Posts tagged ‘ACTCOSS’

DangerousIdeas

We are currently supporting the ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) Biennial Conference – “ACT2020 Citizen Voice, Community Vision“.

And when we say currently, we mean it. Participants are ‘as we write’ involved in a world cafe session discussion dangerous ideas such as:

  • What changes can we make to restore / strengthen the democratising spirit of the community sector in the context of marketisation?
  • Put yourself in the shoes of public servants. What would you find hard if you had to do their job?
  • What if we took the idea of citizen voice seriously when we think about reproductive and sexual health and rights in our community?

And many others.

But we were so blown away by the keynote speeches at the start of the session, that we’ve taken time out from taking notes to think out loud about one concept in particular above – restoring the democratisation of the community sector in regards to the development of public policy.

DMA’s approach, because of our training, experience and the timing of our entry into service design at the turn of the century has always been one of ‘designing the best experience possible for people using and delivering government services’.

This approach has necessarily and deliberately separated administrative design (the experience of the services as determined by the policy and political processes) from policy design (the decision on which ‘levers’ are put in place to seek determined policy intent and outcomes).

But then we heard Prof Susan Goodwin speak, and that got us thinking about the alternative.

Prof Goodwin raised the historical context of where much public policy was developed as a result of the response of service deliverers to the needs of the people they dealt with. She asked why this democratisation and responsive approach to policy – that is, policy defined by the response of service deliverers to the lived experience of their ‘users’ rather than purely the current dominant practice of ‘evidence base’ and ‘detailed research’ as determinants of policy positions.

The call to arms for the re-democratisation of the public policy process asks fundamentally for a change in the current approach:

Research and Academic Expertise > Policy Development
> Political Approval and filtering > Legislation and Regulation Development
> Administrative Implementation > Review and Evaluate

to a much more democratic vision driven by up-front responsiveness, not to the elitism of empirical evidence and markets, but to the lived experience as understood by the very people receiving services and the organisations delivering them.

We have no doubt people would argue now that the lived experience IS a part of public policy development now.

The question for us as designers is how to enable a move from lived experience influencing part of public policy development to lived experience, and the citizen voice, being funded and supported to be the key driver of public policy development.

It’s a big question. It forces us to reflect on our view from designing the best possible administration of public systems, to using our skills to influence democratisation of the current public policy ‘industry’. We don’t know the answer, but we do know the dangerous idea has us thinking.

*In case you’re curious about the René Girard reference it’s for us to take a look at his writings The Scapegoat, and how his investigation of myth uncovers what he calls the scapegoat-mechanism, the tendency of society to collectively transfer guilt onto a sacrificial victim.

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JR

“We’re asked if we can read, write and count, but what about behave?”

“I’ve had to continually redefine myself.”

“I had to learn about how to plan my day – that meant making sure I had somewhere to go during the day. I had to learn to do that.”

 

Imagine sharing this kind of vulnerability to groups of community providers, government workers, government bureaucrats, designers, academics and civil society experts. Five former participants of the ACT justice system, willing to share their lived experience, did just that in the first of two all-day workshops exploring justice reinvestment and the potential opportunities for developing a 12-month trial based in the ACT.

When seeking the ‘user voice’ in design, engaging ‘the voice of experience’, understanding the ‘user journey’, hearing from those with ‘lived experience’ – the reality of is you are bringing someone into a process who may not have had a good or even voluntary experience of that system and you’re asking them to share this. Sometimes, you’re asking them to help shape a better system. Most often we do that one-on-one through observation or ethnographically-based interviews. But this work required rapid engagement, rapid shared understanding, rapid development and iteration.
Have we said ‘rapid’ enough?

It is possible to work quickly and to engage all the users and we wanted to use this post to share how a current project committed to ensuring that the lived experience voice was not compromised by time.

Rapid process impacts depth not breadth

The project concerned involves the exploration of potential Justice Reinvestment trials with the ACT Government’s Justice and Community Safety Directorate (JACS), ACTCOSS and the Justice Reform Group (JRG). The outcome of the work will be to identify potential candidates for the trial, with the development of concept briefs to be considered through formal governance frameworks.

The time frames and structure of the service sector mean we’ve had to move quickly and engage large numbers of people and groups from across the justice system (and other related systems like health, housing and community services). As JACS, ACTCOSS and the JRG drive this project they have still insisted on a co-design approach. They know they don’t have the answers on their own.

The challenge of working to an aggressive time frame is things have to happen fast. When moving rapidly there can be pressure to not engage with the actual users of the service, that is a particular pressure when the users are at the complex end of service delivery such as prisoners and past-detainees and their families.

But at the same time, and despite that pressure, if you don’t involve the lived experience of those people in the justice system then it simply isn’t a co-design process.

Critical to this involvement was ACTCOSS and their commitment to co-design and their relationships in the community. We wouldn’t have access to lived experience participants at all without their efforts.

Facilitating the sharing of actual experience

After kicking off the workshop with traditional scene-setting, housekeeping and approach for the day the very first session was hearing from people with experience.

Each lived experience person sat at a table that included a range of public servants, community sector people, corrections officers, social workers and others they came into contact with in their daily lives, and they were ‘interviewed’ by their support or case worker about their experience of the justice system. We prompted what the questions were but they told their story, in their words.

For them, this was not just ‘lived’ experience; they are living it everyday.

It was critical to bring this experience to the table so that participants knew that they weren’t having abstract conversations for the rest of the day – they were talking about outcomes for real people. And those people were going to be working with them for the rest of the day. That also meant that all participants were focused on driving to an outcome for people, grounded in the experience of people who would end up as potential users of the trial.

What it was like for the lived experience participants

Interestingly, we expected our participants to leave after their session – we were told that was possible and worked the design of the workshop around not expecting (or demanding) that they be there. But as it turned out, each of them got so much out of the workshop as they realised that their opinion and experience was valid, and welcomed and necessary, and every single one of them stayed for the whole workshop.

For some preparing for the workshop meant they were given an opportunity to think about their experience from a different perspective. One participant said she’d never thought about ‘support’ before and her thinking helped her realised how important her family and friend’s were, as well as the ‘formal’ programs.

Another said said that she had personally got a lot out of the interview session as she’d “never actually been asked to describe [her] experience before”.

No compromise on user experience, engagement, involvement

We don’t underestimate the courage needed by these participants to front up to the room in the first place, and while we were extremely pleased about the influence they had on proceedings from a co-design process level, we were even more pleased that they got something out of it personally too.

The workshop, the co-design, and the experience could not have been the same without these voices. Designing the process to ensure they were able to be there, able to share, be protected and valued as much as all of the other participants, meant we came a long way during the day, and the second workshop later in July focused on defining the trials will similarly benefit from the voices of lived experience.

 

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3Change

For us, service design is about design for change. Sometimes that change is improvement, but as we spend most of our time working in the public and community sectors, sometimes that means dealing with change around you and having to redesign yourself to be positioned to take advantage of that change.

After a hectic couple of months of working in a range of projects with a range of very different users and stakeholders we’ve had a chance to reflect on how real that first line actually is. We’ve also taken the time be remind ourselves how service design continues to really work.

1. Change must be designed into how a business operates

We’ve had a long-term design project with a large Federal Department running for some time that has focused on developing a Service Delivery Architecture deep in the enabling capabilities of the organisation. The intent of the work has been about how you make the service delivery of the 80% hum, in order you can free up focus on the much harder 20% of new and improved change. Moreover, being in a position to intentionally grow that 20% of time, investment and resource.

Two years of work culminated this past month in the delivery of the detailed design of Innovation and Connection phases of the Architecture. This group responds to business need, who are in turn responding to user need. What has been critical in this work has been:

  • Building into the design the informal, as well as the formal, networks and relationships. Because work doesn’t always begin with a well-written concept brief or requirements. “Kitchen conversations” happen – work with them, don’t try and stop them.
  • Constantly connecting the strategies of the organisation to the people who use their services – both internally and externally. We’ve worked hard to make sure, even though the Group may not come up with the user experience framework for all citizens, they absolutely have a clear line of sight to citizen outcomes.
  • Designing a business by connecting it to its users – and demonstrating how what this Group does helps, enables and champions what is important to those users – for strategic outcomes, and for business outcomes.
The proof that real change will happen: The Senior Executive responsible for the area, having seen the emerging Innovation and Connection Phases remarking “This means we have to fundamentally change our operating model, and I’m happy to be the first to make the changes.”

2. Change happens when you design an environment for people make the change themselves

A recent project kicked-off that leveraged the work we’d undertaken for the Digital Canberra Challenge; applying a service design approach to a local government digital product development. Our client has been trying to get a digital service off the ground for some time and in just six weeks we’ve been able to take to them from service value proposition, through design, to proof of concept stage.

But what’s been great to witness as we’ve worked with them is how they have changed their own mindsets, models, and in a few instances, the very legislation that hampers the great service they want to have. They have pointed out to us that it has been the design approach we have undertaken with them that has really fired up their thinking in terms of opportunities. We’ve done this with them:

  • By visualising how key staff currently operate using experience and service maps. For the team, it’s been the first time they’ve seen their own world represented.
  • Through conversations and on-site observation with their realities. We’ve helped them not only understand what the digital product they thought they wanted is but actually enabled them to understand what their ‘service’ actually is.
  • By designing the product as a service, defining the users and the service system as a whole. This has led to the Agency re-visiting its risk strategies and potentially making the impact of the digital service even more long-lasting and beneficial for users.
  • Through the development of an agreed set of design principles, that will guide not only this project but their ongoing business conversations.
The proof that real change will happen: A member of the team who plays the key role in the service delivery when asked to consider changing a task, saying “Oh, I don’t do it that way anymore after going through this process. I can see that I can do it differently.”

3. For real social change “Nothing about us without us” is key but that isn’t just about the participation of end users

We’ve been committed to not just working with, but applying our capabilities to support the community sector for some time. In August we were part of the sponsorship of the ACTCOSS-University of Canberra Conference “Designing Social Change: Beyond Talk, Taking Action”.

We documented the two-day conference (Conference Summary available from ACTCOSS) which meant we were busy, but also deeply engaged in discussions ranging from the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the need to move beyond GDP as a measure of society. The Conference was a great reminder of the importance of keeping the academic, activist, policy and design conversation as one.

When Sue Salthouse, from Women With Disabilities ACT, used the quote ‘Nothing about us without us’ and talked about being in the room, being allowed and respected as experts on “us” this really resonated.

In our experience and from the case study discussion on the day, this means change is beyond the “us” as recipient. It’s about working with, engaging with, designing with users, representatives, peak bodies, experts, designers, stakeholders, resisters, activists, politicians, non-users. This means:

  • Leveraging informal networks that often fill the gaps of formal connections.
  • Challenging traditional consultation models that government easily operates within e.g. “we have an answer – what do you think?”
  • Being prepared to be in a room to just listen – even if the reason you’re in the room is because you are an expert.
  • Challenging power models of government and institutional representatives if those power bases are truly seeking change and innovation for social outcomes.
The proof that real change will happen: The constant and unforgettable call to arms of representatives of different groups about listening to them and including them in the growth of the sector. Including this powerful key note from ACOSS President Cassandra Goldie.

 

 

 

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CommSector

“Co-design is the new buzzword – can you help our members work out what it means?”

And so began our happily evolving journey with a number of community sector organisations such as Youth Coalition of the ACT and ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS), to name just two.

By coincidence, while recently reviewing our website content for a refresh we realised that our desire to be practitioners first was increasingly backed-up by our active role in empowering clients, and potential clients, to understand their role in a co-design process through preserving their own expertise, and drawing on practitioners and the process to facilitate desired outcomes and real change.

 

Our position on “Co-Design”

Co-design is the process of deliberately engaging users of the system, deliverers of services and other experts, being led by experts such as designers, to actively understand, explore and ultimately change a system together.

Our motivation for engaging with groups like ACTCOSS and YouthCoACT and their member organisations is to provide an environment which prepares them with a view of what co-design means from a very practical point of view. In our case that means how co-design as an approach links with our more defined view of service design – but regardless of your design discipline, we are keen to make the point with the sector that design is, just that, a discipline.

Late last year when we saw that the respected ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) newsletter had decided to publish an edition with the title: “Co-Design: Improving Policy and Service Development and Implementation Seeing consumers as active participants and assets”. As we’d just been asked by the Youth Coalition of the ACT to present at their annual conference on a similar topic, and knew interest in the topic was at an all time high in the sector, we approached the Council to ask if we could submit an article.

The article was published in December and provides a short summary of the messages and content we delivered in full at the ACT Youth Affairs Conference.

Our preference for transferring knowledge has always been a “theory through practice” model. This has meant creating material for the sector that seeks to support their aims, and to engage in a meaningful way in an attempt to improve the capability of the sector. Consequently, our desire to educate the sector in a collaborative way has been proven to be a welcome approach. Our slideshow from the Youth Coalition Conference gained views on slideshare faster than any other presentation we’ve done. The article for ACTCOSS has received positive feedback from the sector. And the conversations we are having with a range of community peak bodies and service organisations now are based on a more mature understanding of what a co-design approach involves.

 

The challenge of the community sector

We find that too often the desire for co-designed solutions in the public and community sector leads to processes that are more about consultation than co-design, and rely on generic “design thinking” and business management tools than design discipline. As the funding bodies for community organisations start demanding “co-design” as an approach, we believe empowering organisations with a point of reference for what that actually means ensures they retain their expertise, whilst understanding and having respect for the discipline itself.

We have no doubt the drive for co-design will continue, particularly as funding bodies move more to outcome rather than output measures, and this excites us. We look forward to continuing our relationship with peak bodies like ACTCOSS and YouthCoACT to continue supporting their growing understanding of what co-design is and what it can bring.

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NCWACollage

Today we were extremely happy to be part of a presentation to local ACT Minister for Housing Shane Rattenbury MLA by the National Council of Women ACT, of a report on NCWA Older Women and Homelessness Seminar held on 31 October 2014.

The Council approached us in October last year to ask us to help support a seminar they were running on the topic.

The seminar drew on the leading experts from both the research and practitioner fields, as well as community advocates and service providers, to discuss this often hidden and misunderstood issue.

The goal of the Council was to bring to the fore the causes, the present provision of services and solutions for the future for older women in the ACT. The information presented, which ranged from personal accounts of women becoming at risk of homelessness as they aged to more general reflections on homelessness as an issue, highlighted some key themes for policy makers and practitioners in the field as well.

Causes

The common situations which escalate to homelessness for older women include:

  • Relationship breakdown – domestic abuse, a women’s lack of knowledge and understanding of the family financial situation, often compounded by belittling and/or controlling partners.
  • Unsuitable housing situation – Partners refusing to move out. having nowhere to go, or lack of knowing of where to go, the challenge of proving that a women is separated but living under one roof with their ex, couch surfing – where the women has temporary accommodation, but can, in some cases lead to survival sex where the women may exchange sex for a (insecure) roof over her head, stuck in a waiting list, or in a refuge (if one can get in).
  • Health Situation – often escalated by the insecure housing situation, particularly impacting existing mental health issues.
  • Employment Situation – loss of employment, low income or part-time work.
  • Poverty – lacking the resources to own your own home or afford rental accommodation.
  • Women new to the country with little support, or English as a second language.

Present service provision

The services currently available to older women (both homeless and at risk) sit within an overall homelessness service network:

  • The values that underpin service delivery for the homeless and those at risk of being homeless are based on safety, social justice and the right to have somewhere safe to live.
  • Though there is a range of services available from a range of providers, the sector is good at working in a coordinated way.
  • The waiting list for public housing continues to grow.
  • There is still no overall view of the true cost of homelessness to our society.
  • Older women should have a right to feel safe in their movements and housing, and we need to bring up our young people to feel that too.
  • The definition of assets and income (including superannuation) can make access to services difficult for some older women. Even before emergency services are required, CALD women are subjected to discrimination in the private rental market.
  • The question of culturally appropriate housing must be taken into account when planning solutions.
  • Domestic violence was our lens into homelessness, but this preconception needs to broaden to issues such as housing affordability, changing housing requirements and a lack of women-focused service models reflecting inequities in employment and earning capacity.

Possible Solutions

The solutions put forward can be as simple as “building more houses” or as complicated as restructuring the investment portfolios of major industry superannuation funds, but all presenters were unanimous in the view that the response to the emerging potential “tsunami of older women and homelessness” must be addressed now:

  • Community housing is being pursued as a critical model in the Canberra market – the ACT is relatively poor in terms of availability of this solution.
  • The move into housing provider for traditional community organisations can be difficult as the range of factors involved in determining what “affordable housing” is are complex.
  • Accessing the private rental market is difficult in Canberra not only because of cost, but transport, home modifications and the willingness to see elderly women as legitimate tenants.
  • Co-gender accommodation can work well as a solution for elderly women, solutions do not need to be exclusively female.
  • “Marketing” elderly single people as tenants of choice is working with some real estate agents.
  • That the simple solution of building more houses, though complicated, would help.
  • That systemic inequity (lack of assets, financial insecurity, inequitable pay and super) will be the emerging triggers for homelessness in the future and must be addressed.
  • That there are new and evolving solutions and models appearing all of the time and though many of these take time to launch, they should be explored.
  • The phases of potentially homeless older women (emergency homeless, at risk due to being aged now, and the young with low financial literacy or independence) must be acknowledged in order to understand the sheer size of the potential problem.
  • That there are models that should be explored outside of the focus on emergency care – such as utilising superannuation savings to invest in affordable housing.

As service designers we recognise that the kind of situation emerging with older women is complex. Social, cultural and economic tradition and pressures mean accessing and delivering services for this group requires significant re-thinking of the homelessness model.

From our perspective (and the Council)  it was clear that further work must be undertaken in at least three areas:

  • Understanding the older women and homelessness user groups as they stand now.
  • Exploring more agile traditional housing solutions in innovative ways.
  • Addressing systemic people capability issues.

Those are the themes we presented to the Minister today and we are excited about the response and recognition that the profile of this important issue has been raised.

Working with the Council was a great experience, as was hearing from the experts in the field. We’ll be keeping our eye on the issue into the future.

The report (a record of proceedings on the day) will also be available in electronic form from the National Council of Women ACT.

Thanks

The day itself was a success due to the organisations represented and we thank the following groups and people for giving up their time and providing such excellent information on the issue:

  • Shane Rattenbury MLA, Minister for Housing
  • Helen Dalley-Fisher, Equality Rights Alliance
  • Marcia Williams, Women’s Centre for Health Matters
  • Carol Benda, Women’s Legal Centre
  • Sue Sheridan, First Point
  • Chris Redmond, Woden Community Service
  • Chin Wong, Canberra Multicultural Community Forum
  • Alice Tibbits, ACT Housing
  • Susan Helyar, ACTCOSS
  • Terri Stiller, Argyle Community Housing
  • Heather Douglas, Abbeyfield
  • Leigh Watson, Shelter ACT
  • Frances Crimmins, YWCA Canberra

And of course, thanks  the organising committee of the National Council of Women ACT.



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