Microtainer: lab resources (April 2015)

SiG Note: This article was originally published on April 7, 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 past 4 weeks (in no particular order):
1. Danish Design Centre’s interview series on “When does design become a political act?”

Engaging interviews with:

Scott Brown, Research Associate, Parsons DESIS Lab, The New School

Christian Bason, CEO, Danish Design Centre

Rosan Bosch, artist and founder of Rosan Bosch Studio

Kit Lykketoft, General Manager, MindLab

2. Jon Turney’s aeon article “How to design the future”

As technological choices become ever more complex, design fiction, not science, hints at the future we actually want.

How to design the future

C/O Dunne and Raby via aeon

3. Eric Schnurer’s article in The Atlantic “When Government Competes Against the Private Sector, Everybody Wins”

If civil servants are pitted against businesses, they become more innovative and secure most of the contracts put out for bid.

4. Simon O’Rafferty’s slides “Service Design: Tactics + Pitfalls”

Great slidedeck by Simon O’Rafferty on the methods of Service Design and its pitfalls.

5. Google Cultural Institute

Take a look at the work of The Lab at the Google Cultural Institute, merging ideas with art and technology.

Google Cultural Institute

C/O Google

6. News: The new Arts Impact Fund in UK

The Arts Impact Fund is a new £7million initiative set up to demonstrate the potential for social investment in arts. Note: Restrictions on funding from some partners mean the Arts Impact Fund can only lend to organisations registered in, and operating primarily in, England.

7. Dr. Andrea Siodmok’s blog “Design in Policy Making”

Can we create public services that are valuable to the public, so that they are delighted, even proud of their existence – whilst simultaneously saving money?

8. Laura Bolt’s blog on AIGA “A Genius Lesson from Franklyn in How to Rebrand a Branding Agency”

Great design example of rebranding an innovation firm.

Redesign innovation firm

C/I AIGA

For more speedy PSILabs updates, follow MaRS Solutions Lab @solutions_lab and Terrie at @terriehyichan.

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

C/O QuillAndArrowPress

C/O QuillAndArrowPress

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 October 2014. Enjoy!

LATEST IN LAB THINKING + DOING

1. Video of Christian Bason’s talk (formerly head of MindLab, now leading the Danish Design Center) from a Parsons DESIS Lab event – ‘(New) Public Goods: Labs, Practices, and Publics’ – in NYC, May 2014. The event brought together lab practitioners from around the world (many on route to the Global Lab Gathering in Toronto), designers, social scientists, researchers, and public servants to explore in-depth how lab approaches play out in reality, critically reflect on practice, and discuss next steps. Christian talks about some of MindLab’s projects and about what is at the ‘edge of thinking’ for this emerging field. Also see this post by Sarah Schulman about her reflections from the event.

2. Blog post overview of a 3-day innovation jam workshop in Jakarta that spawned 9 new innovation lab projects focused on areas of women’s empowerment. The workshop was led by Aditya Dev Sood and used a compressed version of the Bihar Innovation Lab model. Each of the nine pre-selected groups (out of 81 applicants) were also awarded grants and teamed up with a design student. The post is an inspiring account of the specifics of running innovation workshops that empower and enable non-specialists to create and innovate. The result of this workshop was the start of a lab network in Indonesia!

3. Blog post of an interview with MindLab’s Kit Lykketoft while she was in Montenegro to give the keynote address at SHIFT| UNDP Week on Innovation Action. Questions explored included:

  • How would you describe what it is you and your team do?
  • We always hear about user-led innovation and design thinking. What does that actually mean, and how does it – or can it – impact our lives as we live them?
  • Why do you think that governments should adopt the innovation agenda?
  • Can you tell us a bit more about what collaborative policy-making is?
  • Do you have any reflections on what you’ve seen here so far, or perhaps more broadly in your work in Europe and Central Asia?

4. Blog post – “How Social Innovation Labs Contribute to Transformative Change” – is part of a blog series on the Rockefeller Foundation’s innovation labs program. This post reflects on a gathering in September with 20 leading lab practitioners from around the world (including Toronto’s own Joeri van den Steenhoven of the MaRS Solutions Lab). While the group was diverse, three themes emerged as being common lab features, which are described further in the post:

(1) Drawing on diverse perspectives from across and within the system
(2) An innovation mindset of learning fast, trial and error, and co-creating solutions
(3) Unique process, approach, and tools for problem solving

5. Two slide decks: (1) Andrea Siodmok of UK’s Policy Lab shares an introduction to their lab and (2) Philip Colligan of Nesta’s Innovation Lab shares his presentation from the “Social iCon” global lab gathering that took place in October in Singapore.

6. Co-working-like space: “Innovation Lab” for City of Philadelphia city employees. The “lab”— which used to be two meeting rooms—features an open floor plan, five mounted screens, whiteboards, and wifi (the city wired the entire 16th floor of the Municipal Services Building). The initiative is part of the city’s overall innovation plan, which also includes sending its employees to “Innovation Academy” and a $100,000 fund to back public-private projects.

7. Blog post by Christian Bason –  “Less analysis, more design” – discusses how we have become obsessed with analysing situations when we really need to start doing/designing – moving from research to practice.

8. Guide book on creating an innovation unit in government, created by the IBM Center for the Business of Government, based on research about “the recent trend toward the creation of innovation offices across the nation at all levels of government.”

9. Reflection blog – “Towards Co-Producing Public Innovation in Chile” – by Christian Bason following his visit to Chile, on the back of an announcement by President Bachelet of a new innovation lab to help drive more and better innovation in the country.

“I believe a co-production approach could be what is needed for the multitude of actors around the public innovation agenda in Chile to enable them to collaborate effectively for a common purpose” – Christian offers three ways to do this: First, rethink the challenge. Second, invest in capabilities. Third, act as a platform (the post is also translated into Spanish and the website is awesome overall…worth a look!).

10.  Profile of Civic Systems Lab on the Nesta site: “Civic Systems Lab is a laboratory that designs and tests methods, strategies and systems to grow the civic economy at regional, city and local levels.”

11.  Also on the Nesta site, the announcement of a new Lab – the Innovative Growth Lab (IGL) – aimed at improving understanding of what works when it comes to innovation and growth policy. The purpose of the IGL is to run and support randomised controlled trials (RCT) of policies intended to promote innovation and economic growth through grants. The first grants look at interventions including business incubators, entrepreneurial mentoring and university tech transfer.

12. And, one more Nesta-related shout out, an article in Social Scape Magazine – “Are we really making a difference? Lessons from Nesta’s Innovation Lab” – by Philip Colligan, an Executive Director of Nesta’s Innovation Lab. The article explores activities of the Innovation Lab, offers Nesta’s framework for understanding impact, and questions whether labs are indeed making a difference to societies.

13. Blog post about a brilliant idea for a climate change mitigation lab – “The Case For The Gigatonne Lab” – by Zaid Hassan and Jeff Stottlemyer. To avoid dangerous climate change, global emissions need to peak between 2015-2020. A realistic risk management perspective suggests that a net reduction of approximately 44-34 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (or equivalent amounts of greenhouse gases, as measured by radiative forcing effects) must be removed from the atmosphere as quickly as practicable.

The Gigatonne Lab is a possible strategy for helping achieve such a goal. This programme will set a target of achieving a one gigatonne reduction of CO2 within 2 years from the beginning of operations. The aim of the lab would be to engender momentum by demonstrating that it is possible to achieve a significant and measurable reduction of emissions within a time-frame commensurate with the urgency of the decarbonization challenge. Pretty awesome. Read more about the idea here.

 OF INTEREST TO THE PRACTICE

14. Report from the SIX Vancouver Summer School (part of the SIX Summer School Annual Conference Series). The event was hosted in partnership with Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and BC Partners for Social Impact (#BCPSI), representing the global, Canadian, and British Columbian social innovation communities respectively. The report is an overview of the new ideas, critical insights, practical solutions, common experiences and stories that were shared at the three-day event.

15. Good article from Harvard Business Review – “Create a Strategy That Anticipates and Learns” – on utilising big data to develop strategy and adapt it on an ongoing basis (H/T The Moment).

16.  Interesting article arguing against empathy, instead of for it. That’s right, this is a critique of empathy, describing how empathy can create biases and blind spots and advocating for us to check our biases about empathy. Definitely worth a read!

17. Essay “Beyond Policy,” by Mathew Taylor, is about a movement or theory that argues for a departure from traditional ways of creating social change and making policy that remain “rooted in assumptions necessary half a century ago.”

Beyond Policy has three strands: One strand focuses on the problem traditional policy and decision-making has with the complexity and pace of change in the modern world. A second strand – most often applied to public service reform – argues that the relational nature of services means that change cannot be done to people, but must be continually negotiated with them, leaving as much room as possible for local discretion at the interface between public commissioner/provider and citizen/service user. A final strand is where “beyonders” (those part of the Beyond Policy movement) pursue a model of change in which the public has the right and the responsibility to be the subject, not the object.

18. Excellent think piece – “Service Design Principles For Working With The Public Sector” – by Design Managers Australia & Snook (Scotland). The piece is based on practical experience building design capability within the public sector (from the inside as public servants and from the outside as consultants) and highlights challenges, opportunities and barriers faced when embedding service design practice in the public sector.

Speaking of service design, the “service design toolkit” offers an introductory step-by-step plan and do-it-yourself guide for those wanting to give service design a go. And, if you’re in Toronto this Thursday (Nov 13), IxDA Toronto and Service Design Toronto will co-host a panel discussion on the value of service design, from both a client and practitioner perspective.

19. Great article in the Washington Post – “Teacher spends two days as a student and is shocked by what she learns” – describing the power of ethnography via a teacher’s experience and reflections. The teacher shadows a 10th grader for one day and a 12th grader for another day, doing all the things students are expected to do: take notes and listen to lectures, do tests, do chemistry lab experiments, etc. “It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!”

20. Fun blog post and useful metaphor: “5 Prototyping lessons from a BMX backflip” uses a BMX backflip to talk through the different stages and important lessons for prototyping. These key lessons are:

1. Deconstruct the challenge
2. Minimize risk
3. Use ignored resources
4. Remove as much as possible
5. Maximize cycles of learning
(BONUS!) And when you are done, take the learning forward, not the thing…

21. Booklist from Brain Pickings: Reading lots of different things helps us see new and unusual connections. Here is some inspiration for choosing your next book, across art, science, psychology and more.

Services to the public and a new role for business

SiG Note: This article was originally published on the Conferedation of British Industry’s Public Services Network forum on 1 October, 2014 and on Collaborate on 13 October, 2014. It has been cross-posted with permission from the authors.

Lord Victor Adebowale

Public services is too narrow a concept to capture the shift that government and the policy world need to make. Instead, we need to be talking about ‘services to the public,’ and re-thinking all of our roles within a new delivery landscape.

This might not sound controversial, but the consequences are. They could re-shape the public services market and the role of business in society. Here are three reasons why, three starting points for reform, and three things business should be doing about it.

1. The Landscape is getting more complex

The operating context for public services is becoming increasingly complex — both in terms of the scope of social need and demand, and the means through which these needs can be addressed. Our work with the Institute for Government found that, in areas of multiple or complex social need, commissioning arrangements are often undermined by a lack of proper citizen engagement and can be distorted by payment mechanisms that one provider called “blunt instruments” designed to control cost and shift risk to the detriment of citizens. Those with the most complex and pressing needs can be affected most.

2. Managing demand needs a whole-of-market approach

Our research suggests that around 75% of citizens think that government has a role to play in improving living standards, finding a decent place to live, and being in meaningful work. Yet government is only one player in a diverse market, and traditional service solutions are clearly not enough. We need to work across the sectors to find better ways of meeting demand upstream, with business in particular playing a stronger and more socially aware role supporting employment, mobility, and new enterprise within communities. The JRF’s Julia Unwin argues that the high street is, in some senses, becoming the new front-line of public services. She points to a broader truth about our shared responsibility for identifying and meeting social need.

3. We aren’t even getting to first base with the public

Citizen engagement is both absolutely essential and frequently misunderstood. Our research with Ipsos MORI shows that only 14% of citizens feel they have a stake in the public services they receive, and only 24% felt their needs are regularly met. We should be depressed about these findings. Yet they should not just only be a spur to service improvement — a majority feel that the way people are treated is just as important as (and indeed intrinsic to) the outcome. In the wake of scandals in the public services market, business must take a lead in embedding values of dignity and respect in the delivery of public services.

These issues are fundamental  —  they get to the root of what a service to the public should feel like and what the role of business should be in delivering them. Values, respect and an absolute focus on citizens and communities are vital. How can we incentivise this?

 

Here are three starting points:

1. Create proper platforms for citizen-driven commissioning

We cannot effect demand management, behaviour change or collaborative commissioning without real insight into the needs, wants, assets and aspirations of communities, with citizens themselves leading this process. Creating the right conditions and methodologies to do this is a vital first step which the public sector should lead, learning from smart emerging practice in places as diverse as Oldham, Suffolk, Derbyshire, Wiltshire, Haringey and Sunderland.

2. Prepare ourselves to collaborate better

We don’t pay enough attention to our readiness to collaborate – and this is a crucial barrier to making it happen in practice. We frequently prioritise structure over culture. In the health service for example, it is curious that far less attention has been afforded to the individual and collective valence of clinicians, managers and public leaders to work together. Without this, structural change will struggle to change cultures and frontline practice — something Collaborate will be addressing in our forthcoming Health Collaboration Lab.

3. Encourage future leaders to think across sectors

Collaborating in public services requires a different form of leadership – less command and control, more adaptive and distributed, and more attuned to the need for give and take without complete control. This is well-trodden ground in theory, and in the private sector. For the public sector (in which management and risk is undoubtedly more complex), adopting this stance in a period of extreme uncertainty is difficult. Yet we are seeing emerging examples in local government and much enthusiasm for the value of ‘leading across the sectors’, as a recent Collaborate report with the Clore Social Leadership Programme sets out.

Dr Henry Kippin

So far so consensual (though hardly widespread), and no doubt something business can sign up to. But like most collaborations that have value, there is an inherent stickiness too. Acknowledging and addressing this will be a true marker of the willingness of public service businesses to lead a new, values-driven way of delivering.

Businesses need to re-think their responsibilities to the public upon which they rely.

Enjoying the patronage of the public is not something that should be taken lightly. Citizens value dignity, treatment and respect as well as outcomes, and it is not enough for organisations delivering services to the public to say “we weren’t contracted to do that,” or “we just deliver.” Shared responsibility means holding ourselves to account on principles of inclusiveness, re-distribution, fiscal integrity and public value. The best businesses will (and do) embrace this agenda, just as the public and social sectors should too.

There are important implications at different levels. At the macro level, the CBI is right to call for a culture of transparency and honesty about public service contracting and delivery — particularly as the unintended consequences of poor contracting decisions in some big areas of public spending become apparent.

At the local level, businesses can and should be stepping up to the plate to be part of a more collaborative growth setup — working far more obviously with local authorities, skills and education providers, and the social sector in communities. And at the micro level, there is a clear need to create closer, more engaged and more co-productive relationships with citizens, playing out at ground level the values we espouse in the boardroom.

Better relationships between business, state and society must be at the heart of our future model of services to the public. But let’s not wait for the perfect roadmap to be drawn out in Whitehall. The best of the private sector will make value-driven change happen now, and we are supporting them in their efforts to do it.

Listen to Lord Adebowale speak at our last CBI Public Service Network event:

Co-production: A powerful approach for public service designers

There are many entry points for co-production: well-being and happiness indexes, asset-based community development, opportunities for impact investing and social impact bonds, the transition town movement, innovations in elder care, collaborative consumption and the list goes on. Co-production is an approach so well suited to creating positive social change that once it is learned you start seeing potential for it everywhere.

At least that was my reaction. I first learned about co-production during a work term at MindLab in 2011. As a research analyst for the Danish cross-ministry innovation lab, I scoured the web and devoured any reports, articles, blog posts and news stories I could find on the topic. Lucie Stephens, the head of co-production at the United Kingdom–based new economics foundation (nef) had written many of these pieces. For the past 10 years, Lucie and her nef colleagues have been thinking, writing about and doing co-production. We were delighted to have Lucie join SiG’s Inspiring Action for Social Impact Series (in partnership with the MaRS Global Leadership series) to share her latest thoughts on co-production via a public talk at MaRS last week.

 

What’s the big fuss? Co-production is a different approach to public service delivery

In a nutshell, co-production is about designing and delivering services in a true partnership with both citizens and professionals. That’s right, citizens are expected to take responsibility, alongside professionals, for helping themselves and one another. The secret sauce of co-production is that it values professional training and lived experience equally. By blending top-down and bottom-up expertise during the design and ongoing delivery of services, the approach creates better outcomes for citizens and is more cost effective for governments.

“Co-production is a relationship where professionals and citizens share power to plan and deliver support together, recognizing that both partners have vital contributions to make in order to improve quality of life for people and communities.” —Co-production Critical Friends Group, 2012

Co-design is obvious, but co-delivery is not… yet

The strategic design (and design-thinking) community has long embraced both human-centred approaches that prioritize the needs of the end user above all and participatory approaches that involve end users throughout the design process. However, it is still less common for designers to incorporate end users as part of the ongoing delivery of the service—that is, for the end users to be co-deliverers alongside the professionals.

ContentImage-18-287197-ScreenShot20130508at123420PM

c/o The Challenge of Co-Production

Furthermore, designers who are incorporating co-delivery seem to be doing so almost by accident, without realizing all of the positive benefits of this approach. A designer may choose to incorporate co-delivery because he or she recognizes that doing so makes the service more responsive to the realities on the ground, as well as cheaper to operate than what is currently in place. However, he or she may not realize the added sociological benefits. For example, contributing is an essential daily ingredient for well-being. Enabling someone to give back to society also yields other positive benefits, like a strengthened social fabric, which in turn leads to greater feelings of safety, trust, inclusion and quality of life for those who are part of that community.

While it is important to note that co-production is not the answer for all services, there is an enormous opportunity to incorporate a co-production approach in many of our public services. Public services that traditionally have long-term relationships with citizens, such as caregiving, healthcare, justice and education, make particularly good candidates for re-designs that consider co-production. Despite its incredible potential, co-production remains largely under-used, as many designers are not aware of its full range of capabilities.

The Family by Family program illustrates the power of co-production

Designed by the team behind In With For at the The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, Family by Family is a mentoring program where a network of families helps other families to grow and change together. The In With For team aimed to address the problem that an increasing number of children were being taken out of their families and thrust into foster care while social services did not have the resources to keep up with the growing demand.

The In With For team spoke with and involved end users (the families) throughout the design process. What surfaced was that struggling families would benefit immensely from support and mentorship from other families who had been through similar rough times, who were now doing better and who could share their lived experiences. Family by Family matches whole families with whole families, shifts the roles of professionals from experts to coaches, increases resources as the program succeeds (and as there are more families to help other families) and focuses on thriving rather than simply surviving.

What I find particularly exciting about this example is that it enables families to become self-reliant and empowered by their services, not at the mercy of them. Plus, it takes an asset-based approach (abundance thinking) that values and celebrates the skills, innate gifts and lived experiences that already exist within the members of the families. Through this example, service designers can see how progressing past co-design to include co-delivery can significantly accelerate the positive impact of a service solution.

Co-production is not a new approach; it is the way we did things before there were public services. Using co-production intentionally as an approach to designing public services has the power to help us transition to a world where communities spearhead the changes that are most relevant to their needs, with the support of government policy.

Are you wondering if your service involves co-production? Check it against nef’s list of six co-production principles.

  1. An asset-based approach: Does your service acknowledge and celebrate the assets within the community?
  2. Working on capabilities: Does your service build the skills of those involved?
  3. Developing mutuality: Does your service broker a true partnership between professional and user?
  4. Growing networks: Does your service support, share and stretch, connecting with those other than the usual suspects?
  5. Blurring roles: Some people are paid, others are not, but all are important.
  6. Acting as catalysts: Does your service provide a new role for professionals—from experts to coaches to facilitators?

Further co-production resources

Inspiring Co-Production Examples (mentioned in Lucie’s talk)

Editor’s note: this blog originally appeared in the MaRS Blog on July 29, 2013. It has been cross-posted with permission.