Is our playbook out of date?

A photo by Greg Rakozy. unsplash.com/photos/oMpAz-DN-9I

Canada spends over $300 billion annually on social outcomes, according to the OECD. Our fast-evolving societal challenges — ranging from mental health, Indigenous communities’ access to quality education, and a lack of affordable housing — demand equally fast-paced and nimble research, learning, experimental and replicating approaches so people can access the best possible services, supports and solutions, no matter where they live in Canada. This is where R&D comes in.

Canada’s not-for-profit, charitable, B Corp, and social enterprise organizations have built strong capabilities in volunteer management, donor stewardship, and program delivery, among other things. Along with an appreciation and celebration of these competencies, there is increasing consensus that social change in the 21st century requires an additional strong capacity and capability in research and development, or R&D.  

Just as R&D in the business world drives new and improved products and services, R&D can also help social mission organizations generate significant and rapid advancements in services and solutions that change lives. However, currently only a small proportion of social mission organizations repeatedly incorporate a wide range of new knowledge (like insights into how the brain works and how positive behaviours can be encouraged) or new technologies (like machine learning) or new processes (like human centred design).  

R&D is not yet well understood, funded or widely practiced by the social impact sector and thus is not yet adopted as a core organizational practice. It is a new field with a small body of codified knowledge and practice.

The “Social R&D” exploration aims to catalyze a change. The exploration is incubated by SiG, seeded by The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, and is championed by a growing movement of organizations including: Open North, Community Foundations of Canada, MaRS, Engineers Without Borders Canada, among many others.

The new report, Getting to Moonshot: Inspiring R&D practices in Canada’s social impact sector authored by SiG Fellow Vinod Rajasekaran, with a Foreword by Nesta’s Chief Executive Geoff Mulgan, highlights 50 compelling R&D practices from 14 organizations across Canada, including: Saint Elizabeth’s field visits with frontline staff, GrantBook’s digital simulations, Skills Society’s neighbourhood prototyping and The MATCH International Women’s Fund’s 15% staff time for experimentation. The report illustrates that pursuing R&D helps organizations minimize costs in program growth, track improvements and learning more effectively, and ultimately deliver better outcomes for and with the people they serve. The intention in the future is to move beyond the report and host an online collection of practices with open access.

There are wonderful elements of R&D in Canada’s social impact sector and this report is an attempt to make a small portion of them visible to demonstrate that investment in R&D is a critical success factor in seeing measurable gains in social wellbeing. Against a backdrop of increasingly complex social, ecological and economic challenges, together we can transform how social mission organizations enhance lives for the 21st century.

SiG invites grantmakers, philanthropists, governments, and practitioners to join the movement to boost Social R&D capacity, capability, infrastructure and capital in communities across Canada.

Where the Magic Happens: Highlights from SIX

Key learnings from places of vulnerability, emergence & gratitude
C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

During the close of the seventh annual SIX Summer School, 150 bright-eyed participants chatted excitedly in a room overlooking Vancouver’s False Creek, a scenic inlet separating downtown Vancouver from the shores of Vanier Park and Fairview. The organizers shared their final words. Six ambassadors — participants chosen to witness key themes — offered concluding insights on empathy, empowerment, courage, beauty, power and love, and generations. The room’s energy was almost palpable. Things were coming to a close.

As the coordinator of the Summer School and Social Innovation Week Vancouver, I had the opportunity to offer my own final words. The thoughts I shared were those of boundless gratitude. I admitted that the largest event I could recall organizing was my twenty-fourth birthday party. The jump from local social planner to lead coordinator of an international conference was not part of the career plan. And yet the faith my supervisors placed in me opened up the opportunity for me to dive into something completely unknown. As I stood overlooking the crowd, knowing that my team had co-piloted this event to success, I felt deeply humbled.

A month following, my sentiment of thankfulness is the same. In this post, I offer four of my personal highlights from the global conference and the week’s flurry of concurrent social innovation events.

Creating the Conditions for Social Innovation
C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

Our visionary maestro, Al Etmanski, guided the SIX organizing team on a journey to “get social innovation into Canada’s water supply.” Al, along with Tim Draimin and Cheryl Rose, perceived the global SIX Summer School as a unique opportunity for Canada – our nation’s time had come.

The SIX Summer School created the conditions for an international group of radical doers and thinkers to convene with local and regional changemakers. From government and activist organizations through to businesses and foundations, Canadians of all stripes participated in SIX, gaining new connections and insights. It was through intentionally linking local Canadians with global practitioners that some of the greatest value of SIX and Social Innovation Week was realized.

Vulnerability is the secret sauce

In the early days of developing the conference program, the Canadian team was bent on creating something different. Our team had the privilege of attending numerous conferences and we knew we didn’t want to simply create a container for the same conversations. We wanted to shake things up! We wanted people to feel a little uncomfortable. That is where the magic happens…

Where the magic happensAlthough the conference program had three themes – society, sector and self – “the self was our secret sauce,” as BCPSI partner Ken Gauthier identified.

During the first full day of SIX, participants were welcomed with the local traditions of the Musqueam People, involving a purifying cedar brushing ceremony and evocative song and dance. The opening plenary was a deep exploration into vulnerability, led by two of Canada’s leading social innovation thinkers, Frances Westley and Vickie Cammack. The visceral cultural experience and thought-provoking morning dialogue were designed to open participants’ hearts and minds to vulnerability. Empathy, humility, and honesty with oneself lay the groundwork for understanding how to make change.

“If we are afraid of our desert places then we become more afraid of the vulnerability outside ourselves — of the other” – Frances Westley 

Putting Faith in Emergence

In order to execute on Al’s grand vision for SIX Summer School Vancouver and Social Innovation Week Vancouver, I had to put great faith in my team, our 22 partner organizations, my own abilities, and the elusive magic that is emergence. I believe emergence is about letting go of control and expectations and allowing ideas and actions to happen organically. When you make room for people to animate a space, you empower them to create something awesome – truly awe-inspiring. It was our team’s responsibility to highlight the opportunities of SIX for innovative organizations, embrace ambiguity, and allow the cultural norms of our partners to inform the week’s direction.

Boundless Gratitude

Most importantly, what stays with me is the gratefulness I feel for working with so many incredible people. Our partner organizations could not have been more creative, thoughtful, positive and driven to make Social Innovation Week the success that it was.

C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

C/O Komal Minhas for KoMedia

As I move on from my role, I will reflect fondly on the time when hundreds of Canadian and international leaders came together to celebrate social change. Now, more than ever, I believe that we can learn more together by learning from one another. Together we can start to understand where to leap next.

Who organizes SIX Summer Schools?

Since 2007, each Summer School has been co-organized by the global partner, Social Innovation Exchange, and a local in-country partner. This year, there were two local partners – BC Partners for Social Impact (#BCPSI) and Social Innovation Generation (SiG), representing British Columbia and Canada respectively.

On seeking, sharing and systems change

If there’s one sentiment I have expressed a number of times over the past 2 weeks, it is gratitude. SiG and our partners have been metaphorically swimming in inspiring stories told by Canadian indigenous leaders and stories told of social lab interventions that are positively transforming lives in different parts of the world, while building relationships with a host of change-makers that are in equal measure genius and humble. The only hard thing about all this goodness is choosing where to begin to make sense of all of the learning, translate the stories of successful change-making to a Canadian context, and offer some resources to adapt the best pieces of  work.

Thanks to the kickoff event of Social Innovation Canada 2014 featuring Dana Shen, Director of Family by Family from South Australia, I feel confident in offering a place to start. SiG has taken a look at Family by Family before — as early as 2011 — courtesy of the co-designer of the model, Sarah Schulman of InWithForward. Hearing about it again from Dana meant a deeper dive into the model and hearing about its impact and adaptation over time.

Here is a quick summary of what Family by Family does (I’ll leave it to Dana herself to explain it in full on video):

In 2010, The Australia Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) asked the South Australian government what they wanted to focus on in terms of better social service outcomes. The government asked for an intervention to bring down the high numbers of children in the formal protection system. TACSI, working with Sarah Schulman and Chris Vanstone, developed a peer-to-peer solution that looks astonishingly simple on the surface: families who have come through tough times mentor families experiencing tough times. Or in the words of Family by Family, sharing families mentor seeking families.

Watch Dana explain how getting to this solution was a learning experience in collaboration between unusual partners, in trust-building and in adaptation:

Family by Family: Australian social innovation in action – MaRS Global Leadership from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.

Following this MaRS Global Leadership presentation, Dana joined SiG and 160+ participants at SIX Vancouver, May 27-29, where we were privileged to hear an opening discussion between Dr. Frances Westley and Tyze Founder, Vickie Cammack. The conversation focused on the effects of culture on our spirits, our organizations and our society. In many ways I feel the key to Family by Family’s success was in taking the time to understand the culture it was entering – that of families experiencing difficult times and why change was so difficult to achieve.

The result of TACSI engaging with community in the design and prototyping of Family by Family was an equally deep impact on the so-called experts charged with delivering the program. Dana spoke to the benefits of Family by Family for the culture inside the public sector in South Australia, those delivering the program at Family by Family and the broader TACSI design team. So profound has been the impact, that TACSI and the government are looking for ways to scale the model.

During Frances and Vickie’s discussion, the conversation turned to a desire to understand resilience and vulnerability more deeply. Being open to exploring our own vulnerability also opens up opportunities to see and understand others. As Frances reflected, if you can’t touch the vulnerability in yourself, you can’t touch it in others either. And the result is that our fear of the “other” increases. We don’t have to look far to see fear guiding many interactions across cultures in the world.

Six Day 1 Musqueam Welcome and Interview with Frances Westley 125

Photo Credit: Komal Minhas for KoMedia

Following the discussion, Dana reflected on our shared journey — on the fact that we are all in this world together; that we all want similar things. As Allyson Hewitt said at the end of Dana’s MaRS presentation, we are always sharing and seeking change. And it’s not a one-way street.

The Family by Family program has seen sharing families — those willing to volunteer time to support those experiencing tough times — become seeking families themselves. These times of vulnerability are to be expected and need not be permanent. As a community acting together and understanding each other more deeply, we can become more resilient. Vickie Cammack may refer to this as a recognition of our interdependence. The Family by Family model is supporting a strengthening in community resilience. As seeking families achieve their goals, they increase their ability to share their experience and learning with others. At scale, the impact is a sea-change — this increased resilience enables the flow of resources, both personal and community, towards systemic change. We all seek support and understanding at different times in our lives. Being awake to this is not to be stuck, but to be open to others. In a second post about Social Innovation Canada 2014, I will explore what it means to know our own fears and desires better, as well as those of others with whom we experience conflict, thanks to the wonderful contribution of David Diamond at SIX Vancouver. The ability to understand others through understanding ourselves is the result of a deepening empathy. SiG is so pleased to be co-presenting a conversation with Bill Drayton, Founder of Ashoka, on June 19th at MaRS. Bill has turned his extensive experience towards supporting and promoting entrepreneurs fostering empathy in our world. You can see details on that event here.

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 Labdescribed 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

 

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

C/O VBG

C/O VBG

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 March 2014. In no particular order:

1. Booklet by Innovation Unit, “10 Ideas for 21 Century Healthcare,” describes an exciting possible future where services are delivered in radically different (empowering!) ways. The booklet provides compelling examples from around the world of how the ideas are being brought to life and explores some of the vital principles underpinning 21st century healthcare.

2. Great simple ideas for bringing more wellbeing and happiness into our everyday lives: 100 days of happy, a pledge to acknowledge and share one thing per day that makes us happy, and 24 hours of happy, a seemingly never-ending dance video of people dancing in the streets, in buildings, in gardens, with friends, to an addictively upbeat tune.

3. Excellent report,Systemic Innovation” by The Social Innovation Europe Initiative (SIE), explains what systemic innovation is, explores strategies for transforming systems, highlights European examples of initiatives driving towards systems change, and makes recommendations on how to support systemic social innovation.

4. Blog post with a rich collection of resources,45 Design Thinking Resources for Educators,” that are useful to anyone wanting to understand more about the design thinking movement and how strategic design may be relevant and helpful in your own setting (education-related or not).

5. Interesting read, “Systems, Messes and Interactive Planning” essay by Russell Ackoff, about the System around us, how we got into some of the mega messes (a.k.a. wicked problems), and why they are so tough to navigate and address (h/t John Maeda).

6. Huffington Post article, “What does public innovation mean?,” answers this question by pointing out that public innovation isn’t necessarily about something shiny, new or complex, but it is about something that works better, leads to better results, and creates a better pathway forward.

7. For the last half of March, three members of InWithForward were in Toronto, ON to work with St. Christopher House. The team were there to capture stories and start to re-imagine, with Drop-in Centre members and staff, what could be different for the Meeting Place and other Toronto Drop-in Centres at a system-level, service-level, neighbourhood-level, and relationship-level. The team is now onto their next Canadian starter project in Burnaby, BC. Make sure to check out InWithForward’s business model and hunches, which offer a super interesting and innovative approach to running a lab.

8. Pretty neat! “Design Action Research With Government” is a guide (with examples) for designing and implementing civic innovations with Government.

9. Super interesting blog post, “Social Sciences in Action,” by Jakob Christiansen of MindLab, where he shares the exploration, debate and “a-has!” from a meeting between social scientists Sarah Schulman (InWithForward), Anna Lochard (La 27e Region) and Jakob. Take a peek into their minds as they dive into questions like: How do we put social sciences into action and not just design thinking? What is the role of everyday people in our work? How do we spread and scale processes, not just products? “Of course, what we came up with was not definitive or polished. But it did open up some new arguments and ways of conceptualizing issues we each face in our day-to-day practice.”

10. Blog post, “How Social Innovation Labs Design and Scale Impact” by the Rockefeller Foundation, about the social innovation labs they support (including MaRS Solutions Lab!) and their thinking around the global labs movement.

11. We are always on the look-out for social innovation resources in French and we came across a bunch this month. We learned about the following french terms for “wicked problems:” problèmes complexes, problèmes irréductibles, problèmes indécidables, problèmes malins, problèmes épineux, and problèmes vicieux (h/t to Stéphane Vial and François Gougeon). Also, the National Collaboration Centre for Healthy Public Policy and the Quebec Government published this excellent french information page on wicked problems, “Les problèmes vicieux et les politiques publiques,” which explains and describes what wicked problems are and applies the concept to the realm of public health. There is also a new social innovation blog, “CRÉATIVITÉ 33” by Andre Fortin (formerly with  l’Institut du Nouveau Monde LABIS), with tools and advice for innovating. And finally, here is a round-up of what French Lab La 27e Région has in store for 2014 (they have English resources too – check them out, they are excellent communicators!).

12. Excellent report, “Innovation in 360 Degrees: Promoting Social Innovation in South Australia,” from Geoff Mulgan’s term as Adelaide’s Thinker In Residence. The report is from 2008, but there are tons of great insights for government innovators and systempreneurs. Geoff highlights key elements of public sector innovation, examples from around the world, South Australia’s biggest challenge areas (that are not dissimilar to Canada’s), and recommendations for becoming future-ready.

13. Provocative read: Guardian article challenges us to rethink the idea of the state as a catalyst for big bold ideas. Author Mariana Mazzucato argues that a program of forward-thinking public spending is crucial for a creative, prosperous society and that we must stop seeing the state as a malign influence or a waste of taxpayers’ money: “…the point of public policy is to make big things happen that would not have happened anyway. To do this, big budgets are not enough: big thinking and big brains are key.”

14. The Young Foundation announced that they’ve added top innovators to the team to spearhead its mission to disrupt inequality. You will gasp “wow” when you see the list, which includes Indy Johar (check out the SiG webinar with Indy, “From One to Many: Building Movements For Change,” from a couple months ago to get a taste of his thinking).

15. Great book lists this month: A team of editors at The Die Line, a platform and blog for package design, curated a selection of their favourite design strategy books (h/t Alexander Dirksen). The Guardian, with help from readers, came up with a list of the best books on policy leadership and innovation. And for a sure-fire way to get lost down the rabbit hole, Designers & Books is a website where 50 famous designers share the books — 678 in total — that inspire them (h/t John Pavlus via Andrea Hamilton).

16. Blog post from the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “The Ugly Truth About Scale,” offers three tips to those in the social sector tackling complex challenges: 1. Stop trying to feel so good; 2. Push to use technology much more strategically; and 3. Philanthropy must take risks (h/t Cameron Norman).

17. Blog post, “The Network Navigator,” explores how the power of a networked world is shifting the emphasis of work from expertise to navigation; includes the 8 skills of a Network Navigator, which are pretty interesting.

18. Last, but certainly not least, very exciting news from Alberta: the Government of Alberta announced the launch of a 1 billion dollar Social Innovation Endowment Fund – the first Canadian province to do so. The fund will support innovation via three streams, one of which is prototyping tools and methods, i.e. Labs. Here is the news release and the speech from the throne.

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

Microtainer: social innovation & lab links we’re following (Dec 2013 & Jan 2014)

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 months of December 2013 and January 2014. In no particular order:

  1. Article by Zaid Hassan exploring “what are social laboratories?” — Zaid explains that social labs are social, experimental and systemic. For a quick glance, check out Zaid’s webinar and slides via the ALIA Institute. For a deeper dive, check out his website and newly launched (this past monday!) book: the social lab revolution.

  1. Article about the UK Government’s design lab pilot: a Policy Lab to apply design principles to policy-making and public service.  Additional links in the article about the benefits of applying design in policy making.

  1. Awesome map of the global government lab landscape and website acting as a hub of information on the public innovation spaces — prepared by Daniela Selloni (Polimi DESIS Lab) and Eduardo Staszowski (Parsons DESIS Lab), Christian Bason (MindLab) and Andrea Schneider (Public By Design).

  1. Operating much like a think tank within the Singapore Government, the Centre for Strategic Futures acts on what will be the important challenges of the tomorrow — aiming to create an agile public sector in Singapore.

  1. Nesta’s Geoff Mulgan writes an excellent paper about design in government and social innovation and blog post with smart suggestions for making the case for social innovation to elected officials.

  1. Media update and project summary about the European Design Innovation Platform (EDIP) – a project to increase the use of design for innovation and growth across Europe, financed by the European Commission and in collaboration with Design Council, MindLab and others.

  1. Online mentoring and training program about Gov 3.0 offered by The Governance Lab (GovLab) out of NYU. The website also provides thinking and exploration into the notion of Gov3.0 (different from gov 2.0).

  1. ReportRestarting Britain 2” by Design Council explores the impact of design on public, private and design sectors and shows that the best of design thinking can help to make (public) services more relevant to current needs and reduce cost.

  1. PaperThe Journey to the Interface: how public sector design can connect user to reform” by UK-based think tank Demos explores public service design and it’s relationship with citizen engagement and co-production.

  1. Upcoming book (September 2014 release) “Design for Policy” by MindLab’s Christian Bason provides a detailed analysis of design as a tool for addressing public problems and capturing opportunities for achieving better and more efficient societal outcomes for citizens and governments (ie. co-design, co-creation, co-production). Also see Christian’s latest blog post: 2014 will be the year of Experimentation talking about the shifting narrative in the public sector around learning from failure (and along the experimentation vein, don’t miss the upcoming Fail Forward Festival coming to Toronto in July).

  1. Great blog and master’s program on service innovation and design offered by the Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Espoo, Finland. Also, there is a PhD in design for public services out of the AHO university in Oslo, Norway.

  1. Excellent articulation of empathy — this video by RSA Shorts to the soothing voice of Brene Brown (of the Tedtalk on vulnerability) and this bookRealizing Empathy” by Slim (thanks to Andrea Hamilton for letting me know about this great talk at Rotman as part of Rotman’s ongoing speaker series… last night was David Kelley of IDEO and coming up is Geoff Mulgan).

  1. Explanation of a powerful convening technique called “Peer Input Process” via the Tamarack Institute. Peer Input Process is a technique was designed to assist people obtain input from peers in a relatively quick and structured way.

  1. Blog post about embracing difference and how cultivating our ability to collaborate among diverse stakeholders will allow us to create truly transformative change. Written by the wonderfully articulate art of hosting steward Tuesday Ryan-Hart.

  1. Blog post on the Good website “From Pools to School Lunches: Why public interest design is changing the way we do things” overflowing with exciting projects at the intersect of design x public (and societal) good.

  1. Blog post by Amanda Mundy of The Moment about the journey and lessons learned from designing and setting up their innovation studio.

  1. The audio from a Metro Morning (radio) interview with John Brodhead exploring the future of public transportation and engaging in cross-sector collaborations. In this article, John also talks about his upcoming initiative “100 in 1 Day” where 100 urban ‘interventions’ will spring up across to Toronto in June (inspired by Montreal, Copenhagen and Bagota).

  2. The bookHappy City: Transforming our lives through urban design” by Charles Montgomery from the Museum of Vancouver (and MOV’s CityLab) gets rave reviews in the New York Times (glad I got this book for my BFF’s birthday!).

  3. Great concept: Pop Up Parks! The idea was part of Design Council’s Knee High Design Challenge (more info about the challenge and the other awesome projects ideas here). Also interesting on the topic of parks is Nesta paperRethinking Parks”, which highlights the need for new business models to run parks, given cuts in government funding, and discusses 20 international examples of how parks innovators are doing just that. (check out the Nesta’s Rethinking Parks contest to submit your ideas)

– Satsuko

We’re Hiring! Social Innovation Generation (SiG) Communications Intern

Organization: MaRS Discovery District
Industry: Not-for-profit
# of Positions: 1
Position: Communications Intern

Posted: Dec 12, 2013
Application Deadline: Jan 03, 2014
Start Date: Feb 03, 2014
Term of Internship: 9 months

Address: 101 College Street, Suite 100,
Toronto, ON, M5G 1L7

Job Description:

Social Innovation Generation (SiG) is a collaborative partnership comprised of The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the University of Waterloo, the MaRS Centre in Toronto, and the PLAN Institute. SiG believes that complex, persistent, and “wicked” social and ecological problems can be solved. Our focus is enhancing Canada’s resilience by engaging the creativity and resources of all sectors to collaborate on social innovations that have impact, durability, and scale. Visit our website for more information.

SiG National is looking for an Intern to contribute to its team. To allow social innovations to flourish, the SiG intern will contribute to our goal to support whole systems change through changing the broader economic, cultural, and policy context in Canada.

Reporting to the Communications Manager, the Intern will have a broad portfolio of responsibilities, engaging across program related activities, with a strong focus on communications, educational materials development, promotional activities and social media. With a small team around you, this is a terrific opportunity for you to build a portfolio of communications assets as you begin your career.

At a time when “the need and desire for change is profound,” this is an exciting opportunity to work in a dynamic professional context to experiment with a different way of telling a story, learning new practices for tipping systems, and helping to create new possibilities for building resilience.

Responsibilities:

  • Support the Communications Manager in the execution of a broad strategy to foster cross-sector understanding of social innovation processes;
  • Inspire and inform our organization and emerging communities through editorial coordination of the blog;
  • Support the development and marketing of our knowledge mobilization strategy;
  • Drive engagement with SiG online platforms – website, Knowledge Hub, social media communities;
  • Assist the Communications Manager in the marketing strategy, publication and dissemination of SiG knowledge products;
  • Actively engage online networks in the development of social innovation understanding and applicability to Canada
  • Provide logistical support to development activities related to the Inspiring Action for Social Impact series including meeting coordination and research support;
  • Support lab development lead in research
  • Pursue self-directed projects as inspired that result in outstanding written, visual, or audio content; and
  • Other duties as assigned.

Minimum Education:

Diploma

Mandatory Qualifications:

The successful candidate will demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • Demonstrated experience and/or ability in the development of communications products – audio and/or videoand/or written;
  • Excellent written and verbal communications skills;
  • Understanding of online community development and animation;
  • Interest in the fields of social innovation, public policy and finance;
  • Proven research capabilities;
  • Detail-oriented and self-motivated;
  • An openness to evolving responsibilities;
  • Strong organizational skills;
  • Ability to work independently and in teams; and
  • Proficiency at multitasking and prioritizing time and workload.

Additional Qualifications:

The following qualifications are considered an asset:

  • Demonstrable understanding of website processes, basic HTML, WordPress and other content platforms
  • Demonstrable understanding of design applications, particularly Adobe CS suite

Other Information:

Social Innovation Generation (National) is based at the MaRS Centre in downtown Toronto.

Employer Question #1:

Why does working for SiG appeal to you?

Employer Question #2:

What experiences in your past qualify you for this opportunity?

Employer Question #3:

What examples of social innovation in Canada or around the world inspire you?

To apply, please register on Career Edge and submit your application through Career Edge’s job posting “Social Innovation Generation(SiG)/ Communications Intern.”

Microtainer: social innovation & lab links we’re following (November 2013)

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 November 2013. In no particular order:

1. The UK Cabinet Office announces that they will be launching a policy lab in Dec 2014. This lab will work with government departments to tackle their toughest problems drawing on service design and human centred design methods. Rather than the focus being on greater internal efficiency, the lab will focus on creating better outcomes for end users (citizens).

2. Awesome manifestos by Brute Labs (design and tech studio with all-volunteer team that has launched 11 social change projects around the world) and InWithForward (the latest project by Sarah Schulman + Jonas, Dan, Yani).

3. Article by Beth Kanter “Seven Truths about Change to Lead By and Live By” expanding on great quotes including: “Change is a threat when done to me, but an opportunity when done by me”, “Change is a campaign, not a decision”, and “Everything can look like a failure in the middle”.

4. Report by nef’s Lucie Stephens and Julia Slay: Co-production in Mental Health: a literature review. The report looks at how co-production is being used in the mental health field, i.e. what evidence there is of the impact of co-production on mental health support, and which aspects of co-production are being developed in the sector.

5. Blog post by MindLab’s Christian Bason: Is the public sector more innovative than we think? Christian hypothesizes that the public sector is better at innovation than the private sector.

6. Super interesting talk by Indy Johar “Do it for (y)ourself” bursting with ideas for community-led social change, reflections on the challenge of scale, and the tension of ‘the craft’ and ‘the knowledge economy’, all in less than 20mins.

7. Reminded of these great method cards by IDEO: a 51 card deck to inspire design.

8. Another great article in the guardian about public service design. This one looks at asking quesitons, embracing risk and user-centred design. ‘Get creative: eight tips for designing better public services

9. Blog post by Nesta’s Laura Bunt exploring whether we need to find a better definition for social innovation.

10. Report exploring the relationship between Art and Resilience and how fortifying a city’s social and cultural fabric is just as (or more?) important as upgrading a city’s emergency response, planners, policy makers, social innovators, etc.

11. Metcalf report by reknowned ecological economists Tim Jackson and Peter Victor about work-life balance, wellbeing and the green economy at the community scale.

12. Recent blog posts by Assaf Weis on the sharing economy (Sharing Can Truly Disrupt Business) and Kaitlin Almack on building partnerships (Increasing the Impact of CSR Through Multi-Stakeholder Collaborations)

13. Infographic comparing ‘old design thinking’ with human centered design and co-design

14. Issue No. 2 of The Alpine Review includes articles by Bryan Boyer (about cultures of decision making) and Dan Hill (about Fabrica).

15. Awesome graphic recorders and facilitators: ThinkLink Graphics, Ripple Think Inc, PlaythinkDScribe. Also, see this monthly meet-up for visual thinkers.

What have we missed? We invite you to share in the comment section the resources that you’ve come across recently that you think would be interesting to this community!

– Hyun-Duck and Satsuko

Microtainer: social innovation & lab links we’re following (October 2013)

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 2013. In no particular order:

1. Excellent list of resources about public sector innovation following a conference in Switzerland: REDESIGN:GOV. Event tagline: “Is there hope to make government more innovative?”

2. Reflective blog posts following a Toronto lab practitioners gathering in September. Julie Sommerfreund, via theToronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) blog, explores the nature of complex problems in her post: Wicked problems need wicked cool solutions. Kaitlin Almack blogs about Leading Boldly Network’s theory of change in her post: Exploring Collaborative Social Innovation; and Courtney Lawrence reflects on the well being and the human element in her post: Emotions In Innovation.

3. Video interviews, panel discussions and talks from ‘CityLab: Urban Solutions to Global Challenges”, an event that brought together 300 global city leaders for a series of conversations about urban ideas that are shaping the world’s metro centers.

4. Zaid Hassan of Reos Partners launched a new book: The Social Labs Revolution. During  April 21-29, Zaid will be touring Canada to offer training workshops drawing on his experience in addressing complex challenges. Also see his excellent summary of the Change Lab approach, his recent post on the NESTA blog, and this facebook group.

5. The bookPublic and Collaborative: Exploring The Intersection of Design, Social Innovation and Public Policy” includes 11 articles that presents labs’ projects and activities during 2012-2013. The book has four themes: 1) Designing New Relationships Between People and the State, 2) Design Schools as Agents of Change, 3) Experimental Places for Social and Public Innovation, 4) Collaborative Design Methods and Tools: The Teen Art Park Project. The book was edited and coordinated by Ezio Manzini and Eduardo Staszowski of the DESIS Labs network with 23 authors — including Toronto’s Luigi Ferrara of Institute without Boundaries.

7. Slides and videos from MindLab’s “How Public Design” gathering in September, including a short video interview with MaRS Solutions Lab Director Joeri van den Steenhoven talking about “Institutionalizing Design Practice” and Kennisland Director Chris Sigaloff talking about “How To Use Design” in the public sector.

8. ReportWhen Bees Meet Trees” explores how large social sector organisations can help to scale social innovation (with support from NESTA)

9. Excellent website about using human centred design to improve campus mental health: Mental Health x Design. Developed through a joint project between OCAD University and Ryerson University in Toronto (curated by Andrea Yip) asking “How do we design systems and structures that will lead to more creative and mentally healthy campus communities?”.

10. Awesome blog by MaRS Solutions Lab’s latest addition, Terrie Chan, exploring the intersection of design x social innovation, ie. human-centered design, service design, systems design, and the methodology of design-thinking.

11. Reos Partners, with support from the J.W. McConnell foundation, produced this great paper on Change Labs that we recently re-discovered.

12. Short video explaining Berkana’s Two-Loops theory of systems change. I find this diagram really helpful to see where we are in systems and our role in changing them. We all have a role.

13. Website and platform ‘Learn Do Share’ is a book series, a set of collaborative experiments and methods, and a resource and r&d collective for open collaboration, design fiction & social innovation. It is closely tied to a Toronto-based gathering called diy days.

14. Article of an interview with Adam Kahane. Adam shares his thinking, reflections and valuable lessons from over two decades working in systems change, conflict brokering, and collaborating with unlikely allies.

15. Inspiring Tedx Talk by Ashoka Fellow, Founder of Time Bank USA and pioneer of poverty law, Dr. Edgar Cahn. In this talk he explains the concept of Time banking and Co-Production. The Time Banking UK website further explores the links and relationship between time banking and co-production, which is valuable to think about when developing solutions to complex challenges.

What have we missed? We invite you to share in the comment section the resources that you’ve come across recently that you think would be interesting to this community!

– Satsuko

Microtainer: social innovation & lab links we’re following (September 2013)

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 September 2013. In no particular order:

1. List of books, articles, and other readings related to simulations for social innovation labs put together by Mark Tovey of SiG@Waterloo. Topics include: social innovation, policy, modelling social and political systems, tools for groups, toolkits, information design, and interaction design.

2. Report about ‘Design for Public Good’ that includes tools for enhancing government innovation and public service design and twelve case studies. Cases include MindLab’s ‘Young Taxpayers’ project and a profile about Helsinki Design Lab. The report’s authors are Design for Public Good and SEE (Sharing Experiences Europe) Platform.

3. New book about citizen-focused government: Putting Citizens First. Academics and practitioners from around the globe share stories about putting the citizen in the center of public development. MindLab’s Christian Bason talks about user involvement in Chapter 5 ‘Engaging Citizens in Policy Innovation’.

4. Guidebook on hosting meaningful conversations: Gather: The Art and Science of Effective Convening’ from the Rockefeller Foundation by The Rockefeller Foundation and The Monitor Institute. The guidebook covers the essentials of planning and executing effective gatherings, including: deciding whether to convene, clarifying a “north star” purpose, and making design choices that flow from that purpose, design principles, key questions, and critical issues to be considered and customized per situation.

5. NoTosh is a UK company that applies design thinking to teach and learn anything, working with schools and corporations alike. One of their recent blog posts covers Hexagonal Thinking: an effective way to help learners synthesize ideas by allowing them to quickly model different ways of organizing their thoughts. As hexagonal syntheses are often unique to individual team members, it can be used to highlight areas of uncertainty, gaps in connecting existing material, and guide subsequent ideation and prototyping work.

6. Talk by MaRS Solutions Lab Director Joeri van den Steenhoven at the RQIS (Réseau québécois en innovation sociale) conference “L’innovation sociale, un enjeu mondial”. The introduction is in French but Joeri’s talk is in English.

7. Creative Confidence is the latest collaborative project of the Kelley brothers David (founder of IDEO and Stanford’s d.school) and Tom (partner at IDEO and executive fellow at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business). Designed as a tool kit for developing creative confidence in everyone, the book includes ideas and activities that help readers to apply design thinking and processes into their personal and professional lives. The anecdotes illustrate examples of how others have done it, while providing an insider’s look into their respective organizations. David’s TedTalk (2012) provides a preview if you can’t wait for the book to come out in October 2013.

8. The Solution Revolution launched in Toronto this month. William D. Eggers & Paul Macmillan of Deloitte provides a highly readable synthesis on “how business, government, and social enterprises are teaming up to solve society’s toughest problems”. Chapter by chapter the book highlights the key players, technologies, scalable business models, new types of currencies and exchanges that are creating an exciting ecosystem of possibilities. A must-read for anyone tackling local and global challenges to create better solutions.

9. The Center for Urban Pedagogy’s (CUP) produces a “series of foldout posters that use graphic design to explore and explain public policy”. Produced four times a year, each poster is a collaborative output of a designer, an advocate, and CUP. Visit their Making Policy Public site for project schedules and submission guidelines.

10. Reflective blog posts about the state of Canada’s Lab practice by Chris Lee and Ben McCammon following a lab practitioners gathering. Chris explores human-centered design theory and complexity and asks “What is the cost of not building relationships?” in his post: Spinning Plates & Relationships. Ben guides us through a series of questions to start to unravel systems change concepts in his post: You Say You Want Systems Change.

11. Very clear and accessible definition of ‘wicked problems’ from a business and design lens. Also a useful link list to other resources. This gem was put together by the smart folks at The Austin Centre for Design.

12. A Problem Solving Primer, put together by the Australian government’s DesignGov team, is a collection of answers from decision makers, practitioners and all-around talented people around four questions: 1) What one thing would you recommend when dealing with limited resources and competing priorities? 2) What is the key thing to remember when you are confronted by complex problems? 3) When you’re confronted with a difficult issue, where do you start? 4) What is your favourite tool or technique to use in problem solving?

13. In the paperFriendly Hacking Into The Public Sector: Co-creating Public Policies Within Regional Governments’, Public Innovation Lab La 27e Region share their lessons learned and experiences with conducting fifteen experiments with nine regional administrations in France. The paper highlights the key components of friendly hacking, a framework for implementing radical innovation in the public administration context.

14. Three blog reflections from MindLab’s How Public Design seminar among lab practitioners and international innovation gurus. MaRS Solutions Lab’s Joeri van den Steenhoven explores the impact of labs and how design-led innovations can help government in his post: ‘Design Innovation and Government’. Kennisland’s Dr. Sarah Schulman explores the implications of lab solutions and of building the Lab practice in her post: ‘Means and Ends’. MindLab’s Jesper Christiansen explores what we mean by public design and take-aways from conversations at the session in his post: “How Public Design: exploring a new conversation #1” (keeping an eye out for a #2!).

15. Reflective blog posts about co-production in Canada following the Toronto Co-Production Meetup with nef’s Lucy Stephens. Lucy Gao explores the similarities, differences and overlaps between Co-Production and Collaborative Consumption in her post: ‘What Is Co-Production and How Does It Relate To Collaborative Consumption’. Melissa Tulio shares her perspective and application to the Ontario Public Service and the six elements of co-production in her post: ‘Co-Production: learnings from Lucie Stephens’. Terrie Chan explores wellbeing, public service design and the power of partnerships and collaboration in her post: ‘Putting The Public Back In Public Services And Policies: What Co-Production And Pop-Ups Can Teach Us’.

16. The bookDesign Forward: Creative Strategies for Sustainable Change’ explores how design can be used as a strategic and holistic way of finding and creating sustainable and successful solutions. Written by Frog Design founder Hartmut Esslinger.

What have we missed? We invite you to share in the comment section the resources that you’ve come across recently that you think would be interesting to this community!

Hyun-Duck and Satsuko