Social Innovation is… in The Melting Pot

On Thursday of last week, representing SSSC, I joined a group of people from the world of Scottish Government, NHS, Social Work, Social Enterprise and private social organisations, at The Melting Pot, for a day of conversation and activity around the question:

How can we put social innovation to work for the people of Scotland?

The Melting Pot Question

The pitch I received was: “Join a conversation to explore this question, make new connections, and be a part of creating the conditions for social innovation to flourish in Scotland!

What is Social Innovation…?
Funded by Scottish Government, The Melting PotScotland’s Centre for Social Innovation – are “…opening up a national conversation on how to meet the challenges and opportunities surrounding social innovation in Scotland; how to enable and support social innovation so that it fuels positive change across all aspects of Scottish society and economy. The results of these events will help inform policy thinking across Scotland ahead of preparations for a new wave of European Structural funding.

It was a busy day of workshopping and conversation – with welcome, strategically placed, breaks to chat to the other attendees and make new connections. The Melting Pot facilitate using the ‘Art of Hosting’. I haven’t had chance to Google or investigate further but I understand it to be about creating the appropriate environment for the task at hand – just as you would if hosting a party. anyone familiar with ‘good’ collaborative and visualisation techniques would have been as comfortable with the approach and activities as I was.

The aims of the conversation were:

  1. To share learning about what might be meant by social innovation and what is already going on across Scotland
  2. To build a vision collectively about how social innovation can be put to work for the people of Scotland, and to begin to address the conditions that need to be put in place for this vision to be realised
  3. To build and extend connections and networks between social innovators and influencers
  4. In these ways, to build a stronger basis for moving forward and maximising ability to ‘grow’ social innovation across the country, and for that growth to make a difference to the people of Scotland

The Melting Pot Dear Granny

Social Innovation is… in need of definition?
The first session of the morning was spent in small groups (of 5/6) attempting to answer the question, “Social Innovation is…”. The challenge is that both of those words can be very, very broad by definition. I’m of the opinion that ’Social Innovation’ is about understanding and agreeing on the outcomes, benefits and successes within a specific context – within an organisation; within the confines of a project; or as part of the values and vision of a team of people. If we know what we mean by it – in our context – then maybe we’ll be clear on what we expect from it, and (most importantly) we’ll recognise successful social innovation when we see it.

Social Innovation is… in the small things.
The potential of social innovation is huge, and so it rings true that the ‘cover-all’ term be huge too. But while the impact has the potential to be huge, insight and understanding is to be found in the small things. People not organisations; increments and not broad strokes.

The Melting Pot PledgeSocial Innovation is… going to take a while..?!
The day at The Melting Pot was a positive start at what, potentially, could be a very long process. It would be great if the next step was to synthesise the ideas from the day to create themes under which participants, and perhaps a wider online community, could submit practical project/initiative ideas to prototype and pilot.
A common denominator of people interested in this kind of work is a desire to get-our-hands-dirty. Let’s dig in with the people we aim to serve through this process and find out what are they looking for; what needs to change; and how do we make an impact?

Social Innovation is… wrong..!?
Of course listening is important. It’s essential. But sooner or later there needs to be action; inclusive, collaborative participation to gather as open and honest a conversation as possible, upon which to act and make a difference. But. Reserve the right to be wrong. Innovation brings a certain amount of risk and no one ever created anything radical knowing ‘beyond certainty’ that it was going to succeed. So learn to recover from risk, not avoid it.

The Melting Pot quotes

Social Innovation is… on Twitter
But then what isn’t?
You can follow @TheMeltingPotEd, and for your convenience clicking on #NationalConv will take you directly to the feed of the soundbites from the day and help you catch up with the conversation.

Images from top to bottom: 1. The Question, 2. Reading our letter from 2050, 3. Pledges from the end of the day, 4. Reflections no stories of social innovation.

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Why I am not a Service Designer

dementia Diary workshop 1

At the best of times it can be a challenge explaining to people what you do. But when they already have a perception of what you do..?!

I’ve been a designer for a long time. A Graphic Designer. To many I will probably be a Graphic Designer until the day… well, you get the idea.

I’m a Designer still. But of a kind that many haven’t heard of. For you lucky people that’s about to change.
I work in Service Design.

PostIts workshop 1

Perhaps (mildly) controversially I’m going to say that I’m NOT a ‘Service Designer‘. That’s because I’m not sure that there is any such thing. Service Design (to me) is a collaboration between the designer (equipped with the tools and methods of design thinking), and the professional (armed with expert knowledge of their field, service or system – e.g. Social Services, Education, Health Care).

Within the collaboration my role is that of facilitator. I bring tools and methods that will facilitate the drawing out (pun intended) of ideas and visualisations to innovate, improve or completely change existing methods of working.

Maybe within that process we’re ALL service designers – what a utopia that would be!
On the outside, however, I’m just a designer, doing what I’ve always done – but with a new bag of fancy pencils.

Although the principles that hold Service Design together have been around for a while, the idea of designers doing something this useful still appears to shock. But if ever we needed proof that SD was edging into the mainstream, we find that even the BBC are in on it. Radio Four‘s ‘In Business had a programme dedicated to Design Thinking and how it is being applied to designing public services. It’s a very good overview and well worth a listen.

BBC 4 In Business

Conveniently there is also a new web platform around the idea of helping the general public understand what Service Design is and how businesses and public services can benefit from implementing its methods. Tereza Procházková recently graduated from Dundee University‘s Masters of Design for Services course at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design – Translating Service Design is her Masters project where she has taken the novel idea of creating short videos to introduce some of the concepts and methods of, you guessed it, Service Design.

So, expect to see Service Design installed into your place of work anytime soon! Well, maybe the next couple of years anyway.
Do you see Service Design solving issues for your workplace? Do you have ‘Service Designer‘ written on your business card and want your money back?
Tell me what you think…

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During the last two years Jon Gill has worked as a designer with public service organisations such as Dundee City Council, The Young Foundation, People Can and the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) – not on posters and leaflets or physical products, but on services. Services such as delivery of services to homeless people in Westminster and Hackney, Public Consultation on Council Housing in Dundee and piloting new Social Service ideas for SSSC across Scotland (Borders Council, Moray Council, Alzheimer Scotland).

Dementia Diary meet Memory Box

I Met with Memory Box originator Scott Downie this week.

tmbn-logo2

It was after tweeting progress of a workshop at Alzheimer’s Scotland a few weeks ago that I received a message from Scott informing me of Memory Box and that we should talk.

My workshop was focussed on Dementia Diary, an idea formulated through the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) Workforce Of The Future Challenge (partnered with IRISS). It investigates the use of video as a tool for supporting people living with Dementia or Alzheimer’s, their families and their carers.

dementia storyboard 1

Here’s a short video of one of our suggested uses:

The idea is currently in the pilot development stage and about to be trialled by Alzheimer’s and Dementia Key workers in Glasgow and the Borders.

So far we have built on the premise that Dementia Diary is an umbrella name for the preliminary idea of using video in this context. How it is adopted, modified or evolved is down to the authority, organisation or individual. From there they can call it what they like!

So what’s with Memory Box?
What Memory Box presents is a possible framework within which ‘a’ Dementia Diary could exist for some people. If offers secure access to your own or web sourced content (images, video, music, maps, etc) designed to be specific to the user’s profile. That profile would contain key information: locations of interest (home, holiday), family, hobbies, likes/dislikes, etc…

Memory Box can be managed by carers or family members and is no more complicated that your average CMS system or Facebook! It builds on the foundations and principles of Reminiscence Therapy (RT). While RT has been around for several decades the research into is relatively new but significant enough to put weight behind Memory Box. Used in conjunction with a gathering of two or more people Memory Box sparks meaningful conversations. Not only that but it helps bridge the generation gap of grandparents and young people who don’t know where to start conversations (I saw evidence of this when I did this project.)

This begs the question, should we be waiting for our elderly loved ones to be developing Dementia before we engage with a tool such as this?

Currently being tested and independently evaluated in a selection of care environments Memory Box is due to be launched early in 2014.

You can find out more about the product and the charity behind it at memoryboxnetwork.org

The New Start

sssc-building

On Monday of this past week I started work at the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC is responsible for registering people who work in social services and regulating their education and training) as Communication and Engagement Designer. Good title, eh?!

In practice it means that I will have a hand in a variety of communications using design based methodology, commonly categorised by the term Service Design (although you may also come across terms such as, Social Design, Social Innovation, Human Centred Design, Improvement Science, Collaboratives, etc., which share the same or very similar approaches).

sssc-view

I use the term ‘Service Design‘ for the lack of a better alternative. The designer doesn’t produce ‘new services’ on his/her own but instead relies upon the expert knowledge of whoever he collaborates with. The designer’s role is to introduce and facilitate the design process to the project. Methods and tools can vary from designer to designer but the essentially it is the collaboration, or co-design process, that can lead to a measure of success.

SSSC is an organisation that I have been working with now for many months.

Back in September 2012 I volunteered as a visualiser for two days at their Workforce of the Future Challenge. Shortly after I was employed in a freelance capacity to co-ordinate workshops designed to ‘polish’ the final ideas (with support from a team of very able DJCAD designers who had also attended the the Workforce challenge). You can read more about it here.

bletherin-workshop1

So now I’m actually through the door, working 3 days a week. (so ‘Playful Communications’ remains active for at least two days a week).

Challenges are always appealing and this role is charged with possibilities! The chance to work with an organisation as open as SSSC is to adopt these (relatively) new practices as part of their operations and strategy, is rare. It’s very exciting!

Putting the ‘Social’ into ‘Care’

The project above published by Dan Slee on his blog today is an extremely powerful example of how Social Media (in this case Twitter) can be used to serve communities and individuals and there understanding of lives that often go unseen.

It’s extremely relevant in the light of this case from Lincoln Crown Court yesterday.

I’ve written previously about a case similar to Slee’s (post awaiting approval) where a carer of someone suffering with end stage Cancer documented the day-to-day life of her and her husband using the photosharing app Instagram (Users of Instagram can find more information by following @dissipating on Instagram).
When, sadly, the husband died earlier this year the story didn’t end. The images continue and now document the struggle of dealing with loss.

It occured to me that Service Designers create fake scenarios and personas all the time to better understand the journeys and issues of users. While a real story, as reported on Slee’s Blog, is probably the best and most powerful example, perhaps in areas where a specific case cannot be used or found, then surely our fake ones could be used to similar effect. After all, Personas and Scenarios as used by Designers are composites of many lives indicative of the problems we aim to tackle.

In this instance they (Walsal Comms Team) used Twitter, ‘Dissipating‘ used Instagram and it strikes me that AudioBoo would be another excellent tool…

But, enough from me… here’s Dan Slee!

The Dan Slee Blog

Sometimes a press release just isn’t enough to tell a story. Living day-to-day as a carer can be tough. To give a flavour of just how tough Walsall Council comms team members Tina Faulkner and Becky Robinson live tweeted four hours to show – with sensitivity – how dementia affects the life of one couple Sheila and Ron. You can follow it here and you can also read their story here. But this one powerful story is just part of a wider drive to highlight often unseen work carried out in social care in Walsall. Tina explains the background to the innovative campaign which uses a mix of old and new media: 

If I could wear a t-shirt that best describes how I feel about work right now it would bear the slogan “I heart Social Care”.

I can see some of you now, exchanging a knowing look with…

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