This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The What, Why and How of Design Thinking and Collective Impact part 2 of 3

In the last blog post, the Acumen/IDEO Design Thinking class (map) was looked at as part of the Living Cities online Collective Impact Course and compared with a similar program previously offered by the Stanford University dschool.

The stated NCP goal in taking a design thinking class the first time was to see how it could be incorporated into a community-based direct deliberative democracy approach to community governance. Design Thinking has had its own NCP wiki-page for some time. It has been of interest and relevance to New Community Paradigms for the reason that it is seen as being both solution oriented and inclusive, intentionally bringing in a variety of perspectives to face a challenge, not limited to only those with particular areas of expertise. Making it potentially useful to a diverse group of community members coming together to discuss problems, say with traffic and school crossings or other community challenges.  

Greater use of design thinking could scale from improving individual user interface with a particular app to helping to implement larger scalable, community-based, collaborative efforts such as Collective Impact or The Next Systems Project by deeply understanding the needs of the community. Another developing premise is that design thinking can help navigate the maze of complex ‘wicked’ challenges facing our communities. The Acumen/IDEO course comes closer to achieving those goals.

Important lessons were still taken from the Design Thinking Action Lab. The Stanford University d-school approach cited in Incorporating Design Thinking into New Community Paradigms emphasized the importance of drilling down to the individual.

Design Thinking demonstrates that there is an important difference between designing for individuals as the average of a class or for a group of individuals and instead designing for one specific individual. The later is more aligned with a human-centered design or user-centered design perspective by emphasizing a deeper understanding of problems from the perspective of different stakeholders, not as a member of a class or a category, but as a unique individual. It can be applied in this way to the creation of innovative products, services and processes.

Looking for extreme users can also help provide insight in understanding the experiences of people at the statistical edges, “(P)eople who are in extreme positions one way or the other are exhibiting needs more acutely than the average person,” according to Andrew Haeg, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University. 

The Knight Digital Media Center believes that design thinking can develop better solutions for community organizations, especially foundations, and community media. This perspective can be extended, according to the Knight article, “Can design thinking power better solutions for community foundations?, to small groups of people by diving deep with them to really understand their day-to-day behavior, their context, how they feel, what they do and how, instead of talking with a scientifically representative sample. 

The Incourage Community Foundation’s initial goal was working with the community of Wisconsin Rapids on developing new ways of listening, talking and interacting, so as to encourage a culture ripe for self-organizing and collective action. The impact of their work with residents was increased through incorporating adaptive skills and design thinking. Applying adaptive skills prepared the ground so that a human-centered design approach created deep roots helping to transform the people and the culture of the place where they worked and lived. Design thinking can help community foundations frame the question, “How might we craft information solutions that meet the deepest needs of our community?” 

If Design Thinking could be implemented in a community setting it then could perhaps develop into a needed skill by community development workers in the public and private sectors but not on its own. It needs to be integrated with other approaches to community building and change. The primary bias for this blog has been towards systems thinking and more recently, Collective Impact. While it might seem that design thinking is being relegated to a secondary role it has, I believe, the potential to be a significant catalyst.

Since October of last year, this blog began, with A Map for Direct Democracy and Systems Thinking, a more concerted effort of proposing models, such as Direct Democracy and Systems Thinking map, integrating systems thinking with a system of deliberative and participatory or direct democratic community governance. These maps are made up of Causal Loop Diagrams, involving feedback within the system in question.

Within that map, the role of "Civic and Community Groups" is envisioned as being the juncture between the two foundational reinforcing loops R1 Deliberative  Democratic Dialogue and  "R2 Working with Systems Thinking”. This would involve working with "Systems Thinking Facilitators" and other community government "Staff" on the development of specific proposals for projects, programs or policies which would come from the community or from selected or assigned leadership in the community. The actual creation of the projects, programs or policies should require the use of design thinking.  This, it can be argued, would support both the implementation of systems thinking in a complex and participatory mode within Jackson’s SOSM Framework. It could also assist in integrating Community Groups into a system of Community Based Virtual Systemic Inquiry

There are capacities that are important in both systems thinking and design thinking, including the importance of mindsets, whether the seven mindsets of the IDEO approach to design thinking or the foundational mindset of the system thinking iceberg. This might mean that design thinking could help in overcoming, though likely not eliminate, the inherent and sometimes conflicting dichotomy between hard and soft system thinking approaches, (approaches which can be seen in the general tendencies of people) as was discussed in A Map for a Pathway to New Community Paradigms. It could also be helpful, if it follows IDEO’s balanced pragmatism, with overcoming potential stumbling blocks with working with community activists that might arise if there isn’t a set discipline to walk the space between stifling creativity and becoming too attached to an idea that isn’t going anywhere,.

The community impact of design thinking could also be extended further. 
Art as a Path of Social Disruptive Innovation Towards New Community Paradigms asserts that communities should add artistic thinking to design thinking and systems thinking as means of generating public involvement and community innovation. These three types of thinking can be seen as being both independent and integrated at the same time. 

Design thinking could help ensure that artistically inspired endeavors properly focus on important community needs and systems thinking could help in understanding the impact on the larger environments. Ideas such as those found in the Debunking 10 Myths of Innovation by Richard Evans, President, EMCARTS INC could contribute insights that could be of great benefit to communities. 

A number of other organizations have been able to tie an artistic mindset to community related concerns. They could then work to better integrate the talents of artists and cultural organizations toward helping people engage in civic and community life.  Animating Democracy, a project of Americans for the Arts helps to identify, develop, and advocate for public and private sector policies, practices, funding, and initiatives that advance the role of the arts in fostering citizen participation and social change. Art VULUPS does so with geography, environmental science, land use planning, sustainability, art and creativity concepts.

Artistic thinking can help reach deeper insights, generate more ideas and seep into the community's fabric so that its influence becomes one more of dispersion within a complex community system rather than a transfer of information from one institution to another. An artistic perspective should not be left to the end though but made foundational in community design through design thinking, systems thinking and other approaches to achieve Collective Impact through new community paradigms.

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