This week Nicole, Jesper, Brenton and I had a virtual ‘retreat’ to look back on the year. When things are hectic it’s not always easy to find time to pause and think on how things have gone. But we do bang the drum for the importance of reflection so it’s only fair we walk the talk. It’s got us questioning our role and whether it’s shifted, thinking about where we’ve helped (or if we haven’t) and whether through this year in some small way we’ve made work or life a bit easier for you, wherever you are. With everything online, it’s not always easy to know.

My question to all of you reading is: what have you found most comforting, nourishing, supportive or useful in navigating the year? It doesn’t have to be our work (but it can be), either way, let me know what if anything you’re grateful for from 2020.

Also, a heads up that this is our penultimate newsletter of the year (or perhaps the final if my partner suddenly goes into labour!), on which note if you have any advice on living with newborn babies please let me know, this’ll be my first!



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🧰 A fantastic sketch of a co-design toolbox. What’s in yours? Also, next Wednesday 9 December is the last session this year in our co-design book club, you can still sign up, it’s pay what you like.

✊ Public innovation and labs, in general, need a new story for what they are for, writes Stéphane Vincent. The vision? To work towards “a new ecological and social contract”.

😕 “Our lives are weirder and more complex than ever”. Beautifully illustrated worksheets for thriving in uncertainty. Good for a personal inquiry or small teams.

What’s in your co-design toolkit?

Having spent two weeks exploring co-design as both a movement and a mindset, next week we’re exploring co-design as a method. You can join the final session with us, where we’ll be creating a time capsule of what we want the practice to look like in ten years time. Wednesday 9 December.
An illustration of a toolbox. Objects in the toolbox say things like: arts, brainstorm, peer-led, mindset...

What’s public innovation for?

Recalling Rousseau’s ‘social contract’, Stéphane Vincent thinks public innovation “lacks a long-term vision that unites, and that is sufficiently desirable to make all public innovators want to converge their efforts among themselves." Perhaps this trajectory exists already, he says, in the shape of a new ecological and social contract, reconciling a transition to live within planetary boundaries with social justice.

Echoes of that in what Dominic Campbell said this week; that “it’s no longer enough for us to just think ‘what makes the best public service institution’. We need them to stand strong with communities... to get the best from all of our strengths in local areas and national government."

One of my favourite provocations for what public innovation labs are for came from Marlieke Kieboom 5 years ago. They asked good questions. What if labs

  • designed and scaled process instead of solutions?
  • connected with like-minded movements?
  • were better networked geographically?
  • developed their own evaluative practice?
In French it says 'new social contract'.

The Uncertain Times Tools

Uncertainty, ambiguity, being comfortable in the uncomfortable are all easy things to say you can do. Not always easy in practice. Ella and Cassie made some beautiful worksheets and prompts for uncertain times. I love the notion that “courage is an action, not a feeling.”
Courage is an action not a feeling. Don't wait to feel courageous to act. To be courageous you don't need to be able to see the whole path in front of you. Courage often means taking those first few small steps in the dark. Courage comes from the Latin for 'heart'. Connect to the things that light a fire in your heart, whether through love, concern or anger. This will help fuel your courage.

Community noticeboard

If you’ve got something you’d like to share please send it my way!

Putting younger generations - including those not yet born (!) - into a national strategy. Interesting, participatory work from School of International Futures. With a well-documented methodology for others working in a similar space. They are also running a session on 8 December to discuss how the proof of concept went and what others could learn from it. Email them to get a space.

Enjoying Millie Begovic’s run of blogs. Her most recent noodle is around the idea of transcending the ‘technical-only’ solutions in times of uncertainty.  Especially the point on “nurturing the space in which different perspectives collide.”

This piece takes a look at a theme we’ve come back to a few times; trust. Looking at how in Vietnam (considered to have had a “good pandemic”) both the government and the general population came to a point of trusting each other. But that was by no means inevitable.

This beautiful video on networks and resilience is worth 4 minutes of your time. Especially if you’re thinking about how *waves hands frantically at everything* might someday change.

If you’re in local government playing a role to tackle the climate crisis you may get something from this course on participatory budgeting and building public consensus around the need for climate action.

The Human-Centred Design Playbook is a guide for public servants, designers and citizens interested in design frameworks, project plans and tactical tools for delivering better social outcomes.


The Sydney Policy Lab is looking for people who want to help connect big new ideas to real movements for change. Two roles, a project manager and a policy officer. Deadline 8 December.

Able to represent complex and emerging stories visually? The RSA are looking for visual storytellers and illustrators to explore how communities adapted and responded to the 2020 crises. Deadline 13 December.

Design studio Snook are still looking for a host of roles, from content design to service design, to work on projects across the UK. Deadline 14 December.

OPSI are looking for someone for their anticipatory regulation team. If you’re comfortable with futures thinking, emerging tech, foresight… then you should apply by 16 December.

The Design Council (UK) is refreshing its network of associates, specialists and partners to better reflect society. They’re looking to include more people from different ethnic and geographic backgrounds, with different abilities and with wider specialisms across biodiversity and climate. Could that be you? Apply from14 December.

🤡  Lastly, academic article of the year? Confronting indifference toward truth: Dealing with workplace bullsh*t includes, I kid not, the C.R.A.P. framework. Can also recommend the jargon stripping BlaBlaMeter for extreme examples of obfuscating language in need or remedial work.

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