Weeknotes Week 160

Always with the latenote.

OK, last week was busy. Bryan and I met with the City of Helsinki's Chief Information Officer Markku Raito RE Brickstarter. It was a good, engaged conversation; I'd met Markku in Oslo in December, at the Cisco Public Services Summit (funnily enough, we shared a taxi from the airport into Oslo, purely by chance, before realising we had a few things in common, not least our hometown. This shows there is actually some value to conferences.)

The City is exploring new avenues for citizen engagement in a few different areas, apparently including some variation on the 'local mayors' idea floated in the 'Clues' cards that Bryan et al helped put together. 

'Street mayor' idea from 'Clues to Open Helsinki'
'Street mayor' idea from 'Clues to Open Helsinki'

But the real Mayor, Jussi Pajunen, took to Facebook and Twitter on Monday night to discuss the proposals for a Helsinki branch of the Guggenheim (which I think it's fair to say are 'controversial'). Interesting.

There was also a rather less-considered (in our view) experiment going on , involving people somewhat randomly hammering a touchscreen on a few streets, with little or no context, no comeback or personal responsibility, no attempt to reach a wider population, certainly no deliberation, and no clear idea on what will happen to the votes. Of course, this got significant publicity. Sigh.

(Incidentally, as the Sanomat newspaper points out, this could be third time lucky for the Katajanokka site and has a view on the delaying of the decision-making.)

Back in-house, Marco and I attended one of our internal workshops on Sitra's strategy, focused on the economy. It was good to see a lot of existing work and ongoing conversations on crowdfunding, as part of a 'diversifying sources of funding' discussion within the workshop. The 'Crowdfund' bill going through in the US recently is an interesting development.

More internal work: our plans for our 12th floor renovation - actually prototyping new ways of working, using the renovation of the floor as a lever - are coming to fruition, thanks to sterling work from architects KOKO3. We had a great session with Sitra staff on Thursday, in the traditional weekly get-together of 'torstai pulla' ('Thursday Bun!'). As Bryan noted last week, we've been working on this for a while, and liaising with lots of key people within our organisation, but it was fantastic to see so many Sitra staff actively interested and engaged at this more open session. (And the keener-eyed among you will note why we need to change this floor!)

Thursday Bun session discussing plans for 12th floor
Thursday Bun session discussing plans for 12th floor

The new position in our Design Exchange programme remains open, by the way. Once again, we're looking for a designer to work with Helsinki Department of Social Services for a year (employed by them, working with them, and 'mentored' by us.) It's a great opportunity, so do apply if you're interested.

Speaking of design embedded in public service, this short interview with Head of Design for the UK's Government Digital Services, Ben Terrett, is worth a read too. Their output is shaping up wonderfully, but the broader point about design (and other things) addressing meaningful problems and major challenges, and in doing so making peoples' lives better, is an extremely important side-effect of doing quality work in government.

Thursday, Bryan and I spent the day amidst the slowly de-ruining ruins of Kalasatama - at the Tukkutori market development, specifically - for another all-day workshop continuing the work with Antto Melasniemi, Elina Forss and Ville Relander (noted here previously). All going well, and we're getting close to 'de-cloaking' this project; you can tell that, as we're knee-deep in conversations about the name (ugh).

By the way, I wrote a short piece about street food and urbanism, via Ravintolapäivä, as part of "Manifest", a new magazine put together by Artek and others, for World Design Capital. It's available in Artek stores, across the city, and at the Salone design fair in Milan, which is going on this week. There are Finnish and English editions, and contributions from a good set of writers. (Nice to see my words in Finnish, actually, even though I have no idea if they're the right ones. It's nicely designed by top local firm TSTO too. Well worth picking up if you're in town.) This is part of our ongoing background research around the aforementioned food projects.

On Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting people from the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow. Strelka is a fantastically interesting intervention into the city - Rem Koolhaas's firm AMO have been involved in the curriculum - and hopefully there's something interesting brewing between us and them.

And we've started getting seriously into planning our next HDL event. It's been a bit of a 'phoney war' up until now, but now we are into dates, venues, formats and participants. Exciting.

 I've also been liaising with Social Innovation Generation and MaRS Discovery District, in Toronto, Ontario, including some interesting exploratory conversations around design labs for social innovation. Lisa Torjman of MaRS wrote an excellent report on the labs concept, drawing from the likes of Mindlab, IDEO, Participle and us. Lisa's report does a great job of setting the scene in particular, as well as expertly nailing the case studies. It's well worth a read. That is an emerging discussion, but heading somewhere very interesting.

We also note with interest John Thackara's extremely useful and thought-provoking set of 'handouts' around particular themes, or challenges. (John's twitter feed is always usefully thought-provoking, too, by the way.)

Finally, and predictably, we've all been drawn in by the second season of DR's majestic political drama 'Borgen'. Such is the way of on-demand media, team members have now each watched an entirely different number of episodes, so any detailed conversations about the plot is verboten (or 'forbudt', perhaps.) Suffice to say, Birgitte Nyborg would ideally be the Statsminister of everywhere.

Birgitte Nyborg, Statsminister
Birgitte Nyborg, Statsminister