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 July 2014. In no particular order:
1. Short interview with Christian Bason on AIGA’s blog — the interviewer asks Christian for his take on designers’ role in improving communities and public policy, as well as practical tips for designers wishing to do so. There are also links to different books and articles by Christian, including his new book set to launch in December: “Design for Policy.”
2. The city of Vancouver provides a how-to guide on throwing a block party.
3. A four-day festival will bring together The Unusual Suspects – individuals and organisations from youth clubs to royal societies who are making real social change happen by working together in new and different ways. Blending international and local expertise, the festival will feature a variety of sessions exploring the challenges, possibilities, and processes of collaboration for social innovation: September 2-5, 2014 (London, England).
4. Blog post “A comprehensive reading list for and by designers” is just as the title says. The ‘Inspired by the Future’ section (about halfway down) is particularly interesting for designers and non-designers working to develop solutions to complex social and environmental problems.
5. Guidebook on Testing Social Policy Innovation — developed by the European Commission — is meant to support policy makers and social service providers wishing to implement social policy innovations and evaluate the impact of their interventions. It addresses: (1) how to evaluate the impact of a social policy intervention; (2) which methods are applicable and under which assumptions they operate; (3) how to design an impact evaluation; and (4) how to assess and disseminate results on the basis of their reliability, transferability, and sustainability.
6. Essay on the future of work — “The Leading Edge” by Bryan Boyer — helps us understand the new and growing workforce of “independents” (or freelancers or the self-employed) by exploring their motivations and their relationship with risk.
7. Creative Morning hosts Ashley Good, founder and CEO of global failure consultancy Fail Forward, for a morning conversation. By creating a safe space to openly discuss failure, and offering clients a set of tools and practices to deal with failure intelligently, Fail Forward helps organisations turn failure into a catalyst for adaptation, innovation, and resilience: August 11, 2014 (Toronto, ON).
8. Interview article with Nesta CEO, Geoff Mulgan on the future of government innovation. The interviewer asks Geoff about the findings of the recently launched i-teams report: “Perhaps the biggest surprise has been the speed with which this idea is spreading. Since we started the research, we’ve come across new teams being created in dozens of countries, from Canada and New Zealand to Cambodia and Chile;” other initiatives: ex. Longitudinal Prize; and Geoff’s top leadership learnings: “The best ideas have to be grown from the bottom up, tested and improved in the hard graft of practice, and with government opened up to the best minds everywhere” and “Tapping the collective intelligence of innovators and entrepreneurs is going to be increasingly important.”
9. Blog post “We Can’t Have Social Justice Without Environmental Sustainability,” by nef’s Anna Coote, makes the case for working towards social justice and environmental sustainability as integrated systems, not as two separate goals. The blog explores some of the ideas that are expanded upon in the working paper: “A New Settlement For People And Planet.”
10. Blog post “Imitation Without Discernment,” by InWithForward’s Sarah Schulman, uses the metaphor of a croissant to discuss how the qualities (values, motivations, rigour, depth of impact, etc.) of social innovation labs vary greatly, even though they use similar vocabulary to describe their activities. A call for critique and discernment, the post also includes six questions for the discerning collaborator. They are:
Why those activities and those products? What’s the link between doing those things and achieving results? What constitutes a good result – and why?
What specifically about the activities will prompt the desired results – in other words, what are the posited change mechanisms and how does that inform the way in which those activities are designed and implemented?
What are your reference points for these activities and products – both good and bad? Historical and contemporary?
How are you going to measure results – and for whom? Why will you measure in that way? Using what instruments? When?
Can you show us (rather than tell us about) the science and the art of your approach? What’s the source of rigor? Of creativity?
Who are you learning from – and how? Where do you get critique and constructive feedback from?
11. Labcraft is a new book about labs written collaboratively in a four-day ‘booksprint’ by twelve lab practitioners from seven innovation labs around the world. These labs were: Innovations Lab Kosovo; The Finance Innovation Lab (UK); Electricity Innovation Lab (US); InSTEDD (US); Kennisland (NL); Incompass (KH); and La 27e Région (FR). In the book, practitioners share their stories, experiences, and perspectives, while considering their commonalities and differences. They offer their observations about their struggles and successes, and detail how they navigate their unique dilemmas and paradoxes. The book is available on Amazon, as pay-what-you-can, and as a free PDF download. Also, La 27e Région blogs about the book writing experience. Finally, here is a Twitter list of the authors of the book.
12. A hardcover book edition of Nesta’s DIY (Developmental Impact and You) Toolkit is now available from Amazon (and still available for free on their website). DIY is a compilation of 30 tried and tested innovation tools designed specifically for people working in development.
13. Blog post “Play Time Is Over,” by FutureGov’s Dominic Campbell, is a rallying call for a new generation of entrepreneurial public servants. Dominic calls for us to embrace new ways of working, to re-examine our values and principles, and to propel ourselves toward a bright new future.
14. Design Council blog post – “Better Public Services Start With Teaching Civil Servants To Design,” by New York City civil servant and founder of Civic Service, Dave Seliger. Dave argues that civil servants need to be given the skills and the opportunity to use their insights to design better public services. He explains how he is doing this via Civic Service, an initiative from Parsons The New School for Design that teaches design skills to civil servants (also, Eduardo Staszowski of Parsons DESIS Lab makes a cameo on the blog photo).
15. Online course “The Art of Social Labs,” by Reos Partners’ Zaid Hassan, is designed to: (1) build a practical understanding of how to design and facilitate social labs; (2) give participants the opportunity to apply the social labs approach to a given theme; (3) allow participants to develop their capacity through engagement with experienced course guides (who are themselves experienced lab practitioners); and (4) engage participants in a peer community of lab practitioners. Group discount available for teams of 6+ registrants. The course will take place over 8 weeks: September 18-November 6, 2014 (online).
16. Blog post on the Social Innovation Exchange (SIX) website highlights 11 trends in digital social innovation, including: Crowdfunding, Crowdmapping, Crowdsourcing, Sensor networks, Open hardware, Data, Open source code, Open licenses, Citizen science, Open learning, and Collaboration spaces. Also see the open crowdmap Digital Social, a project that aims to map all of these initiatives!
17. Provocative Ted-talk style presentation by entrepreneur and architect Indy Johar at the Social Renaissance conference in Italy: “Too often social innovation is an agenda to offload public services onto communities and citizens.”
18. This paper – “Establishing, running & closing a public sector innovation lab,” prepared by the recently-closed Australian government innovation unit DesignGov — is an awesome resource for governments looking to establish and operate a public sector innovation lab. The paper’s author, Alex Roberts, offers his reflections on what may be useful to consider when establishing, running, and closing a public sector innovation lab.
19. UK Policy Lab’s first blog post – “Welcome to the Policy Lab”– talks about what they are: “an experimental space, trying out new techniques and seeing what works;” their first project: improving victims’ experience of reporting crime; and their tools, approach, and vision. It is definitely worth a read and subscription to their newsletter for further updates!
20. InWithForward shares their results from 10-weeks of deep ethnography and thinking about social isolation in the form of an “Idea Press” mini-newspaper. The newspaper is jam-packed with insights, theories, and reflections from the journey, as well as some of the ideas and hunches they are looking to prototype next. It is an excellent package of what lab work looks like and what kind of innovative ideas can result from this approach. Also see Sarah Schulman’s blog post – “Was our hunch correct? Lessons from Canada” — for her reflections on three months in Canada working in Vancouver, BC on the Burnaby Starter Project (working with service agencies for people with disabilities) and in Toronto, ON on the St. Chris Stories Project (working with a frontline social service delivery agency). Sarah explores a surprising connection between seemingly very different population groups, highlighting the two extremes of a very basic human need: belonging.
21. Online platform “Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI),” by the OECD, collects and analyzes examples and shared experiences of public sector innovation to provide practical advice to countries on how to make innovations work. The platform aims to be a place where those interested in public sector innovation can access information on innovations, share their own experiences, and collaborate with other users.
22. Blog post from MindLab’s Marie Herborg Krogh — “Find the problem before you solve it! A guide to more successful public solutions” — is about her team’s journey redesigning online tax forms so that young taxpayers would find the online forms user-friendly (it’s one of our favourite case studies from MindLab). The post talks about why citizen stories are important (making the case for ethnography as a policy tool) and shares lessons learned. There is also a video at the end of the post (from a presentation in Paris at the 13th edition of the International Public Management Symposium) on how to involve citizens in innovating with the public sector.
23. Two-day Design Thinking training by Toronto-based Exhibit Change — “Design Thinking for Impact: Solving Complex Problems with Stakeholders.” This workshop has a specific focus on facilitating collaborations to solve complex problems, working on emergent processes, designing solutions with stakeholders, and developing skills in empathy and human-centred design.
24. A collection of resources on social innovation and public sector innovation put together by the Alberta Government team for the $1B Social Innovation Endowment.