Becoming a Wise Traveller

Are you like me? Do you feel frustrated by the limited impact you and others have had? Do you feel that despite your best efforts, and indeed successes, you have hit a brick wall?

You may have mounted a fierce advocacy campaign, pioneered a social program, mobilized new funds or even changed a law, but the status quo has barely altered. Social and economic justice hasn’t increased. Power hasn’t shifted. The old paradigm survives. And the sharp, distinctive edges of your social innovation are in danger of being eroded, isolated or forgotten.

Credit: Jim Lawrence www.kootenayreflections.com/

Credit: Jim Lawrence

In my experience, lasting impact requires more than coming up with a new idea and proving that it works. It’s more than replicating an innovation in several places.

Novelty isn’t enough. Neither are dedication, hard work, or loyal supporters. Nor is a sophisticated strategy, money, or the most robust application of the latest technology, for that matter.

Are these things essential? Yes.
A good start? Certainly.
But they are not enough to tip a system.

Just because you have a shiny new solution, the world will not beat a path to your door. Enduring social innovation doesn’t spread by accident. We need to deliberately nurture the conditions in which it can flourish.

One of these conditions is to become a wise traveller.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe by Bill Reid.  Photo: Bill McLennan.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe by Bill Reid. Photo: Bill McLennan.

In my new book, Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation, I suggest three types of social innovators disruptive, bridging and receptive are required to achieve long-term impact. While each group has its own set of skills, strengths and limitations, they all have one thing in common: they understand the boundaries of their expertise and experience and welcome fellow travellers from organizations and institutions that have complementary skills.

Disruptive innovators are inspired by love and motivated by necessity. They challenge the prevailing way of doing things and shake the lethargy off the status quo. They wrestle a big idea to the ground. And yet, even when they prove that the idea works, it does not easily become the new standard. It can be ignored or misunderstood and may even be perceived as a threat to the system.

It is not easy to move from the margins to the mainstream. That’s why we need bridging innovators. Bridging innovators spot the big ideas surfaced by disruptive innovators. They leverage their connections, reputations and resources to make sure the potential is realized. They translate and interpret the value of a disruptive innovation to the system. Bridging innovators are the necessary link between disruptive innovators and receptive innovators.

Receptive innovators are key to implementing big ideas and spreading solutions far and wide. They have an insider’s knowledge of the key levers to advance an issue within a system. They know the formal and informal channels inside bureaucracy and who the key players are. They are navigators, steering the innovation so that
 it may flourish and become the new standard.

Credit: Komal Minhas for Komedia

The three types of social innovators. Credit: Komal Minhas for Komedia

Wise travellers know they can only go so far on their own. They respect the roles and functions of each type of innovator. They know that social innovations not only emerge from relationships, but also thrive and endure in relationships.

COMING UP

Join Social Innovation Generation, The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and Innoweave on March 12 at 1pm EST for a webinar and in-depth discussion with Al Etmanski on his new book Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation.

Register here

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SNEAK PEAK

Download the Introduction to IMPACT: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation.

Register here to be notified when you can purchase, IMPACT: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation.

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Continue the #impact6 conversation with @aletmanski
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Leaning in to Social Innovation

As the newest member of the SiG team, I am looking at how I can contribute to this space and empower others to do the same. This is my Why time. The Why for social innovation and the people involved can be seen through the rest of the W’s below:

What is social innovation?

In accordance with Frances Westley’s definition, a social innovation profoundly changes the defining routines, resource and authority flows or beliefs of a broader social system.

Essentially, a social innovation addresses a complex social problem with an idea focused on getting to the root of the problem, as opposed to temporary relief that only remedies the surface issues. In order to truly disrupt a system, a social innovation must cross social boundaries and reach different people and organizations at different levels.

A traditional approach…

The World Wildlife Foundation, founded in 1961, is dedicated to conserving and restoring the environment. It has over 5 million supporters worldwide and, in 2014, it generated over a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue (WWF-US Annual Report 2014). The WWF brings attention to important issues regarding our planet, and it does so by capturing the attention of individuals and institutions alike. But even with all this activity, environmental conditions continue to decline and the number of endangered species continues to rise.

Transforms to…

C/O The Finance Innovation Lab

C/O The Finance Innovation Lab

Determined to tackle one of the root causes of this continued decline, the WWF-UK joined forces with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) as of 2008, leading to the creation of the Finance Innovation Lab. The unusual collaboration of these two organizations was brought on by their shared desire for a financial system that sustains people and the planet.

This call to action is derived from the shared challenges that every individual, organization or government is faced with — resource constraints, a current economic model that assumes perpetual growth, growing disparity between rich and poor — as well as from the outcomes both organizations strive towards: a system that enables people and the planet to flourish and one that builds resiliency.

At WWF-UK, we perceive finance as a key lever to influence business strategy and corporate supply chains to reduce their threats to the natural world, and to provide financial mechanisms which protect and encourage sustainable ecosystems – WWF-UK

Their big picture is to repurpose finance to have a positive impact in the world. Their work encourages and accepts open discussion about the root causes of issues, and they strive to take a bird’s-eye view across the financial system to identify where they can best make a difference.

Who is involved?

There are different types of social innovators, according to Frances Westley:

Social Entrepreneurs: create innovations and bring them to market through team building.

System Entrepreneurs: find and connect the opportunities to leverage innovative ideas for much greater impact.

Institutional Entrepreneurs: individuals or networks that actively seek to change the broader social system through changing institutions.

The inclusion of the people social innovations are designed to serve is important. A successful ongoing project is Family by Family in South Australia. Families going through a hard time are paired with families who have come through a hard time. Families learn from one another and help each other. It is not a one-stop solution for every family; Family By Family takes into consideration the uniqueness of each case and continues to learn from every participating family how to improve their methodology.

linkup-homepage1

C/O Family By Family

What conditions are needed for social innovation to take place?

Market demand, cultural and social demand, and political demand are complex factors, but can open the way for new ideas for change.

An example of demand-led change is smoking: in the past, smoking in a public place was tolerable, but now if you light up a cigarette you are more likely to receive looks of disapproval.

It is a culture shift and transformation that took decades and may be attributed to the culmination of grassroots initiatives, public service advertising , evidence-based policy, and publicizing the effects of smoking on health.

Antismoking

C/O Lucas Zoltowski

How is THE question…

How do you identify what you can do?

I have been encouraged to discover and build upon my strengths. Asset-based thinking works to develop strengths as opposed to focusing on weaknesses. Depending on who you are, you may find your strengths pulling you in one direction, connecting with others, and supporting or creating an idea.

How do you socially innovate?

Collaborate with others. Change Labs create a physical and intellectual space designed to encourage and facilitate collaboration and the co-creation of meaningful and innovative solutions to complex problems.

Continue learning.

It is a truth ever-increasingly acknowledged: by engaging with the knowledge of others, you better your own understanding. If you are an organization, becoming a learning organization has benefited the most successful institutions in the world.

When a social innovation is successful, it becomes part of the norm, which may lead to the emergence of new problems. As Frances Westley says, social innovation is not a fixed address. Once a social innovation is put in place, it becomes the new system. It is a cyclical process – a never-ending infinity loop – a continuous who, what, when, where and why to ask.

I have come to learn there is no step-by-step approach to creating, implementing and following through with socially innovative ideas, because that is the nature of these problems and solutions – they are embedded in institutions, complex, chaotic, and ever-changing. I look forward to learning so much more this year, deepening my understanding, satiating my curiosity and exploring what’s possible. As with social innovation, I too am not fixed, but constantly growing and evolving. What an adventure!

Puzzle Pieces

C/O Ken Teegardin

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What’s the creation story behind every social innovation?

SiG Note: This article was originally published on The Melting Pot Website.  It has been cross-posted with permission from the author.

Disruption AheadSocial innovators are often the disrupters, the ones who swim against the tide and question the status quo.  We may find them uncomfortable and challenging, but these people are also inspiring, determined and resilient.

Take the ‘Social Innovator personality test.’ How many of these needed core skills and qualities do you have?

Making connections * causing disruptions * having persistence and a critical mindset * clarity of vision * courage of your convictions * an ability to learn and reflect * to take risks and experiment * question results * have focus, but also openness * and, of course – the ability to “sell.”

During 2014, The Melting Pot initiated a collaborative enquiry process into social innovation and how it might flourish in Scotland.

Gatherings took place from Inverness to Edinburgh. Using ‘The Art of Hosting’ participatory processes, we dived into understanding the cultural conditions that help or hinder people, communities and organisations of all sizes who have a passion for creating solutions to our pressing eco-social challenges.

You can read more about our findings here. For fun, here are the recommendations turned on their head.  

How to kill social innovation in 5 easy steps!

First – spot those disrupters and put them down – go on, tell them their mad ideas won’t work.  These non-conformers who wish to do something different are a nuisance with their radical notions. Their dreams are too big, too complex.  They don’t know what they’re doing and it will certainly never make any money!

Second – don’t assist those disruptors, or offer them a chance to collaborate. Keep yourself to yourself.  Don’t move out of your comfort zone, talk to, or help anyone!  Don’t go out of your way to make connections or introductions, you might catch something – like a scary new proposition…

Third – seek out the answers to our societal problems from another place, somewhere like London, New York or Shanghai. Those disruptive ideas under your nose, on your doorstep, the ones that take account of the cultural fit can’t be any good, can they? And anyway, it’s more fun to go on international jollies (sorry, I mean learning journeys).

Forth – never accept anyone else’s wisdom, or seek to learn form them. What do they know anyway? There’s no point taking time out of your busy schedule to reflect on your learning – you’ve just got to keep doing – at all costs.

Fifth – work from your bedroom, alone – you can’t afford anywhere nice and professional to work anyway, not on what is invested into the social innovation pipeline. Yes we need jobs, but they can only be produced from companies that focus on economic growth, not social capital.

Now forget all that. For social innovation to thrive in Scotland, we must create a culture to:

  1. Encourage – literally lend courage and support to – those seeking to address inequality, those who are questioning the status quo, creating disruption and taking risks.
  2. Foster connections, creativity and the generation of ideas amongst innovators in all sectors.  Enabling genuine participation and collaboration across sectors releases socially innovative ideas.
  3. Cultivate local solutions where social innovators can work with communities to define and co-design solutions within their community context.
  4. Create safe places and spaces for learning, reflection and sharing all the stories: the successes, the tricky moments, the failures, the highs and the lows of experience.
  5. Invest in social innovation – provide the physical resources to enable social innovators to work with focus, purpose, determination and persistence. 

Melting PotThe Melting Pot would like to thank the Scottish Government for commissioning this work, so that our policy makers can better harness our people’s talents, energy and ideas to make Scotland flourish.

Find out more about The Melting Pot, Scotland’s Centre for Social Innovation, and our Social Innovation Incubation Award programme (all disrupters please apply!).

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Scheduling Change

SiG Note: This blog post is written by former SiGster Satsuko, who is now a business ethnographer at social enterprise InWithForward. The post showcases a tangible example of how ethnography is used by labs to uncover opportunity areas in order to build system tipping solutions, like Kudoz. The post has been re-posted from InWithForward with permission from the author.

8:12am     Ashley: Ok, I just got a text that Kelly is sick.

Don: What time does she start?

Ashley: 10:30.

Don stares at his computer screen, toggling between tabs on the google spreadsheet.

Don: Has Saul worked with Randy?

Ashley: I think Clay has.

Don: Clay? Before we do that, let’s call Saul.

Ashley: We’ve pulled almost all the *casuals, oh Mick is extra today.

Don: Melody has worked with Randy.

Ashley: Ya, we can do that.

Don: Ok, I’ll change it in the schedule if you call.

Ashley [starts dialing]: Right!

Don: Better put it on the chat before Francine steals her.

8:15am      Ashley: Yup.

This was exactly the kind of conversation I was hoping to catch. From 7:50am to 10am, perched on a chair beside Don, I scribbled in my notepad as quickly as I legibly could. I was attempting to capture Don’s moves on a pretty micro level: his mouse clicks, the number of times he toggled between web browser tabs, text messages sent and received, facial expressions (concentration face, calm, joking around, adrenalin), timings, interruptions, conversations between colleagues. We’re trying to learn everything we can about staff scheduling at our Burnaby project partner agencies, because the success of Kudoz depends on it.

Learning about scheduling at one of our partner agencies

Learning about scheduling at one of our partner agencies

I was hanging out with Don because he is responsible for managing the schedule of two disability day programs, comprised of about 35 staff. He is part of a 4 person scheduling team. If any of his 4 colleagues receives a sick call, even if the shifts in Don’s programs are balanced and none of his staff cancel shifts, he may need to move around his staff to figure out a new configuration. There are tons of variables and rigid union regulations that schedulers juggle in their head.

 A simpler staff switch may take a couple minutes to sort out. A tougher one can take a couple hours and up to 9 shift swaps, not to mention the accompanying calls to each of the staff and families affected (this was the case with a sick call two days earlier, Don told me, where he couldn’t find anyone to cover the shift and ended up going on the floor himself). I recorded tons of clicking between google docs, one-handed text messages sent, scrunchy foreheads, jokes between the team, and greetings to individuals. By 9:35am, I already had 9 pages of notes.

The typical chain of events when Don receives a sick call

The typical chain of events when Don receives a sick call

We were observing Don with a very specific aim: to spot opportunity areas, which are often disguised as bottlenecks and barriers. Specifically, we are seeking to understand: what is the most annoying, time-consuming or anxiety-producing part of the scheduling process, what are the most rewarding moments that make it worthwhile, what is considered a good scheduling outcome, what skills help you excel at this type of work, what motivates schedulers and how do incentive structures support that? Don used the above diagram to talk me through his answers.

Scheduling? So what?

I joined InWithForward about a month ago, bringing a business lens to the team. My main focus has been on the business model for Kudoz. And related to that, how this new service will fit into the existing organizational structure and systems of our three partner agencies and the developmental disabilities sector as a whole. Staff scheduling quickly rose to the top as a potential barrier for Kudoz. That’s because Kudoz uses paid staff time in 1-3 hour increments during regular program hours.

Kudoz

Kudoz is a catalogue of taster experiences for people with a learning disability. Essentially, Kudoz matches people — disability agency staff, small business owners, or community members — who have a passion to share with individuals-served who are bored and curious to try something new.

For frontline worker Frank, it means having people join him for a drumming circle and getting better at teaching about soundscapes. For community member Andrea, it means having a friend to go for a walk in the forest and that nudge to get back into photography. For person-served David, it means discovering he is pretty good at making his own video clips, having more things to talk about with friends and family, having more positive self-talk, and growing his curiosity. Kudoz aims to enable individuals-served like David to flourish and lead a meaningful life.

For Don, this means that if any of his staff become a Kudoz host, the schedules he manages would be affected. In order for Kudoz to take hold and spread, we are working hard to figure out how to integrate Kudoz into existing structures and to make it easier and more convenient than the existing system. Because Kudoz will be squashed if it creates extra work or a headache for schedulers like Don.

Some early thoughts on different ways Don’s staff could work around the schedule in order to become a Kudoz host

Some early thoughts on different ways Don’s staff could work around the schedule in order to become a Kudoz host

(Early) insights & hunches

Based on our ethnographic observations thus far, we have a couple hunches.

One hunch is that Kudoz will be able to collect, accumulate, and leverage idle work hours in order to enable staff to share their passion with persons-served, all during work time.

For salaried staff with flexible hours, this hunch means using slower office times during the day, week, month, or year towards hosting Kudoz experiences (we are currently testing this).

For hourly support staff with defined shifts, this hunch means shaving off and banking idle work hours from a shift, in order for the hours to be re-purposed towards hosting a one-on-one experience to share their passion with an individual-served.

For example, some possible idle time that disability day program staff could potentially bank include:

  • (±40 minutes) when program staff are on the clock at the agency, but their person-served hasn’t arrived yet for their day program;
  • (±20 minutes) allotted to program staff for writing and reading log notes; casuals usually aren’t required to do so;
  • (3-4 hours) when casual staff are on shift, but an individual-served ends up not coming in; due to union regulations, the shift cannot be cancelled;
  • (1-2 hours) when a casual staff is called to cover a 2-hour staff meeting, but a casual cannot be booked for a shift that is less than 3-4 hours (minimum shift hours are different per agency).

These examples alone free up 6-7 hours for meaningful experiences that equate to individuals-served learning and growing their sense of self. And, staff get to share their personal passions on work time, leading to higher productivity and morale and lower absenteeism/presenteeism.

Another hunch is that much of the scheduling process could be automated to create efficiency gains and eliminate many of schedulers’ pain points.

One of the partner agencies has recently switched over to a bespoke software program for scheduling, that has been rolled out over the last year. Another agency uses google docs. Another uses paper. No matter the system, there are tons of variables that schedulers hold in their head. Some of this information is written somewhere, often the result of a scheduler going on a holiday and needing to share the info with their colleagues. But most of the tacit knowledge is not. And most of it is not reflected in the software they use. We think it could be!

We are making a list of specs that a Kudoz enabled scheduling system would need to include and we are learning more everyday. Some of these specs include:

  • automated text/call/email notifications of shifts when there are changes, based on the staff member’s preferred method of communication, how soon the shift is, etc.;
  • the option of a daily automated text to families of persons-served that let’s them know who will be working with their son/daughter that day, based on the family’s communication preferences;
  • drop down menu per specific shift, with all the staff that are trained and available to work on a given shift (even if they are scheduled for another shift), and the number of swaps that would be required if that staff was chosen;
  • recommendations of the most desirable swap, based on relationships between staff and the individual-served, an individual’s preferences (would like a different staff every three days), past interactions with family, etc. — all of which would be inputed by schedulers;
  • include “long shot” swap options; ie. staff who are likely unable to cover a shift (based on the availability they provided), but might be able to.

These specifications aim to minimize/eliminate the need for staff to negotiate swapping staff across programs (one of the major pain points identified by schedulers) and lessen the burden of communicating changes (calling people, waiting to hear back and adjusting the various systems to reflect changes is often the most time consuming part of shifting the schedule).

For now, we are pulling inspiration from restaurant scheduling apps and flight comparison aggregators sites to think creatively about what is possible. Any suggestions of ideas are super welcome ~ please include them in the comments section!

We’re left wondering…

There are many things to test and work through over the next 5 months. Some of the questions we’re trying to figure out and are working through at the moment include:

  • How do we get parents on board with Kudoz? How do we help parents see Kudoz as an opportunity for growth for their children?
  • How do we work with managers whose staff are signing up to be Kudoz hosts?
  • What is the economic activity surrounding an individual-served? Can we put a dollar amount on this? How can we bring out the stories behind the numbers, ie. What is the cost to quality of life and the ability to flourish? What are the positive deviant stories of individuals-served?

There is nothing like a deadline to keep one moving and motivated.

- Satsuko

Jargon alert!

Some of the sector specific language used in this post:

 *Casuals: a type of Support Worker that is on-call and employed when and if needed for disability day programs and for group homes (where 3-4 people with learning disabilities may live).

*Support Staff/Workers: assist adults with a learning disability on a day-to-day basis, either one-on-one or as part of a small group (usually no more than 4).

*Disability day program: a place where adults with learning disabilities go during the day. Day programs are staffed by support workers that help individuals work towards their personal development plans.

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Now Open: Social Innovation Fellowships (The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation)

Young entrepreneurs having a creative business meeting in a cafe

sfsCircle

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation is pleased to announce the creation of two Social Innovation Fellowships open to professionals in the early stage of their careers.

These one year, full time positions are designed to support the program and administrative activities of the Foundation, in particular their Sustainable Food Systems and RECODE initiatives, while providing opportunities for fellows to participate in training, exchange, and knowledge generation activities of the Foundation and with the broader social innovation community. They are meant to be a trampoline for people who are interested in future employment within the community, philanthropic or government sectors or in starting their own social enterprise.

Closing Date for Applications: March 2, 2015

Location: Montreal, with travel within Canada

Remuneration: $3,000 per month plus benefits

Please send your CV and covering letter to hr@mcconnellfoundation.ca

Starting Dateearly April, 2015

LinkedIn Posting

Complete position descriptions
Social Innovation Fellow – RECODE 
Social Innovation Fellow – Sustainable Food Systems

 

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Changing the lens, the focus, everything

This post was originally published on the Strandberg Consulting Blog on February 6, 2015. It has been cross-posted with permission from the author — explore her website for more on CSR 4.0. 

For 25 years, I’ve developed CSR strategies. And now I see that CSR is becoming business as usual.

You’d think I’d be celebrating. But I’m not – because CSR has stalled.

This struck me in 2012 when I developed the Qualities of a Transformational Company for Canadian Business for Social Responsibility and started tracking corporate innovation in CSR (see 38 case studies of transformation in action at CBSR’s website). That’s when I saw where we needed to be.

As identified by KPMG, the World Economic Forum and others, CSR as practiced over the past decade has not realized the commercial or social benefits necessary to address the global mega-forces that will affect the ability of business and society to thrive in the medium to long-term.

Our pace is too slow. The change we are realizing is incremental when it needs to be transformational.

Leading businesses sense this limitation and are looking for a new type of CSR.  They want to go beyond what I call “CSR everydayism” to set their course on a path to social purpose.  They want to go beyond value protection to value creation – to set and pursue corporate goals that resonate with employees, customers and communities, and that realize growth opportunities for their firm.

To aid my clients and others on this journey, I have created a Social Purpose Continuum (1.0 Philanthropic — 2.0 Strategic — 3.0 Integrated — 4.0 Social Purpose).  I am using this tool in education and strategy sessions to help leaders redefine their sense of what is possible. For example, in strategy sessions, when faced with the options to pursue a philanthropic (1.0) or social purpose (4.0) approach, boards and executives prefer the more impactful, engaging and innovative social purpose vision (once in a strategy session I was even asked what it would take to become a 5.0 company!).

This tool helps companies move from one-off ad hoc (low impact) donations to the foodbank (for example) to building a social quest – such as inclusion – throughout their hiring, employee and community relations, procurement, investment, capital projects, products and operational practices.  Building their social purpose throughout their business model results in a more sustained and scaled impact – and is more likely to drive business benefits as well.

Social Purpose Continuum-TW

Feel free to use the tool – and provide your feedback. It will be updated with new insights as I test drive it with companies who aspire to transformational leadership.

As one of my clients said in reviewing the tool, “This changes the lens. This changes the focus. This changes everything.”

Let’s keep pushing for the change we need.

SiG Note: Download Coro’s Social Purpose Continuum here. For more on social purpose business, check out our Corporate Social Innovation section, as well as the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing

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Microtainer: lab resources (January 2015)

SiG Note: This article was originally published on January 3, 2015 on the MaRS Solutions Lab Blog. It has been cross-posted with permission from the author.

Launched August 2013, the Microtainer series was created and curated by Satsuko VanAntwerp of Social Innovation Generation. The MaRS Solutions Lab is excited to take on this legacy to spread information that will be interesting, insightful and useful to lab practitioners and the lab-curious. To access the whole archive of Microtainers, please visit the Microtainers series page.

Interesting resources that came across our desks in the month of January 2015 (in no particular order):

 

  1. Nesta’s annual predictions “10 predictions for 2015″ (podcast)

    “This year, we’re predicting that a new online political party will emerge in the UK, there will be new ways to interact with our national museums and galleries, and there will be a surge in young people expressing their creativity using new digital tools.”

  2. Medium blogChile’s new public laboratory and its many waters”

    Read more about Chile’s upcoming new public sector lab, the GobLab.

  3. MindLab’s blog “Design Games That Play”

    “A design game is an effective and inspiring playground, where you can practise before ideas turn into reality. Get good advice and navigate around the most common pitfalls, if you are faced with rethinking or developing new services for your users.

    C/O MindLab

    C/O MindLab

  4. Government Technology’s news article “Google Reveals its Innovation Lab for Government”

    “Google plans to institutionalize innovation through a mobile innovation lab that combines its suite of apps with motivated government innovators.”

  5. Wired Magazine’s article “Serious Games Go Offline: Bringing the Board Game to the Board Room”

    “Instead of e-learning, apps or social media, [companies] use physical simulations inspired by board games to accelerate the organization’s ability to learn and adapt to change.”

    C/O Wired Magazine

    C/O Wired Magazine

  6. Stanford Social Innovation Review’s article “The Dawn of System Leadership”

    “The deep changes necessary to accelerate progress against society’s most intractable problems require a unique type of leader—the system leader, a person who catalyzes collective leadership.”

  7. The Social Labs Fieldbook 

    Download the first section of the Social Labs Fieldbook. “This is a practical and interactive ebook that will guide you in creating and sustaining an effective social lab with passion, precision and purpose.”Social Labs Fieldbook

In case you’ve missed it:

 

  1. The Long + Short’s blog “Hooked on Labs: The experimental life is being created all around us

    “Labs are places where people conduct experiments to test out theories. The new labs proliferating outside the hard sciences are a symptom of the spread of experimentalism as an ideology for how we should shape the future.”

  2. Nesta’s guide “Innovation teams and labs: a practice guide”

    “This practice guide shows what innovation teams and labs do, and provides a practical introduction to establishing and running a new team or lab.”

  3. Deloitte’s Gov 2020 

    Explore trends and drivers for the future of government in year 2020. A resource accumulated by Deloitte.

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Don’t build a start-up, become a systems entrepreneur

560px-Morne_Seychellois_NP_footpath“Make sure you start the year on the right foot…”

…my grandmother always used to remind me. Given that I work at what is externally referred to as one of Canada’s main entrepreneurship centres (though I much prefer describing MaRS as an innovation hub), starting the year by writing a piece on why you should NOT build a startup probably wouldn’t meet her standard. But you have to put your job on the line at least once a year to make the ride worthwhile, right?

Whenever I am trying to solve a problem, whether it’s in my personal life, at work (first in management consulting and now in innovation) or in my relationships (where I get a lot of slack for treating problems like projects), I generally go through a three-stage process:

The why

How is success defined? How should it be defined? What is the North Star or goal post we’re going after?

The how

What are the options? What pathways can we imagine to get us there? Which one(s) should be chosen?

The what

Where do we start? What’s the first step? How do we track progress and learn?

There is also a big “who” question that runs through all three stages, but we will leave that for another time. For now, let’s consider the challenge proposed in the title of this article through these questions.

(Re)defining success: Why people build startups

When I consider the wide range of underlying motivations for why people decide to build startups, they generally fall into one of the following (non-comprehensive) categories:

  • Necessity: “This is my best chance at providing the basics of life for me and/or my family.”

If this is the case for you, you should absolutely take what you believe to be the best path forward. Nobody else understands your specific context better than you do. Just make sure that you understand the realities of the startup life and the risks associated with it, and also be sure to get access to the fast-growing range of public resources that can help support you along the way.

  • Achievement: “I am going to do this so that I can have more money/power/freedom/excitement/etc.”

While I have my own opinions about why these are the wrong settings on a personal compass, fortunately I can just defer to Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, who explains why you shouldn’t build a startup if these are your goals.

  • Impact: “I want to change or create a positive impact in the world!”

I’m lucky enough to meet a lot of people for whom impact is a primary motivation. Listening to them express their motivations makes my heart both melt and ache every time. It makes my heart melt because these are absolutely the kind of people we need much more of—those who seek meaning, are driven by purpose, and have a vision for the future. On the other hand, it makes my heart ache because I see so much of their amazing potential go to waste (or, at best, not go very far). This is due in part to their choosing the wrong “how,” even though they have the right “why” as their starting point.

Mission Big Change: Why building a startup isn’t the best path

Of those in that final category, almost everyone I speak to genuinely wants to create real, meaningful, positive, long-lasting, sustainable change—what we will call ‘big change.’

The next question is whether building a startup is the best way to get there (most people default to this option and only ask how to build the best startup.)

To answer that question, we can compare the most significant conditions necessary for big change with the most common pieces of advice given to the founders of new startups. As we can see in the chart below, for every one of the five key conditions, the common advice for startups is the exact opposite:

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.43.19 PM

A whole article could be written analyzing each condition and piece of advice, their respective underlying logic and their stark contrast, but we will leave that to another time. For now, I will just share a quote from Nicholas Negroponte of MIT Media Lab and One Laptop Per Child fame (who has, with freakish accuracy, predicted the future over the last several decades), from his interview with Stewart Brand of The Long Now Foundation:

“Startup businesses are sucking people out of big thinking. So many minds that used to think big are now thinking small because their VCs tell them to ‘focus’…they’re doing these startups and their venture funding tells them focus, focus and become cash-flow positive—which is a really stupid idea in a startup…keep the risk high, don’t become cash-flow positive.”

To be abundantly clear, no part of this is a criticism of entrepreneurial thinking or entrepreneurial spirit—both of which I love, with the former featuring prominently in our curriculum (led by our amazing faculty member Assaf Weisz) and the latter being a big part of our culture at Studio Y. Both are necessary ingredients to becoming a truly successful systems entrepreneur. The issue is that these really powerful, bold ideas and concepts have been corrupted in the way in which we’ve built our dominant startup ecosystems.

“But what about Elon Musk?” is an unavoidable counter to the arguments outlined above. Elon Musk, in this case, is exactly the exception that proves the rule. He thinks big, he gives away his intellectual property and he takes on big societal challenges that matter to our future. In fact, the fact that Elon Musk is celebrated for being such an outlier in how he goes about working on his ventures is what should concern us most.

Another great (and Toronto-based) example is Aled Edwards, director and CEO of the Structural Genomics Consortium, who has championed the view that drug discovery advances would be made more rapidly within an open access research environment in which no patents are filed, and materials and ideas are exchanged without restriction on use.

C/O NASA

C/O NASA

So if not ‘launch a start-up!’ then what?

The road less traveled: The rise of systems entrepreneurs

To make the case for an alternative path, it is important to also consider how big change happens. Two distinguishing factors include adoption and success definition:

Let there be light.  

The fundamental transformations in our world come from large-scale adoption, not from the act of invention. For a number of reasons, including very innate human tendencies, we reward invention significantly more than we do adoption, despite adoption being an absolutely necessary condition for big change. In my research for this piece, I came across Dr. Marc Ventresca, an economic sociologist in strategy and innovation at Saïd Business School, who makes this point in a TEDx talk using a great example. He argues that it is large-scale power-grid systems (each unique to its particular context) that have changed the world, not simply the invention of electricity.

We need to grow.

This is the shared mantra of almost every organization across industries. Even in those organizations focused on growing impact (rather than profits), the problem is that the “we” is the organization; our dominant, if not exclusive, approach to success definition is at the organizational level. Just think about the mind-blowing amount of resources that go into setting up, growing and promoting individual organizations, or about how highly we regard leaders (again, across all sectors) who grow an organization’s budget, size, reach or, in the best case scenario, actual impact.

Yet, what we know to be unequivocally true is that our biggest issues are so complex and interdependent that no single organization or solution can alone achieve the level of fundamental systems change required. One of the biggest issues with the startup model is that it fundamentally defines success as organizational success (and how fast, big and far you can grow it) with zero accountability for system success.

So who, then, are systems entrepreneurs? The concept of systems entrepreneurs is not widely recognized, as can be seen by performing a Google search for  “systems entrepreneur” or “system entrepreneur,” which return 25,000 and 5,000 results respectively, almost all of which are related to information, communication and power systems.

Both Engineers Without Borders and our team at Studio Y have used the term “systems change leaders” as a frame over the past couple of years, in developing the people we work with.

In her paper, “How Actors Change Institutions: Towards a Theory of Institutional Entrepreneurship” (2009),  Julie Battilana, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, suggests that while all systems entrepreneurs are change agents, to be considered a systems entrepreneur, two criteria must be met:

  • First, you must initiate divergent change (something that breaks with the status quo rather than simply improving or enhancing it).
  • Second, you must actively participate in the implementation of these changes, demonstrating an ability to marshal the resources required to implement change (speaking to the adoption point made earlier).

She and her colleagues then describe three sets of activities that systems entrepreneurs undertake:

  • Developing a vision — encompasses activities undertaken to make the case for change, including sharing the vision of the need for change with followers.
  • Mobilizing people — includes activities undertaken to gain others’ support for and acceptance of new routines.
  • Motivating others to achieve and sustain the vision — consists of activities undertaken to institutionalize change.

Note how none of these criteria and activities require building a startup. In fact, the dominant startup model limits one’s ability to truly focus on some of the most important elements of systems entrepreneurship.

More recently, Peter Senge, the author of The Fifth Discipline and a guru in systems thinking and organizational learning, co-authored a piece in the Stanford Social Innovation Review titled: The Dawn of Systems Leadership. In it, the authors offer the following advice for those interested in getting started on a journey of becoming a systems leader/entrepreneur.

  • Learn on the job.
  • Engage people across boundaries.
  • Let go of control.
  • Build your own toolkit.
  • Work with others on a similar journey.

A plea and a pledge

I may not have listened to that piece of advice from my grandmother about how to start a new year, but one thing I learned through her actions (rather than her words) was never to shy away from a healthy debate about the future.

So whatever your vision or passion for the future, consider this a plea to make the pledge to take the road less travelled by way of systems entrepreneurship because, as Robert Frost said, we will look back years from now and know “that has made all the difference.”

For more on systems change roles, thinking, mindsets and initiatives, explore Ecosystems for Systems Change.

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Systems as people, not structures

SiG Note: This blog is the first response blog to the newly launched Building Ecosystems for Systems Change: How do we collaborate to create ecosystems that support innovation for systems change? A report and reflection, based on Session 22 of the Unusual Suspects Festival.

Further response blogs are welcome. Please email: kelsey@sigeneration.ca if you have written, or wish to write, a response or think-piece.

The best way to understand a system is to look at it from the point of view of people who want to subvert it” – Joseph Schumpeter

Provocative? Perhaps. But I think this is as good a place to start as any when we talk about building ecosystems for social change.  And of course we should ask: why do people try to subvert systems in the first place?

Building Ecosystems for Systems Change

Summary Graphic || How do we collaborate to create ecosystems that support innovation for systems change?

Systems represent complex structures developed to carry out specific activities, perform particular duties, and at their best solve problems.  The bigger and more intricate they are, the more complex they tend to be.  Swirls of interrelated and interdependent elements, components, entities, factors, members, and parts immediately spring to mind.  The report’s assessment of the purpose in building ecosystems for systems change is very clear: encouraging collaboration to create a space that supports innovation.  You would be hard pressed to find many who disagreed this was a positive purpose to serve.

My personal apprehension derives from the very obvious challenges of how you go about actually building such an ecosystem.  As we all know (whether we live by it or not is another matter), diversity in people, perspectives, expertise, ideas, skills, and experience makes fertile ground for innovation.  So when the report asserts that ‘without diversity, the ecosystem collapses,’ I would go further and argue that without diversity, the ecosystem never really gets going.  And the dangers of acting on the urgency to do something, anything runs the risk of the ‘deliberate intentionality’ creating systems that happen to and for people rather than with them, as the report rightly warns against.

This is precisely why the conversation around how we identify, engage, and work alongside unusual suspects, has to drastically change gear.  We almost have to get back to basics and ask ourselves questions such as: “How can I identify everyone who may be affected by a particular problem and get them involved in solving it?”

Granted, this is easier said than done, but now more than ever is the time to craft new, creative, and engaging ways to connect different actors at varying scales, who can influence a range of external conditions (the report cites cultural, fiscal, political, temporal, and physical).  Our combined and connected influences then create enabling environments for innovation to take root as a first step towards systems change.

RAGE IS CRITICAL. IT SURE IS.

The other point I wanted to very briefly touch upon was this fantastic notion of rage as a driver for social change.  History suggests this couldn’t be truer.  In 1964, when Fanny Lou Hamer said: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,” unknowing of the context, one could quite easily be forgiven for thinking that this was merely one woman’s trite expression of frustration at the mundane struggles of life as we all know it.  My point is that rage often comes from an uncomfortable place that shapes our motives and objectives for affecting change.  Jon Hugget’s estimation that “rage is what gets us to do good things (it can also get us to do bad things), but if the rage isn’t there, we aren’t getting anywhere” may be true, but it does beg the question: how do you direct rage for good rather than retribution, particularly when feelings of rage may stem from being unequal players within a system?

This is probably too big and complex a question to combat here – and definitely warrants its own blog piece! But the success of collaborating to innovate systems change will be strongly dependent on making meaningful attempts to understand the complex and challenging make-up of our coalition of actors and unusual suspects, in order to co-create the right spaces and platforms for new thinking, cultures, and practice.  And that is not a bad place to start at all.

Building Ecosystems For Systems Change [CoverPage]

Download the report

BUILDING ECOSYSTEMS FOR SYSTEMS CHANGE

How do we collaborate to create ecosystems that support innovation for systems change?

This report is a reflection on the Unusual Suspects Festival 2014: Session 22, a session co-hosted by Social Innovation Generation (SiG) National and Oxfam.

It was prepared by Social Innovation Generation (SiG) National on behalf of the collaboration.

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

Curator’s note:
From 2015, I will be handing over the creation of the monthly Microtainers to Terrie of the MaRS Solutions Lab. Terrie is extremely plugged in to all things design x social innovation and a natural fit for this bloggette. It has been an absolute pleasure to curate these lists ~ thank you for your readership and recommendations!  – Warmly, Satsuko
dff762d88d3c23885d9baffd3d813305

c/o Suzanne Antonelli

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 the desks of Terrie Chan (MaRS Solutions Lab) and Satsuko VanAntwerp (SiG) over the month of November 2014. In no particular order:

LABS

  1. SSIR blog post: “Four Social-Change Results That Innovation Labs Deliver,” by Amira Bliss (Rockefeller Foundation) and Nidhi Sahni (The Bridgespan Group), describes the four core unique deliverables that social innovation labs could provide.
  1. Webinar: “A New Approach to Tackle Systems Change: Social Innovation Labs,” by The Bridgespan Group, intends to build an understanding of what social innovation labs are and how they can be used to address complex social and environmental problems. The webinar shares research, expert insights, and perspectives on how these labs have helped funders and nonprofit organizations create environments conducive to innovation and experimentation.
    1. Blog post: “What Are Social (Innovation) Labs, and Why Should You Care?” by Zaid Hassan (co-founder of Reos Partners), does exactly as the title suggests. Zaid explains that social labs have three characteristics:
  • Social labs involve diverse stakeholders, including the people impacted. By contrast, a planning approach would bring together a small group of experts and develop a top-down, command-and-control solution.
  • They are experimental, relying on trial and error to create and manage a portfolio that guides investment decisions. A planning approach can put all its eggs in one basket.
  • They take a systems-based approach that addresses challenges at a root-cause level. A planning approach may address the symptoms, but not the cause, of a social problem.

Also, check out this video that explains social labs and Reos’ approach.

  1. Report: “Evaluating New Housing Services,” by Parsons DESIS Lab, Public Policy Lab, and The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, details the findings from their ambitious partnership to design better services for New Yorkers seeking affordable housing.
  1. Blog post: “4 Key Challenges Facing Local Government Innovators,” by Nigel Jacob of New Urban Mechanics in Boston, reflects on a six-month selection process for the City Accelerator’s first cohort on embedding innovation in local government. The selection process surfaced four key tensions that our finalists, and many other cities, are struggling with in the work to make innovation course-of-business. These are:
  • Balancing incremental improvement and “disruptive” or “transformative” approaches to innovation;
  • Putting city residents at the center in a bureaucratic environment;
  • Nurturing innovation in city departments; and,
  • Developing and structuring innovation partnerships.
  1. Learnings and reflections pushing the boundaries of the lab practice (blog post): “A new kind of prototyping,” by Sarah Schulman of InWithForward, reflects and shares the team’s journey (including what’s working and isn’t working) on their Burnaby project.

After 10-weeks of on-the-ground research, and 12-weeks of negotiations, the team is working with three service delivery partners to prototype new roles, human resourcing practices, and regulatory frameworks within the existing system. And, they share that they may have fallen short in the past due to the wrong (1) business model, (2) resource base, and (3) growth strategy. With prototyping set to go for the next 6 months, this is a live project you will want to follow.

        1. Online magazine: This season’s issue of “The Long and Short,” by Nesta, is dedicated to labs of all kinds. Articles to check out, include:

GENERAL / RELATED

              1. HBR article: “Look to Government—Yes, Government—for New Social Innovations,” by Christian Bason (Danish Design Centre) and Philip Colligan (Nesta), urges people in search of innovation to look to governments. Coined as i-teams, these public innovation teams are set up by national and city governments to pioneer a new form of experimental government.
              1. Interesting blog post, “Communication can be a sore subject… or is that sensitive?” by Participle, on the importance of language and how it can be understood very differently by those who use the terms (public servants, service providers, social workers…) and those who use the service.

On a separate, but related note: Participle has titled their blog site Relational Welfare, which is an important concept for public service innovation. The concept is described as “a truly responsive welfare state that builds the capabilities of all: services that value and build on relationships.” For more about this way of thinking and how public servants can adopt it, see their blog post, “First steps to thinking Relationally?” which builds on co-production and asset-based thinking.

      1. Truly excellent podcast episode, “Solving it – solving our broken systems,” by TED Radio Hour, about complex social problems and how people are going about solving, working around, and addressing them.

Episode info: “From politics, to healthcare, to law and the justice system — some things just don’t seem to work as they should. In this hour, TED speakers share some big ideas on how to solve the seemingly impossible. Attorney Philip K. Howard argues the U.S. has become a legal minefield and we need to simplify our laws. Legal scholar Lawrence Lessig says corruption is at the heart of American politics and issues a bipartisan call for change. Health advocate Rebecca Onie describes how our healthcare system can be restructured to not just treat — but prevent — illness. Lawyer Bryan Stevenson explains how America’s criminal justice system works against the poor and people of color, and how we can address it” (hat tip Pamela Rounis).

    1. Blog post: “Mental models of change – the co-creative mindset,” by John Baxter, reflects on complex systems and on how difficult it is to create top-down change.
    1. Link to sign up for updates on Al Etmanski’s new book, coming soon. For a sample of his disruptive, bridging, and receptive innovator theory that he expands on in his book, see the transcript from his talk at SEWF (I may be biased as Al is one of SiG’s directors, but I found this talk to be incredibly moving and powerful // not to miss!).
    1. Super interesting paper: “Nudging: A Very Short Guide” by Cass R. Sunstein (Behaviour Economics guru / co-author of “Nudge” among many other books).

From the abstract: “The essay offers a general introduction to the idea of nudging, along with a list of ten of the most important ‘nudges.’ It also provides a short discussion of whether to create some kind of separate ‘behavioral insights unit,’ capable of conducting its own research, or instead to rely on existing institutions.”

The ten most important nudges listed in the paper are:

    • Default rules/ Ex: automatic enrollment in programs, including education, health and savings.
    • Simplification/ The benefits of important programs (involving education, health, finance, poverty, and employment) are greatly reduced because of undue complexity.
    • Use of social norms/ emphasizing what most people do. Ex: “most people plan to vote” or “nine out of ten hotel guests reuse their towels.”
    • Increases in ease and convenience/ Ex: making low-cost options or healthy food more visible.
    • Disclosure/ Ex: the economic or environmental costs associated with energy use, or the full cost of certain credit cards — or large amounts of data, Ex: data.gov & Open Government Partnership.
    • Warnings, graphics or otherwise/ Ex: as for cigarettes.
    • Precommitment strategies/ by which people commit to a certain course of action.
    • Reminders/ Ex: by email or text message, as for overdue bills and coming obligations or appointments.
    • Eliciting implementation intentions/ Ex: “do you plan to vote?”
    • Informing people of the nature and consequences of their own past choices/ “smart disclosure” in the US and the “midata project” in the UK.
    1. Website: Gov2020, by Deloitte, explores the future of government in the year 2020 by looking at Drivers of change (39 factors that change the context in which government operates) and Trends (194 government shifts that result from the drivers of change). Gov2020 aims to be updated on a regular basis based on reader input and changing circumstances in the world. So far, the website has some pretty neat infographics, including this one on the circular economy (or cradle to cradle).
    1. Excellent workbook, “Wicked Solutions: a systems approach to complex problems” by Bob Williams and Sjon van ’t Hof, on systems concepts (inter-relationships, perspectives and boundaries). The workbook aims to help readers:
    • Assess wicked situations;
    • Unpick the tangle of issues that need addressing;
    • Design suitable ways of tackling those issues and dealing with some tricky aspects of working in wicked situations; and,
    • Find more information about systems methods and managing interventions systemically (hat tip Cindy Banyai).
    1. The much anticipated book, “Design for Policy” by Christian Bason, provides a rich, detailed analysis of design as a tool for addressing public problems and capturing opportunities for achieving better and more efficient societal outcomes. The book suggests that design may offer a fundamental reinvention of the art and craft of policy making for the twenty-first century. From challenging current problem spaces to driving the creative quest for new solutions and shaping the physical and virtual artefacts of policy implementation, design holds significant, yet largely unexplored, potential.

The book includes contributions from lab heavy hitters: Scott Brown and Eduardo Staszowski (Parsons DESIS Lab), Banny Banerjee (Stanford d.school), Laura Bunt (formerly of Nesta), Jesper Christiansen and Kit Lykketoft (MindLab), Ezio Manzini (Politecnico di Milano & the DESIS Network), Andrea Siodmok (UK Policy Lab), Marco Steinberg (formerly Sitra & Helsinki Design Lab), Stéphane Vincent (La 27e Région) and many more! Microtainer readers can use discount code G14iPT35 to receive 35% off!

    1. Report: “How can public organisations better create, improve and adapt?“ by Geoff Mulgan, draws on past reports and makes linkages across Nesta’s recent practical and research work on how the public sector can become a more effective innovator. Geoff sets out Nesta’s approach to combining greater creativity with more attention to evidence and impact. The report aims to show:
  • Why innovation in the public sector matters more than ever at a time of austerity.
  • How innovation in the public sector is best managed at every stage, from the origins of an idea to large–scale impact.
  • How new tools – ranging from open data to crowdsourcing – can accelerate innovation in public organisations.
        1. And, another by Geoff Mulgan, an essay: “Policies to support social innovation: Where they are and where they may be heading” — on page 4 of the newsletter for the Bureau of Economic Policy Advisers (BEPA) — explores government responses to the need for social innovation and ways for governments to make more progress. Government responses include:
  • Funding for innovative projects in society — sometimes emphasising new ideas, and at other times emphasising formal experiments and ‘scaling.’
  • Policies that adapt more traditional technology support.
  • Addressing the conditions for innovation. Ex: new legal forms to make it easier to combine financial and social goals; new reliefs for social investment; new asset classes, such as social impact bonds.
  • Places, such as hubs, incubators, accelerators and zones. Ex: Bilbao pioneered a social innovation park.
  • Teams and structures — labs and innovation teams — often within or on the edge of government.
    1. Report: “Delivering Public Service For the Future: How Europe Can Lead Public-Sector Transformation” is a collection of essays on the opportunity and challenge of public service in the digital age. It includes one from Christian Bason on P.15, “Redesigning Public Institutions: Towards Democracy as Collaborative Problem Solving,” which illustrates the need for the public sector to shift towards co-production.

Co-design between politicians, policymakers and citizens not only leads to more effective outcomes; it also redistributes the power dynamic by handing ordinary citizens a share of the influence, and a sense of empowerment, ownership and collective responsibility in governance drawn from their everyday experience.”

                                1. SSIR blog post: “The Tactics of Collaboration,” by Steve Wright, makes the case for participatory methods and collaboration, as well as for the “stages of moral development, where we learn to weigh personal benefit against collective benefit.” These stages are:
                                • Stage 1: Commitment/ the first stage of any collaborative effort is to create a context for membership.
                                • Stage 2: Partnership/ give and take defines the partnership stage—each party gives something of value and takes away something of value.
                                • Stage 3: Vulnerability/ vulnerability requires that we let go of control.
                                • Stage 4: Emergence/ doesn’t prescribe explicit outputs or milestones, but instead focuses on increasing the likelihood that an unforeseen solution will emerge.
What have we missed?
What lab-related links have you been following this past month?

About Satsuko VanAntwerp

Satsuko VanAntwerp berlin squareSatsuko is a manager at Social Innovation Generation’s national office. Satsuko supports social innovation lab practitioners and government innovators through writing, research, facilitation and community building.

 

About Terrie Chan

headshot-Terrie-Chan.ver2-250x250Terrie is the Associate for the MaRS Solutions Lab. Terrie is passionate about designing interventions that encourage creative and collaborative behaviour. Fascinated by how spatial and communications design can affect group problem-solving capacity, Terrie invests her creativity and energy to make the Lab’s space design, communication assets, and collaborative tools stand out.

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