Inside the head of a designer

Mac and Alzheimers
December 18, 2009, 7:51 am
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I saw this a couple of years ago actually and remember thinking what a telling portrait it was of Alzheimer’s and how touched I was by it. A few months ago I wrote a post about my gran and this reminded me of her, some of the signs like wanting to go out all the time and the way she holds her hands was exactly like this. So I thought I’d share it with you.

The video is by Mike Chalmers who had some other fantastic shorts, not to mention some amazing photography, and it’s rather cool to see someone produce such great work that you went to school with.

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Coproduction and citizenship
December 16, 2009, 11:31 am
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Coproduction and citizenship: Two words that have been echoed round and round and round and round in the last few weeks at every conference I’ve been to and recent paper I’ve read.

There’s been a couple of interesting publications released recently, and in good timing for me as with a piece of writing due myself in the New Year, it’s given me (even more) food for thought.

First up is a joint piece between Nef and Nesta: ‘The Challenge of Co Production‘.  Here David Boyle and Michael Harris define it as,

“Co-production means delivering public services in an equal and reciprocal relationship between professionals, people using services, their families and their neighbours. Where activities are co-produced in this way, both services and neighbourhoods become far more effective agents of change.”

What’s been interesting here is to think about this in the context of being a designer and facilitating this process.  I’m writing over the holiday period about the ethical approach of the designer as an active practitioner in co-design and co-production.  When undertaking a project along the lines of co-production we must be very careful to remember the impact we are making to people’s lives, and not to parachute in as designers and skip off again.  It could be said that the ethos of co-production would prevent this from happening, and as part of the project, support networks must be set up, sustainability runs as a key theme in the work, and the job is to transform and empower people to become part of the initiative being co-produced and take the reigns of it.

“Co-production has the capacity to transform public services: Co-production has to be potentially transformative, not just for the individuals involved, but also for the professionals who are struggling to put it into practice and for the system as a whole. Public service workers will need to change the way they think about their role and how they operate and the people they have come to know as ‘users’, ‘patients’ or ‘clients’ who will now become their equal partners; they need to change their attitudes, priorities and training. They need to move from fixers to facilitators.”

The second piece was released from the Young Foundation, Public Services and Civil Society Working Together,

The initial think piece, looks at various themes of how we can build a civil society in the UK to support and work with our local services.  It looks at some of the barriers including understanding personal responsibility and how we might motivate people through incentives, or focusing on a campaign on a hyperlocal level, so people have ‘minimal’ effort to get involved.

The report comes slightly after a Demos paper, Service Nation, which took the idea of a compulsory Youth Civic Service to a group of young people from different backgrounds to talk about the idea.

“Serving your community should be woven into every stage of life…”

What do you think about a civic service?  Why do we want civic service? What would effective civic service look like? Would civic service be compulsory or voluntary? And how can civic service schemes be funded in a tough fiscal climate? Is a civic service the right way to tackle our current social problems and lack of community?

I am Snook
December 14, 2009, 10:25 pm
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snook: transforming people

For 30 days and 30 nights, myself and Lauren took sometime out of the world of social media to house our umbrella company snook.  Our focus remains on mypolice, but we think it fits under Snook perfectly.  Over the course of the ‘detox’ we wrote letters to each other, helping us to define what it is we want to be doing in Scotland, and what our various influences are.  The time out also gave me a fantastic insight into what is productive for me when it comes to social media..since doing it, I’ve found myself away from the laptop more and more.  I did however miss my blog and will never underestimate it’s power, on a personal level for both documentation and reflection.

So back to Snook.

We are part of a new movement; a shift in ways of seeing and ways of being.  We’re all about transforming people and changing the world.  You might as well start big and as you mean to go on.

Visiting as an outsider

Coming in as an outsider

The launch of Snook follows a short publication I just wrote for the Glasgow School of Art recently.  Hopefully, I’ll be getting it up online soon (I’ve got to check if I can make it public).  It details the work I’m doing with Skills Development Scotland and how we can hand over design thinking tools to frontline staff to allow them to put customers at the heart of their service output and innovate at a grassroots level.  (Here’s a wee snippet)

“If you are too good at adjusting to the current system you may never realise the system needs changing.” (De Bono, Simplicity)

It is imperative the staff are taught to question the way they offer services. A new way of seeing and being must be instilled to make people want to ask more questions and be more empathetic.

As John Berger discusses: ‘A large part of seeing depends on habit and convention’  This would suggest that the environment must allow this attitude and mindset to prosper. In essence, it can be assumed that design can show a new way of seeing and being. Whether frontline staff can become independent designers is questionable, and is not the definitive goal of the SDS Service Innovation team. In the coming year it will be interesting to see the change design thinking can make if not so much in the development of new services but in the empowerment and motivation of staff to change the way they operate and make small incremental changes at a grassroots level.

I’m on a journey to discover how this can be done and if we can ‘turn everyone into a designer’.  My instinct tell me know, but we can hand over certain skills and tools which will allow people to perhaps think differently, or take a second look at something.  My thinking is, that we are in danger of tokenising design tools and methodologies, and for me, being a designer is more about the mindset, ways of seeing and being, rather than the toolkit.

So here’s to Snook and a bright 2010.