How can safaris help us design better outcomes?

  • what we know about the world where we challenge our unconscious biases and instead experience how different people live their lives
  • what our role is beyond a service provider to one which is just as much a sense maker, storyteller, facilitator, movement builder or protector
  • how we work in a way where we don’t come up with ready-made solutions, but instead test and learn in a way that encourages challenge
  • how we work in the open to develop creative ways to tackle issues and challenge ourselves and others to constantly put our communities first
  • How to move beyond the feeling of needing to tackle too many issues at once?
  • How to channel the enthusiasm and expectations of lots of people wanting to do different things to tackle the problems?
  • How to rebuild trust with the communities the council has engaged with countless times not always leading to action?
  • How to embed and scale the change we’re going to be testing?
  • How to balance the simple quick fixes and the deeper more complex change needed?

1. How do you immerse yourself in service to understand how it works and makes people feel?

We then went on a journey of discovery, or what’s called a “service safari” to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and immerse ourselves in experiencing a service. For our team, we went to Waterstone’s where we interviewed people who worked there, who were browsing books, we observed people and the space, the interactions and the magic and miserable moments.

2. How do we constantly challenge what we think we know and don’t know?

Once we’d mapped what we knew about the issue and what we didn’t know, we put them up on a wall, opposing each other, as if there’s always a clear line between the two. But when we started mixing knows and don’t know on similar issues, we discovered that people have different perspectives on an identical theme and some methods can be complementary, which created interesting tensions.

3. How do we focus on issues that can mobilise people around a common cause, while being flexible enough to be able to adjust our hypothesis?

It can be difficult when developing a networked approach to feel like we can claim to decide what the issue is that we’re going to dedicate all our energy to as an organisation. We want the way we do it to be open and inclusive, but we also want it to mobilise people around a clear common cause. We were taken through an enlightening exercise where we were initially asked to come up with ideas on how to make a bridge, then how to cross the river, and finally how to get a message to another side. This helped us think about what mattered and not confuse a solution (i.e. a bridge) with an outcome.

  • Build alliances around the issue with key players
  • Focus on emerging issues that are difficult to understand let alone solve
  • Understand what you need to “design out” and who you are “designing for”
  • Mobilise people’s skills to “design out” the issue and organisations to change their strategies
  • Share the lessons you’ve learned so other people can pick up the baton and change the culture

4. How do we take ourselves out of our comfort zones while remembering to look after ourselves?

Working with my fellow team members reminded me of the importance of starting with the values & principles that bind us and celebrating and reflecting on the journey we’ve been on so far. As people that want to solve problems and tackle systemic issues, sometimes we come out of our comfort zone to such an extent that we miss the human side of navigating change. There’s a tension between being uncomfortable about not knowing the best question to ask and being passionate about wanting to tackle the issue.



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Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese