November 5, 2020

Designing Communities of Care

Date: 12th November 2020
Time: 5:30pm - 6:30pm
Location: Remote

Info and tickets

In recent months the experience of work has undergone a dramatic shift, and that change is far from over. In this new work environment, design practitioners need to reconsider how we create safe spaces for participation and elevate the voices of others.

Designing Communities of Care brings together expert panellists for a discussion about looking out for each other in a world of changing work boundaries. The panel will make space in a discourse focussed on productivity to examine the importance of care structures, individual needs and flexible work practices. It’s a conversation about what we take forward in a post COVID-19 world.


Ruth Ellison

Director of Digital Squads and Head of User Research, DTA

Ruth Ellison is a user experience researcher, design leader and speaker from Canberra, Australia. She is passionate about creating healthy curious teams who are focussed on collaborating on meaningful and challenging problems. She is currently the Head of User Research and Director of Digital Squads at the Digital Transformation Agency.

With over 18 years design experience in the government and private sectors, Ruth has worked with numerous organisations on taking a human centred approach in their digital transformation journeys. In her spare time, Ruth makes science-themed jewellery with lasers and 3D printers, and explores and blogs about escape rooms.

Dr. Chris Marmo

Co Founder, Paper Giant

Chris is a strategic designer and researcher with nearly 20 years’ experience in the design industry in Australia and throughout Asia. He is a co-founder and the CEO at Paper Giant.

He is passionate about the overlaps between people, technology and society, and enjoys mentoring teams through complex problems. Through his career, he has worked across private and public sectors and has delivered research insights and design outcomes used by hundreds of thousands of people.

Eugene Chung

R&D Team Coach, Atlassian

Eugene is an R&D Team Coach at Atlassian, where he focuses on driving continuous improvement across product and platform teams. He works with teams every day to help them identify what’s holding them back and experiment with new ways of working so that they can reach their full potential.

As part of Atlassian’s Craft Practices and Learning team, he is passionate about creating new Plays and tools that make it easier for teams to continuously improve. Eugene is a recovering consultant who used design thinking to empower leaders and teams to adapt to change and adopt new mindsets, behaviours, & practices. Originally born and raised in Texas, Eugene spent most of his life in NYC before moving a couple years ago to Sydney.

Laura Wilkinson

Co Design Lead, Paper Giant

Laura is an experienced strategic designer with over a decade of co-design, digital transformation and user research experience. Laura spent her early career working across a diverse range of Government Departments and roles where she has led large organisational restructures, managed policy teams and worked with Senior Leaders as an adviser.

Over the last eight years, Laura has focused on the application of human centred design to support the achievement of public outcomes.


Dan Woods

General Manager Canberra, Paper Giant

Dan has over 20 years’ experience delivering design projects to market. With broad experience in the public and private sectors both in Australia and APAC, he leads teams to understand user and community needs and design solutions to address them.

He is passionate about the intersections between public policy and human-centred design, and the role of ethical technologies and open standards in bringing them closer together.

October 27, 2020

PG #69: We need humanities experts now more than ever

Illustration by Bonnie Graham

The Australian government claimed its recent cuts to university funding were about shifting students from humanities subjects into “job-ready” STEM degrees. This was a lie – it was an across-the-board cut that reduced funding for STEM subjects as well

This is clearly ideological –  it’s an attempt to shift the overall cost of university education from governments to individuals.

Let’s treat their argument as though it was in good faith: Are the humanities really ‘not job-ready’?

Consider the ‘jobs’ that need doing in the world right now:  multiple social justice crises need solving, we have a recession that we need to recover from, a pandemic that needs to be managed, an entire world economy needs to be transitioned away from fossil fuels… and more! 

Let’s just take managing the novel coronavirus pandemic. Important and necessary understanding of this virus comes from STEM fields. We need to understand the epidemiology of the virus, we need to build statistical models for its spread, we need to measure the economic impacts of different lockdown rules and decisions. 

But the virus operates within a broader public health response, and our understanding of that comes from the humanities. 

Questions like ‘should we have a strict lockdown despite its other impacts?’ or ‘should we let the virus rip through the community?’ are only partially economic or scientific questions – they are also ethical and social questions that need to take into account social relations, human behaviour, and what we actually want for our society in the short and long term. 

Raw economic or epidemiological calculations only get us so far, and tend to either ignore real human suffering or discount questions of human dignity.  Anthropologists, social scientists, philosophers and ethicists are the ones who can interrogate what ‘public health’ really means in a nuanced way. 

In any crisis, we get to make decisions. Critical, structural, systemic and historical analysis, the kind provided by humanities education,  is absolutely necessary to think properly about – make good decisions about – complex societal issues. These are the jobs that need doing, if we want a liveable, thriving, sustainable society – the jobs we need to be ready for.

–– Dr. Reuben Stanton & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #69 here

October 13, 2020

PG #68: Competing for talent in the post-Covid world

Illustration by Wendy Fox

We’re all aware that organisations engage in competition with each other at a product and service level – in fact, within industries and markets we’ve designed rules and regulations to ensure competition, with the recognition that it leads to better outcomes for customers and communities. 

We are less aware of another form of competition, including perhaps the fiercest one – the competition for talent. Businesses with switched-on, highly skilled employees who understand how to connect with clients and customers will always have an advantage over the competition. 

While salary is motivating up to a point, leading organisations have an employee value proposition (EVP) that goes further. Crucially, they have historically attracted talent by offering flexible working conditions, including working from home options.

That advantage is now gone. The competition has caught up. With COVID-19, even the most stodgy, traditional companies are allowing employees to work from home. If organisations want to retain their talent advantage, they’re going to have to level up their employee value propositions.

Paper Giant has been thinking about the employee experience for some time now, but I’d be very interested in how your organisation is approaching this – if you have time, please share your thoughts by replying directly to this email or messaging me on LinkedIn.

– Dr Chris Marmo & the PG Team

Read the rest of issue #68 here

September 29, 2020

PG #67: Five ways to bring more strategy into your work.

Illustration by Elliot Midson

Ask a room of a hundred strategists what ‘strategy’ means, and you’ll get a hundred different answers.

And that’s how it should be: each organisation is going to need a definition that works for them. It’s all about making sure the work people do every day is effective, and actually getting them to where they want to go.

So rather than provide a single definition for what strategy is, I’ve outlined five ways that you can bring strategy into design work, whether it’s for a small business, a government agency, a non-profit or a large corporation.

1. Zoom out
Look at the big picture. Understand the wider factors that are influencing your project now, and that will influence it in the future.

Be genuinely interested in what transpires in the community, industry, and wider business environment in terms of trends, undercurrents and possible futures. Understand the implications of these macro-factors and trends on the client’s business and on the specific project.

2. See both sides
Be both human centred and business focused. Understand the needs of all the parties involved - your client, their customers and the business.

(Read Hannah’s piece below for more on this.)

3. Bridge the gap
Build connection between research insights and delivering value. Give life to research by translating findings into actionable opportunities to support decision-making – give people the instruction manual for your research.

4. Align to the ‘big goals’
Weave the project’s goals with the organisation’s long-term strategic objectives. Make your project recommendations be the obvious thing for the client to prioritise and invest in, by demonstrating how it accelerates their goals.

5. Supply the plan
Hand over your projects with everything required to turn the project into a reality on the other side of that final presentation. Document the staging of activities, the timelines, the stakeholder engagement strategy… don’t leave design work hanging.

I hope looking at strategy from these varied angles can help you think about how go bring it to life in a way that makes sense for you.

— Roya Azadi & the PG team

Read the rest of Issue #66 here

September 21, 2020

Untangling complexity with Systems Thinking

On Thursday 17 September 2020 we facilitated the successful online event Untangling complexity with Systems Thinking for the Service Design Canberra meetup group. 

Dr Reuben Stanton, Managing Director at Paper Giant spoke about systems thinking and it’s value for seeing the big picture. Paper Giant was humbled to be awarded the 2020 Gold in the Social Impact category for ‘Supporting Justice’, in collaboration with RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ) -  Reuben talked through the approach that Paper Giant took in mapping the Victorian criminal justice system, and how it has been used to fundamentally change how people with disability are treated.

In the following activity, Priyanka Kaul, Lead Service Designer at Paper Giant demonstrated the first practical steps of mapping a system and how participants can get started on creating their own maps.

Check out the slide deck or view the miro board

September 18, 2020

Panel discussion: ‘Supporting Justice, a collaboration with CIJ’

If you’re interested in learning how we used inclusive collaboration, capability resource building, and accessible information design to improve justice outcomes for people with disability, click through to a webinar recording of the discussion between Paper Giant managing director Reuben Stanton, communication designer Hope Lumsden-Barry,  design researcher Bonnie Graham and Michael Haralambous from RMIT Centre for Innovative Justice.

Reference: The evolution of the System Map as mentioned by Micheal in the session.

Check out the Case Study to learn more.

September 15, 2020

PG #66: Vulnerability in the Workplace

Illustration by Bel Giles

I cried a lot while working on my last project.

Sometimes I kept how I was coping to myself. Sometimes I shared it with the people around me. As a project team, we had a lot to process.

In partnership with Beyond Blue, we were exploring how COVID-19 is affecting people’s mental health and wellbeing, especially people who were already experiencing mental health challenges before this all started.

For a project like this one, being able to talk about how I was feeling was incredibly important. Working with experiences like isolation, suicide, or family violence is challenging on the best days – taking it on in the midst of this pandemic was nearly all-consuming. I found my own mental health lurching around wildly at times, and I'm grateful to the people who I was able to talk about it. 

I noticed that when any one of us shared openly about the emotional impact of the stories we were hearing, it became easier for others to do the same. When one of us allowed ourselves to be vulnerable, it created space for more vulnerability. 

I want to be mindful here about how I’m talking about vulnerability. Environments where people are expected to share openly about themselves are almost always harmful. What makes a challenging day can vary significantly from person to person, from too many Zoom meetings to the re-triggering of a trauma, but the window of ‘acceptable’ responses to the seemingly innocuous “How are you today” is often quite narrow in workplace contexts. The question becomes a trap: come up with a lie on the spot, or be judged for oversharing.

That being said, I can’t imagine how the time with our community of co-design participants would have worked out if we had all tried to remain impartial and unaffected. Embracing vulnerability – safely – as part of how we worked together allowed us to be deeply moved by the stories we were hearing, and for these stories to open up new possible futures to explore together. But, maybe more importantly, a shared sense of vulnerability made it easier to take care of each other – to anticipate concerns and anxieties, respond to difficult moments, and make sure everyone was getting the time they needed to process everything.

I am grateful to have spent the last few months with the people that I did. To the folks at Paper Giant, at Beyond Blue, and our co-design participants – thank you for being gentle with me.

— Ryley Lawson & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #66 here

September 1, 2020

PG#65: High Rents Are Killing The Arts

Illustration by Wendy Fox

Australia is in the grips of an affordable housing crisis. Melbourne and Sydney have some of the most expensive housing in the world, behind only Vancouver and Hong Kong in the global rankings, and most of our other cities are classified as “severely unaffordable”. One of the great tragedies of increasing house prices is that it breaks apart communities. I used to live in a cluster within walking distance of a bunch of different friends. As rent has increased and our incomes haven’t, we’ve all moved radially outwards, further and further away from each other.

This disassembling of communities is pretty garbage for everyone, but it’s absolutely deadly for the arts. As economist Chris Dillow writes:

“Art and culture, as much as industry, benefits from agglomeration effects – the ability of creative people to live near each other. In the 60s and 70s countless musicians moved into rundown New York apartments where they could live cheaply whilst they honed their craft and waited for their break.”

As far as I can tell, you get good art by shoving a bunch of musicians or painters or writers into cheap flats in the same area until they form a scene and start collaborating and making incredible stuff. I mean, some people can make good art alone in a mountain cabin, but mostly that’s not how the movements that have pushed us forward have happened.

Art also requires a certain amount of free time and energy – if would-be artists are working triple shifts just to make rent, they’ll be rendered too exhausted and brain-shrivelled to do anything creative.

High commercial rent is also an issue, because artists need venues to perform, and venues need to pay rent. When rent is high, only the venues that appeal to the widest possible audience can survive. No strange little places that appeal only to niche audiences. You absolutely cannot afford to take a risk. Eventually all live music becomes cover bands, because cover bands draw a reliable crowd.

The Ramones, Blondie, The Misfits, Patti Smith, Talking Heads and a hundred other bands came out of the scene around New York’s CBGB club. In 2006, the CBGB’s landlord sued the proprietors for $90,000 in alleged back rent, on top of the $19,000 a month they were already paying. They couldn’t come up with the money and were forced to close.

The arts sector in Australia has been absolutely devastated by COVID-19 shutdowns and subsequent abandonment by the federal government. Alongside direct support, a Covid recovery plan that tackled affordable housing would help arts and culture to revive and flourish – and we’d all experience the benefits.

— Mckinley Valentine & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #65 here

August 18, 2020

PG #64: “Be Ruthless With Systems, Be Kind With People”

Illustration By Bonnie Graham

"Be ruthless with systems, be kind with people"

Michael Brooks, 1983–2020

I’ve been really struggling this week, knowing what is going on here in Melbourne, and knowing bits and pieces of what is going on in the rest of the world. In a week of bad news, in a year of bad news, in a decade of bad news, it’s really hard to think of what to write about.

The other reason I’m struggling with the newsletter this week is that I’m worried I’ve got a bit repetitive in general: my schtick seems to be “we already know the solution, dummies!” Recently I’ve written or been speaking things like:

We already know the solution to poverty: give people money.
We already know the solution to homelessness: give people homes.
We already know the solution to climate change: a green new deal.
We already know the solution to our economic woes: doughnut economics (plus a green new deal, for good measure).

And I’ve said it before many times: ‘innovation’ doesn’t always mean doing something new; sometimes the most innovative thing you can do is apply the obvious solution that is right in front of you. This isn’t always easy of course. Sometimes that solution needs to be revealed in a compelling way before you can see it.

To take my somewhat trite ‘We already know the solution to poverty: give people money’ as an example here: the current pandemic has made it abundantly clear that a) poverty is no moral failing, it’s the inevitable outcome of an unjust and fragile system, and b) governments can mobilise resources and change economic systems extremely quickly to stop people falling into poverty, if they want to.

By one estimate, the raise in the ‘jobseeker’ rate in Australia lifted more people out of poverty (~425,000) than any other government action in our history.

So: the crisis has revealed that we can act quickly and compassionately (in this case to a sudden influx of unemployment) if we choose. What else can we react this quickly to if we treat it like it’s not an individual moral failing, but a systemic problem? How about homelessness? How about climate change?

Of course, what real innovation takes is political will to change the status quo, and this is usually the most difficult step. First you have to treat a crisis like the crisis that it is.

— Dr. Reuben Stanton and the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #64 here.

August 11, 2020

PG#63: Building Australia’s Mental Health Literacy

Over the past eight weeks, I have been working with Beyond Blue to understand people’s diverse experiences of mental health and wellbeing. I have had the privilege of hearing stories from ordinary people all across our communities. As a result, I have a deeper appreciation for what many people endure, not just because of their personal situations, but because it is so difficult to access mental health care in Australia. I have strong feelings of guilt for not having had this level of understanding earlier.

Equally, I’m frustrated that the task of changing the way our society approaches mental health has fallen solely to people with mental health challenges, and the people and organisations (like Beyond Blue) who support them.

I believe that mental health and wellbeing is a subject we should all be actively engaged in.

This could start with each of us educating ourselves. We could do a better job of understanding what it means to have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or other conditions, and what it means to have mental health challenges that do not come with a neat label. We could do a better job of identifying when someone may need our support and not just leave it to clinicians and medical professionals. We could learn about ourselves – each of us has personal indicators that tell us when our mental health is taking a dip. It is worth learning what our indicators are, and having strategies already in place for when they show up.

We have a responsibility to our friends, families, colleagues and communities to build our mental health literacy. We have a responsibility to ourselves.

Beyond Blue’s Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Servicehas been set up for anyone dealing with pandemic anxiety, lockdown isolation, financial worries, added stress on relationships, and so on.

They have web resources, an online chat service and a dedicated counselling phone line, all separate from the regular Beyond Blue support service, so please don’t feel like your problems aren’t big enough or you’d be ‘wasting’ their resources – that’s what it’s there for.

— Ernez Dhondy and The PG Team.

Read the rest of issue #63 here


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