Inside the head of a designer


Bethnal Green ventures
August 11, 2010, 1:52 pm
Filed under: interesting, social innovation | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Bethnal Green ventures

Bethnal Green ventures

Got an idea that’s sort of social innovation?  Think you can make a difference?

The folks over at social innovation camp are starting a new project called Bethnal Green ventures. They say,

Social Innovation Camp is all about taking a back-of-the-envelope idea and working out how to make it real. We’ve learnt a huge amount about what makes an idea fly or flounder as we’ve watched projects develop after Social Innovation Camp and now we want to build a new way of helping people grow an idea that one stage further: from prototype idea to social start-up.

Bethnal Green Ventures Nightschool is the first step in doing that.”

Over a year ago I took part in social innovation camp, and won it with a fantastic bunch of people and the project Mypolice. It’s been such slow going with the project and we’ve had some great highs so far with it and some incredible lows.  Something like Bethnal Green ventures could have really helped us in the stage from great idea to getting funding to launching.

So if you’re in London, give them a shout.

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Nesta’s Coproduction event
 Nesta right here right now launch
Nesta right here right now launch

Last week, I found time to go to the NESTA Right here Right now Launch: Taking Coproduction into the mainstream.  The event, focusing on taking coproduction as a marginal idea into the mainstream is the third of a three part series of reports from a collaboration between the New Economics Foundation and Nesta.

Re-reading NEF’s coproduction pamphlet, published two years ago I was struck by Edgar Cahn’s words on the term being hot on the lips of politicians, on both sides of the atlantic.  Now more than ever, with our ‘big society’ and having to do ‘more for less’ it’s time to push Co-production in the mainstream.  If you’re not sure what Coproduction is I suggest mulling over the three Nesta reports but for a summary of it’s inception;

“The term ‘co-production’ was coined originally at the University of Indiana in the 1970s when Professor Elinor Ostrom was asked to explain to the Chicago police why the crime rate went up when the police came off the beat and into patrol cars. She used the term as a way of explaining why the police need the community as much as the community need the police.”

Going back to Nef’s publication, this is a stand out for me;

“Neither markets nor centralised bureaucracies are effective models for delivering public services based on relationships. The author of System Failure, Jake Chapman, explains why, with market systems, ‘you can deliver pizza but you can’t deliver public services’.  Market logic applies to narrow deliverables, but misses out the crucial dimension that allows doctors to heal, teachers to teach and carers to care: the relationship with patient, pupil or client. Centralised bureaucracies, public and private, find it equally hard to grasp these essentials.”

Following the discussion after the launch of the final Nesta Paper, the above quote from 2008 is very poignant.  Designers ask three questions.  What, how and why and what I’m experiencing from many of these co-design publications is people asking the how?

I often see elements of design as the process to drive this ideology.  To me, the design process seems like the glue that will hold these together, and as a way of driving a co-production manifesto.

The question and answer session showed that this how question is where we get stuck.  Garath Symonds who works at Surrey County Council sat on the panel as someone who has pushed this way of working on a local level.  Questions were fired at him and his reply was,

“Just do it”

If the audience could have clapped, I feel there may have been a small ripple of applause.  Gareth was someone that takes risks and gets this.  I have always seen so many parallels between what I’ve done as a service designer and coproduction.  Putting users (n.b users also mean staff) at the centre of service design and delivery.  The mindset of co-creation (often seen in work I’ve been part of) as a vehicle to develop services and push towards co-production.  Co-production is not just a design process and I would never say design is the panacea, but I believe expert facilitation attributed with a design process and involving different experts and frameworks at different stages, would be a good way of driving this process.  I’ve seen services and social enterprises produced by designers that embody much of what co-production is about and reach a stage of dellivery.  I’ll talk about some other points but Nick Marsh of Sidekick picked up on a great ‘that’s a thing’ point about the dependency of users on public services.

Nesta Co Production
Nesta Co Production

The publication had quite a few recommendations for taking co-production into the main stream.

1. Build the key features of co-production into existing services

2. Change the systems and structures that underpin public services

3. Make it everybody’s business

4. Shift the role of frontline staff

5. Get the best out of ‘personalised’ services

6. Put the right incentives in place

7. Build co-production into the commissioning framework

8. Give priority to prevention

9. Encourage flexibility and collaborative working

10. Measure what matters

11. Launch more prototypes in new sectors

12. Embed co-production as the ‘default’ model through a ‘Co-production Guarantee’

Some tough challenges, co-production works as a small scale project, and something very local, but public services face huge challenges, not just in the way an organisation is structured but in their processes and mindset they will need if they want to adopt co-production as a way of doing.

The publication summarises with future thinking moving away from tick box processes to a more human way forward.  The big question is, who is going to take this forward?

“This is a new kind of public sector, with complex relationships rather than complex metrics at its heart.”

And how the hell are we going to measure this?   Some of the final words of the event focused on co-production being an inherent value, and to me this rings a bell for something I’ve been considering for a long time…that it’s perhaps not a way of doing, it’s not a process, it’s a way of being.

The idea does perplex me (in a good way) but it’s something I want to be involved in, and I believe in it, it’s just finding a language that can dilute it into a process that will aim to achieve the outcomes it strives to deliver.  To finish with the final words of the event,

“Perhaps this is not a policy, but a movement”