Monday, February 16, 2009

Part II: Senior Healthcare | Southwark Circle

Participle is innovating new approaches to ageing. Since September 2007 they have been working in a unique public-private partnership with Southwark Council, Sky and the Department for Work & Pensions, to design new services that will improve the quality of life and well-being of older people. Working with over 150 older people, they have developed Southwark Circle, a membership organisation that helps people take care of household tasks, forge social connections and find new directions in life. Open to all, regardless of levels of need or income, Southwark Circle is a model of how future services might look across Britain.

This is a social reform challenge, not just a public service reform challenge. The question is not just “What can public services do to improve quality of life and well-being for older people?” but rather “How can a locality mobilize public, private, voluntary and community resources to help all older people define and create quality of life and well-being for themselves?”. This requires radical change in the way resources are defined (beyond the formal social care system) and the way services and systems are configured (away from a near exclusive focus on care and towards building relationships and participation).

Public funding is just one among several flows of resources that go into the support of older people from unpaid carers, voluntary groups, paid-for services, and peer-to-peer support. Public services and systems must be re-designed accordingly. An effective approach must mobilise resources and activity from all these sources, not just redesign the public component.

Participle has developed early answers to these challenges in this project. They have worked with over 150 older people and family members over the last nine months.

The project started with two months of user research with older people and their families, generating insights into their hopes, fears, needs and aspirations. Based on these insights, they generated over 50 ideas for new services. They decided to focus on a service that would create a rich third age, and have spent the last five months refining our proposition, developing prototypes of the service and co-designing with older people and their families. They have tested models of the service with users and recruited people to take part in a rough trial of the service. They have developed a business case, received initial investment and will start to build the actual service, continuing to test with users over the next few months. Responding to demand, we plan to launch the service as a social enterprise in Southwark in early 2009. They also plan to work with additional local authorities to develop a national model.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Part I: Senior Healthcare | Helping our elders live independently for longer in their home environment

With the US elderly population potentially doubling by 2030 from 36 million to 72 million; an estimated 45% drop in formal or professional caregivers over the next 30 years; and a national health expenditure projected to rise from $2T in 2005 to an estimated $4.1T by 2016, it's clearly become a necessity to think innovatively around services for our growing senior citizen population. Currently, 78% of all at-home, long-term care is provided by informal caregiving networks i.e. friends and family members. As seniors push to live independently for longer in their home environment, the effort on the part of these caregivers creates enormous responsibility and even burden, which in the end may not be sustainable. With a growing senior population living longer, the strain on dwindling financial and caregiving channels, we may find ourselves at a breaking point very soon.

Right now, there's considerable effort going into rethinking how services could and should be provided. We're starting to consider new distribution models for federal dollars as well as some intriguing ideas around co-operative services between seniors' social and local networks. Below is a summmary of a case study sponsored by Harvard's Kennedy School: Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation. The study looks at a new distribution of federal dollars in China.

The government created "Purchasing Services for Senior Citizens at Home," to ameliorate the difficulties of older persons living alone. Rather than involving itself in the details of providing services to the elderly, the government supported creation of this program to manage daily operations. It secured cooperation with local civil organizations and subsidized them for performing functions that were previously carried out by government. It has been successful since inception as it is grounded in extensive social participation.

Services are now "purchased" by either individuals or enterprises. Many elderly do not pay at all; the services are "purchased" for them. The word "purchase" is used uniquely, as purchasing is often entirely subsidized by the government. Any qualified senior can receive one hour of services at government expense. Seniors who do not meet the requirements for services can still participate as many services are offered by volunteers. Those who can afford to purchase services may choose to buy additional services on their own. Additionally, an emergency telephone number "81890" is available for older people who live alone.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Experimenta is a knowledge production unit operating in design, architecture and design culture focusing on inclusive, collaborative works that support the advancement of contemporary culture. They're doing some beautiful and thoughtful work in the urban realm and advancing the conversation and examples of placemaking.

Their field of action is contemporary cultural production, observed from an inclusive, multidisciplinary and transversal perspective. Experimenta’s activity combines critical thinking, concept development and creative up-to-dateness, resulting in a consistent and incisive intervention in the social, cultural and economic contexts it engages.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Public Services by Design | by the Design Council UK

The UK Design Council's Chairman, Sir Michael Bichard, is championing a new program called Public Services by Design. He believes there are three key ways in which design can make public services better.

1. It can redesign the way we deliver our services allowing us to “build or reshape our services around citizens, around clients, around customers.”
2. It can help the development of better policy “ensuring that ideas are tested before having scarce resources invested in them on a national basis.”
3. “Design can help us in the public services to be more innovative. We need to be conscious that today’s problems are just not going to be addressed by yesterday’s ideas and yesterday’s solutions...we need a whole new approach to policy over the 10 years.”

Monday, February 9, 2009

Service Thinking at live|work

I've started receiving a newsletter from the London-based service design consultancy, live|work. Outlined here is a way of reframing the design process to move past a mass production model towards a post-industrial service model. Their three main points:
1. Put people at the heart of services
2. Create networks that enable services
3. Establish sustainability as the bottom line

Thursday, February 5, 2009


What's not going right in London nowadays in design. Here's another example at thinkpublic of great work being done in the public sector.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Inflatable Street Art

This work by Joshua Allen Harris uses trashed materials that have been sown together and placed strategically over subway grates to create some amazing creatures which come to life as the wind fills their bodies. They're more than clever concoctions. If you watch them for awhile you start to get a feel for the struggle they're enduring to stay alive. I can relate pretty easily to this.

Fish in the Sky by Nothing Design

This work by Nothing Design was part of Droog Design's Urban Play event in Amsterdam. As always, I was about two months late in finding out about the event, but I think something like this could have application in Pittburgh when it comes to generating ideas for community-based projects. Then again it could just provide some inspiration for some good ole-fashioned disruptive behavior.

Delicious Information is up and running

I left my position as a Human Factors Specialist in IDEO's Boston office last week. The economy is weak with everyone scrambling for work; it's the middle of winter; and I don't know if my skills and talent add up to more than two nickels. But as a friend of mine told me last year when he decided to pursue a career in print design after finding a sweet niche in the digital world, "I guess I'm looking for a reverse commute."

Regardless of everything IDEO had to offer from its staggering brain power to the breadth of projects, I never quite got into the groove of the private sector. It made the continuously long hours of discussing brand strategy and ROI hard to feel passionate about. With a heavy heart we all took the plunge and decided to break-up. When friends ask me how I feel, I say, "I feel everything." I feel sad and disappointed that I don't get more time learning from the best. I feel relieved and liberated from the stress of needing to give myself over to products and strategies I couldn't fully commit to. I feel hopeful that I will return to my path in the public sector designing products, services and environments that enable people to connect to the worlds around them. I feel like myself again.

With that, Delicious Information has been resurrected. It will be my own little private/public Think Tank. Going into the mix–any and all ideas that I'm stewing about that relate to me re-claiming my sanity or losing it; to creativity at large; to smart, critical design; to improving the health of our urban environments; to paving the way for shared services; to remembering it's relationships that matter above all else; to my quest for crazy delightful imaginative "what I wouldn't do to be in a space like that" places; to continuing the conversation on what makes a place a place; to disruptive behavior that doesn't shy aware from conflict; to examples of quiet thoughtful resolution. In other words, I'm looking for some inspiration to keep me from slipping so quickly down that black hole I seem to be so fond of. Ideas welcome.

project mlab

My friend and co-worker at IDEO, David Stychno, turned me onto mlab
when I laid on him that I was leaving IDEO to change the world in other ways.