really big; 2. Comfortable with change and uncertainty – more than that, they embrace it wholeheartedly; 3. Do not have the personal/professional divide that has underpinned industrial models of working life.

  1. Blog post about a seminar — “Redesigning public services: cases, methods, challenges” — that Christian Bason (Director of MindLab in Denmark) conducted in Bilbao, Spain. The author shares his insights and personal takeaways.

  1. Lab to watch: London-based “Civic Systems Lab,” a part incubator/part accelerator working to alleviate & systemically prevent poverty and its many side effects. Led and run by a group of seasoned social innovators, the project launched a set of prototypes that are testing the conditions, tactics, tools and wider platforms needed for supporting civic change and seeding local civic economy (And, they are/were hiring! Applications closed mid-May).

  1. Short write-up, 1-hour video, and slides from the presentation, “New governance models for effective public service delivery in the 21st century,” by MindLab’s Christian Bason to the UNDP’s Knowledge, Innovation & Capacity Group. Christian discusses: the future of governance, emerging governance models, the nuts and bolts of design approaches, and important points on leadership for public managers.

  1. Blog post by Forum for Social Innovation Sweden, “France is modernizing the public sector with design and social innovation,” explores a new program in France — “Réacteur Public” — led by Paris-based social innovation lab, La 27e Région. Over four years (until the end of 2017), the program aims to scale-up methods, processes and approaches that have been developed over six years, in previous projects across the country, with a particular focus on: Education, Community, Future of Public Administration, Publications.

  1. New book Towards a Civic Innovation Lab,” by Delhi-based Centre for Knowledge Societies, is jam-packed with rich content, including: civic innovation case studies from around India; essays on public and social innovation labs by Christian Bason (MindLab) and Giulio Quaggiotto (UN Global Pulse Lab); transcripts of keynote addresses and panel discussions from a public sector design symposium; and other thought pieces on public sector innovation.

  1. Insider scoop on public service design: in the blog post, “Inspiration for Service Design,” Runa Sabroe of Mindlab lays out the process, 10 cases (with lessons learned and hiccups along the way), and top tips from the Danish cross-ministry innovation unit and how it is using service design to improve how citizens and business experience, and interact with, public services.

  1. Crowdsourced google map of the social lab landscape across the globe. The map is still being populated, so please contribute! Zaid Hassan of Reos Partners (and author of the Social Labs Revolution) invites us to add suggestions for any missing public innovation labs and social innovation labs in the comments section.

  1. Blog post by the Knight Foundation’s Carol Coletta about their Civic Studios series: May 12 -14, the Knight Foundation hosted 100 civic innovators at a Civic Innovation in Action Studio in Miami to explore ways to harness talent, advance opportunity, and promote robust engagement.

  1. Blog post by DesignGov’s Alex Roberts — “Innovation and Design Insights – Visit by Christian Bason” – reflects on and pulls out insights from a visit by Christian Bason with Australian public servants (this is a couple of years old, but just came across it and there’s some good stuff in there).

  1. DO NOT MISS: Nesta launched an informative new report – “i-teams” — with a round up of the innovation-teams embedded in (municipal, regional and national) governments around the world. The report includes an overview of 20 public innovation labs across 6 continents, key lessons learned, and how to create a lab in your own city, province, or country. The team will continue to add i-team case studies and news as the project continues.

  1. There is still a lot of buzz from The Labs for Systems Change Conference that took place at MaRS DD in Toronto this May, including: a blog post reflection on some of the big ideas discussed during the day by MaRS Solutions Lab’s Fariha Husain; a video discussion reflection by Delhi-based Centre for Knowledge Societies’ Namrata Mehta and Aditya Dev Sood; a tweet aggregation + reflections/notes by government innovator Meghan Hellstern; a two-part blog post (partie 1 et partie 2, ecrit en français) with video interviews of lab practitioners (videos in English) from La 27e Région’s Stéphane Vincent; and these two reflection memos from Re-public’s Hiroshi Tamura (one and two) in Japanese and some English (日本語と英語で書いています). Also, the live-stream videos are now viewable and downloadable here!

  1. The next international gathering for lab practitioners will take place in Singapore on Oct 7-10, 2014, with a focus on Asia-based labs. Social iCon 2014, hosted by the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, is the Lien Centre’s flagship event, designed to feature thought-provoking developments and best practices in the social innovation space. The gathering will convene a pan-Asian group of social innovation practitioners and intermediaries that are engaging in Social Innovation Labs.

  1. Blog of an interview with Nesta’s Philip Colligan, head of the Nesta Innovation Lab, about why local government is well-placed to solve today’s challenges. Philip talks about the Creative Councils initiative, a program to support local authorities to be more innovative.

  1. Article about how the new Social Service Offices in Singapore utilize Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) tools and focus on enabling public servants and service providers to have more exposure to on-the-ground realities (and assets) within communities. For example, a team of officers from the Kreta Ayer Social Service Office walk through the neighbourhood several times a day, as a way for the officers to learn more about the local residents – and how they could better help them.

  1. New practice guide by Nesta’s Perrie Ballantyne and the Centre for Challenge Prizes about developing competitions or challenge prizes to stimulate idea generation. Also, Deloitte created this useful reportThe Craft of the Incentive Prize Design,” with lessons learned from the US public sector.

  1. And finally, a new report that we at SiG have been drooling all over – “Speaking to the Innovation Population” – by Nesta. The report explores the public’s views on new ideas and technologies and makes recommendations for how policymakers can better communicate with voters on these issues. It is excellent for anyone trying to communicate about innovation and particularly useful for people engaged in public sector innovation.

What have we missed? What lab-related links have you been following this past month?
Print Friendly
Bookmark and Share

Intelligent Failure in Practice: Fail Forward 2014

wknzw8 (1)With the Fail Forward 2014 conference fast approaching, I wanted to share some of the inspiring and formative theories of change behind the conference.

We’ve brought together some of the leading thought-leaders on intelligent failure for one stimulating and engaging day to help us develop effective tools and practices so that when a failure inevitably happens (and it will!), those experiences become opportunities for learning, adaptation, and so much more.

Below are highlights from a few of our thought-leaders who offer uniquely forward-thinking approaches to failure, as they work to transform our mindsets, workplaces and society away from fear of failure and toward productive failure. Here is a preparatory ‘crash course on intelligent failure’ with key insights from their work:

Dr. Brian Goldman

Our keynote speaker, Dr. Brian Goldman, is a highly regarded Toronto emergency room physician who is on a lifelong campaign to confront medical errors and create a culture of safety for patients. His keen observations about the culture of medicine apply to organizations everywhere and have us asking the question, “Do we really expect that doctors are always perfect or do we want a culture where they can be open about their mistakes and learn from them?” His TED Talk Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that? has reached nearly a million viewers and has moved countless individuals and organizations across sectors with his powerful message that failures need to be talked about if they are to be learned from.

Dr. Mandy Wintink: ‘Your Brain on Failure’

What happens in our brains and bodies when we experience failure? Dr. Mandy Wintink explains our learned and instinctive reactions to failure from a neuroscience perspective. She will lead participants through an exercise to experience and understand the physiological responses that trigger our defensive and dysfunctional reactions. Wintink’s approach offers effective strategies for dealing with these reactions to failure so that we can learn to respond more productively. 

The Risk Sandbox

Laurie Michaels, the founder of Open Road Alliance, and Tom Moir, a Safety-Risk Management Consultant, discuss the concept of ‘The Risk Sandbox’, an effective tool for understanding the dynamics of risk and failure in our work and mapping the current and desired areas for creativity, risk, and innovation. Most of us unconsciously avoid taking risks, largely because we just don’t understand how much and what kind of failure is acceptable in pursuit of innovation.  This session is about creating the space to take smart risks for increased performance, achieving ambitions, growing revenue, and the agility to stay relevant and competitive. Learn what’s possible if we understand what our risk tolerance truly is!

All we’re typically taught about failure is to avoid it at all costs. It’s time to change that. Intelligent failure plays a vital role in learning and innovation and is an essential skill in our uncertain and interconnected world. This is your crash course on how to fail well.

Hope to see you at Fail Forward 2014!

~ Ashley

To learn more about the practice of intelligent failure, attend the Fail Forward 2014 Conference, taking place on Wednesday, July 9th at MaRS Discovery District.*
*There are 30 spots remaining and to fill them, a special 20% discount is available. Register here with the code – 30Seats – for the discount.
Print Friendly
Bookmark and Share

[Collective Impact] The Tango of Collective Impact

SiG Note: This article was originally published on June 25, 2014 on Tamarack CCI - the online learning community for collaborative leaders. It is the first post of our Collective Impact Series leading up to the Tamarack Institute’s Collective Impact Summit this October. It has been cross-posted with permission from Tamarack.

images (8)This weekend, I had the pleasure of watching couples dance the tango in a public square in London.  The intricacies of the dance, coupled with the individual styles of each dance partner, made for an intriguing couple of hours.  As each new song filled the square, the couples would wait for a few strands of the music and then proceed to move together. Often with their eyes closed, each couple moved around the dance floor.

For those leading collective impact community change efforts, we know that this work, like the tango, is complex and non-linear. Collective impact often feels like a dance – one step forward and one step back, with different leaders and followers interchanging around a circular dance floor. Metaphorically, we enter collective impact with our eyes closed and while we know the steps, the simple rules of collective impact (the five conditions), the context of our community is the real driver. Much like the music, space to dance in and partner(s), the community context needs to become the driver of collective impact efforts.

The rhythm of the community, its readiness to act, the urgency of the issue and the connectedness of leaders enable collective efforts to either move fast or move slow.  The capacity of our partners, including their leadership, capacity to influence and willingness to take steps into a new way of working, become essential elements in the dance.  The blending of both the individual dance couple and the whole creates a circular interwoven mosaic of leaders and followers, connected and separate elements.

But what about this metaphor leads to change and impact?  Visually, watching the dance is stunning.  But does merely watching an event lead to community change?  At some level, the answer is yes.  The dancers and community shared a connection, beauty, art and expression.  Recently, the Evaluating Collective Impact resource guides provided a series of baseline measures to consider for early stage collective impact work.  These baseline measures fit well in this context, including changes in the way individuals in the community were interacting and positive feedback through engagement.

But is this enough?  Is this collective impact?  It would be difficult to assess after just a few hours of observation, but there might be some conclusions to be drawn:

  • More than 100 individuals were drawn to the square to connect.
  • There were many different demographics represented both in the dance and as guests watching.
  • Each dancer was engaged in physical activity for a two hour period and is healthier as a result.
  • This activity occurs weekly in this public square, drawing new people into the music and dance and increasing community connection and vitality.

Certainly, we would have to undertake a more thorough evaluation to get to impact, but my observation is that many of the elements of collective impact were present.

So this metaphor, collective impact as a complex Tango, can weave and build community.  It helps us consider our partners, our leadership and how we might dance together toward community change and impact.

Learn more about the complex tango of Collective Impact and how to scale up your community impact efforts: Register to attend the Tamarack Institute’s first-ever Collective Impact Summit happening October 6-10, 2014 in Toronto, ON.
Print Friendly
Bookmark and Share

Social Innovation Nation

SiG Note: This article was originally published by The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation in their June 2014 Newsletter.  It has been cross-posted with permission from the author.

9c3906ff5c7a03c2fc161a81_280x216Recent events suggest that the field of social innovation is maturing to the point where it is possible to envisage adaptive, evolutionary shifts in our social, economic, and environmental systems.

Consider: May 26, MaRS Solutions Lab hosted Labs for Systems Change—the third and largest global gathering of practitioners leading this type of work. In her remarks to the gathering, Frances Westley— J.W. McConnell Chair in Social Innovation at the University of Waterloo—described how our understanding of psychology and group dynamics; design thinking; and complex adaptive systems theory—together with data analysis and computer modeling—affords us new ability to examine and improve institutional behaviour, and to generate testable solutions to wicked problems.

Meanwhile, May 26-30 was Social Innovation Week in Vancouver, produced by BC Partners for Social Impact and SiG. A public Ideas Jam and an academic conference were among several events surrounding the global Social Innovation Exchange (SIX) Summer School, which Canada was hosting for the first time. SIX Vancouver 2014 was opened by BC’s Minister of Social Innovation—Canada’s first—who predicted that in five years every government will follow suit—crowdsourcing ideas, introducing hybrid corporate structures, employing new social finance measures, and supporting civic engagement in the search for solutions to our most pressing challenges.

With its recent announcement of a $1 billion endowment for social and cultural innovation, Alberta is also moving in this direction.

This is not just work for governments, corporations, philanthropic foundations, and community organizations. A recent blog by Joe Hsueh, of Foundation partner Second Muse, titled Why the Human Touch is Key to Unlocking Systems Change, quotes Peter Senge: “What is most systemic is most personal.” A reminder that change begins with ourselves—with shifts in our own habits, and our customary ways of seeing and dealing with others.

Stephen Huddart, President & CEOThe J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

Learn more about these social innovation events and policies:
Labs for Systems Change
Social Innovation Week Vancouver
Social Innovation Exchange (SIX) Summer School Vancouver 2014 
Social Innovation Endowment (SIE) Alberta
Social Innovation Canada 2014
Print Friendly
Bookmark and Share

A Global Meeting of the Minds: The Road Ahead for PSI Labs

SiG Note: This article was originally published by MaRS Solutions Lab on June 17, 2014. It has been cross-posted with permission from the author.
 

“Who in this room thinks they’re a contrarian?”

IMG_7602-1024x454On May 26, at the Labs for Systems Change event at MaRS, Geoff Mulgan, CEO of Nesta, opened his keynote address by asking the audience this question. Many of the event’s attendees raised their hands, which fit the Labs for Systems Change mindset. Lab practitioners are required to look at complex societal problems from unconventional perspectives to produce creative and impactful solutions and, according to Geoff, “contrarians naturally disagree with things and [out of this] instinct, they are able to generate better ideas.”

Labs for Systems Change brought together many outside-the-box thinkers to discuss, debate and challenge the new field of labs. The event resulted in abundant discussion on topics including functional lab challenges, lab values, institutional structure and new ways to impact public policy.

“Contrarians naturally disagree with things and [out of this] instinct, they are able to generate better ideas.”

Global labs gathering

Labs for Systems Change is the public portion of this year’s Global Labs Gathering, a now annual gathering of public and social innovation lab (PSI labs) practitioners from around the world. The event was the third and largest gathering yet and was organized by the MaRS Solutions Lab, in partnership with Social Innovation Generation (the first meeting was held by MindLab in Denmark; the second by Kennisland in the Netherlands).

Labs for Systems Change brought together 50 international guests and 100 participants from across Canada. Designers, policy-makers, academics, consultants and lab practitioners all convened at MaRS to explore, expand and define the lab landscape. Distinguished members of the Canadian federal government and members of the Ontario Public Service were also among the attendees. The event was livestreamed in North America, Europe and Asia.

The notable lineup of guests included Frances Westley, Director of the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and ResilienceJari Tuomala, Partner at The Bridgespan Group in New York City; Christian Bason, Director of Innovation at MindLab in Copenhagen; Beth Simone Noveck, Director of The Governance Lab at New York University; and Adam Kahane, Chairman of Reos Partners North America, among over 40 eminent international guests.

First Roundtable discussion on lab approaches

These guests participated as panelists and keynote speakers on three topics: the state of public and social innovation labs; design for public policy; and labs, governance and technology. Table discussions on lab approaches, the organization of the lab and the future of labs were also held throughout the day. These interrelated topics helped guide the event towards a productive conversation about the past, present and future of the labs field.

Current lab challenges

Although Geoff emphasized contrarianism as a quality that lab practitioners should have, it was not the only quality he spoke of. His more controversial point came from his understanding of Niccolò Machiavelli’s works on political strategy. Geoff suggested that guile—that is, “cunning in attaining a goal”—is another quality that lab practitioners should have. His remark garnered a good laugh, but it also piqued the interest of the attendees, as guile would certainly come in handy when embarking on the long journey toward public-sector intervention and policy change.

Geoff Mulgan reflection talk

Laughs aside, the need for new strategies for approaching systems change through policy interventions is very real; it is a need that was reflected by the large number of lab practitioners and public-sector innovators at the event. Labs for Systems Change created a platform for further developing the field of systems change labs by bringing together key players in the field to discuss the issues commonly faced by labs, as well as core concerns such as values, institutional structure and the future of this growing field. Moreover, many significant challenges were raised during the event, including prototyping, scaling, defining the metrics of success and change, creating a sustainable business model, and facilitating more networked ways of learning between labs to better share the key lessons learned along the way.

During the first panel, the institutional structure of labs (that is, whether labs should exist inside or outside of government) was a point of contention. Labs designing citizen-centred, bottom-up processes and using tools such as big data and social physics are able to gather data outside of government. However, when labs are looking for resources, governments seem to be the key stakeholders and funders. Increasing funding options through outside sources like venture capital might be a way forward for some labs. Nevertheless, other attendees suggested that being inside or outside of government shouldn’t matter, as long as labs were producing an impact.

Future lab challenges

Christian Bason talk

According to Christian Bason, Director of Innovation at MindLab, viewing policy as an impact instead of a strategy may “require having to change the entire policy.” This might be one of the unintended consequences, whether good or bad, of systems change. If governments are ready to be open about addressing their challenges, labs need to help them to “expand the range and types of tools that government can use and expand, or create new tools if [current] tools are ineffective,” he said. This ties into the idea of envisioning a new future for society through systems change lab experimentation and, as Christian explained, showing government how to “stop resisting change and [instead] embrace it.”

This need resonated among event attendees. Labs and practitioners should be more than neutral facilitators. They should have a concrete vision of their purpose and use it to guide their decisions. Whether that vision is like that of Gabriella Gómez-Mont, Director of Laboratorio para la Ciudad, who views Mexico City’s citizens as being not “22 million mouths, [but] 22 million minds,” or whether it is like that of Adam Kahane, who believes in checking one’s biases at the door before getting involved in a project, having a concrete set of values or a manifesto can be beneficial to any organization or field. Having a vision provides a general foundation from which to grow.

If governments are ready to be open about addressing their challenges, labs need to help them to “expand the range and types of tools that government can use and expand, or create new tools if [current] tools are ineffective.”

Overall, Labs for Systems Change was an incredible learning experience. The event was a forum for lab practitioners, policy-makers, designers, academics and consultants to interact and share their experiences in a collaborative environment. With so much cross-pollination of lab processes and systems change ideas, the potential for positive outcomes is immense.

Moving forward, lab practitioners will need to address the key challenges facing labs, including defining metrics, scaling solutions and building sustainable business models. Moreover, labs as a field should create a repository of systems change interventions, in order to share information on what works and use these interventions as concrete examples of lab results. Both of these actions will do more to enhance the field than simply spreading lab processes, as more is not always better and even an unintentional decline in quality due to quantity could hinder rather than help this relatively new field.

rsz_img_5492_-_version_2

Print Friendly
Bookmark and Share

On seeking, sharing and systems change

If there’s one sentiment I have expressed a number of times over the past 2 weeks, it is gratitude. SiG and our partners have been metaphorically swimming in inspiring stories told by Canadian indigenous leaders and stories told of social lab interventions that are positively transforming lives in different parts of the world, while building relationships with a host of change-makers that are in equal measure genius and humble. The only hard thing about all this goodness is choosing where to begin to make sense of all of the learning, translate the stories of successful change-making to a Canadian context, and offer some resources to adapt the best pieces of  work.

Thanks to the kickoff event of Social Innovation Canada 2014 featuring Dana Shen, Director of Family by Family from South Australia, I feel confident in offering a place to start. SiG has taken a look at Family by Family before — as early as 2011 — courtesy of the co-designer of the model, Sarah Schulman of InWithForward. Hearing about it again from Dana meant a deeper dive into the model and hearing about its impact and adaptation over time.

Here is a quick summary of what Family by Family does (I’ll leave it to Dana herself to explain it in full on video):

In 2010, The Australia Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) asked the South Australian government what they wanted to focus on in terms of better social service outcomes. The government asked for an intervention to bring down the high numbers of children in the formal protection system. TACSI, working with Sarah Schulman and Chris Vanstone, developed a peer-to-peer solution that looks astonishingly simple on the surface: families who have come through tough times mentor families experiencing tough times. Or in the words of Family by Family, sharing families mentor seeking families.

Watch Dana explain how getting to this solution was a learning experience in collaboration between unusual partners, in trust-building and in adaptation:

Family by Family: Australian social innovation in action – MaRS Global Leadership from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.

Following this MaRS Global Leadership presentation, Dana joined SiG and 160+ participants at SIX Vancouver, May 27-29, where we were privileged to hear an opening discussion between Dr. Frances Westley and Tyze Founder, Vickie Cammack. The conversation focused on the effects of culture on our spirits, our organizations and our society. In many ways I feel the key to Family by Family’s success was in taking the time to understand the culture it was entering – that of families experiencing difficult times and why change was so difficult to achieve.

The result of TACSI engaging with community in the design and prototyping of Family by Family was an equally deep impact on the so-called experts charged with delivering the program. Dana spoke to the benefits of Family by Family for the culture inside the public sector in South Australia, those delivering the program at Family by Family and the broader TACSI design team. So profound has been the impact, that TACSI and the government are looking for ways to scale the model.

During Frances and Vickie’s discussion, the conversation turned to a desire to understand resilience and vulnerability more deeply. Being open to exploring our own vulnerability also opens up opportunities to see and understand others. As Frances reflected, if you can’t touch the vulnerability in yourself, you can’t touch it in others either. And the result is that our fear of the “other” increases. We don’t have to look far to see fear guiding many interactions across cultures in the world.

Six Day 1 Musqueam Welcome and Interview with Frances Westley 125

Photo Credit: Komal Minhas for KoMedia

Following the discussion, Dana reflected on our shared journey — on the fact that we are all in this world together; that we all want similar things. As Allyson Hewitt said at the end of Dana’s MaRS presentation, we are always sharing and seeking change. And it’s not a one-way street.

The Family by Family program has seen sharing families — those willing to volunteer time to support those experiencing tough times — become seeking families themselves. These times of vulnerability are to be expected and need not be permanent. As a community acting together and understanding each other more deeply, we can become more resilient. Vickie Cammack may refer to this as a recognition of our interdependence. The Family by Family model is supporting a strengthening in community resilience. As seeking families achieve their goals, they increase their ability to share their experience and learning with others. At scale, the impact is a sea-change — this increased resilience enables the flow of resources, both personal and community, towards systemic change. We all seek support and understanding at different times in our lives. Being awake to this is not to be stuck, but to be open to others. In a second post about Social Innovation Canada 2014, I will explore what it means to know our own fears and desires better, as well as those of others with whom we experience conflict, thanks to the wonderful contribution of David Diamond at SIX Vancouver. The ability to understand others through understanding ourselves is the result of a deepening empathy. SiG is so pleased to be co-presenting a conversation with Bill Drayton, Founder of Ashoka, on June 19th at MaRS. Bill has turned his extensive experience towards supporting and promoting entrepreneurs fostering empathy in our world. You can see details on that event here.

Print Friendly
Bookmark and Share

Witnessing Care: Innovating for Caregivers at SIX 2014

Last week, the annual SIX Summer School was held in North America for the first time, bringing together leading social innovation thinkerspractitioners, grassroots activists, and policy makers from over 20 countries to explore: How can we increase our impact? Shifting cultures, changing systems and preparing for surprise

SIX Vancouver 2014 was a three-day journey into culture shift and the spirit and humanity of social innovationDay 1 and 2  were curated to dive deep into our spirit and our sector experiences, while Day 3 prepared us to surface with fresh perspectives and consider: how can we ‘grow change’ in society and nurture the conditions for social innovation?

To capture the depth and collective wisdom of this journey, six Witnesses were chosen to reflect on and give testimony to the powerful undercurrents of SIX Vancouver: power & love, empathy, generations, courage, beauty, and empowerment. Honouring the oral tradition of the Musqueam People, our hosts on Day 2, each Witness — or Listener — was responsible for listening for and witnessing the truth of his or her theme. 

In two poignant blog posts this week, a seventh witness surfaced: Donna Thomson — an author, activist, and mother — witnessed and listened for care during the Summer School and testifies to care in her writings on SIX:

June 1: Innovating for Caregivers at The SIX Vancouver Summer School

Innovating for Caregivers at The SIX Vancouver Summer School

Innovating for Caregivers at The SIX Vancouver Summer School

The place of care in social change was a theme that ran through every discussion and workshop and we were nudged to think about care through the cultural lens of Canada’s First Nations…” In her first post, Donna reflects on the paradox of ‘real life’ versus ‘real work’ that emerged on Day 2: care is often seen as part of ‘real life,’ but not ‘real work’ — and as a result, can be edged out of our ‘real lives.’ Driven by the fear of our own vulnerability, we might dismiss the vulnerability of others, devalue care, and forget that love and care are both the impetus and guides for social innovation. Read on.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars – on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

– Robert Frost

(cited by Frances Westley, Opening Address, May 28, SIX Vancouver)

June 4: Powerful Lessons Learned

Innovating for Caregivers at the SIX Summer School - Powerful Lessons Learned

Innovating for Caregivers at the SIX Summer School – Powerful Lessons Learned

I learned that we must forge a movement to place power in the language of caregiving…” In her second post, Donna draws on the experiences of leading change lab and solutions lab practitioners, who led a session on “Experimenting with Enemies and Strangers.” The session leaders focused on the immeasurable potential and value of collectively co-creating new social realities and solutions — a process that requires balancing love with power, or as Donna shares, empowering the language of care with strength against silence or dismissal.  In her reflection, Donna calls on caregivers to use the fire of love to light a powerful torch for collective creation, nurtured through care. Read on

Print Friendly
Bookmark and Share

Microtainer: social innovation & lab links we’re following (May 2014)

C/O Clare Shields

C/O Clare Shields

This mini blog, or bloggette, is part of our ongoing effort to spread information that we think will be interesting, insightful and useful to lab practitioners and the lab-curious. Below is a collection of resources that crossed our desks over the month of May 2014. In no particular order:

1. A useful framework by Nesta on “Generating convincing evidence of impact.” No matter how intuitive and sensible your idea, or how well it has been received, at some point you will be asked for evidence that it actually makes a positive difference. Generating convincing evidence of your actual or potential impact will strengthen your case for potential investors, but deciding on an impact evaluation approach can be difficult and daunting — there is simply no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Nesta’s recently developed Standards of Evidence might be a helpful place to start.

2. Failure Report (or Lessons Learned report) by McGill University’s Sustainability Department. If there’s one thing McGill doesn’t do, it’s fail. McGill is consistently ranked one of the best universities in the world and “excellence” is an important part of the McGill identity. It is so easy to make the mental shift from “we value excellence” to “we value success” to “we frown on failure.” Equating excellence with perfection, however, discourages risk-taking and stifles innovation and learning.

3. Inspiring pleasure reading: Behavioural Design Lab put together this excellent design x public policy book list (added “Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – The Lessons from a New Science” to my wish list!).

4. The US Government Accountability Office evaluates the Lab at OPM (Office of Personnel Management) and provides recommendations. Also, interesting info about the financials of running the OPM lab.

5. Rethinked: Neat blog and year long experiment (rethinked*annex) for us to perform on ourselves. The annex aims to improve our own abilities in design thinking, integrative thinking and positive psychology (good book recommendations too).

6. The Systemic Design Symposium at Oslo School of Architecture and Design (Oct 15-17) will explore emerging contexts for systems perspectives in design. The symposium aims to strengthen the links between these two fields.

7. Mixing abstract philosophical thinking with business school teachings: WSJ article talks about how more and more schools are teaching students that there is more than one right answer. Operating in uncertainty is a reality and there is much to learn from the arts, reading fiction, and meditation.

8. Stanford study finds walking improves creativity. Stanford researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration. They examined the creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat and determined that a person’s creative output increased by an average of 60% when walking. More grounds for the walking meeting!

9. Excellent article in the Financial Times – Big data: are we making a big mistake? Tim Harford explores the limits of big data in this engaging and interesting article: “Big data has arrived, but big insights have not. The challenge now is to solve new problems and gain new answers – without making the same old statistical mistakes on a grander scale than ever.” 

Labcraft! (Image C/O @hendrikjt)

10. Labcraft is a book — co-authored by many of the world’s leading labs — that dives into the latest thinking from their practice. Out in July!

11. Excellent blog post by Cognitive Edge’s Dave Snowden – 7 principles of intervening in complex systems distills Dave’s thinking into just that. Dave is also responsible for the useful Cynefin sense-making framework for operating in complexity (H/T Giulio Quaggiotto).

12. Labs for Systems Change Conference bits, tweet aggregators and feeds: Epilogger, Storify (also, this graphic harvest by livestream participant Scott MacAfee) and this Hackpad thread from the different discussions happening at various tables during the conference.

13. GovLab started an open global lab discussion around: “How Do We Together Become Smarter About How We Make Decisions and Solve Problems.”

14. Neat initiative in Boston: City Hall To Go. Featured in FastCoExist — “This Government On Wheels Brings City Services To The People” — City Hall To Go is a mobile office that travels around Boston, letting citizens interact with their government without having to trek to City Hall. For more Boston-based civic innovation, check out New Urban Mechanics, out of the Mayor of Boston’s office.

15. Great quick read: InWithForward blog post, “New Public Goods,” on reflections and questions following a lab gathering at Parsons New School two weeks ago. Sarah Schulman explores how her own practice relates to questions around “making ‘better’ cities, making ‘better’ public services, making more ‘creative’ public servants, reducing human suffering, and increasing human flourishing.”

16. Great capacity building opportunities for Torontonians via The Moment’s Innovation Academy. The Toronto-based innovation studio now offers trainings in Design Thinking (Fundamentals, Advanced, and Facilitation) and Innovation Culture.

What have we missed? What lab-related links have you been following this past month?
Print Friendly
Bookmark and Share

A Bold Goal for Children in the North End of Winnipeg

Do an Internet search of the ‘North End of Winnipeg’ and you will see ‘poverty’ and ‘violence’ come up the quickest and the most often.

North End To someone who is not familiar with the North End, or doesn’t frequent this community, it can mistakenly come across as a hotbed of crime and broken families – a place you either avoid altogether or drive through to get elsewhere, with your windows up and your car doors locked.

Those of us who live and work here, however, know it as a community unlike any other – full of culture, spirit, and generosity. That’s why we’re here and that’s why we love this community.

The North End portrayed in the media is merely an illusion, one that has been created through the glamourization of negative events.

DL-022In actuality, it is a neighbourhood where you can walk down the street during the daytime and be greeted by a “hello!” from passersby. You’ll inevitably run into someone you know who’s a friend of your friend from that thing you were at that one time. When you frequent a restaurant or a shop in the North End, the owner will remember your name and if you wander into a resource centre, you’ll often be greeted with a warm cup of coffee.

This is not to say that the North End is without flaws — like any other neighbourhood, it has its challenges. A look at the statistics around the North End — also known as Point Douglas — will tell you that this neighbourhood is among the most impoverished in Canada. You’ll also see that 40% of kids who are born in Point Douglas are not academically or socially school-ready by the age of 5.

What you won’t see emphasized, however, is that along with the 40% of kids that are not school-ready, there is another 60% who are school-ready and are going on to achieve success in school and throughout their lives. 

The Winnipeg Boldness Project

DL-094

This is where The Winnipeg Boldness Project will focus: not only on the challenges facing the North End, but on the ongoing successes. What are the things already happening in the neighbourhood that are creating the conditions for some kids to succeed and how can we replicate them in a large way?

Through a one-year Boldness ‘Collaboratory’ process, the project intends to pinpoint just that.

DL-033

The Winnipeg Boldness Project is embarking upon a research process that will mobilize the community narratives and knowledge base that already exist within this unique neighbourhood. We are certain that a community-based solution to the challenges around Early Childhood Development (ECD) can be uncovered.

The Winnipeg Boldness Project is taking the time to live the questions and truly understand what the answers are in a deep and meaningful way.

What’s crystal clear to us is that this is a community that has been consulted to the extreme and that much of the information and knowledge we’re looking for has already been collected. Our job now is fourfold:

  1. Take that raw data and distill it into key ideas that we believe should be at the core of this powerful paradigm.
  2. Create a strength-based narrative that properly conveys a message of the community, for the community.
  3. Explore these ideas to develop several theories around change and then rapidly test (prototype) these theories to determine their validity and efficacy.
  4. Develop and implement an intervention strategy, based on the findings, to ultimately achieve our Bold Goal: to dramatically transform the well-being of young children in Point Douglas.

When I use the word transformation, let me be perfectly clear that this is not meant to imply that the North End in any way needs to be “fixed.” This neighbourhood is loved in a strong and unwavering way and certainly does not need to adjust to the system, but rather the system needs to adapt to it and support its residents.

DL-093With this mindset, we anticipate the rate of school-ready kids at the age of five in Point Douglas will jump from 60% to 80% by the year 2020. Some might say this is a lofty goal that’s near impossible. We say that with the right amount of boldness anything is possible and we know that the North End has the knowledge and the heart to drive this change.

Print Friendly
Bookmark and Share