Design Thinking Drinks with Chris Vanstone: Creating social start-ups

Design Thinking Drinks is an event organised by Deborah Kneeshaw and sponsored by Thoughtworks. It’s on every couple of months and last week’s event attracted a big and curious crowd for Chris Vanstone design co-lead of The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) and one of the founders of agency In With For.

The speaker:

Chris Vanstone – previously a founding member of Participle and participant in the UK Design Council’s RED service design program which involved design agencies in social welfare, health and public housing design projects. The RED project provided some fascinating case studies and Chris has brought that experience to Australia. South Australian to be exact whose government provided seed funding for TASCI.

The model:

Develop “social start-ups” with design thinking methods:

  • Defining the problem/s with evidence based and participatory research. Conceive the solution from the problems evident in the data (from the ground up) as opposed to prescribing them with policy from the “top down”.
  • Prototyping and iterative stages to both service delivery and tools used e.g. test what training is required, prototype service interaction to develop service blueprints, test the skills and capabilities required for roles, test and iterate measurement tools
  • Follow various stages of incubation to launch fully fledged social services
  • Build teams around the solution that can keep iterating and developing the service

The projects:

Family by Family, A Bit Better, Weavers, Sharing Zone Co, Meals with Mates, The Opp Store and Care Reflect.

The tools of service design implementation

The hope:

That alternatives to government funding will provide resources for incubated services to continue and for the “business models” of the social start-ups to stand-up as self-sustaining and self-funding entities. It will be interesting to see what happens when the South Australian government seed funding ceases.

My take-aways:

This was an energising presentation and In With For’s model of mixing the expertise of design with business development and social science demonstrated compelling stories.

My main take-away from the night was to pursue methods of measurement for service design projects as a design challenge in their own right.

Read more about the talk and the case studies presented over at the official event blog (it has much nicer photos too): http://designthinkingsydney.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/correction-chris-vanstone-at-design-thinking-drinks/

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