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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Travelling Pantry
October 20, 2010, 11:09 pm
Filed under: event, inspiration, social innovation | Tags: , , , , , ,

So Tessy Britton, in her marvelous Travelling Pantry car, came to Glasgow yesterday to run a workshop, an initiative from the Social Spaces project. She says,

“The workshops will be aimed at helping stimulate new and interesting local projects in line with the Social Spaces thinking of Learning, Sharing and Making.  The workshops will draw together inspiration from existing new projects and new methodologies … as well as spreading traditional positive community building know-how.”

Asset Mapping

Asset Mapping

 

It was great to be introduced to the concept of ‘asset mapping’, a positive way of looking at your community and all the great things in it, we worked in teams to map areas in Glasgow.

My team focused on Maryhill, with a great starting point, ignoring Tessy’s instructions (yes, we were the naughty group) to not start with roads, and start with assets.

Local Bus Community Hub

Local Bus Community Hub

Mapping in this three dimensional way, allowed us add in emotional factors to the map.  My favourite observations was the bus as a new local meeting point since the schools had closed down and parents took their kids to new schools, and the ‘animosity’ markers which showed communities who didn’t get along with one another.

This proved to be a fantastic way of visualising a community, and a great activity that could be done co-creatively with lots of different participants.  It could show networks, relationships, traffic flow (both car and people).  What a fantastic way to understand a community and pool local knowledge of an area together.

The Positive Soap Box by Sarah Drummond

The Positive Soap Box by Sarah Drummond

Another exercise we undertook was to think about what community was, what it was missing.  We used Lego, and If you know me, I can become far too excited about it.  Some may think it’s silly, but Lego is a fantastic way of communicating thoughts, and my favourite model was a contorted, ‘angular’ model from a participant at my table who had built it this way to display the complex, twisted relationships in a community.  The use of Lego, which is often a technique used in my work got me thinking about how everyone can participate in the design process.  Lego brings tangibility to often difficult to express concepts, (in my line of work, services).  I have practiced for years and can prototype and bring to life concepts with my hands in seconds.  It was Marty Neumeier who said in his book, The Designful Company, that as designers, we are the link between thinking and doing, our hands, are the link between thinking and doing.  We make with our hands, iteratively, and that is a very important thing to remember, a designer possesses the ability to prototype quickly, at an expert level.  But, conscious to my thoughts and feelings and recent work on being more transformative and humble in my work, it is true to say lego and other tools similar to this, like plasticine allow people to do that making part, in a much more easier way than sitting with a blank sheet of paper.  It takes us back to being a child again, you know that creative little person you used to be, before, for many of us, it was sucked out of us at a young age.

Anyway, made me think…a great day, and I wish Tessy all the best of luck on the rest of her journey and thanks for inviting Snook to be there with you.



Books for service designers
June 21, 2010, 10:37 am
Filed under: inspiration, interesting, service design | Tags: , , , ,
Service Design Books

Service Design Books

Jeff Howard has released a great new ‘wee’ project.  I received an email from him a while back asking for some book titles that sit on the Snook shelf which perhaps are not directly related to service design but are of interest.  There had been some lists floating around the internet in the last 12 months but Jeff’s list make’s it rather easy to navigate.

Jeff says,

“Good books on service design are few and far between. I’ve put together lists in the past and so have other designers but unless you’ve actually read the books it’s tough to see the connections sometimes. Service designers draw inspiration from across disciplines and that means that a raw list isn’t always enough of a roadmap for people to triage unfamiliar reading.”

It was a difficult question because I gather influences from a huge variety of sources but I’ve popped a couple on like Co-design, Simplicity and the Design of Business, and will probably be adding a few more titles soon.

Take a look, it’s looking like a good collection.



Peachy Keachy

A short post to say thank you to everyone who came along to the Pecha Kucha event at the Glasgow School of art.  Not an official PK, so now nicknamed Peacky Keachy, it was a free event with the goal of encouraging cross departmental discussion and way to highlight all the great work that’s been done around the school.

My favourite thing someone said to me afterwards was I didn’t know service design existed.  They did however, see a way we could work together, so I feel the event did it’s job and lots of interesting discussion followed.  My Peachy Keachy followed the theme of ‘what the hell happened in the last ten months?’.  I started with a picture of my graduation party when I delivered boxes of pink ‘free’ donated drink for our degree show to revellers on the street.  Following through with what service design is (in about 20 seconds) to Snook and Mypolice.

Thanks again to all the speakers, you were all fantastic.

And to round off, we will run another one.  We had quite a few people approach us and ask if they could do one next time round. Perfect!

To continue the discussion, cme and join the hub and the group so we can plan the next one.

Hats off to Neil Mcguire and Christine Kinnear who presented but were involved in the planning, (and mega last minute rush) to pull everything together.  For a good write up of the event, check out Christina’s blog.



Ode to an amazing woman
April 15, 2010, 10:07 pm
Filed under: inspiration | Tags: , , ,

I was just looking out this letter as a couple of weeks ago I read it out in front of Gill and Nick from Plot and Lauren Currie, who it was sent to…we were talking about who inspires us.  My gran always send I’d change the world, if not, at least give Scotland a good kick up the arse.

I wouldn’t normally use my blog for personal posting but on second thoughts, I’m an incredibly open person and feel that comes across in the way I speak and write and I felt compelled to write this.

The first person on my list of people who inspire me is my Granny Drummond.

She died this morning.

I will miss you so much, you mean the world to me, you taught me so much and I will never forget you.  You have made me so determined to achieve my dreams and not let anything stand in my way, ever.  If there is one thing I will change while I’m here on this earth is the care for beautiful and amazing people like you.  I promise I’ll do something about it.

Love you always, Sarah x



The 17th century linear internet
March 26, 2010, 6:38 pm
Filed under: inspiration | Tags: , , ,

rotary reading desk – first tabbed browser, invented in 1588. via Athanasius Kircher society

I’ve been wanting to share this for a while: Say hello to Athanasius Kircher, a man introduced to me a month or so ago by Irene Mcara Mcwilliams, head of Design at the Glasgow School of Art.  She showed us the image above and it just inspired me.  I liken it to the first tabbed browser, apparently called a ‘rotary reading desk’.  Athanasius invented it in 1588, and on investigating him further, I realised that he was quite a remarkable man.  Being described as “one-man intellectual clearing house”.

In an article his approach is described as;

syncretic …and paid no attention to the boundaries between disciplines”

‘various schools of thought’ is such a fantastic way to sum up what syncretic is, and I finally found an explanation for what my head tends to feel like most of the time.  My mind is always making links between all kinds of sources, I guess I get inspired and take inspiration from absolutely everything around me, although, sometimes it can be tiring.  It links to a fantastic lecture I was given by Jon Wood from Goldsmiths who has been doing work on Metadesign, but more to come on that later, that’s an entire blog post in itself.

Is there anyone from the past that inspires you?  Do leave a comment…