Monday, 30 March 2009

Writing Across Boundaries Workshop, Durham University

Today and Tuesday I will be attending the Writing Across Boundaries workshop at Durham University. The workshop is for PhDers in their write-up stage of their PhD.

The WaB website provides some interesting and useful resources to get one into writing mode. Here's what they say:

The Writing Across Boundaries website is dedicated to the support of social science researchers who wish to engage more effectively with the practical and intellectual issues that arise in the quest to produce texts which are engaging, accurate and analytically insightful.

The Resources part of the website is pretty helpful and quite interesting. It discusses:
  • Drafting and plotting
  • The data-theory relationship
  • Narrative, rhetoric and representation
  • Hints and tips for writing

Friday, 27 March 2009

Literature 'top ten'

Just a quick update on PhD and timing...
  • My research question currently stands at:
Understanding seven archetypes of designers
in the Dott 07 publicly commissioned projects
and their relevance to sustainable development contexts
  • I am in write-up stage at the moment
  • I counted that I have been doing my PhD for 21 months (yikes!)
  • With 15 months left and
  • 12 months till I need to hand in a draft submission of the thesis for review.
I am currently pulling together my literature review. The ten selected texts below illustrate the scope of my PhD, inclusive of 2 key texts important for my research methodology. The texts below anchor my research subject matter and PhD. The list is alphabetical with short descriptors on why they have been chosen.

PhD scope

Boland, J., Collopy, F., Ed. (2005). Managing as designing. California, Stanford University Press.
  • Boland and Collopy write about developing a new vocabulary of design, to transcend disciplinary boundaries. In the case of MaD, they are looking at integrating design and management. For this PhD, developing new vocabularies of design in the area of design methodology is a key focus to enable us to see how design can contribute to the public sector.
Burns, C., Cottam, H.Vanstone and C. Winhall, J. (2005). RED Paper 02: Transformation Design. London, Design Council.
  • Think-do tank RED at the Design Council published some of the very first case studies on utilising design practice for tackling social issues. This paper also discusses philosophical and practical challenges of designers working in this area, especially where designers are making the design process more transparent.
Chris Jones, J. (1992). Design Methods. New York, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
  • Design methodology sits at the heart of design practice and the activity of a designer. Chris Jones was one of the founders of the design methods movement and his book, first published in 1970, is a seminal text on the subject. The design methods movement since the 1970's moved through varying schools of thought (of which Nigel Cross has published extensively on). Chris Jones rarely agreed with these schools of thought, distancing himself from the movement and the community when the focus of design methods moved toward being systematic and scientific. Chris Jones believed the more important aspects of design methodology where the people involved and the complexities of design projects and process. In Design Methods, Chris Jones identifies levels of complexities in design practice- a helpful framework for us to understand the different levels design can intervene in society.
Collins, J. (2006). Good to Great and the social sectors: A monograph to accompany Good to Great. USA, Random House Business Books.
  • Collins gives a great overview of the difference between the business and social sectors. Collins (and many others) cite the biggest difference between public and private sector organisations is source of funding. Collins also draws out common issues both sectors face.
Design Council. (2007). "Designs of the Time (Dott 07)." from http://www.Dott
  • Dott 07 is the empirical focus of study of this PhD. It is uses 7 publicly commissioned projects as case studies to understand the utilisation of design methodology in public sector. These case studies profile 7 archetypes of designers in the public sector.
Cross, N. (2007). "Forty Years of Design Research." Design Studies Vol. 8(No. 1).
  • As mentioned before, Cross provides good historical overviews and summations of the design methods movement and their differing schools of thought since the 1960's. Cross writes extensively, and in more detail about this historical trajectory, in many published works.
Myerson, J. (2007). Pressing the Pause Button. London, Design Council.
  • Myerson chaired the InterSections 07 Conference held in NewcastleGateshead in October 2007. Myerson described the conference as a "watershed event" as the last event to bring together such high calibre speakers and address such contemporary design issues was 14 years earlier at international design summit, Design Renaissance, in Glasgow. In Pressing the Pause Button, Myerson summarises the key themes of the conference. He saw these as being four key roles of design practice: Designer as strategist; co-creator; storyteller and; rationalist. This summation provides a great starting point to ground the PhD research findings in contemporary design discussion and debate.
Thackara, J. (2006). In the Bubble: Designing in a complex world. Massachusetts, MIT Press.
  • Thackara discuss some key principles of designing in a complex world. Some of these principles were translated into Dott 07 and this book provides a very important foundation of which to understand Dott 07.

Eisenhardt, K. (1989). "Building Theories from Case Study Research." Academy of Management Review Vol. 14(No. 4): pp 532-550.
  • Eisenhardt connects Grounded Theory and case study research in her paper and outlines a process to do so. This PhD's undertaking mirrors Eisenhardt's process.
Glaser, B. G., Strauss, A. L. (2008). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. USA, Aldine Transaction.
  • Grounded Theory is the generation of theory from the data collected. GT is the philosophical underpinning of the research approach in this PhD.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Measuring innovation in the public sector, but to what end?

On Monday I was at NESTA's international conference on Public Sector Innovation Measurement.

The day began with an international panel of speakers currently involved in research and policy development around innovation in the public sector. This was followed by a whole range of speakers from the UK and abroad, including researchers engaged in working on the Innovation Index for the public sector. NESTA is tasked with developing this index as outlined in the Innovation Nation White Paper, released one year ago.

NESTA's CEO, Jonathan Kestenbaum, opened the conference stressing the importance and need for measurement of innovation in the public sector because measurement shapes policy and the way public services are delivered.

The following panel speakers didn't hold back in outlining the broad challenges facing the UK public sector such as:
  • Demographic changes
  • Social trends eg. the aging population
  • Climate change
  • Economic downturn
  • Budget cuts
And a key question, echoed not just among the panel but throughout the whole day, was the issue of how we all understand innovation and the lack of consensus around this (it was interesting to note that there was less emphasis on people saying "defining innovation").

Here are some of my own notes and reflections from the conference:
  • Measurement shapes public service delivery and policy development. Measurement is therefore a critical aspect we must deal with
  • Measurement that deals with innovation is multi-dimensional and complex
  • There is a lot of hidden innovation, or innovation which is not visible and we must find ways to identify these
  • There is currently little data on public sector innovation and even less on measurement of it
  • There are many barriers in the public sector which impede innovation (eg. governance, incentives, organisational capability, understanding of innovation, process constraints, size and complexity of the public sector, bureaucracy, multiple stakeholders, reluctance to end programmes which are failing, few capabilities for organisational learning, lack of resources, lack of incentives, risk aversion)
  • Understanding (not necessarily defining) innovation is needed so we can understand where and how it's happening
  • The need to visualise measurement to get a "balanced picture" (panel speaker Svein Olav Nas from Norway mentioned this but unfortunately didn't expand much)
  • Public and private sector innovation differs
The most interesting presentations (and one of the best, for it's clarity and being jargon-free) was by Head of Service Design in the Department of Health, Miles Ayling. Ayling gave us an overview of innovation in the NHS, why it has become a focal area, what issues the NHS faces and what is being done about overcoming these issues.

About 18 months ago, innovation in the NHS was made a top priority. The rising expectations of citizens for public healthcare services, policy drivers (such as those stemming from the Darzi Review) and the recognition that the NHS has a significant impact on the UK economy led the NHS to establish a programme to focus on innovation.

Ayling spoke first about the fact that the NHS were very inventive with new ideas, but were weak on piloting and scaling them, for example that there have been cases where ideas have even been sold back to the NHS. Some other issues which impede innovation in the NHS include:
  • Leadership and vision of the NHS not having innovation "on their radar"
  • Misalignment of reward and recognition
  • Differing priorities
  • Short-term approach and outlook
  • A culture of competition rather than collaboration
  • Funding streams directed toward areas such as R&D, rather than to spreading ideas
  • Lack of access to information about what constitutes good practice in innovation
In response to these barriers a "legal duty" (or statutory responsibility) for innovation in the NHS was introduced.

In the Q&A session, one delegate asked Ayling to expand on what "legal duty" for innovation meant and Ayling's response illuminated a very interesting approach to how he and his colleagues see innovation in the NHS. Ayling declined to define innovation, and stated instead that innovation in the NHS was about- defining what organisational culture the NHS would want. The appeal of this perspective is that it allows flexibility for all the different parts of the NHS to reinvent themselves to do what is most appropriate to their own context.

And how would all this be measured in the NHS? Ayling didn't present indicators, but 4 key principles for metrics, these being:
  • Looking at the macro and micro
  • Looking at the short and long term
  • Keeping metrics simple and
  • Having 'powerful' rather than bureaucratic metrics
One final thing Ayling touched upon in his presentation was- who would all this involve in the NHS? He stated, everyone. This would require the need to look at all types of innovative outcomes such as:
  • Incremental innovation (those coming from individuals in the organisation)
  • Radical innovation (driving the market in a different direction) and
  • Disruptive innovation (redesigning the delivery of services and creating new markets).
One key reflection I left off my earlier list was something a delegate brought up at the end of the day, which unfortunately got mis-interpreted and hence not adequately addressed. It had to do with- to what end was innovation and the measurement of innovation for? Why be innovative? What would 'being innovative' achieve? These questions were not really addressed by the panel or the speakers despite the fact they were all talking about, researching and developing policy around innovation in the public sector.

The conference continued on Tuesday, but day one painted enough of a picture for my own research in terms of understanding current research, development and policy for innovation in the public sector and ideas and thinking on how it can be measured. If you are interested to know more about the Innovation Index, keep checking the website here.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Dott Cornwall tenders now open

If you were intrigued by the last Dott (Dott 07) like I am, here's your chance to put your design skills, knowledge and ideas into practice. Dott Cornwall tenders are now open. For further information please see the Design Council website here.