Blog (2011-2014)

Currently showing posts tagged social innovation

  • Co-Production: A Powerful Approach For Public Service Designers

    Co-Production: A Powerful Approach For Public Service Designers

    (uncovering hidden assets: image via pinterest)

    [Note: a version of this post was previously published on the MaRS Discovery District blog and Social Innovation Generation blog]

    There are many entry points for co-production: well-being and happiness indexesasset-based community development, opportunities for impact investing and social impact bonds, the transition town movementinnovations in elder carecollaborative 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 atthe 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.

    (co-production grid: via 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 InnovationFamily 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.

    - Satsuko

    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 and facilitators?

    Further co-production resources

    Related posts: How to Catalyze Innovation In The Ontario Public Service (take-aways from an unConference at the OPS), Top 3 Co-Production Aha! Moments (reflections from my work term at MindLab), Innovations in Elder Care (provides many examples of co-production)

    Also, see the Co-Production section of Think Thrice for ongoing updated resources.

  • Architecture Of Change

    Architecture Of Change

    (image via Khooll)

    "What is the architecture of change?" asked Mark Kuznicki of The Moment, referring to what structural needs, supplies, labour, skills and other ingredients are needed to create systemic change. This was one of many big questions served up to SiG guest Bryan Boyer (Helsinki Design Lab) during a private session held at MaRS with a dozen or so social innovation ‘doers’. As part of my work with SiG, I got to be a fly on the wall as Bryan answered questions like this at engagements across the city. SiG hosted Bryan on a cross-Canada tour where he spoke at three public talks and met with government folks, funders, academics, designers, social entrepreneurs and social innovators to share his experiences and insights from work at Sitra and Helsinki Design Lab in Finland. The following is my attempt to unpack my top take-aways (around legibility, dark matter and scale) from his two days in Toronto as well as some great one-liners I was able to capture in my notebook.

    1. Making The Work Legible (through deep reflection)

    'Legibility’ caught my attention. The Helsinki Design Lab (HDL) team puts extra effort into making their work legible to a broad audience; i.e., accessible and digestible, so that it’s easy for people to identify and engage with HDL’s work. This starts by removing jargon and finding useful analogues to clearly communicate complicated subject matter.

    “I wanted to write you a short letter but I didn’t have time so I wrote you a long one” - Mark Twain

    Achieving legibility goes hand in hand with deep reflection. Making time for pondering and for discussion seems engrained in HDL’s culture. For example, Bryan mentioned that the team has ongoing conversations about what they do and how they do it, which often continue as they are leaving the office to catch the subway home. This reflective behaviour is further reinforced through self-imposed incentives, such as the team's commitment to blogging at the end of each week about what they've been up to. I was left reflecting on how to incorporate reflection and legibility into my life. Hopefully I have already begun; is this post legible!?

    2. Running Into The Dark Matter (with an artifact)

    Learning from trial and error has long been the entrepreneurs' edict; however, when trying to connect the dots of an abstract concept or hunch, it can feel like you’re left in the dark. Not knowing where to start can be paralyzing. Acknowledging and labelling the unknowns can be a helpful first step in itself. Dark matter, in the social innovation context, can be used to describe this realm of the unknown (e.g., unwritten rules, rituals, organizational culture, influence, incentives, policies, regulations) that exists within systems (e.g., organizations, neighbourhoods, fields of work). Thus, “running into the dark matter” refers to embracing the unknowns of a system and tinkering there within.

    “Practical information comes for free from doing things” - Bryan Boyer

    An initial 'tinkering', as Bryan suggests, can be creating an artifact: something physical such as a publication or prototype that people can see, touch or connect with. Artifacts can be immensely helpful in structuring where in the dark matter to start prodding and directing ones efforts. For example, when starting Low2No’s Food dossier, HDL threw itself into the dark matter of Helsinki’s restaurant scene by creating a publication about Helsinki’s Street Food. Acknowledging that dark matter exists, and that artifacts can help us navigate the unknowns, helps with embracing uncertainty and the emergent nature of fields like social innovation. (phiew!)

    3. The Right Scale To Get To The Next Scale

    (image via girlhula)

    While HDL is now known for their high-profile systemic change projects (ex. influencing changes to Finland's fire code via their Low2No program), they first built trust and evidence, by starting small. For example, to test the HDL inStudio model (a 5-day charrette-style workshop described in detail in 'Recipes for Systemic Change') with a real world issue, HDL asked Finnish Ministers for challenges that were currently on the backburner. A lower-level issue that emerged was around Finnish high school drop outs, since Finland's high school education system was already ranked among the top of OECD countries, with only 50 or so annual high school drop outs (compared to roughly 190K high school drop outs in Canada that same year). This challenge exempted the HDL team from some of the scrutiny associated with high profile issues. Hence, the liberties of a small-scale issue provided the experimental freedom needed to illustrate the potential of the inStudio model to build solutions to complex social challenges (view the solutions summary and video from the education studio here). The importance of starting at a small scale and building up relationships with stakeholders at an individual level is futher discussed in this compelling TedTalk by Enestro Sirolli. Rather than "go big or go home" we need to think in terms of what is "the right scale to get to the next scale".

    "It's more meaningful to be incredibly successful at a small scale than mediocre at a bigger scale" - Bryan Boyer

    If you missed Bryan's public talks while he was in Canada, you can view his MaRS talk here (the OCAD talk was also filmed and should become available soon, stay tuned!). As well, here is a blog post by my colleague Geraldine about his visit. I would love to hear your perspective and take-aways and invite you to share them in the comments section below.

    Also, what other elements do you think are important in the architecture of change?

    - Satsuko

    Other memorable lines
    • There is a scarcity of patience not of capital
    • The right scale to get to the next scale
    • Compose truth without scientific fact (to counter "truthiness")
    • Issues in the no-mans land (referring to wicked problems)
    • We don’t have enough data to know if our choices align with our values
    • Cost of failure is cheaper than the cost of planning
    • BETA suggest "we need your help in how to develop this"
    • When a music note is wrong, move on and treat it as an interesting fact

    Related posts: 3 Problems with Design Thinking (conversation with Bryan Boyer in Dec 2010), Two Brilliant Bits of Wisdom And One Big Question From ALIA 2012 (reflections from the ALIA Conference), and Social Innovation Musings (things I was thinking about at the time I started at SiG).


  • Social Innovation Musings

    Social Innovation Musings

    (image via pinterest)

    [Adapted for Think Thrice. Originally written for and published on the Social innovation Generation blog]

    My first three weeks at SiG have flown by. As the newest member of SiG National’s team, I’ve had to hit the ground sprinting. I joined the SiG team to help create momentum for social innovation in Canada, with a particular focus on creating (and implementing) a strategy to support the existing Lab ecosystem across the country. You may be asking: what exactly is a Lab? There are a lot of definitions floating around. In the social innovation space, a Lab is a powerful tool used to develop holistic solutions to complex social problems (particularly those problems that have become resistant to traditional solutions). To help make all of this more clear, SiG constantly updates and develops new resources viewable on the SiG National and SiG@Waterloo website.

    As a quick peak inside my brain, here are a couple of current musings around Labs and social innovation that have piqued my interest.

    Language matters. We often don’t realize small distinctions, like the difference between the word ‘prototype’ (the first iteration of many, still emergent) and ‘pilot’ (has the connotation of more permanence). The ability to translate across different cultures, industries, demographics, socio-economic backgrounds …etc. is an invaluable skill when cross-collaborating. So how can we get better at it? And, how do we get better at using our ears and mouth proportionately (2:1 ears:mouth)?

    Blurred Divides. In social entrepreneurship and social enterprise we often talk about getting to a point where there is no distinction of the ‘social’; where all entrepreneurs and enterprises have the triple bottom line in mind. What if we push this thinking further to the sectors: private, public and social? What if all three sectors embodied the strengths of the others insofar that the lines, there too, become blurred. What do we need to do now to enable and accelerate this movement?

    Face to face. It is hard to find time for in person collaboration but magic happens when everyone is in the same room (inspiration and feeding off one another’s energy). As well, stronger offline relationships build trust and confidence in one another. How can we make the most out of in person meetings and get better at enabling this magic?

    Leveling the playing field. There is a lot of buzz about the democratization of knowledge (access to education and acknowledgement of various schools of thought), innovation/funding (no longer only the loudest and the most connected startups find investors), etc. But does all of this democratization really dissolve power, seniority and/or hierarchy? Particularly in the context of Labs, how can we create safe/neutral ‘containers’ void of egos and power struggles to enable innovation to flourish?

    In the wise words of organizational scientist William Starbuck, “the best way to understand a complex system is by interfering with it”. SiG is doing just that. I look forward to exploring these and other ideas around social innovation as we push the boundaries of this movement.

    - Satsuko

    For more on the topics discussed above, check out these resources:

    • Re. Language: interesting talk by Linda Rottenberg (CEO of Endeavor Global) at the 99% Conference about how not having a word for ‘entrepreneur’ in Portuguese affected the number of startups and ventures in Brazil
    • Re. Blurred dividesTri-Sector Forum is a new platform aiming to help prepare leaders to make the transition between sectors and build solutions from multiple perspectives.
    • Re. Face to Face: great book about how to hold more effective and efficient meetings. How To Make Meetings Work! by Michael Doyle
    • Re. Leveling the playing field: great book exploring real examples from his work developing solution to complex issues, Power and Love by Adam Kahane
    Related posts: Lab Landscape [Part 1]: Maximizing The Potential Of Innovation Labs in Canada (essay on things to consider when building a lab), Two Brilliant Bits of Wisdom And One Big Question From ALIA 2012 (musings from the ALIA Conference)
  • 3 Problems With Design Thinking

    3 Problems With Design Thinking

    (Image via The Danish Design Centre)

    [Also published on the Rebel Academy blog on April 2, 2012 | The links and recent projects at the end of this post were updated Nov 8th, 2012]

    “Design Thinking” has overtaken “Sustainability” to become the latest business buzz word; however, there are flaws in the way it is being adapted to corporate settings. In a conversation with Bryan Boyer, Architect and Strategic Design Lead at Sitra & Helsinki Design Lab, I gained a designer’s perspective. Below are the three reasons why we need to re-think Design Thinking.

    1) Thinking is important, but the biggest challenge is the actual “doing”

    Design Thinking can create holistic, innovative, out-of-the-box solutions; however, if a brilliant solution is followed by an inflexible execution plan to roll it out, we miss the whole point of thinking like a designer. Bryan points out that one of the key parts of being a designer is to steward something from the first sketches to the final implementation because “there is a big gap in the plans that you draw and what actually gets built”. Making a solution work requires tweaking and changes as-you-go to account for the unexpected and unpredictable realities of everyday life.

    2) Design Thinking is inherently short term

    The current literature and conversation around Design Thinking focuses on the short-term. For example, when we look at standard consulting projects by the big players (for ex. BCG, Bain or McKinsey), their mandate generally includes 1) analysis, 2) recommendations, and 3) a report outlining the implementation plan. In other words, sticking around longer term to smooth out the kinks and make sure it all works and is implemented correctly is seldom part of the contract. Why not?  There are a lot of reasons. Some point to the financial incentives (the low-cost/high-yield nature of focusing on the planning phase) or the desire to associate with success (implementation is often blamed for failed projects). On the other hand, sometimes it’s not possible to stay on a project long-term due to confidentiality or security conflicts (for ex. with certain public sector projects). At any rate, Design Thinking is only the beginning and must move past the short-term to reach its full potential.

    3) Design Thinking is over-hyped and ignores the complexity of the design process.

    “If design is like a magical seed that you can drop into the board room and after a couple of days workshop suddenly the executive suite is transformed into a design facility, that pretty significantly under values what designers bring" – Bryan Boyer

    Understanding and respecting the design process is necessary before we can attempt to gain from its insights.

    So what does this all mean? Design Thinking is a powerful and useful tool but it is only one part of the equation. Ideas are a dime a dozen, it is what you do with them. Plans are important but the real legwork is in the re-jigging and adjusting of ideas/solutions to make them fit with the real world.

    Bryan is working to help the public sector create it’s own design capacity and advocates for placing designers within teams inside the ministries and municipalities, which his team is bringing to life via Sitra’s Design Exchange initiative. Other initiatives Bryan started with Sitra include Brickstarter (see what WIRED had to say about it) and Open Kitchen (hear Finnish celebrity chef Antto Melasiemi explain the concept in this video). One of the main questions his team at Sitra and Helsinki Design Lab attempts to answer is: how do we help the public sector cope with the challenges it faces more effectively? To learn more about what Bryan is working on these days, visit his personal blog and the HDL blog.

    - Satsuko