We’re looking for teammates. To help us get to know folks living in the Edmonds / Kingsway neighborhood of Burnaby, British Columbia; understand what connection and disconnection really means; and come up with super concrete ideas that enable many more people to thrive. Read more about the Starter Project here.
We can’t do good work without a good local team…
We liken a good team to an. … onion. Onions, like teams, come in a lot of varieties. Onions are grown and selectively bred, just like teams. As onions mature, the nutritious bits accumulate. Into the bulb. Similarly, as good teams develop, their outputs are richer and more flavorful. Of course, onions – like good teams – aren’t innocuous. They can make you cry. There is some discomfort involved in getting to the goodness. Not to mention a lot of protective outer layerings.
So we’re on the search for 10-15 folks who want to join the protective outer layering of the team – as advisors and debriefers. And for 3 folks who’d like to develop into the bulb – as apprentices, alongside us. Beginning the second week of April.
Advisors will help us take a long-term strategic view.Whilst our initial on-the-ground work will unfold over a couple of months, our goal is to lay the groundwork for several years of work. So we’d like our advisors to coach us in relationship building, and introduce us to key decision-makers and opinion-leaders. We’ll need assistance framing and positioning the work. We’ll need to make sure we’re building on the lessons of past projects. We’ll need guidance in making the work politically relevant, and finding ways to engage big bureaucratic systems. And together, we want to explore some different models of financing & governance for these kinds of bottom-up + top-influencing projects. We envision advisors getting together three times over the course of the initial 10 week period, and being available for 1:1 consults. Advisors will volunteer their time.
Debriefers will interject a critical view. When we’re immersed in the day-to-day doing, debriefers will come along to observe and ask questions. They’ll help us to make sense of what we’re learning from people, professionals, and policymakers. When we encounter practical barriers, debriefers will help us to troubleshoot. They’ll help us to maintain the space for regular review, reflection, and mutual learning. And they’ll get first-hand exposure to new ways of thinking and doing that they can directly apply to their own organizations. We envision debriefers participating for an afternoon every two weeks. They will volunteer their time.
Apprentices will help us keep a grounded view. They’ll do it all. From our morning smoothie sessions to set priorities. To making materials to recruit people on-the-street. To building booths in front of supermarkets. To spending weekends drinking tea with neighbors, getting a feel for their lives. To reading books and articles, and extracting key insights. To hosting community dinners, and curating surprising experiences between the local baker and bicycle maker. To going on random field trips to a farm for inspiration. We envision apprentices being very full-time for the 10 weeks – with the hope that they’ll be a big part of the longer-term change work. Apprentices will be be on loan from their ‘home’ organizations, who will continue to pay & support them.
Why work in this way?
We’re trying out this layered ‘onion’ team structure for the first time. It’s one of our hunches. About how to prompt systemic change.The hunch comes from a conundrum. On the one hand, we think it’s critical to engage as many folks as possible in the day-to-day work. Seeing is believing. On the other hand, the larger the team gets, the slower it becomes. We find rapid prototyping is partly what brings the naysayers on board – they are surprised by how fast ideas can become concrete. Our hope is that by creating a variety of roles, with different intensity levels and focal points, we can strike a good balance. Between inclusiveness and agility.
Here’s what on-the-ground work looks like:
Want to know more about each role?
What words would we use to describe the role?
Comrade, ethnographer, recruiter, maker, illustrator, storyteller, coordinator, host, debater
What will the Apprentices actually do?
Well, everything! Every day and every week looks pretty different. In the first few weeks of a Starter project, we’ll be mobilizing and recruiting people. So this will look like making pop-up stands, calling supermarkets and malls, door knocking, going to hospitals and pharmacies, talking to taxi drivers, you name it. After that, we’ll be spending a lot of time with people. In their homes. Using photos, film, and visual tools to provoke conversations. We’ll also spend time with professionals and policymakers. In their workplaces. Using visualizations of data to debate alternatives. From there, we’ll look for patterns and segments, draw our early ideas, and go back out to folks to get their reactions. Along the way, we’ll be reading academic articles, writing-up what we’re learning, making short podcasts and films, and trying to build a network of supporters.
Who are we looking for?
We’re looking for 3 secondees to come on board full-time for 8-10 weeks, starting in early April. These will be folks working for local government, social service agencies, or design studios who are up for a totally new experience, and whose organization is behind them! We see these folks as a kind-of human blender – able to mix the big picture with the nitty gritty details; the creative with the analytic; and the idealistic with the pragmatic. We’re not picky about academic background. What we care an awful lot about is the additive effect – how the three people are more than the sum of their parts ….
So here’s some of the parts we find useful on a team. If you’ve got one-third of the parts on this list plus the essentials, you could be a great fit…
- An understanding of human behavior, and some different levers for behavior change (from psychology, sociology, economics, etc.)
- An understanding of organizational behavior, and some different levers for policy change (from politics, public administration, etc.).
- Experience with social research, including prompting conversations & qualitatively analyzing the results
- A love of reading varied sources – from self-help books to sci-fi – and an ability to find random connections.
- A penchant for writing down what you are seeing, hearing, and feeling.
- The swagger to pick up the phone or walk into a store and persuade people to join your cause.
- A knack for just ‘being’ with people – making them feel utterly comfortable & able to open-up.
- The ability to facilitate a dialogue between all sorts of folks – maybe those in business suits & orange jumpsuits!
- A mind for planning, preparing, organizing lots of different things at once – without breaking into a sweat.
- A skill for making spreadsheets, interpreting statistics, and creating maps & charts.
- The ability to transform a space – from a boring meeting room into an interactive exhibition.
- A flair for making abstract ideas concrete – by making models, visualizations, drawings, scenarios, websites, etc.
- Experience packaging ideas for different user groups – through visual identity, branding, and most importantly, content segmentation.
- Adept at InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator
- Not bad at taking photos, video, and editing short clips together
- The ability to problem-solve on the spot – and with some cardboard and tape, repair Ikea furniture, create a pop-up stand, make a diorama, or whatever.
- You live in British Columbia – and preferably in or around the Burnaby area!
- A deep-rooted belief that the status quo is not good enough. Injustices make you both angry, and inspired
- An insatiable curiosity about why things are the way they are, and an ability to ask insightful questions.
- An opportunistic mindset – you’re constantly looking for what’s missing or what could be different.
- An ability to give and get feedback. And not take it personally. (It’s hard, we know!).
- Some awareness of how your own limits and boundaries – and an ability to honestly share what you’re feeling.
- A willingness to draw on different resources when needed – from past jobs, friends, family members, etc.
- An openness to doing whatever is needed and picking up the slack (without having to be asked)
- A whole lot of attentiveness to quality work. And constantly redefining what quality is for the context.
- (Some) flexibility in your life. We often work into the evenings, and on weekends. This isn’t a 9 to 5’ver.
- A good external outlet. That gives you balance. And new inspiration. Could be bobsledding or knitting.
- Well, we hope it will be a transformative experience. That you won’t look at yourself or the community the same. Plus, we’re pretty sure you’ll make some meaningful new relationships along the way.
- Tons of new skills – from working in a team, doing ethnographic research, generating ideas. We think it’s an unprecedented professional development experience.
- An up close & personal understanding of ‘innovation’ ‘design thinking’ ‘ethnography’ and ‘bottom-up change’ that you can apply within your own organization.
- Building your capacity to do full project work .
A few good Apprentices
We’ve worked with loads of folks who were a great fit – and a few that didn’t mesh so well…
Tanya was an intern on our team in London. She was in her thirties, with a background in all sorts of things. Like marketing and personal coaching. She jumped in headfirst and was willing to give everything a go. But she was also super attentive of the smallest details (phrasing an email, leaving a voicemail message, etc.) And able to put all of her know-how to use. Like diffusing difficult situations with teenage boys during a prototype, or reaching out to small business owners and asking them to take part in our experiment.
Jenna was seconded from the local city to work on the Aging and Caring work in Australia. Her background is in project coordination. She has a real knack with people. Particularly older people. And has super good connections in the community that she wasn’t afraid to use for the project. She also has an active personal life. That meant she wasn’t always able to work late or on the weekends. Being on the team was definitely not always a comfortable experience – many days she didn’t feel so confident – but that never stopped her from putting her whole self into the role. And from working with Jenna, we learned a lot about how we need to not only stretch people, but also boost their sense-of-self.
Drop us a note and tell us why you’re interested, along with a few bullets about your background / experiences / capabilities. In return, we’ll send you a prompt pack. We’ll ask for some examples of good and bad pieces of work; your reference points for team working; a before and after story about change; and a couple of scenarios you’ll likely face on the team ..
What words would we use to describe the role?
Observer, listener, critical friend, troubleshooter, learner
What will Debriefers actually do?
- Come together for 2-3 hours every 2 weeks. In Burnaby. To hear emergent findings & ask questions. (And try a new smoothie flavor).
- Spend at least 1/2 day out on-the-ground with us during the project.
- Help to process all of the interviews & ethnographic observations.
- Brainstorm ways around emergent challenges, blockages, hold-ups.
- Create a visual map of the service delivery and policy context.
- Sign-up to trying out one new routine or practice within their organization (based on the leanings of the project).
- Find the like-minded folks within their own organization or neighborhood to support their efforts
Who are we looking for?
8-12 people from community organizations, service providers, local government, and the neighborhood! People who are curious, and who really want to learn more about the methods & approach. People who are open-minded, and can look at people & policies from different angles and lenses. People who are both willing to ask questions, and question their own assumptions and beliefs. People who can see connections and applications, and who also have some leverage or platform within their organization, community group, or neighborhood.
- Learn new methods in a fun, much more applied way. We think in-context project learning is way better than workshops!
- Be a part of an emergent process – and feel ownership over what comes out.
- Get new ideas and materials to try. It’s free professional development and new service development!
A Few Good Debriefers…
You’ll be our first debriefing team ever! This is a new role we’re testing… Whilst we’ve tried running action learning groups alongside our projects before, these groups weren’t really integrated into the on-the-ground research. Participants found it difficult to apply the learnings back to their every day settings. This time, we’ll ask debriefers to find an ally in their organization, community group, or neighborhood so they’ve got support to try out new routines & practices.
Are you interested…?
Drop us a notewith a paragraph about why you’re interested. What would you like to learn? What perspective(s) would you bring to the table? We’ll reply with a few more specific questions & prompts!
What words would we use to describe the role?
Relationship broker, strategist, dinner partner, coach
What will Advisors actually do?
- Have dinner with us 3 times. In Burnaby
- Help us strategize beyond the 8-10 week timeframe of the Starter Project
- Connect us to key movers & shakers, politicians, funders
- Bring in missing perspectives
- Add rigor and roundness to our thinking & practice
- Work with us to communicate what we’re learning to a range of audiences
- Coach us on how to structure & finance the follow-up work
Who are we looking for?
6-8 people from a range of sectors – academic, government, not-for-profit, foundations, business, community. People who have got clear influencing power – based on their current role, their networks, or their prior history. People who already believe we need different ways to engage those most left out in communities. People who are tired of one-off projects and discrete initiatives. People who are systemic thinkers. And most of all, people who are willing to draw on their resources (be it their know-how or their connections) to make new (and by definition, untested) things happen.
What do Advisors get?
- Good company and rigorous conversation
- Real stories to illustrate the rhetoric of ‘social innovation’ ‘design thinking’ and ‘labs’
- Surprising insights from residents of Burnaby
- A role critically shaping a longer-term change process
A Few Good Advisors:
Bob was an advisor for one of our projects. He was the director of a government bureau, and non-stop busy. But he liked that we forced him out of his office, and into surprising experiences. Our first dinner was actually in a family home in the area we were working. That dinner helped him feel how the methods were different – and he became a vocal supporter, introducing us to fellow directors, and helping us secure funds to take the project forwards.
Dorothy was an advisor on another project. She was a professor, and the head of an applied research centre. She knew her stuff. But still had an open mind for new action-oriented research methods. She connected us with colleagues, recommended literature, and leant so much credibility to our still fragile efforts.
Are you interested ….?
Get in touch. We’d love to have a first chat.
If you’re interested in joining the team as an apprentice, advisor, or debriefer, send us an email introducing yourself to email@example.com by March 15th. Tell us why you’d like to get involved, and what you think you’ll add to the mix. What are your motivations?
We’ll reply to all emails we get. If we think you might be a good fit for the roles, we’ll send along a Prompt Pack. From there, we’ll invite folks for a virtual conversation the week of the 17th of March. We’d like to have the full ‘onion’ in place for the second week of April.
We’re really looking forward to hearing from you!
Sarah, Jonas and Yani.