Thursday, 24 June 2010

Designing a better world at Northumbria

Last week I went to Newcastle for this one-day conference to pick up some tips on how to design a better world.

The opening session was really about a discussion of what ‘better’ means to different people, I particularly like Julia Lohmann’s idea of ‘nothingness’, where people have more time to think and enjoy life rather than busy getting it stuffed by stuff…

I am rather impressed by the two speakers from Philips. Gavin Proctor talked about their extended product life cycle that goes beyond the line of consumption, but into disposal and recycle of Philips product as well.

The closing keynote was from the brilliant Josephine Green, who previously worked as the Senior Director of Trend and Strategy at Philips Design. She took us through the change we are experiencing in terms of social structure, or in her words ‘from pyramids to pancakes’. Couple of key characters of the pancake society is around the distributing innovation, collaboration, community and sustainability. Well, according to my knowledge, you can find some related arguments in Zuboff’s Support Economy and Gary Hamel’s Future of Management – both talked about the power shift towards stakeholders and their role in open and social innovation. It is quite inspiring to see how international company that previously has a reputation in manufacturing, such as Philips, stand up and talk about what social change means to them and how they face the challenge to move ahead.

And for fans of social innovation, here is a link from her presentation regarding some tools and methods for social innovation that may interest you:

There was a concern expressed at the conference regarding whether it is too optimistic to this bright future Green presented, as the environmental scientists are basically telling us it’s too late. Well, wonderful Ms Green replied ‘it is our moral responsibility to keep optimistic in difficult times.’ and she also said ‘Life is a bitch.’ – wise words!

Interestingly, the next day of the conference, I found this rather odd little box outside Waitrose in Newcastle city centre full of green tokens. So it was the Community Matters Theme from Waitrose. They ask their customers to help them choose how much they should fund in community projects, so their investment is driven by community for community. Customer who shopped in the store were given a green token to vote for the community project they would like to support, and then Waitrose will invest money in these projects according to the result of the voting. A rather engaging approach to present community development to Waitrose's customers, don't you think?

By the way, I voted for the wild animal one, and then an lovely lady passed by me, put her token into the same box and told me 'nice choice~' - haha!

So supermarket is catching up by placing themselves as an active part of the community and support local development. Why don't we have Waitrose in Dundee? Can we vote for that as well?

Friday, 11 June 2010

Hello again

It was not my intension to leave this space empty for such a long time, yet, my thinking has not stopped during the absence of blogging. In stead, I have reached some really interesting findings of my research, and glad that the challenging job of writing and reflecting the three-year journey has gained some positive feedbacks.

Yesterday I went to London and visited Participle’s little but busy office at Tanner Street. Participle has a clear vision that challenges the current state of public service and policy making. One of their most famous projects might be the Southward Circle, a social enterprise aims at solving problems for the aging society using the power of local community. I was delightfully surprised when I heard that they actually live prototype services in their little office – turn their office into the headcounter of a social enterprise for a good couple of weeks to find out what’s working and what’s not. It is exciting just to imaging live prototyping a service rather than writing it up in a report or business plan (not saying writing is not important but you know what I mean) This reminds me of We Are Curious’s method of establishing office at their client’s site in order to develop and exhibit their learning with the key stakeholders. Locations for Service Design seems to be a rather interesting topic to have a look at, it does reflects the inspiration of building a community of knowledge around a functioning service system, isn’t it? Maybe someone should collect examples like these and make it a method… how about call it ‘real space for service prototyping’?

Jennie Winhall, the friendly senior consultant at Participle, asked me what do people do with their big thick thesis. I said, well, disseminate it. So here comes the question of how. Getting back to blogging. After the long break it is good to be back and start again with a fresh mind, with a new background (Who wouldn’t love a blue sky?) Also I am preparing some paper for different purpose right now, one about the different aspects of design outcome for Service Design, another one for design education, and potentially another one for designer’s role in change management. But maybe the best way of realizing the value of the big thick book of knowledge is through practice. Here we go, a Service Design PhD looking for a job to make a difference. So if you happen to know of any opportunity to offer, I would love to hear from you.