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

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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.

Business 2.0, Government 2.0, Presentations, Social media & networking, Sustainability

Web Directions South 2010 – presentation and notes

Thanks to everyone who came to see the presentation at Web Directions South yesterday, and sorry we weren’t able to have a bit more discussion at the end of the session — some great questions and ideas came up that I would have liked to explore further.  I’ve posted the presentation to Slideshare:

Or you can download a PDF of the presentation, along with notes (PDF 14.4 MB), including pointers to the various sites and articles I mentioned in the presentation.

Business 2.0, Government 2.0, Presentations, Social media & networking, Sustainability, Work

Web Directions South: Creating platforms for social innovation

I’m very excited to be joining an inspiring line-up at Web Directions South in a few weeks’ time, presenting on the topic of Creating platforms for social innovation:

People are redefining the relationship they have with the organisations they interact with, empowered by social technologies.  They are seeking:

  • Human-ness: as organisations have grown in size and become more and more depersonalised, people are wanting more human interactions and personal response;
  • Trust: from greenwashing to the GFC, the market’s trust has been eroded — people are looking for organisations to say what they mean and mean what they say;
  • Co-creation: people are taking a more active role in developing the products and services that they use.  And if they don’t find what they’re looking for, they will often create it themselves;
  • Responsibility: people want to engage with organisations that are genuinely addressing the complex issues of sustainability and wellbeing.

Building a brand, service or product offering that resonates in this new “economy of meaning” requires a rethinking of an organisation’s relationship to the “market” — their customers, stakeholders and the environment.

In this presentation we will examine how innovative organisations are using social technologies and design methods to create multi-dimensional value — both for the organisational and community — and will explore the themes that underpin the examples with a view to applying them in your context.

Regular readers will note that the session is focused on a number of themes that I’ve been exploring here lately, so I’m really looking forward to connecting with other folks at the conference around these concepts.

Government 2.0, Sustainability

The Economist on social innovation

I read Let’s hear those ideas at the Economist with great interest, to get a sense of how social innovation might be represented to a business/finance audience.  It is quite a good piece, but one aspect of it stood out for me:

However, so far the enthusiasm for social entrepreneurship has run ahead of its effects. The problem has not been a lack of good ideas… The problem is instead one of speed and scale. Successful innovations have spread only slowly, if at all. In business, entrepreneurial firms that do well grow fast; but social entrepreneurship does not yet have a Microsoft or a Google. Policymakers hope that with encouragement from the state social entrepreneurs’ best ideas can be spread faster and wider.

While I agree that we need to diffuse social innovation more widely (and as rapidly as possible), the idea of scaling, of creating the next “Microsoft or a Google” in social innovation perhaps misses part of the point.

Ezio Manzini has spoken about small, local, open and connected [site no longer available] social innovations being an appropriate path forward for diffusing social innovations.  In his recent talk he talked about how such innovations have economies of scope, as opposed to the more traditional view of economies of scale.

Through connecting and synergising, social innovations have the potential to maintain the important local-ness and human scale while replicating the benefits to a wider group.  I’m sure I’ve read in one of his papers (though I can’t seem to find the reference) that in fact trying to increase the scale of social innovation may actually reduce the sustainability of the activity, suggesting that trying to scale such innovations is perhaps looking to solve the wrong problem.

This is not to say that social innovation doesn’t need support.  The Economist article points to some great initiatives in the US and the UK that are allocating funds to support social innovation.  More of that is definitely needed.

Something to consider, though is Ezio’s suggestion that Government needs to consider how to engage with such initiatives, leaving enough room for innovation to occur, while building the frameworks that support the longevity of initiatives.  This is a different way of working for Government agencies and I suspect it will take some adjusting for this transition to occur.

My hope is that funds are directed to create the enabling structures that support more social innovations — e.g. supporting the communities who are already innovating and encouraging further innovation — rather that taking specific ideas and trying to scale them to apply to conditions that are poorly aligned with those that saw the innovation emerge in the first place.  While the latter approach may work in some circumstances, I suspect that it may backfire if not done with care.

(I note that Raul has an alternate take on the article over at the ASIX blog.)