Inside the head of a designer


An Assets Alliance Scotland
Coproduction challenge

Coproduction challenge

This morning Snook were kindly invited to take part in Assets Alliance Scotland, an event being jointly held by the Scottish Government, Scottish Community Development Centre and the Long Term Conditions Alliance Scotland.

“We in Scotland should be proud of our tradition of community involvement and community action and public service delivery’s role in supporting this activity to flourish. However, in the last few years we have developed a model of public service delivery based on a ‘treatment’ or ‘doing to’ approach, which often fails to recognise communities’ and service users’ own strengths and assets and which instead engenders a culture of dependency that, in turn, stimulates demand.”

Before attending the event, I had made a clear connection in my head about how closely this aligned with the work of Liz Sanders.

“Designers will no longer only design for people, they will learn
to design with people. Co-designing will require new forms of
communication to support the collective creativity that arises between
designers and everyday people.”

Working with frontline staff and users as the experts in their own eco-systems/services is a big part of the work I am doing right now. I bring their thoughts and imaginings to life.  We take the most optimistic stance we can; an issue can always be solved, there are assets all around us that help to solve a problem or build a brighter future.

The morning was kicked off with Harry Burns, who a participant described his delivery as ‘not usual for a Scottish gov type’.  Perhaps, he was right.  It was fantastic and inspiring to hear someone talk about a ‘social movement’ rather than a new set of targets or paper/policy being delivered from the government.  What really caught my attention was Dr Burn’s citing of the great union activist, Jimmy Reid.  Reid’s inaugural speech as rector of Glasgow University in 1972, has really influenced Snook, ( hat tip to Mike Press who highlighted this speech during his keynote at Create Debate.

“A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement.

This is how it starts, and, before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat pack. The price is too high”

“It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.”

Interestingly Dr Burns steered clear of the Big Society agenda and favored the words of Jimmy Reid.  This line always brings it home for me;

“A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings”

Sometimes I feel a deep sigh coming on as I soldier through different public sector systems, hoops, and documents.  I think sometimes we forget, at the end of the day, we’re all people.

On the people side, after the keynote, participants were invited to browse projects which linked with an asset based approach.  I showcased the Getgo Glasgow project and how we mobilised a community to see past their issues and ‘obvious’ solutions to problems in their community.  I talked to participants about the power of visualisation and an optimistic mindset. I also showcased other pieces of work such as the Future Library Project and the Innovation Cards.

To add more detail to the visionary approach of Dr Burns, Andrew Lyon of the International Futures Forum set the task of imagining what Scotland’s Asset Alliance priorities should be – what actions need to be taken and what are matters of urgency.

 

Asset Alliance Scotland as a centre point

Asset Alliance Scotland as a centre point

It was an interesting discussion. Andrew graciously let everyone voice their opinion at the end of the event.  The discussions taught me that we need a framework to house some of this work and break it down into how to ‘do asset based work’.  It was obvious that there is already a huge amount of asset based work being done, and it has a history. Perhaps, it’s not always under the label of an ‘asset based approach’ but known as ‘community development’.  I’m not saying we ‘teach a granny to suck eggs’ as one participant in my group warned against, but we create a menu of options which breaks down an asset based approach, a framework to house the knowledge gathered through the AAS which is easy to access, understand, share, and importantly learn from and put into practice.  For example, a range of options on how to engage with people in communities and connections to people who are experts in this field would be beneficial.

The group deliberated between a top down approach, and whilst I agreed that you need government buy in, I think the last thing that is needed is another strategy/policy document on an asset approach that promotes meaningless, tick box targets.  If we’re going to talk targets under the assets agenda, then I think we need to think really carefully how that is conveyed.

Technology curve of adoption

Technology curve of adoption

I felt that we could look at the curve of adoption for technology and think about how ‘early adopters’ are the users who begin to write the ‘playbooks’ and ‘how to guides’.  Perhaps the AAS would take this role on board and begin pulling together existing networks and organising information.

I noticed the Alliance pulling together ongoing work, and past work, branding it as ‘Assets based’ to build a community of practitioners in Scotland, and develop a framework to house this knowledge. However,  I did mention there is a huge need for more interaction across different sectors.  Some of the conversations around ‘person-centeredness’, ‘co-creation’ and ‘assets’ are not only relevant to health but to everyone.  Our lives are are a holistic combination of services and complex interactions that  overlap different sectors on a daily basis.

Importantly, as a chameleon amongst different sectors, this kind of work and demand-led idea is appearing across all sectors, not just health.  Take Skills Development Scotland 2010-2011 Corporate strategy, an organisation I worked alongside last year.  They talk multiple times over about co-creation and demand-led services, which I think align closely with asset based and coproduction movements and murmurs going on around our country.

Snook competition on assets

Snook competition on assets


The most poignant thought for me at the end was about listening.  A participant talked about asking others what assets mean to them and learning from this feedback.  This struck a chord with me and I was happy that Snook had given out a small task for participants to capture assets in their community and email the photos back to us.  We’re looking forward to peering through them and posting them online, feel free to get involved even if you didn’t pick up a leaflet.

Finally, the reason for this task, and what gets me every time at events like this is the need for a vision.  Andrew Lyons had asked us what the AAS will ‘look’ like, yet I saw no hint of visual thinking or communication.  This goes deeper than graphically facilitating the discussions that were taking place but the way in which we go forward in discussing the future of the AAS, and the approach we use in the future for the development of our public sector and country.

We need to share projects, the how to, and do it visually. A picture speaks a thousand words and breeds a common understanding which if applied in context of the AAS could mean a shared vision for the meaning of assets, the alliance, and perhaps as Pat Kane called for at Political Innovation camp a few weeks ago, a shared vision for our country.  Big talking, but, something keeps hitting a nerve of late at discussions like this.  Words like transformation seem to be super seeding ‘change’, ‘improvement’, ‘efficiency’, It feels there are some big ‘shake ups’ that need to happen. With Andrew asking us about urgency today for the AAS, something niggles me even more.  I have a feeling the time is now, we need to move fast.





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