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So what’s a mechanism?

Mechanisms are interactions that shift inputs (e.g hours of support) into outcomes (e.g sense of possibility). Interactions like Modeling and Feedback.

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We test and tweak mechanisms...

In-context, packaging them up as services and networks. Like Kudoz.

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to figure out what changes outcomes for people.

We frame good outcomes in terms of flourishing lives, including a sense of possibility. To get to what government cares about, like employment.

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These are the 7 missing links.

Between social services and good outcomes. That we’ve seen over a decade of project work. Across 6 countries, and lots of social issues. From aged care to child protection.

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We don’t need to keep re-discovering what’s missing.

Let’s implement what we know works from on-the-ground research and social science literature.

In our experience, implementation requires:

(1) local data to identify which change mechanisms work, for whom
(2) evidence of how to package mechanisms & deliver new services
(3) team capacity to revise when things don’t work

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That’s why we do three things.

Read more and comment on our approach.

ArticleDownload Grounded Change

by Sarah, March 30, 2015

Give us feedback on our revised approach, called Grounded Change. After a decade of projects in 6 countries, it's time to stop re-discovering the same patterns. It's time to implement what's missing from our social services & welfare systems. Read on

  • tags:
  • methodology
  • change mechanisms

Article5 critical questions

by Jonas, December 18, 2014

Watch a short video introducing the 5 critical questions we always ask when designing new programs and policies. Read on

  • tags:
  • critical thinking
  • social innovation
  • video
  • problem-solving

ArticleWatch how we make policies & programs from the ground-up

by Yani, September 21, 2014

Watch our six-minute film about why bottom-up policymaking and program design is needed - and what it looks like. Read on

  • tags:
  • prototoyping
  • social inclusion
  • approach
  • Canada

ArticleInnovative or Intentional?

by Sarah, July 10, 2016

Are innovative companies solving the wrong problems? How do we start to surface different values? What tools do we need beyond design to close gaps between values & practices? Read where InWithForward is heading in the months and years to come ... Read on

  • tags:
  • values-led design
  • prototyping
  • tactics
  • language

ArticleWhat does IWF do?

by Jonas, May 30, 2016

Watch street-involved adults, staff, partners, team members, and funders try and describe what InWithForward does. It's not easy! Read on

  • tags:
  • film
  • prototyping
  • co-design

Article3 responses to Grounded Change

by Sarah, September 2, 2014

Thanks to conversations at United Way Toronto, The Atkinson Foundation, and West Neighborhood House, we've got 3 new perspectives on Grounded Change. What's your perspective? Read on

  • tags:
  • methodology
  • change mechanisms
  • social labs

ArticleMaking with Vs. Designing For

by Jonas, October 4, 2014

See Sarah's talk at the (New) Public Goods Conference sponsored by New York City's DESIS Lab. She introduces IWF's deep ethnographic approach. Read on

  • tags:
  • social labs
  • approach
  • co-design
  • ethnography
  • film

ArticleWhat makes us different?

by Sarah , February 23, 2014

We're often asked: what makes your approach different from Ideo or MindLab or Reos Partners? Here's our reply. Read on

  • tags:
  • methodology
  • social labs

ArticleWas our hunch correct? Lessons from Canada

by Sarah, July 7, 2014

We've just finished up 3 months of immersive fieldwork in Toronto, and Burnaby. Testing a hunch about how to move from on-the-ground work to systems change. Read what we learned. And what we'll do differently. Read on

  • tags:
  • methodology
  • social innovation
  • belonging
  • Canada

ArticleAre we ambitious enough?

by Sarah , May 22, 2014

After the New Public Goods symposium @ Parson's, I'm left wondering about the scope of our ambition. Should labs be about optimizing cities & services, reducing human suffering, or enabling human flourishing? Read on

  • tags:
  • methodology
  • social labs
  • public policy
  • public services

ArticleSpread and Scale: What and How?

by Sarah , Anna Lochard & Jesper Christiansen , April 18, 2014

In our third installment of Debate Writing, Jesper (Mindlab), Anna (27 Region) and I explore our versions of spread and scale. We agree in spreading processes, rather than scaling products. But how do we actually do that? Read on

  • tags:
  • debate
  • methodology
  • spread
  • scale
  • collective impact
  • Mindlab
  • 27 Region

ArticleAre we 'using' users?

by Jesper Christiansen , Anna Lochard & Sarah , March 17, 2014

Here's the second installment of debate writing. Where we look beyond the rhetoric of co-design, participatory policymaking, and user-centered design to ask ourselves the thorny, ethical question: how are we instrumentalizing citizens? Read on

  • tags:
  • methodology
  • user-centered
  • debate
  • social sciences

ArticleSocial Sciences in Action

by Jesper Christiansen , Anna Lochard & Sarah , March 8, 2014

Three social scientists walk into a pod.... That was the set-up for our first session of Debate Writing. Between MindLab and La 27 Region. Read our responses to the prompt: How do we put social sciences in action? The first in a series of 3 pieces! Read on

  • tags:
  • debate
  • social sciences
  • methodology

ArticleHow We Bounce

by Sarah , October 26, 2013

We often describe our approach as a blend between policy and design. From design, we take a focus on people and on prototyping interactions that work for them. From policy, we take a focus on agenda setting, coalition building, and influencing systems. And yet there’s some important differences between these approaches and ours. Read on

  • tags:
  • methodology

ArticleSparking debates

by Yani, February 19, 2014

We tested hunch #7 using an Analysis Wall. Did we manage to spark some debates? Read on

  • tags:
  • apeldoorn
  • women
  • domestic violence
  • hunches
  • analysis

ReviewMethodological Craft

by Sarah, February 20, 2014

Here's the article I wrote for the journal Social Space setting out some of the assumptions behind different social change methodologies. I've added a new ending. Read on

  • tags:
  • methodology
  • social labs

Article21 Hunches

by Sarah, January 22, 2014

This year, we're testing 21 hunches about how to prompt systemic change. Have a read and tell us your hunches. Read on

  • tags:
  • hunches
  • methodology
 

Q & A Got questions?

What's the synopsis of your approach?

We make social services, neighborhood networks, and public policies that measurably shift outcomes with and for the most marginalized folks. By (1) collecting local ethnographic data, (2) testing & tweaking interventions, and (3) creating immersive learning experiences to spread the  thinking and practice. We don’t use a fancy step-by-step process for this. We use a blend of theories and methods from design, social psychology, philosophy, and history. 

How do you think change happens?

We are after individual and systems change. To shift outcomes for folks doing poorly, we have to shift what families, neighbors, professionals, and policymakers think and do. We believe the best way to shift attitudes & behaviors is to create new kinds of interactions.  

That’s why we focus so much on making new interactions: on services that change the power divide between professionals and families; on networks that change how professionals learn on-the-job; on data management systems that change how policymakers see users. We see systems change as the compilation of these many, smaller interventions. Stitched together with a shared understanding of who and what these systems are for.

What informs your approach?

So many things! To give you a flavor: 

In terms of services/policies, we're inspired by informal networks like Family Independence Initiative in Oakland, California; alternative justice systems like Restorative Justice in New Zealand; and the ways in which hospice care has become embedded in many communities around the world. 

In terms of process, we're inspired by public health movements. Like the anti-tobacco movement, which has unfolded both at a grassroots level and within big public systems. We're also huge fans of positive deviance methods. And using theoretical frameworks like Reasoned Action to test what prompts change.

In terms of learning, we draw on a lot of the principles of John Dewey and liberal arts teaching. Of using the humanities and social sciences to ask the tough questions. But we also believe in making alternatives super tangible. As they do in design school.

How does your approach relate to social innovation?

Often the services, networks, and policies we make are labeled 'innovative'. Because they disrupt the status quo. But that doesn’t mean they are 'new'. Our work has strong historical roots. We find we’re often updating ‘old’ ideas - like the Settlement House Movement or Participatory Action Research. We don't care if what we create is 'new' or 'old' or 'borrowed'. We just care that it changes things with and for the most marginalized.  

Are you a Change Lab?

Yes, if you define a lab as a team, with a methodology, that develops solutions to complex social challenges. Where we diverge from many existing labs is our focus on outcomes, not simply on process. We find there is too much emphasis on methods like co-design and prototyping. And too little emphasis on what a 'good' solution from co-design and prototyping looks like. That's why we lead with the latter.