Man spinning fireworks in the dark
Sustainability

Resource Man’s adventures in household eco-visualisation

Recently I had some interstate travel that presented an opportunity to catch up on a (long) back catalogue of reading. There were three standouts that are related to the recent series of posts I’ve been writing on energy monitoring and behaviour change in a medium- to high-density residential context (the articles relate to themes that are broader than this domain). Continue reading

Someone using a mobile phone to take a photo Image: janitors @ Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/janitors/14368191486
Design, Presentations

Mobile diaries

This is a cross-posting of a post originally published on the IDX Backstage Blog.

It was prepared as a “leave behind” resource for participants at the 2014 Design for Social Innovation conference who attended the speed teaching session I hosted on mobile diaries.

In the spirit of Legible Practice I wanted to document in a bit more detail some of the aspects of what was discussed in those sessions. I hope this is a useful resource for participants and those who weren’t able to attend but are interested in the method. I’d be delighted to hear any feedback you might have…

Header image: janitors @ Flickr

Continue reading

Design

The value of small prototypes

I was recently chatting with my friend Lopa about a variety of things social innovation-y, and the topic turned to prototyping.

One of the things that came up is that it can be easy to think that prototypes need to be a lot more than they actually need to be. That is, it can be just as valuable to prototype small pieces of the puzzle as you go, rather than thinking that you have to prototype an entire service, or complex parts of a web application etc.

As I was thinking about this on the train, I caught up on some episodes of Kevin Rose’s excellent Foundation series. In her interview, the founder of Smitten Ice Cream Robyn Sue Fisher talks about prototyping a number of times in the interview (especially in relation to her core product). But what interested me most was how she used a food cart to get her service up and running (at about 28 mins and 45 secs in):

I’ve benefited from this principle as I work through the Seasonal Saturday concept. It seems like quite a simple thing “a seasonal meal once a month”. While I’ve got a lot of thoughts about what we could do with the initiative, I felt it was important just to start doing it, as I knew things would pop up. So we bootstrapped a simple blog and invited a bunch of people to submit their recipes (one per month).

This prototype is a long way from what we’re aiming for, but prototyping early has already helped a lot in working out the logistics and some of the barriers and challenges participants might face. Like, what information do we need to include with a recipe? Are there specific attributes to recipes that we need to consider? What happens if I want to participate, but can’t do that recipe (i.e. I don’t have a slow cooker)? These may seem trivial, but as we are hoping to encourage/enable behaviour change, understanding (and addressing) these barriers where possible is important.

As a tutor in the Design Research Training unit at UWS I also saw the power of prototyping first hand. Students often came up with grand ideas and some couldn’t see, at first, how they could prototype it because they were jumping ahead to their bigger vision. Others were able to break their project down into smaller parts which they then prototyped. These students tended to do better overall with their projects, and all of them learnt a lot from this process.

It’s important, of course, to recognise the limitations and changed context of a smaller prototype. But following the lean/agile approach of prototyping early and often is a great way to help ensure that a project has the greatest chance of success.

Government 2.0, NGOs & Nonprofits, Social media & networking, Sustainability

New resource on evaluation and technology

A few weeks back I received this invite via email from colleague Duncan Rintoul, of the Institute for Innovation in Business and Social Research (IIBSOR) at University of Wollongong. Given the topic, I thought it was worthwhile sharing here also:

AES tech-eval: A new SIG focused on the intersection between evaluation and technology

These days it is no surprise to see mainstream and niche programs making use of tech-based platforms: web-based self-help tools, mobile applications, SMS-based reminder systems, viral videos, conversations on social media… the list is much longer than this, and ever growing.

We need to develop capacity among evaluators to work confidently in this environment, designing and executing sound evaluations that understand what these technologies are, how they can be used and how their impact can be measured.

There are also great opportunities for using technology in our evaluations — wikis, online forums, online surveys, social media monitoring… again the list is long and growing.

Spilling over from one of the parallel sessions at the 2011 AES conference, a crew of around 15 people has started pulling together a new AES Special Interest Group around this intersection between evaluation and technology: AES tech-eval.

It’s early days yet, but two things you can do for now:

  • Join the email listserv
  • Check out v1.0 of their resource library of conference papers, published evaluations and other resources for evaluating tech-based programs and program elements.

Go on, join them! If technology freaks you out, swap fear of the unknown with curiosity and see where it takes you. If you’re already working comfortably in this space, help lead your colleagues forward.

Business 2.0, Sustainability

Guest post: Corporate Responsibility — engagement and transparency

We’re delighted to have urban and social planning consultancy Urban Affect on board as a partner. In this guest post (reposted with permission), principal Allison Heller shares some of her thoughts on CSR and social engagement.

A new year is often a time of reflection among businesses on strategic directions and corporate goals. For many firms, sustainability — environmental, social, economic — is fast moving up the agenda.

Raised regulatory standards and consumer expectations are today demanding far more from companies than an annual CSR report and a handful of associated token initiatives. The genuine integration of sustainability within an organisation may require significant organisational change and improved stakeholder engagement.

The Centre for Social Innovation — a partnership between the Universities of New South Wales, Melbourne, Western Australia and the Swinburne University of Technology — has been undertaking research on this shift taking place in the corporate sector in recent years. Researchers Gianni Zappala and Sarah Adams’ 2010 paper, The Integration of Corporate Responsibility: Evidence from leading companies in Australia & New Zealand (PDF 266 KB), considers the level of integration of sustainability principles and practices achieved to date.

The paper defines Corporate Responsibility (CR) as “understanding and minimising a company’s negative impact or footprint on society and a broad range of stakeholders including the planet and environment, its employees, the communities in which it operates and the governments which make the laws.” It utilises data from the Corporate Responsibility Index (CRI) benchmarking tool developed by Business in the Community in the UK in 2002, which is applied annually in Australia and New Zealand by the St James Ethics Centre.

The reseach found that “corporate responsibility is on the whole well integrated into the way that leading companies in Australia and New Zealand are doing business.” However it suggests that firms could improve in four key areas, including ensuring improving CR training at board level and improving the extent and quality of stakeholder engagement.

The following criteria are suggested as a measure of firms that have achieved genuine integration of CR principles:

  • Adopt a holistic conception of corporate responsibility or citizenship;
  • Have board level governance systems to oversee CR policies and practices;
  • Have senior leaders that champion CR internally and externally;
  • Have a range of structures and systems to integrate CR across the business, including risk management systems, stakeholder consultation schemes, sustainability training for managers and employees, establish and monitor key performance indicators for CR, and
  • Have an open and transparent approach to CR information disclosure (eg undertake assurance of their CR reports).

There is no denying the challenge for corporates in moving to greater levels of stakeholder engagement and associated transparency. However in many cases this is a necessary first step on the road to more sustainable, productive and profitable business. Which companies will rise to the challenge in 2011?