What we learned over the last 9 months prototyping Kudoz

Kudoz Badging Ceremony 2015 from InWithForward

A year ago, thanks to the boldness of three disability service providers - the Burnaby Association for Community InclusionposAbilities, and Simon Fraser Society for Community Living - we began trying to understand the day-to-day realities of individuals living with a cognitive disability. We moved into a social housing complex in Burnaby, and got to work on the Burnaby Starter Project.

For a group of folks we met, their reality was the same, day after day, year after year. They had good relationships with their family, friends, and the staff who supported them. But, they were looking for something more. Something beyond bowling, swimming, and going to the movies. Something beyond ‘special education’ programs and retail, packaging, and food prep. Something that might stretch their worlds a bit - stretch the places they go, and the things that they know.

We spent October 2014 to January 2015 driving around town in Breaking Bad to co-design a vague concept we called Kudoz. Kudoz would be a catalogue of splendid learning experiences. From our conversations in group homes, day programs, and family homes, the idea began to take real shape and form. So we hired a bigger and more bad-ass team. A team of designers, of researchers, of learning gurus, of community mobilizers, of individuals and of families to bring to life this new platform of adult learning and exchange.

Six months later, that platform - Kudoz - has...

110 live learning experiences

90+ hosts, including small business owners, caring citizens, students, freelancers, and retirees

That’s over 120 hours of cool stuff happening every month that wasn’t happening before.

It’s been six months of non-stop learning. 

We’re crafting the next iteration of Kudoz

That next iteration has three big parts:

(1) We want Kudoz to be a lot more than one-off, one-time experiences.

We envision the Kudoz catalogue just like the catalogue of a university. Where you can stitch together your own learning journey - and get recognized with a digital and physical badge. A badge that can go on your resume, and be a signifier of what you can and want to do.

That’s how Steven used the Kudoz catalogue. Steven loves language. And with Kudoz, he’s tried French, Russian, and German.

From these taster experiences, we hope Steven can continue to use Kudoz to go deeper. Perhaps he’d like to skill-up one particular language, history, and culture. By continuing to meet new hosts, we hope Steven will expand his network. And through that network, we think roles and opportunities will come. After all, we know that 80% of jobs arise through personal networks.

(2) We want Reflection Cafes popping up all over the place.

We know that to get the most from Kudoz experiences, you need some time & space & prompting to think. To think about what you liked, what you didn’t like, what you’re taking away, what you want to try next.

Over the past 6-months, we’ve tried lots of different ways to spark reflection. Lots of what we’ve tried didn't really work. People told us that reflection felt like a chore. A bit boring. Too long. Too much like an interview. (Stay tuned for a longer blog post about our iterative process).

That's when we decided to take some inspiration from philosophers, and created something called Reflection Cafe.

Reflection Cafes are held in cafes around town. Like the Heartwood Community Cafe, a neighborhood cafe, with a social justice mission. In Reflection Cafe, we get together in small groups for a conversation. We share pictures, we ask each other questions, or we spend some time on-our-own, journaling, doodling, and doing whatever helps us make sense of the things we’re trying.

Our ambition is to bring reflective moments into the every day. To make it less of an add-on, and more something we all do. Because ultimately we're after deeper and richer conversations. We think it's through conversations with others that we figure out who we are and who we want to be.

(3) We want Kudoz to be THE way for community members to share what they love.

We want to grow the Kudoz movement. So that many more small business owners, freelancers, students, and retirees see Kudoz as a fulling way to share and deepen their own interests and passions. Whether it’s just for an introductory hour, or to host longer workshops, master classes, and projects.

Imagine driving around town, and seeing everyone with a Kudoz sticker on their car or their business or their laptop.

Let's get to a tipping point. Where adults with and without cognitive disabilities are interacting meaningfully and developing together.

For us, that’s what community inclusion really means.

So that’s a big vision.

We know we have a long way to go. That’s why we’ll be pausing experiences for a few months, to consolidate what we’ve learned and fundraise for the future.

We’ll also be working on all the behind-the-scenes systems to make Kudoz really work.


- The backend of the website. So Kudoers can book experiences online and Hosts get a request directly.

- The Kudoz app. So that Ku-doers are supported to go on and get the most from experiences.

- The online profiles. So that Kudoers can link their online profiles to social media. And track their own progress.

Finally, we want to thank all of our Kudoz pioneers.

Because you were there building, with us, something that can transform how adults come together to learn. Thank you for your time, passion, and feedback. We learned a tonne from you!