What I did this week
Roadmaps are hard
I’ve spent quite a lot of time shaping our roadmap for the projects we have coming up this year. Lots of things are still up in the air and working to different time scales so it’s an interesting challenge to get to different degrees of certainty about the goals and work required to achieve them.
I took part in the SCVO DigitShift talk about how to share ideas when you don’t share a space. It was my first time doing a talk, and although I really enjoyed it, it’s not something that comes easily to me. I think I’ll work on improving my writing (being as that’s a more async way to communicate) than my speaking.
WDTCCTR V 1.1
I updated the Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road website with the latest version of the story and we chatted through some feedback to improve it for the next version. We’re trying out a rapid prototyping and fast feedback with lots of iterations approach to writing the story, which is something I’ve been thinking about for a while.
What I thought about this week:
One type of personal API is about collecting all the data we generate from all the services we use, aggregating it and making it usable and perhaps available for others to use. That’s interesting, and probably has huge commercial potential in the future, but I’m more interested in a conceptual API that allows others to access someone else’s knowledge, ideas, processes, etc. rather than forcing a technical solution.
I’m trying to do less. To spend more time sleeping, going for walks without a purpose, and challenge my old ways of being really efficient and effective. Everything has a culture, nothing exists in isolation. There is the culture of productivity with it’s hacks and methods for getting more done. And there is the culture of non-productivity with it’s romantic notions of layabouts and beatniks. It’s impossible to do anything or be anything without cultural referencing.
What I read this week:
This BBC article about volunteering technology (VolTech, if you want to be tech hip) presents a few examples of volunteering apps and services but doesn’t go into any depth of thought about the considerations around decentralising volunteering. The suggestion that charities should adopt should use these kinds of technologies displays the usual lack of understanding about the difference between volunteering as an individual and volunteering through an organisation, and where responsibility lies when an organisation acts as intermediary. Charities are modes of organising people just as social movements are, but they serve very different purposes and so to suggest that tech that matches people who want to volunteer with people or organisations that want volunteers could easily meet that need in any/all circumstances seems very simplified.
Agency and taking control of your situation
If 2021 already has a theme, then for me its the tension between the individual and the collective. Everywhere I look I see that tension playing out; from protests against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to articles about High Agency. It wouldn’t be true to say that agency is a personal trait and so someone either has it or doesn’t regardless of the situation they find themselves in, but its also not true to say systems and structures can’t be affected by individuals. Its all very complex and so much to think about.
Service design glossary
Made Manifests Service Design glossary explains all the words.
This week I did:
I’ve been working on safeguarding solutions for Teams quite a bit this week. It’s interesting to uncover the assumptions that Teams is built on; things about how people within an organisation should know each other and so be able to communicate and collaborate together. If you then want to use Teams to work in ways that don’t fit those assumptions, what changes can you make to get a high degree of safeguarding controls in place.
What is social design
I started the Service Design short course at UCA. Week 1 was an introduction but had some interesting ideas including the tension between user-centred design and social design, which says that user-centred design, taken in isolation means we don’t see the effect it has on communities, society, and the planet. I hope we get more into the social design approach to Service Design as it looks really interesting.
#BeMoreDigital Virtual Conference 2021
I caught some of the sessions from the #BeMoreDigital conference, but not enough. I would have liked to have been able to be more engaged in it to get a better sense of where the charity sector is in its digital transformation.
I started writing daily posts answering three questions: What went well, what didn’t go well, what could I do different in the future? I want to see if it is a helpful habit to get into and whether it’s useful research for daily standup app I’ve been thinking about.
Working on my website (again)
And I read:
I started reading Teaming by Amy Edmondson, mostly to look more into the idea of how people can work together effectively when they aren’t a close-knit team with well established routines and relationships.
IoT in the Charity Sector
How the charities could use Internet of Things is something I’ve never thought about, but James’ example of using such devices to help people live more independent lives is fantastic. It opens up all kinds of opportunities for IoT to support and improve service delivery.
I watched the Mr. Strategy & Mrs. Wellbeing video with Janet Leighton. She talks about the culture of happiness and kindness at the Timpson Group and how they use upside down management, random acts of kindness and supporting colleagues with whatever is going on in their lives. The point that Wayne makes is that they’ve shown that it works, it isn’t just a philosophy, is such an important one for taking action to improve working cultures.
And thought about:
Place-based systems and nomads
Abby Covert says, we “turn a space into a place by arranging it so people know what to do there”. And some of the stuff I’ve read in the past talks about place-based thinking as less about the location of the place and more about the systems that interact on someone who is in that place. Which means a nomad might interact with fewer systems or those interactions might be more transitory. I think that changes what a nomad ‘knows’ what to do in a particular place. Even though they are in the same location as a non-nomad, they interact with systems differently and so see the place differently.
Solving problems simply
I’ve been thinking about ways of asking the question, “What is the simplest way we can solve this problem?”. Can we still meet a user need with a simple solution? How simple can a solution be in order to learn from it? Are simple solutions less likely to have unintended consequences than more complicated solutions?
Asynchronicity and learning
I’ve been thinking about the benefits of async working being greater than just less non-productive time spent in meetings. Async working utilises writing and drawing more than speaking and listening, which changes the nature of how information flows and enables those people with different learning styles to contribute in more considered ways.
Some people tweeted:
How to make sense of any mess
Doug Belshaw tweeted a link to howtomakesenseofanymess.com, Abby Covert’s website/online book about information architecture. It’s brilliantly thoughtful and thought-provoking. If I ever get around to writing a book I want it to be like this.
Validate the vision
Rosie Sherry tweeted, “Don’t validate a product, validate your vision“, which is much bigger but I think much easier thing to do. You’re not asking people if a product solves their problem, you’re asking people what kind of world they want to live in.
Levels of listening
Joshua Kerievsky tweeted, “Added “Levels of Listening” to the #PsychologicalSafety cheat sheet.” I still find Modern Agile the most inspiring way to think about modern digital ways of working. Joshua describes it as “a community for people interested in uncovering better ways of getting awesome results. It leverages wisdom from many industries, is principle driven and framework free.”
This is the first iteration of my Charity Service Model Canvas.
The good thing about a canvas is it encourages you to think about how the things on each box connect and support each other. Are the outcomes realistic given the funding and resources? Are the marketing channels going to be effective for those beneficiaries? Will the outcomes actually meet the need?
What needs will the service address?
Is the service being commissioned by a local authority, for example? If so, what conditions will there be to adhere to that will shape the service?
How are the right people going to know about the service, including beneficiaries, refers, supporters?
Who is the service for?
Who will benefit from access the service, just the beneficiaries, or also their family, school, local community?
What is the service going to offer?
Do the Activities require any Resources or Supporting services?
Will these activities contribute to achieving the Outcomes?
What else is required to run the service that the charity itself cannot provide, e.g. taxis, building hire?
What will the service achieve? How will this be measure and reported? Will the Outcomes match the Needs?
What aspects of the service will have costs, e.g, staff wages, admin time, consumables, building hire?
What sources of funding will be available?
Will the funding provide full cost recovery?
Over what time period of funding available, and how will the service be funded after that?
Staffing – Will extra staff have to be recruited?
Skills – What skills are needed to deliver the service? Do we have them, if not how are we going to get them?
Technology – What technology will the service need? Do we already have it or will we need to build/buy it?
Time – How much time will be spent delivering the service, e.g. 8 hours a day, 1 day a week? How much time will be spent administering the service? Include support functions such as finance? How long is the service expected to last?
Manifesto also have a canvas. Theirs is far more thorough and better thought out than mine.
Put simply: methodology is not, in itself, a theory. And I mean theory in quite a social science way: a framework for understanding peoples’ behaviours and actions. When I see service design in the line of work, it is probably best described as a spectrum of research methodologies or meta-methodologies (as in, it can eat up more focused methodologies and reconstitute them as being part of a whole: ethnography and wireframing can sit in the same box, and become “service design” by dint of the order of deployment and the use of the outputs).
In March 2019, I gave my first hour-long talk at the Service Design in Government conference in Edinburgh — where I tried to express what nearly a decade working to modernise public services in the UK has shown me are just a few of the vital organisational, conceptual and cultural challenges for 21st century government.