Weeknotes Week 137

First, a note from one of Sitra's other projects called Reviving Village Within A Town. In an effort to enable young people to have a more active role in co-designing the services that are available to them (like sports programmes), and therefore also getting more out of these services, we find two intertwined lessons. One about time and one about scale.

“People are active themselves instead of waiting for others to do things on their behalf. After all, local well-being is built on the people’s own initiative and activity,” [project manager] Mira Sillanpää points out. “You must also remember that it is not always about creating all-embracing solutions for the long term. Small changes can also have a huge impact. If the needs of the local residents change, the services provided by local authorities must change accordingly.”

In Mira's observations as quoted above, there are familiar tones of the ethos of prototyping, of beta, and of iteration. But perhaps more profound is what she gets to at the end: that times change, needs change, and that our public services should be similarly agile. In other words, being able to end programmes gracefully is as important as starting them intelligently.

And this ties to another aspect of the project which is embeded in the very name of the work: Reviving Village Within a Town. Lurking here is a recognition that scale matters too. The project is located in Hämeenlinna, a town that includes a number of smaller villages. By making room for local communities to conduct low-risk experiments in their own areas, we gain the ability to test and iterate at a more manageable scale before growing or replicating what works to other communities.

In other words, early innovations are not for everyone, and not for everywhere. Utilizing the small scale—in both time and space—allows us to be more sophisticated about our risk assessments. More of this please.

Twelve thousand kilometers away, in sunny Buenos Aires, the government there is also thinking about the power of the small scale, albeit in different ways. While in Argentina to give a talk as part of the CMD international design conference, I noticed that some of the parks have signs which implore residents to visit a Facebook page like this one. One finds a brief bit of history about the place, an invitation to share stories, participate in events, and to use the public space to organize your own functions. Smart, simple, cheap.

CMD is housed in a large building that used to be a fish market. It's vast!
CMD is housed in a large building that used to be a fish market. It's vast!

But to CMD, the main point of the trip. The Centro Metropolitano de Diseño is a facility sponsored by the city government of Buenos Aires in an attempt to boost the creative industries. It's a bit similar to the the Design Forum here in Helsinki, except CMD also includes incubation space for young design-led companies. Under the ambitious leadership of Enrique Avogadro, CMD are expanding their focus to look at the potential for design-related business and programmes that are able to generate social capital in addition to financial capital. Being located next to one of Buenos Aires' villas provides extra imperative. This is the context in which I was there to share Sitra's work on strategic design, and particularly what it means to practice design in a public sector context.

Back here in Helsinki, as we continue to develop our work on the mysterious exchange project, we've been looking at things like this Bloomberg Innovation Delivery Fellowship. And then for no particular reason other than the fact that we saw it from a couple different people on twitter, also MIT's Atlas of Economic Complexity.

Dan spent a couple days in Sigtuna, Sweden where he was part of an international workshop hosted by MISTRA, The Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, who are undertaking an ongoing indea development programme to identify new areas of research. After that he and I were consolidating thoughts on some small renovations to the Sitra tower.

Marco was in Finland but in and out of the office, including giving a talk at a Fortum event as well as taking part of the ongoing World Design Capital public sector working group.

Justin took a day trip from Boston down to New York to meet with the consulate there and begin preparations for an upcoming book launch later this month. He's also taking care of logistics for a launch in Boston, so if you're interested in either of these, check back in a week or so for further details.

And daylight savings time happened, so it's officially dark here. This was week 137.