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?

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

C/O Matt W Moore

C/O Matt W Moore

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 Hyun-Duck Chung (MaRS Solutions Lab) and Satsuko VanAntwerp (SiG) over the month of April 2014.

We are trying something new this month by organizing by theme area. Enjoy!

Behavioural Change/Economics

1. EAST: Four simple ways to apply behavioural insights is a simple framework from the Behavioural Insights Team in UK that evolved as a more accessible model from the MINDSPACE model.

Gist: Behavioural change nudges need to be Easy, Attractive, Social, and Timely.

2. Cass Sunstein — co-author of New York Times Bestseller, “Nudge: Improving Decisions on Health, Wealth, and Happiness,” Harvard law professor, and former Obama administration official — has a new book and new insights: “Why Nudge? The politics of libertarian paternalism.” The book explores how we can responsibly approach guiding people toward more beneficial choices and how the effects of those healthy choices spread through the community.

Scaling

3. Increasing the scale and adoption of population health interventions: experiences and perspectives of policy makers, practitioners, and researchers – an academic paper in Health Research Policy and Systems — talks about some of the barriers to scaling public health interventions: e.g. lack of information on the cost of operating at scale and lack of evidence on how effective local interventions have been in the past. They recommend the co-production of research among policy makers, practitioners, and communities to gather relevant evidence and data for scaling, shifting research energies beyond just the requirements for academic publication.

4. UNDP Eurasia Team’s Milica Begovic Radojevic and Giulio Quaggiotto published their second blog post on their reflections (and the challenges!) of scaling up in international development work. This second post, “The evolving finch fund: Two early insights on scaling and lots of work ahead,” explores their thinking, following a meeting of diverse experts in different areas of scaling, systems, and complexity that took place in NYC a couple weeks ago. “We have to acknowledge that there is still a major language barrier between the various disciplines and that translating multi-disciplinary insights into tangible criteria applicable to the “finch fund” will require a significant amount of honing…”

5. Leading global lab practitioners Jesper Christiensen (MindLab, Denmark), Anna Lochard (La 27e Region, France), and Sarah Schulman (InWithForward, Netherlands) share their latest thinking about their practice in the blog post, “Spread and Scale: What and How.” This time, they used the prompt, “There’s a lot of talk about spread and scale. We think it’s about spreading processes, not scaling products. So what does that mean?” to launch this installation of their debate writing on Sociology & Scale.

6. Stanford Social Innovation Review article, “Transformative Scale: The Future of Growing What Works,” discusses nine strategies to deliver impact at scale. Top tips in the article include: taking an ecosystem approach [2. Recruit (and train) others to deliver the solution; 5. Don’t just build organizations and programs, strengthen a field], addressing the elephant in the room -> innovating the governance structure of public institutions [6. Change public systems; 7. Embrace the need for policy change], and catalyzing culture shift [9. Alter people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors]. The article also offers practical advice on “the how” of implementing these tips.

Blending Perspectives

7. Maturation of Discourse around Social Entrepreneurship and Wicked Problems: a blog article from Austin Centre for Design (AC4D) emphasizing the weight of consequence and accountability for those taking on wicked problems. Their site also offers a great Design Library that includes guides on ethnography, facilitation, ideation, synthesis, and worksheets.

8. Video4Change Impact Research – a blog post by OpenDocLab Fellow Andrew Lowenthal — provides a nice overview of how video and documentary media have been used in advocacy work, before YouTube and mobile video. He discusses the origins of EngageMedia, the video4change network, and his current work at the Lab that will lead to a toolkit for measuring and communicating the impact of video use by changemakers.

Public Sector Innovation

9. Finalists announced for Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge: The Mayors Challenge is a competition to inspire cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges, improve city life, and ultimately can spread to other cities. One grand prize winner will receive €5 million for the most creative and transferable idea; four additional cities will be awarded €1 million.  All will be announced in the fall. The finalists’ proposed solutions address some of Europe’s most critical issue areas: youth unemployment, aging populations, civic engagement, economic development, environment and energy concerns, public health and safety, and government efficiency.

10. UK’s Policy Lab announced it will be headed by Andrea Siodmok, formerly an advisor to the Technology Strategy Board at Cornwall Council and the Chief Design Officer at Design Council. Created to bring ‘design thinking’ into government and to create policy with users in mind, the lab presents local governments with a unique opportunity. More information about the announcement via the Design Council blog.

11. Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA announced a new Northern Ireland Public Innovation Lab, described as a new Innovation Laboratory to modernise and reform public sector services.

12. New Book, “Well-Being and Beyond: Broadening the Public and Policy Discourse,” aims to broaden the public and policy discourse on the importance of well-being by examining psychological, social, environmental, economic, organizational, institutional, and political determinants of individual well-being. Chapters are written by international thought-leaders, including one by Geoff Mulgan (Nesta). In his chapter, Geoff examines: 1. How governments can influence well-being; and 2. How capitalism influences well-being. He argues that in both cases the aggregate picture tells us less than we might hope; however, the more detailed picture of public programmes and the influences of different aspects of capitalism can be very instructive. The implication is that we need to choose our levels of granularity with care.

13. Book, “In The Persistence of Innovation in Government,” by Sanford Borins, maps the changing landscape of American public sector innovation in the twenty-first century, largely addressing three key questions: 1. Who innovates? 2. When, why, and how do they do it? and 3. What are the persistent obstacles and the proven methods for overcoming them? Probing both the process and the content of innovation in the public sector, Borins identifies major shifts and important continuities and offers a thematic survey of the field’s burgeoning literature, with a particular focus on international comparisons (h/t Giulio Quaggiotto).

14. ITU’s Innovation in the Public Sector page is a jam-packed list of resources for the government innovator. The curated list includes key reports, case studies, books, global indices, articles, and news items written by international social innovation thought-leaders.

Inside Public & Social Innovation Labs

15. Reflections by Lauren Tan from her time at DesignGov: 1. There are different engagement models for design with an organisation; 2. Design thinking is easy to understand, but harder to do; 3. Designers can invent an infinite number of tools and these tools are bespoke; 4. The ambition for design must be carefully executed; 5. I think we achieved what we set out to accomplish (Note: Lauren is also a co-author on the very cool book Design Transitions, which you can order here).

16. Blog post by UK-based social innovation lab FutureGov shares “5 Local Government Lessons Learned,” a reflection piece after a year of working on a lab for the local government of Lewes and Eastborne Borough Council. The Lab served as an innovative space to work with Council and other service providers to develop and test new ideas for improving financial resilience in the area. Top five lessons are: 1. Making time to work collaboratively is really valuable; 2. Combining new perspectives with local knowledge is essential; 3. Target your energy; 4. Create space for ideas; and 5. Don’t underestimate the power of delivery.

17. Must read: InWithForward shares their 21 hunches for 2014 on how to prompt change. The hunches are tagged under the themes: methodology, business model, measurement, and team. Also written by the InWithForward team, this blog post, “Belonging vs. Change,” talks about their recent work with St. Christopher House’s daytime drop-in centre, The Meeting Place. The team spent time with 16 of the 200+ members and uncovered some fascinating insights and deeper questions: Is too much community – too much belonging – a barrier to change?

18. Zaid Hassan was recently in Toronto and continues on his global book tour (is he coming to your town?). Matt Fitzgerald blogged about his takeaways from the training he attended in San Francisco, “A Social Labs Revolution in the Making.” Developmental Evaluation guru Mark Cabaj shared his reflection of Zaid’s book in this article and Toronto’s own Cameron Norman blogged his book reflections here.

19. Christian Bason of MindLab recently gave a talk — “Redesiging Governance: in search of the next public business model” — as part of GovLab’s Ideas Lunch series. The video of the talk is viewable here. Christian also recently wrote an interesting blog post, “Finding the Balance,” about “soft” public sector reform — that is, the bottom up tools such as involvement, support, and facilitation — and the delicate balancing of bottom up (soft) and top down (hard, e.g. regulation, inspection) reform.

Co-Production

20. Excellent 3 minute animation by SPICE explaining the concept and thinking behind co-production. The video makes a strong case for why coproduction is such a powerful approach to delivering better public service outcomes for citizens (particularly the first minute and a half is great!). And, for a local co-production example, make sure to track CAMH’s project, “Service Collaborative Communities” (and follow project coordinator Josina Vink for project updates and general awesomeness).

Tools, Methods, Guides

21. Unicef guide, “Do-It-Yourself Innovation Labs,” is an excellent one-stop-shop platform overflowing with resources for running a lab. The guide includes theoretical definitions and practical how-tos (h/t Lisa Joy Trick and her Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation team).

22. Community-centered design agency Context Partners has published some of their facilitation and convening methods as: the “Experimentation Starter Kit.” This Starter Kit outlines steps you can take to identify and vet new ideas and share experiences and lessons learned.

23. Empathy Map downloadable template (worksheet), from digital engagement firm Tadpull, provides a nice introduction to generating user-centered ideas.

24. Great blog post by Studio [Y] fellow Jamie Arron, with ‘open space’ and ‘unconference’ resources for hosting meaningful conversations.

25. NESTA Guide, “Good Incubation,” charts the rise of social venture incubation with a focus on what can be learned by this burgeoning sector from programmes around the world.

26. Quiz by Nesta, “Innovation Population,” uses a selection of questions from their research on innovation and offers a detailed analysis of segment definitions in their Innovation Population report.

“Is innovation a vital part of our economic future? Or is it just meaningless jargon? The British public falls into five broad categories in their attitudes towards innovation – take our quiz and find out which one you are.”

Launch Pad

27. BC’s social innovation (online) platform: Hubcap. Hubcap is BC’s online social innovation community — a place to share information and make connections with innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, funders, and public policy makers. It is an initiative of BC Partners for Social Impact, a multi-sector partnership of individuals and organizations that is working to build BC’s capacity for social innovation, social finance, and social enterprise.

28. Launch of Cities for People, a lab-like experimental initiative for more resilient, livable cities. The initiative leverages innovation networks across Canada and the US. “Like any ecosystem, a city’s strength and resilience depends on its ability to nurture the full diversity of its inhabitants and give them what they need not just to survive, but thrive.”

What have we missed? What lab-related links have you been following this past month?

- Hyun-Duck & Satsuko