Inside the head of a designer


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”

Advertisements


Getgo wins Audi competition

Getgo Probe Tools

Well what an exciting week!

Getgoglasgow, which is the design collective of the two Masters courses at the Glasgow school of art (Design Innovation and European design) won the Audi Sustain our Nation competition and £10000 for the community we worked with.

We’ve been working with an area in Maryhill Glasgow called Wyndford to develop a sustainable social enterprise for their community.  The project has been tough, with some great highs, and almighty lows.

For the group, it was a challenging project.  This demanded a new role of the designer away from the solo author to the co-creator.  We made it really clear at the beginning of the project to work with people rather than for them.

View this document on Scribd

The winning project was Green Gorillaz, a way to bring back community spirit and the community voice, using offline and online message boards, linked up  by residents.  We created some seed groups which will house events and see knowledge transferred across generations.  It stems from the closure of their primary schools last year, and a real loss of community.  They had come together to fight the decision, so we knew there were passionate local champs.  We wanted to harness this and turn that energy into something positive.

But credit should go to everyone involved in the project, there were three projects developed from the same process. We held co-creation workshops with residents and stakeholders to generate ideas to take forward, but made sure at all points we were transparent and open about our process, returning to the community regularly to work with them again and develop proposals.

If design education should learn anything from this, is that building relationships takes time, and if projects like this are to be handed to students, proper training in community work, sustainable thinking and an understanding of ethics should be taught.  We’ve struggled with the competition and institute deadlines.  For example, after handing in the first three projects, we had to wait to see whether any had made it through to the regional finals.  At this point, we decided as a collective to carry all of them on anyway, even though none might be taken forward.

Anyway, we’re down at the RSA on the 17th February to represent a ‘developed’ concept (we’re working to make it real and it starts tomorrow with a football pitch party at 10am where we’ll be feeding back to the community), and hopefully we can win another £10000 for Wyndford.

In the words of John Gray yesterday,

“bloody good for u……bunnets in the air !……mon the weegies :-)”