We see every project as an opportunity to test how to better do the work. So how we frame and structure projects, organize teams, blend methods, and cobble together the financing. In fact, over the next year, we've set out 21 different hunches to test across all of our different projects. In Burnaby, we plan to test Hunches 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 16.
We know just how easy it is, when we're busy and under pressure, to fall back into old routines and comfortable patterns. By spelling out our hunches, we hope to incorporate a new layer of intentionality and experimentation each step of the way. We don't just want to prototype solutions, we want to prototype our underlying processes. We invite you to learn with us over the months to come!
"We will try framing our projects in terms of the people left out, on the margins, or experiencing not so good outcomes. That means, we will move away from framing projects in terms of a broad social challenge (like chronic disease) or in terms of an under-performing institution (like failing schools). Instead, we’ll focus on people in a particular place"
In Burnaby, we're framing the project in terms of people disconnected from the community - especially those people living with a disability or perceived (by themselves or others) as separate from the rest. We're not framing the project in terms of a broad issue like social inclusion, or in terms of a particular service system. Because we don't assume that the solution will sit within an 'inclusiveness' framework or within a certain service.
"We won’t wait for fully funded projects. We’ll start small, and invest our own resources in collecting stories of people living tough as well as those living surprisingly well (the positive deviants). Because we think stories can surface gaps, be a source of practical ideas, and build the momentum for making those ideas real."
In Burnaby, we are self-financing the first 3 months of ethnographic field work. With lots of moral and in-kind support from our local partners. We will use the stories & early ideas that emerge to make the case for a full prototyping project.
"We won’t stop with stories of people on-the-ground. We’ll also try collecting stories of the people inside services and systems. Using the same deep ethnographic methods. Not just interviews or workshops. So we can really contextualize what professionals & policymakers do. Not just what they say. We think this requires structuring our team around different ‘user’ groups."
In Burnaby, we'll have 6 people as part of the Core Team. 3 from InWithForward and 3 Apprentices from the local community. We'll organize ourselves in pairs to seek out the perspectives of every day people, professionals, and policymakers. That won't just mean doing interviews - but ethnographic field work in homes, offices, and the places where decisions are made.
"We think a good story doesn’t just describe what is happening now, but imagines what could be. The challenge is people don’t always know what could be. They can’t ask for things they don’t know exist. Or that they don’t have words for. So during our field work, we’re not just going to observe. We’re also going to try creating experiences that expose people to new reference points & alternatives."
In Burnaby, we'd like to experiment with some small interventions to shape people's notions of what could be different. This might mean sharing back people's own stories in a different format, giving them other stories to read, watching bits of film, and listening to audio. We hope to spark a deeper level of awareness and reflection.
"Our ethnographic field work and story writing is predicated on spending loads of time with people in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces. But spending loads of time with people is darn expensive. Particularly if you use a consultancy business model - where you bill by the hour or by the day. We’re going to try a different business model. Where we sell the stories and tools from the fieldwork to multiple organizations. Along with apprenticeships to participate in the process."
In Burnaby, we'd like to package up the materials we use in our fieldwork, the stories that come out, and some of our sense-making frameworks. And use these packages to spark critical thinking within organizations around the world.
"To answer the question: what’s a good outcome, for whom? we need to reach out and engage the folks who don’t come to us. Who don’t show up to our workshops and who don’t answer our flyers. We want to try using more grassroots community mobilization techniques, and spending more time in one place building relationships and banking-up trust."
In Burnaby, we're going to draw on the know-how of our Apprentice team. All local folks with established relationships in the community. We'll also be getting to know small business owners, neighbors, and professionals. And because we'll be actually living in Burnaby, we plan to reach out to people as part of day-to-day living.
"We’re not always going to agree on what’s a good outcome. So we want to try incorporating more debating methods into our process - as fodder for generating ideas. We believe that a lot of the design methods gloss over differences, and aren’t able to get underneath the philosophical issues at stake."
In Burnaby, we'll explicitly ask for ongoing critical feedback from our Advisory team and Debriefing team. Mid-way through the project, we also hope to run a new kind of Socratic Seminar. Where we can openly explore the different versions of 'good' outcomes emanating from the on-the-ground work - and really probe the implications for policy and practice.
"We want to try engaging politicians in our ethnographic process, and understanding how their political values manifest. Because debates about individual versus collective goods are inherently political. And where we think political decisions are at odds with enabling good outcomes, we want to invest in advocacy & campaigning."
In Burnaby, we're going to reach out to the local and provincial political layers to understand their point of view, and what informs their decision-making. Again, we hope to leverage the connections from our Advisory and Debriefing teams to do this.
"Size matters. We think teams that are bigger than 5 people are really cumbersome.. And yet we want to bring as many people into our teams to experience the process. So we’re going to try creating multiple teams with distinct remits, but common routines."
In Burnaby, we're trying out this onion team structure - with Apprentices, Debriefers, and Advisors. Apprentices will be immersed in the every day work, whilst Debriefers will cycle in and out. Advisors will help us keep the birds eye view.