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:
        • “Hooked on Labs,” by innovation guru Charles Leadbeater (also see this great reaction blog post, “Talking and Testing – the instinct of innovation,” by Martin Stewart-Weeks); and,
        • An awesome case study, “Techs Mex,” about Gabriella Gómez-Mont’s journey as founder and director of Mexico City’s Laboratorio para la Ciudad (Laboratory for the City), an innovation lab founded by Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera and the first of its kind in Latin America.

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.

Renewing Growth: Building Commons on Open Ground

The resource/manufacturing economy that has sustained Western society for the past two centuries is showing signs of rust. While the champions of weathered industries like print news, traditional manufacturing and fossil fuel extraction are applying fresh coats of paint and working double-time to undermine their opponents, global leaders are looking for a new way forward.

On October 27th/28th, the International Economic Forum of the Americas will be hosting its annual Toronto Global Forum, with a theme of Rethinking Growth. The theory is that if you put the world’s most successful, influential people in a room, they can collectively figure out big-picture solutions that can be fed down the pipe to everyone else. Or build new partnerships and land new deals, which is pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?

There are other big names working at the problem of rethinking economic growth and governance at the global level. Don Tapscott and the Martin Prosperity Institute are undertaking a landmark study of how global, web-based networks can be part of the solution to our collective structural woes.

To summarize – recognizing that the model of capitalism we’ve relied on for ages is maladapted to the challenges of our time, the world’s powerful people are either internalizing solution-development or outsourcing it to usual suspects.

Here’s what’s wrong with this model.

The basic decision-making processes these leaders are using differ none at all from the ones they’re theoretically recognizing as ill-adapted to the times.  They’re looking at policy as a product that gets crafted by specialists and then sold to the masses.  In this model, those who aren’t among the world-leader crowd are either seen as resource-providers, front-line implementers or consumers.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” said Einstein – but that’s exactly what the world’s power-brokers are trying to do.  It can’t work.  Fortunately, it’s not just the world’s power brokers looking for innovative solutions to our structural problems.

While we traditionally associate grassroots activism as being anti-system and anti-government, there is an emerging trend of community-focused social innovators who see themselves as part of the solution, not problem-fighters.  The rallying cry of engagement is shifting from “we can’t let them” to “how might we?”

The most prominent example of this shift in activism from opposition to collaboration is in the expanding world of Open Government.

Open Government is a global movement of public servants, private sector partners and engaged citizens committed to opening the process of government and empowering people to be part of the policy-making process.  In just three years, the global Open Government Partnership has grown from 8 participating countries to 65, with more than 2,000 initiatives on the go.

These initiatives are evolving from one-day hackathons and well-meaning but structurally exclusive panel discussions into more dynamic, engaging and sustained event series and projects.  My personal favourite is #OGT14 – Open Government on the Open Road, a civic-engagement-as-art project conceived and led by Richard Pietro, funded by Make Web Not War, but implemented by communities across the country.

Also noteworthy is Pakathon, a unique experiment in crowdsourcing.  Pakathon is a movement that seeks to reverse Pakistan’s brain-drain and engage its social entrepreneur community.  It does this by supporting community-led hackathons around the world that empower diverse groups of entrepreneurs, researchers and technologists to rethink growth in Pakistan from the grassroots up.

The sorts of solutions emerging from discussions like Pakathon are as much about realistic economic opportunity and community empowerment as they are about policy change.  It turns out that if you bring a cross-section of people and talent together in one space (in person or online) and challenge them to collectively figure out local problems, they will come up with some incredible ideas that can potentially be scaled up for global application.

Which leaves us with an interesting conundrum – the world’s power-brokers are convening in old-school forums to rethink growth on the people’s behalf (with an eye towards new partnerships) at the same time as global communities of engagement are catalyzing new growth from the grassroots up (and also looking for partnerships to fund implementation and support growth).

This is the challenge of our times: how might we bridge the gap between the world’s power-brokers rethinking top-down growth for tomorrow and grassroots social innovators planting seeds today?

Instead of reinventing the wheel, we need to be thinking outside the box.  Post-industrial growth won’t be about what can be extracted by one group and sold to another, but what can be built collaboratively on common ground.

REGISTER TODAY!

The Toronto Grassroots Innovation Forum:

Tuesday, October 28th at CSI Regent Park.