What a week!
We’re just starting to recover from what is perhaps the most intense week of the year – the Kennisland Social Innovation Safari (short: ‘Social Safari’). And, because the week is so packed, it is only now that we are beginning to see what really came out.
“You’ve empowered us!”
– Orion school teacher
The recipe has been the same since the first edition in 2010: gather around 30 multidisciplinary minds from all over the globe, find 6 clients brave enough to hand over their toughest problems and create a 6-day social innovation ‘pressure cooker’ that guides participants and clients in designing and prototyping interventions. Sounds simple, right?
“When it comes to an inventory of what’s really going on, I find the Safari a very good method. Talking to market vendors and managers in their environment enabled me to hear things that I would normally not hear.” – Dienst Milieu- en Bouwtoezicht (Environmental and Building Department) employee
This year’s cases were introduced by six different organisations:
- The Stadsschouwburg (Amsterdam City Theatre) wanted to know how they can reach out to different Amsterdam communities and get them involved with the theatre.
- The Leger des Heils (Salvation Army) came up with the question: What can we do to use social media to create a bigger impact and attract a younger audience?
- Stadsdeel Oost (district East, City of Amsterdam) introduced the case: How can citizens be more accountable to each other and the public good, in the case of budget monitoring of local projects?
- The Sociale Verzekeringsbank (Social Insurance Bank) wanted to know what they can do to locate elderly people in Amsterdam who are entitled to a supplement on their pension, but do not take advantage of this arrangement.
- The Dienst Milieu- en Bouwtoezicht (Environmental and Building Department, City of Amsterdam) asked for solutions to the question: How can the Albert Cuyp market be more sustainable and use less plastic? How can the community become more responsible for a greener market?
- Two schools for children with special needs of Orion College in Amsterdam-Noord wanted input on how the dedicated teachers on these two special schools can inspire each other more, be more in contact with the outside world and create a learning community.
All tempting cases, but as with all ‘wicked problems’, there is never an easy way out. These questions are not to be solved by a new technology, an attractive vision or a clear mandate. The fact of the matter is, it may need a whole new mindset at both the clients’ and the participants’ end. It requires new ways of thinking, new ways of working and new ways of cooperating. Actually this is no excuse not to do anything. It is only by doing that we might find out what can work. On Sunday evening, once we have given a brief overview of the program and the 6 challenges, it was tempting to already start thinking about possible solutions. But that is not how the Safari works, it is no regular consultancy–– it is about listening, learning, getting into action and making mistakes!
“We have to continue building on this, we can’t go back like nothing happened. Your enthusiasm was so impressive!” – Orion school director
Digging deep into the challenge
In the Safari, we put emphasis on both the process of analysis, design and prototyping – and executing the actual intervention. Therefore, the first step is always to start digging deep into the challenge and its context. Who are involved? Which perspectives on the issues exist and are meaningful to designing an intervention? Who and what will be needed to do the intervention? What will happen after the Safari has ended? Interestingly, lots of things already happen when the teams go out and about on the first day of their Safari to get some answers – doing interviews, organising meetings in- and outside comfort zones, bringing in new experience and ideas and making voices heard that would normally be disregarded or undervalued. Thus, investigation and intervening often become one while getting to know more about the different challenges.
After this action research, the teams presented their first thoughts to a jury (Rolien van Dijk, Sebastian Olma, Marleen Stikker and Frum van Egmond) on Tuesday night. They also introduced the intervention they were planning for the next day, the so called ‘24-hour-assignment’. After some good and challenging feedback, the teams ran off to get started and test their ideas.
Learning through listening – watching – doing
Wednesday evening the teams gathered again and shared all their adventurous stories. About how they had talked to the market vendors and brought them together with civil servants, interviewing active citizens in the East of Amsterdam, putting on magic glasses in an appreciative workshop with teachers, inviting employees of the City Theatre to come out on the street and talk to their potential public, looking for the elderly and work with them on the Plus Box for pensionados, working at a Leger des Heils centre on a new uniform and see how this could be a topic for an online conversation. These are real interventions, getting people out of their normal roles, bringing all involved together to start a conversation, starting up online networks with offline topics, confronting people with their conventions and trying to light up some sparks. This is learning through listening, watching, and doing.
So many good stories, so much energy, and we were only half way!
Reflection and presentations
Thursday there was some time for reflection. What are we actually learning from these interventions, and what new questions pop up? How can we place all these lessons in perspective and come up with new relevant stories?
“By doing, we’ve learned how to cope with complex issues. Not by coming up with a report, but by actually testing your assumptions to the real world.”
– Doekes Prakken, Safari participant
After this process in which the groups had completely become embedded in their challenges, on Friday it was time to present the results to the client organisations and the public. How can you show and tell all these lessons, stories, perspectives in only ten minutes? That was the challenging assignment for the last day. The teams did great, all their positive energy, powerful solutions and steps for change were put on stage.
Most of the cases have similar aspects and similar solutions. All the organisations involved are searching for a way to deal with a changing, more inclusive, equal and less hierarchical society, trying to involve people, communities, participants, citizens, using their knowledge, input and strengths––they just don’t always know how.
All Safari teams have provided tools for how.
- The Stadsschouwburg Team came up with a metaphorical cooking class to prepare the ideal Stadsschouw-burger.
- The Leger des Heils Team organised a redesign workshop for the Salvation Army uniform to provoke a social media driven discussion on values. See #ldhsafari and the presentation:
Social Innovation Safari – Leger des Heils on Prezi
- The Stadsdeel Oost Team showed the government how they should get involved in projects of citizens instead of governing from a distance. They should be organized in loops instead of vertical lines. See a film of the presentation:Social Safari team Amsterdam Oost – presentation on day 5 from Jonas on Vimeo on Vimeo.
And the slides:
- The Team that worked on the Orion case advised to work with the team of teachers to let them experience how they can empower themselves, through an appreciative workshop with magic glasses. See the presentation:
- The SVB Team (Sociale Verzekeringsbank) designed the Plus Box to reach out to those who are entitled to additional pension money. See the presentation:
- The Team that worked on the Albert Cuyp Market case introduced by Dienst Milieu en Bouwtoezicht (DMB) advised to co-create market policy together with market vendors and civil servants on the spot – a pop up think tank at the market. See the presentation:
Start of a movement
This is the start of a movement. Six organizations have been inspired with new ideas and sparks for change. The impact is already visible and we will definitely keep it going! On this website we will post updates on all the cases – so stay tuned and watch out for the next Safari!
Post your ideas (new Safaris, new cases, new tigers) in the idea box.
Watch the Safari photos.
And read more about the case results, blogs and other Safari material.