Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

The Ideology of Scaling Social Innovations

by • August 24th, 2012

Box scaling

Without best evidence (which is almost always lacking in social innovation by its very nature), setting performance targets related to scale a priori is foolish. For innovators themselves, equally foolish is not gathering the kind of information about the systems they are operating in to know if they are the human or the ant and whether a shower is on the way.

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The Forward Orientation Problem With Complexity

by • June 26th, 2012

These approaches combine inward reflection — reflective practice — with an openness to the data that comes in around them without imposing an order on it a priori. The orientation is to the data and the lessons that come from it rather than its directionality or imposing values on what the data might mean at the start. It means slowing down, contemplating things, and acting on reflection not reacting based on protocol. This is a fundamental shift for many of our activities, but may be the most necessary thing we can focus on if we are to have any hope of understanding, dealing with, and adapting to complexity.
All the methods and tools at our disposal will not help if we cannot change our mindset and orientation — even in the temporary — to this reality when looking at complexity in our work.

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Evaluation and Design For Changing Conditions

by • June 5th, 2012

If we are serious about addressing the social, political, health and environmental challenges posed to us in this age of global complexity we need to launch from these start points into something more sophisticated that brings these areas further together. The cross training of designers and evaluators and innovators of all stripes is a next step. So, too, is building the scholarship and research base for this emergent field of inquiry and practice. Better theories, evidence and examples will make it easier for all of us to lift the many boats needed to traverse these seas.

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Social Media and Health: Leaders(hip) and Followers(hip)

by • May 18th, 2012

Systems thinking, design thinking, developmental evaluation, creativity, networks and innovation: these are the keywords for health in the coming years. They are as author Eric Topol calls the dawning of the creative destruction of medicine. The public is already using social media for health and now the time has come for health (care, promotion and protection) systems to get on board and make the changes necessary to join them.

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Common Sense, Complexity and Leadership

by • January 23rd, 2012

By recognizing that common sense is less than common and is certainly not consistent, program designers, developers, evaluators and other professionals will be better positioned to provide true leadership that addresses challenges and complexity rather than adds to the complexity and creates more problems.

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The Complexity of Planning and Design in Social Innovation

by • January 7th, 2012

Both developmental design and evaluation work together to provide data required to allow program planners to constantly adapt their offerings to meet changing conditions, thus avoiding the problem of having outcomes becoming decoupled from program activities and working with complexity rather than against it. For example, developmental evaluation can determine what are the key attractors shaping program activities while developmental design can work with those attractors to amplify them or dampen them depending on the level of beneficial coherence they offer a program. In two joined processes we can acknowledge complexity while creating more realistic and responsive plans.

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Systems Thinking and the Design of Empathy

by • September 22nd, 2011

A developmental design approach means shifting and changing over time and designing things in a manner that adjust to the complexities associated with dynamic systems. It brings together complexity, systems, design and the detailed feedback mechanism that comes through developmental evaluation. Leadbeater’s grid helps add to this concept by giving a focus to the development, from one level of empathy to another and one systemic scale to another.

Through thinking in systems and acting through design, perhaps then we can create the kinds of services and organizations that respond to the challenges we face.

And designing for empathy will help us know when we’ve achieved it.

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Design Thinking and the Metaphors of Science

by • August 28th, 2011

Metaphors for design thinking provide us with a means of taking the messiness of the language, something discussed in previous posts, to a new place until we can find the language that is most appropriate. Until that time, science might offer one of the better means of conveying design, complexity and the creativity that comes when we apply them both to generating products and services.

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Developmental Thinking and Evaluation

by • June 20th, 2011

The “core competencies” for DE already include qualities like people skills, knowledge of complexity, and communication skills (in addition to fundamental skills in evaluation methods and process implementation), but now we are adding additional ones. Motivation, behaviour change, program planning and design are all reasonable skills that would assist an evaluator in doing this work. Nice in theory, but how about in practice? Can we reasonably expect that there are enough people out there with these skills to do it well? Or is this a call for more of a team-science (or rather, team evaluation) approach to evaluation?

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