I have, for the last two years, been working on projects that explore the changing role of design and the designer. There have been briefs from a wide variety of clients spanning public, private and third sectors. What connects all of them is the social and systemic challenges they address coupled with a people centred approach. Below I have included some case studies of Spaghetti's work, categorised under the following 6 headings.

Birmingham City Council: Innovation Labs

Birmingham City Council: Innovation Labs

Workshopping

Workshopping

Collaborative Social Innovation

Collaborative Social Innovation

Hyper Island

Hyper Island

Jams

Jams

Industry Research: Design Local Government

Industry Research: Design Local Government

There is a saying "if digital is the answer, what is the question?" this sentiment could not be more relevant anywhere than in the public sector. Often driven by the lure of efficiency and productivity local government (and central government for that matter) are increasingly drawn to digital and technological solutions. The challenge then of course is that these new offerings are often designed with the institutions aims in mind and not that people who will ultimately be affected by the use of it. This is true for both front line staff (responsible for delivery of a service) and the people who are trying to get a job done.

Digital transformation is not as simple as taking offline things online. If we do not ask the right questions about why we are using these new technologies we are in danger of making things harder to use, less efficient and increasing pressure on an already stressed system. Understanding what people truly need and value will be the difference between successful digital transformation and digital frustration.

As part of Spaghetti I have been working with Birmingham City Council and their partner Service Birmingham to think through these challenges. This has taken shape in the form of many conversations to understand their current organisational needs and future goals. As part of that work I Co-Hosted two "Innovation Labs" where the frontline staff ultimately charged with delivery were the design team, building capacity in them so that they can be an active part in shaping the direction that services are heading. Our aim with this work was to build innovators not innovation, however two services are currently under review for implementation as a result.

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT

Our first "Lab" with Birmingham City Council saw us take a multidisciplinary team though a 1 week design sprint. During this week we looked at what it takes to make an effective team, and took a deep dive into council services related to jobs and youth unemployment. We worked with young people, citizens, small to medium enterpises and frontline workers. Together we explored and defined what the real needs of young people are in regards to finding their way to employment. The team rapidly prototyped potential new digital services that addressed their findings.

This project was delivered with and for Birmingham City Council, Digital Birmngham and Service Birmingham.

FOSTERING AND ADOPTION

For the second "Lab" with Birmingham City Council we took a similar approach, building on our learnings from the previous project. Again a multidisciplinary team participated in a 1 week design sprint exploring what it takes to make an effective team, and taking a deep dive into council services related to foster care and adoption. We worked with young people in care, citizens that are foster carers or those with potential to be and frontline workers. Together we explored and defined what their real needs are and rapidly prototyped potential new digital services that could address them.

This project was delivered with and for Birmingham City Council and Service Birmingham.

Design and designers have valuable insights to offer when it comes to innovation, the popularisation and adoption of things like design thinking have proven this in recent years. While it may be true that new ways of viewing problems born out of a design tradition may have something to offer the world in dealing with "wicked problems", it is not just designers that design. We do not have ownership over creativity and new ideas, and we certainly can not claim to understand the challenges better than anyone else.

The reality is, more often than not, that designers do not live the problem so they do not understand the problem. Even though research we can only get so far. Whether intentionally or not designers bring a set of basises rooted in their own world view and experiences. In these projects we have been working to harness the collective intelligence of communities and put them in the design "driving seat. They set the frame, and collaboratively explore solutions.

Bringing people together to share experiences, interests and challenges we are exploring what it means to create "learning communities" that have a better understanding of themselves and the individuals within them. Our hope is that though this greater understanding people will uncover new solutions to the problems they identify and face. We have been supporting them by making the design process more open and accessible, in a range of different ways. We have created the opportunities for people to take ownership over both problem and solution, while creating future resilience in by building capacity in people through collaboration and problem solving.

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#RADICALCHILDCARE

This is an initiative to explore, imagine and invest in bold new possibilities for the future of childcare. Based in Birmingham, we are working with parents, grandparents, professionals in the sector; commissioners, policy makers, educationalists, serial entrepreneurs and many others to develop and test radical solutions to enable children and families to thrive. Right now we are looking to surface, explore, provoke and share ideas as part of an open enquiry, and the project will later develop into a social innovation incubator and accelerator.

This is building on the work done by 00 and Impact Hub Birmingham, but is not owned by any one group. Feel like you have something to offer? Join the conversation and get involved on twitter using #RadicalChildcare.

Activate

In this project we have been exploring how we can aid place based systems change though an open-source design process that groups can use to spark ideas and action. Initiated by HealthWatch Dudley, the hope is that though using the pack community projects will be started that have an indirect impact on health outcomes in the area.

We turned the processes that we have been developing with groups in various projects into a simple to follow 3 step process, with a resource pack to support it.

This has been created though a collaboration between CoLab Dudley and Spaghetti. CoLab Dudley works closely with voluntary and public sector organisations in the area, and was due to them that we were able to test and prototype the pack with the people that were going to be using it. We tested for accessibility, working with groups with many varied needs. The resulting pack has been shared across the borough with over 30 groups and sessions continue to provide feedback on how we can improve.

 

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A Place To _

Building on the success of the Activate project we are again partnering with CoLab Dudley and Dudley Council for Voluntary Services to deliver a project that aims to go beyond seeding concepts and ideas, by working with people to make them real. Events have been planned for people to come together to share stories, learn what is possible and build projects together. 

West Midlands Police are offering funding for prototypes of projects that are grown out of community collaboration. One of the hopes for the project is that the ideas started will have an indirect impact on policing outcomes by building a stronger more active community in 2 specific areas. 

The ideas supported will be many and varied. From shared dinners to repair clubs, growing food to digital learning. If people have an idea that could improve where they live, we want to give them the support needed to build it, test it and learn from it.

One of the first projects that we worked on as Spaghetti was a Jam. They are pretty close to my heart as the one I attended in Oslo, in 2012, is ultimately what lead me to where I am today. Beyond what the event can deliver in terms of outcomes, Jams play a much more important role in encouraging and building the creative confidence of the broader public.

A Jam uses the design thinking process which encourages divergent and convergent thinking to collaborate and develop ideas. Starting with empathy we challenge participants to really get to the crux of the problem and uncover the needs of real people. Teams make and test low fidelity prototypes of their ideas as they go. A process of feedback and iteration helps teams to improve and hone their concepts.

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SPAGHETTI JAMS

Spaghetti Jams is a community of enthusiastic people who come together to build and share innovative ideas that could improve the experiences of people living in our local community of Birmingham. As part of the Global Jam movement we come together 3 times per year for 48 hours to collaborate around a local challenge through a through the design thinking process.

We are now moving onto our sixth Spaghetti Jam, each time growing and learning using the same ethos as the Jam itself.

UNITY JAMS

For Unity Jams we worked with 40 young people and police forces across the West Midlands to empower young people in re-designing interactions with the police. Getting the young to think about what policing means in their area. We took them, in teams, though a 2 day design process that ended in rough prototypes of new services, spaces and ideas for better policing and building communities.

This project was designed and delivered in partnership with Connect Justice, who work to find justice in conflict, and Beatfreeks, a youth engagement agency.

UKTI - EXPORT JAM

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) held 9 workshops around the UK called ‘Export Jams’. These workshops looked at how the government provides export support to companies in the future.

We ran the West Midlands Jam and worked with a roomful of people from all kinds of backgrounds in teams to generate, develop big new ideas. People were encouraged to speak up, think outside the box, and explore new tools and skills like design thinking.

The goal of any organisation looking to be more innovative in order to face up to the challenges of a new digital age, should not be to build innovations. So many people think about innovation as discrete products and services, it's phones, apps, and Uber. It's not that there is no value in this, its just that focusing on what others are doing or specific technologies it's not where useful ideas come from. Understanding potential is important but building innovative cultures within organisation is where real value lies. This is what will give you long term competitive advantage.

When we have been approached to help organisations think differently, it has often lead to us reframing the conversation away from the delivery of new services and instead to build capacity in employees. "Innovators over Innovation."

ASTON UNIVERSITY

As part of the Aston University's "Dare to Succeed" strategy, we designed and a program of workshops introducing employees from all areas to design thinking and building collaborative mindsets within the institution.

They explored the human-centreted mindset though various methods & tools and applying them to a concrete challenge, reflectively taking learnings back into their daily work.

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BRITISH SCIENCE ASSOCIATION

Keen to explore the potential for building innovative capacity, this rapid design thinking workshop was run by Spaghetti for the British Science Association.

We helped the organisation to explore a human-centered mindset where they got to know design thinking hands-on by exploring various methods & tools and applying them to a concrete challenge.

Hyper Island’s MA in Digital Management offers an immersive learning experience delivered by innovative digital leaders and pioneers. The programme combines a broad range of topics, including digital technology, business transformation, strategy, service design and research methods with real-world application, their hope is to develop the digital leaders of the future. I was lucky enough to attend in 2014.

During my time there we worked alongside and learnt from world class agencies such as Snook, AKQA, Digitas LBi and Sapient Nitro delivering on live briefs for the likes of Unilever, Greenpeace, NHS and Save the Children.

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NHS // HEALTH E-RESEARCH CENTRE

The brief for the NHS and the Health eResearch Centre asked us to propose possible digital solutions to help solve a range of issues faced by the organisation, as well as systemic health issues in the UK.

My team delivered an ecosystem concept that improved health and healthcare while generating revenue and addressing some of the structural issues of the institution.

UNILEVER

This brief for Unilever asked us to provide disruptive digital solutions in order to improve their online marketing strategy and business model for one of their global brands.

As part of a multidisciplinary, multinational team we delivered to the client a concept for a new product line as well as a marketing and communication strategy. 

Local government bodies across England are facing tough challenges around the fundamental redesign of many of their public services. This is mainly due to increasing pressure on council budgets. According to the Local Government Association (LGA), local authorities in England face a funding shortfall of £12.4 billion by 2020, while at the same time councils are providing 80% of all local public services (Copeland, E. 2015). To make matters worse many of these services provided help to support the most vulnerable people in our communities like children, the sick, and elderly. Local government faces a choice, either to offer ever thinner slices of it’s services - just doing less of the same - or redesign them to better meet peoples’ needs, while at the same time dealing with economic realities. 

“Driving a System to do more will not be enough if something different is needed.” Charlie Leadbeater, Systemic Innovation, Nesta 2013 (Design Commission, 2013) 

Offering less of the same in order to save money is unsustainable, so redesign seems inevitable. Existing structures and processes support incremental, low risk changes that take a long time to implement. To make the sort of changes needed to address these financial and societal issues local government must change its mindset and approach. Design thinking offers one possible way of doing this. However the challenge is that design thinking has no one, clear definition (Kimbell, L. 2011a) and as such is seen as confusing and risky (Design Commission, 2013). 

This report looks at and explores methods for how we can progress the design thinking discourse in local government. Rooted in practical application and research from many varied case studies, it offers a comprehensive (yet still not complete) view of how we can "design local government".

MENTORING & TALKS:

  • Powered By - Social Innovation Incubator/Accelerator: Industry Leader and mentor
  • MAIA Creatives: Pannel discussion - Changing the World Through the Arts
  • Malala Yosafzai: 1 week of Industry experience with Impact Hub and Spaghetti
  • B-Startup Bootcamp // Virgin Startup: Industry Leader and mentor
  • Hyper Island: Industry Leader and mentor
  • Change the World: Breakfast talk at Making Waves Oslo