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.

The Game Has Changed: The Empathy Keystone

For the past six weeks, our team and our SIX Summer School Vancouver 2014 partners – Social Innovation Exchange and BC Partners for Social Impact – have been sifting through, sorting and curating the wealth of content captured during the summit. The breadth and richness of the knowledge exchange at SIX is undoubtedly enough to write a book on the State of Social Innovation in 2014. Amidst this richness, however, is exquisite simplicity; for a field dedicated to working in complexity, two ‘simple’ (even primordial) practices surfaced again and again as essential for leveraging that complexity: collaboration and empathy.

Of course, engaging in collaboration or practicing empathy is neither simple nor easy; they have been the purview of faith and philosophical teachings for 1,000s of years and the centrepiece of kindergarten teachings, workshops, trainings, retreats, literature, and research in the past century. Moreover, they are interlinked actions: collaboration is a process enabled by empathy. Given this precondition of empathy for collaboration, the collective wisdom of the SIX Summer School pointed to empathy as a keystone of social innovation.

As this became increasingly clear in curating the learnings from SIX, further connections began to unfold, linking these emergent insights from an international network of social innovators more broadly to the global community of social change practice. Close on the heels of SIX, the SiG June IASI event — in partnership with Ashoka Canada and MaRS Discovery District — was In Conversation with Bill Drayton, the founder and CEO of Ashoka; the dialogue was moderated by MaRS CEO Ilse Treurnicht. A champion and pioneer of social entrepreneurship, Drayton’s current message and mission is that the movement of the 21st century must be to nurture, teach and train empathy — especially in children.

Between the SIX Summer School, In Conversation with Bill Drayton, the ongoing work of both the SIX and Ashoka networks, and many more initiatives, it is clear that a mix of cross-pollination, simultaneous discovery, and knowledge exchange is nourishing a common valuation of empathy as the bedrock of the 21st century. A powerful mindset shift is underway.

In Conversation with Bill Drayton

For Drayton, the shift will be towards empathy-based ethics, replacing the current ethics ‘rulebook’ with a constellation of principles rooted in empathy (such as compassion, hospitality, initiative, intuition, contribution, and empowerment). Why? Because the rigidity of our current rulebook — and the rules themselves — apply less and less in an exponentially changing world. We are dragging the values, mindsets, and legal/financial structures of a Fordist, pre-digital, pre-networked system into the global, interconnected, interdependent and omnidirectional relationships of the present. The game has changed. Empathy is essential to understanding this new world and our humanity in it.

“Every child must master empathy-based ethics because the rules are changing; the less they apply the less learning them has positive impact” — Bill Drayton 

Arguably, empathy and collaboration have always mattered to the integrity of a society, but the argument now is that empathy is the essential skill to thrive socially, ecologically and economically in the present day. In a world defined by exponential rates of change across all systems, Drayton’s position is that everyone can and must be a changemaker, because change is the new game; it is not a question of whether we should nurture an ‘everyone is a changemaker world,’ it is imperative that we do so. Enabling and empowering this new norm of empathic agency is what Drayton calls a ‘teams of teams’ model; a model of collaborative co-leadership by and within teams.

A teams of teams model was similarly championed at the SIX Summer School as participants discussed the power and possibility of Public and Social Innovation Labs (PSI Labs), community-led development, co-production, co-working spaces, nested innovation hubs, cross-sector networks, and ecosystem building. The common call is that the operational norms of our relationships — working, personal, institutional, civic, and community — are shifting, and must shift, toward the principles of collaboration; a practical and mindset shift that is not only an essential driver of positive systems change, but is a form of transformative systems change itself.

“If everyone is a changemaker, there’s no way a problem can outrun a solution” — Bill Drayton

There is a convergence happening as both social entrepreneurs — which Drayton describes as entrepreneurs with big pattern-change ideas for the good of all — and communities establish a new precedent: the wellbeing of all supports the sustainable wealth of all. At the same time, system pressures are driving commerce, institutions and innovation in the same direction.  “All the evidence shows companies committed to values internally, do better financially,” says Drayton. An ethical and ecological imperative for empathy is now also an economic imperative.

“This is the most thrilling moment in human history, we are leaving an unequal, unfair world” — Bill Drayton
Practicing Empathy: Active Listening Exercise

This simple sounding exercise can be deeply challenging.  It takes one step:

(1) When listening to another person, turn off your inner monologue; silence the inner voice in your head that is reflecting, judging, observing, cataloguing, analyzing and preparing what to say next. Quiet that voice. Listen completely to the other person.

Try this with one person. Then another. Then another. Do you recall his or her name? Are you hearing more, and remembering more, about what that person is saying? Feeling?

          

In conversation with Bill Drayton from Social Innovation Generation on Vimeo

Further Resources:

Start empathy

Ashoka

Bill Drayton sees a world where ‘everyone is a changemaker’ — Christian Science Monitor

Leading With Authenticity — 2014 Skoll World Forum

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.

Preparing for Surprise: Social Innovation Week Vancouver

THE WEAVE: LOCAL, NATIONAL and INTERNATIONAL 

“It’s a coming together of local and global social innovators, and an invitation to Vancouverites and visitors to join in exploring solutions for a better world. It’s a series of gatherings and conversations that aim to inspire the changemaker in all of us” – The Tyee Presents

Social Innovation Week is a coming together — a weaving together of the momentum and energies around social innovation and social enterprise in British Columbia, across Canada, and globally.

SIW-Partners-Vertical-140507-300dpiIt is the cornerstone of Social Innovation Canada, a national movement of events, collaboration and connection across five cities during May and June.

Hosted by BC Partners for Social Impact, in collaboration with over 20 organizations from across sectors and continents, Social Innovation Week Vancouver (#SIweekVan) is curated to inspire and explore the humanity of social innovation: culture, community, care, creativity.

The week (May 26-30) is a celebration of both place and space — a convergence around British Columbia’s social change and innovation drive and a convergence of global innovators and activists in Vancouver.

B.C. has always prided ourselves on our ability to tackle challenges. The whole rise of social enterprise over the last 20 years had a really serious impetus here on the West Coast, particularly in Vancouver” – Al Etmanski, BC Partners for Social Impact [The Tyee Presents: Social Innovation Week]

THE WEFT

“We are responsible, of course, for ourselves. But, as Emmanuel Levinas insists, if we are to claim a full and proper humanity, we must claim responsibility for the other” — Roger Silverstone, Media and Morality: On the Rise of the Mediapolis

The common thread bringing Social Innovation Week together – the soul of the week – is reflection and introspection on culture, culture shift, and narratives of care. As a curated series, the Week will be an immersive, reflexive, and learning experience, inviting each of us to consider the human spirit of social innovation — and our own roles as changemakers, community members, supporters, allies…people.

These themes are at the heart of the international conference, taking place in North America for the first time, in the middle of #SIweekVan: SIX Summer School 2014. An annual event, SIX (#SIXvan14) brings together leading social innovation thinkers and practitioners, grassroots activists, and policy makers from around the world to explore some of the key issues facing the social innovation field. This year, SIX will explore: How can we increase our impact? Shifting cultures, changing systems and preparing for surprise. 

THE WARF

I hope the average British Columbian would appreciate the ingenuity and creativity that has existed in this province for thousands of years — that has never gone away” — Al Etmanski [The Tyee Presents: Social Innovation Week]

The ideas that will enliven the experience and thinking of Social Innovation Week touch on our connectedness — to each other, to our communities, to ourselves, to the present and to the past — such as…

humility & generosity • vulnerability & resilience • assumptions & beliefs • power of narrative • collaboration • cross-generational dialogue  • love & power • hospitality • inspiration & engagement • belonging & tradition • creativity • performance • community

…and the tensions, resonance and dynamics between them.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii by Bill Reid

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe by Bill Reid.   Collection of the Vancouver Airport Authority (YVR), Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Tony Hisgett

“Here we are at last, a long way from Haida Gwaii, not too sure where we are or where we’re going, still squabbling and vying for position in the boat, but somehow managing to appear to be heading in some direction; at least the paddles are together, and the man in the middle seems to have some vision of what is to come…”

- The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe by Bill Reid. Collection of the Vancouver Airport Authority (YVR), Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Tony Hisgett

SI-Week-Banner-140423 (1)

THE FABRIC:

SOCIAL CONNECTEDNESS

The Week culminates on Friday May 30th with Connect Vancouver, a day of free, family-friendly fun featuring an Ideas Jam and Urban Outdoor Festival. The Ideas Jam will be a space for Vancouverites and visitors to work through tough questions in order to re-imagine:

  • business
  • sustainability
  • schools
  • belonging
  • sharing
  • arts
  • policy
  • generational equality

The capstone of the week will be the Urban Outdoor Festival, presented by Gen Why Media and CityStudio – an evening celebrating the integration of culture, creativity, ingenuity and social innovation, where we reimagine social connectedness in an outdoor evening of conversation, celebration, public art, an urban fire and music in Vanier Park.

Check out the full event listing for #SIweekVan + The Tyee Presents Feature.
May 26-30, 2014
Join the learning and celebration. Come together!