All in a week’s work

What’s a week in the life of our team? Matt Daniel, the Acting Manager of Co-Design Projects in Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (Australia), came for an immersive residency: 5 days of thinking, doing, and reflecting alongside us.


We believe the best way to understand the intents & purposes of our work is to be embedded in the day-to-day and participate in our emergent decision-making. To help make sense of it all, we gave Matt a brief: how might our social sector readiness work apply to his public sector context?

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We kicked off Monday with our routine team huddle. We spent an hour looking at our research questions and priorities for the week:

  • How do we progress new organizations along the Grounded Space membership journey?
  • What does our readiness process look like: what do we measure, when?
  • How do we enable each organization to craft their own social R&D narrative?

Monday afternoon, we welcomed the Chief Executive of one of our partner agencies, posAbilities, to the Shed to literally walk through the updated Grounded Space membership journey. In the photo is our latest journey map.


Monday afternoon, we jumped in the car and headed over to another one of our partner organizations, BACI, to read through the rough transcript of their R&D narrative. The week prior we worked with the two co-Executive Directors to map their 10+ year journey of experimenting. We spent three hours building a physical timeline of what they’ve tried, why, and what’s led them to a social R&D approach. We audio-recorded the chat, and now had 65 pages of deliciously rich notes to analyze. Together, we pulled out quotes to create a story arc and basic script for a shared narrative.



Tuesday was one of those rare days for reading and team contemplation. Over the past few months, we’ve looked at heaps of literature on organizational readiness for innovation and harvested insights from project work. That’s led us to identify 40+ constructs that could make up organizational readiness.


Now, we needed to think from the perspective of our partner organizations. So we pored back over transcripts of our conversations with organizational leaders to identify some of the constructs about which they were most curious. Next, we tried to imagine how we might measure those constructs and visualize the information. We mocked up dashboards. It was still way too much information. Later that night, we applied constraints: of everything we wanted to know, what might be most important to gather in a six-week period?



Wednesday morning, Matt returned to one of partner organizations to interview its Chief Executive. He also spent several hours with our Kudoz team observing how we’re trying to bake development into a delivery context. The Kudoz team is delivering a new service, but they are also continuously iterating component parts and developing new features. Research & Development isn’t just a front-end process, it’s part of implementation. That’s the punchline of social R&D: how do we make research and development an ongoing practice?


That was the same question we wrestled with Wednesday afternoon as we convened many of our Fifth Space Fellows for a wine & cheese reunion. Two years ago, we brought together 30 frontline workers, mid-level managers, and senior directors from three community living organizations to spend 20% time doing R&D. Fellows developed six solutions – everything from a new model of sex education to a new matching platform to a new way of hosting team meetings in the field. Despite great ideas, all of which were live prototyped, we lacked resources to bring these new models into full implementation. Fellows reflected on the barriers to bringing R&D practice into their everyday practice, and helped us flesh out some of the conditions for iterative implementation.


Excitingly, one of the six solutions – Ask A Dude – finally has funding for lift-off. Whoa! But, we want to increase the odds that new ideas will actually influence what practitioners and people do every day. That’s the rationale behind Grounded Space and our Social R&D Collective. And that’s what we used the Reunion to talk through, together!




Thursday, we met up with the ANSO co-design team embedded within Community Living British Columbia (CLBC), the crown corporation responsible for funding services for adults with developmental disabilities. We’ve provided coaching and support to this groundbreaking team, and one of our team members, Maggie, spends half her time choreographing this work. As far as we know, it’s one of the first examples of applying prototyping methods to procurement. They’ve formed teams with families, end users, and service providers and are making & testing new application processes, protocols, monitoring & evaluation frameworks, etc.


Where the ANSO team is creating some of the external, structural conditions for service delivery agencies to innovate, Grounded Space aims to build internal, agency capacity to innovate. Thursday afternoon, we drove to Coquitlam, BC to spend time within one of our agency partners, SFSCL, and invited 15 staff to construct Grounded Space with us.


We started by acknowledging the agency’s motivations and history, and then in a nod to the movie Love Actually, used cue cards to introduce the Grounded Space journey. Next up? Setting-up an internal team of embedded researchers to help map organizational readiness for innovation.


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We kick-started Friday with an early morning breakfast with Jack Styan, the VP of Strategic Initiatives for Community Living British Columbia (CLBC). Jack and Matt swapped stories of trying to bring R&D methods inside of government, and what kinds of arguments are required.


An hour later, we headed back to the Shed to meet with our fab film-makers, Rheanna and Brandon, and put some of our best arguments on camera. Jennifer, Maggie, Jonas, and I each shared what has led us to social R&D and how we’re bringing together design, social science, and organizational change perspectives. Stay tuned for our short film.


Friday afternoon, we were back in team thinking mode. Maggie and Jennifer have conducted 10 interviews with new social service organizations to understand their context and probe how Grounded Space might add value. From their in-depth conversations, we created a one-page profile of each organization, ranking their risk tolerance, their conceptualization of end users, their appetite for change, and their comfort with experimental methods, etc. From these profiles, we identified five ‘segments’ of organizations and begun brainstorming how we might tweak the Grounded Space offer accordingly.


We rounded out our week with reflections from Matt. Matt offered his first thoughts on how government might play a catalytic and capacity building function similar to Grounded Space. Soon, we’ll post his wrap-up video!


Thanks for joining us Matt! If you’re interested in an immersive residency, reach out!