August 20, 2019

PG #40: Design As A ‘Model Of Care’

One of the benefits of working in design consulting is that you are constantly exposed to new ways of working, thinking and considering. For example, about six months ago I was exposed to the concept of ‘models of care’ in healthcare systems.

A model of care is a set of steps, practice guidelines, and instructions on how to provide the best possible care for a patient. This is about more than how to practise medicine, it’s about taking into account individual circumstances, medical best practice, legislation, services offered across the system, and using all this to take a holistic approach to ‘care’ for someone. A good model of care (for example, the Cancer Council’s care pathways) asks ‘how can we deliver the best possible outcomes for each patient?’

This is even more complex for people at the end of their lives, where the ‘best possible care’ can mean many different things. Maintaining dignity, making sure patient choices are respected, and ensuring equality of access are all challenges here. The new ‘assisted dying’ laws in Victoria are an example of legislation that has been put into effect to address some of the care needs of people with terminal illness that were not previously being met by our health care system in Victoria.

We were incredibly privileged to have played a small part in the design of this new system.

Something that is unfortunate about how much of society delivers services, is that even with efforts towards fair access and equity, many of our systems still favour the advantaged. Just staying with health care in Australia – the design of the NDIS, despite its rhetoric around choice, has unfairly advantaged the already privileged.

Maybe approaching the work of design, and thinking about the models we create as ‘models of care’ can help us here?

How do we care for people, society, and the planet, and what models are we following? How can the models and systems we design deliver the best possible outcomes, so that all people can be treated with dignity, equality and respect?

— Reuben Stanton & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #40 here.

August 6, 2019

PG #39: Paying Attention To What We Already Know

Photo form inside the crowded halls of America's first mall, Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota
America's first mall, Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota

“There are many opportunities to create systems that work from the elements and technologies that exist. Perhaps we should do nothing else for the next century but apply our knowledge. We already know how to build, maintain, and inhabit sustainable systems. Every essential problem is solved, but in the everyday life of people this is hardly apparent.”

⁠— Bill Mollison, Permaculture: a Designer’s Manual (1988)

Innovation, in my experience, rarely means coming up with something new. In my career as a designer, some of the most ‘innovative’ things I’ve seen or participated in have been exactly what Bill Mollison describes – applying existing knowledge in a new way, to build systems that work. 

As we face new challenges in a rapidly changing political, social, economic and ecological climate, we would do well to pay attention to what we already know how to do.In the last newsletter I talked about how we already know how to solve the homelessness crisis. (Hint: give people homes.) There are many, many facets of society where ‘applying existing knowledge’ could be a true innovation. We already know how to transition away from coal, for example

Now, I’m not saying that applying existing knowledge is easy – all sorts of things hold us back from being able to lift and apply innovation from elsewhere. The specifics of local communities, local attitudes, local ideologies, local relationships – they all matter if change is going to stick! 

This is why things like co-design – community led, adaptive, iterative and local –are the only way we’ll make lasting innovative change in places where change needs to happen. For this reason, I’m heartened by the renewed attention being paid to co-design, systems thinking, permaculture, and similar fields in the design industry as a whole. 

And though originally designed 40 years ago, the basic texts and principles of permaculture still hold true today. At this moment, we should be paying more attention to what we already know, and looking for innovative ways to apply this knowledge.

— Reuben Stanton & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #39 here.

July 23, 2019

PG #38: Compare And Contrast

Compare and contrast:

1. The federal government steadfastly refuses to raise the rate of Newstart (Australia’s unemployment benefits) to a rate that is even close to a living wage. 

2. The Australian federal government, with bipartisan support, just passed a $158bn tax cut, which will have the most impact on people earning above $180,000, and will likely lead to further cuts in social services as tax revenue decreases

By denying unemployed people the money needed for basic survival, Australia is actively forcing people into homelessness. This becomes a self-reinforcing cycle: people without a permanent residence find it hard to apply for work, have trouble accessing services, and are increasingly likely to end up in prison. People with a criminal record face even more challenges finding work. Women are increasingly overrepresented in this cycle. 

Paper Giant has been doing work in sectors such as criminal justice, social services, and disability services in Victoria for a few years now, and every time we attempt to look at where we might have some impact, we come up against these self-reinforcing cycles of poverty. 

The most frustrating part of this is, if you talk to anyone who works in social services, they already know the solution! Raise Newstart. Fund housing. Offer support without judgement.   

But to make a change to a system like this obviously requires more than just knowing a solution. It requires a change in mindset across the system: an orientation towards care, support and recovery; not blame and punishment. 

There are great examples of this out there. Two that spring to mind are Dandenong’s drug court (where the focus is on treatment and recovery, not punishment), and a newly revamped Ozanam House (where an understanding of trauma as both a cause and effect of homelessness underpins their work). Our recent StreamlineFines project is a smaller example of work that aims for a holistic approach to intertwined social and health outcomes.  

I feel like every newsletter that I write ends up being about transformative systems change in some way, but I realise that’s for good reason – the systems that make up our society are not working equally, fairly or sustainably for everyone. But they were made by people, so they can be changed by people.

— Reuben Stanton & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #38 here.

July 9, 2019

PG #37: The Peculiar Blindness Of Experts

Two hands above a pile of papers. The one on the left is holding a pencil, about to write something. The one on the right is pointing to something on the paper. There is a cup of coffee and a pen to the left of the paper. There is a cup of tea and another pen on the right of the paper.
Illustration by Hope Lumsden-Barry, Communication Designer

There’s this strange thing that happens in Australia every June – it’s called the ‘End of Financial Year’ (aka EOFY). It’s an odd time where companies and government agencies alike are trying to spend as much money as possible to justify their budget requests for the next financial year and reduce their tax liability.

What it means for consultancies like ours is that June is the busiest time of year: the time when our clients desperately need work delivered before July rolls around, and we are working as hard as we can to deliver it.

It’s also winter, and everyone wants to take a break.

It’s also school holiday time.

It’s also flu season.

And what happens is the interaction between these things – busiest time of year + winter + holiday time + flu season – means we arrive early July exhausted and gasping for breath. I don’t know about you, but if I wanted to design a healthy working economy, this is not how I would go about it. And there are ways to design better economies – check out this article on 5 things Australia could do right now to end poverty

All this is really just a preamble to explain why you might notice the newsletter is a little light on this week. We hope you are able to be kind to yourself for the rest of the winter months!

— Reuben Stanton & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #37 here.

June 26, 2019

PG #36: From Self-Care To Community Care

About two years ago, we had the opportunity to do an amazing research project into something that affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives.

The project was called ‘The Death of a Loved One’. It aimed to map the experience of dealing with death in Australia, and for a good reason: to make clear the failings of public and private services, and to find opportunities to make a difficult experience a bit less difficult all-round for those of us left behind. 

Qualitative research on ‘life events’ (e.g. ‘having a baby’, ‘moving out of home’, ‘dying’) is foundational for service providers because these events are foundational to our lives. They affect every aspect from the financial to the emotional, and are the times we are most likely to need external support. Research in these areas will always have application far outside the instigating project’s scope. Even though our work is two years old, the findings are still relevant, and will likely remain relevant for many years to come. 

This project was foundational for Paper Giant too – it helped us formalise and cement in place our approach to ethics and care on projects, which we’ve written and spoken about elsewhere (and will be doing again in London this week!).

For me personally, doing this work really highlighted the importance of gaining qualitative insight into experiences, to understand people’s situations before implementing change – especially situations that are as complex, diverse and nuanced as someone close to you dying.

— Reuben Stanton & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #36 here.

June 11, 2019

PG #35: Buzzwords Vs Reality

Two of our primary goals at Paper Giant are to build communities and start conversations.

This week marks a year since we moved into our current studio space in Melbourne’s CBD – a beautiful, spacious and light-filled room, which we’ve filled with modular furniture and whiteboards, and which we’ve tried to make feel and behave like a public library. Almost everything is on wheels, and we’re pleased with the way the space can shift and respond to the demands of project work as well as for public events.

At the time of our move, the space was much bigger than we needed. We committed to the lease because we knew it would become a key part of the infrastructure to achieve our longer-term goals. Over the last twelve months we’ve hosted a huge number and variety of events, both for and outside of the design community in Melbourne. This effort culminated in a massive May, during which we hosted four events.

Our ‘Diversity in the Innovation Ecosystem’ event for Melbourne Knowledge Week is the one we’re most proud of. We wanted to bring people together to talk about different forms of diversity and inclusion, and promote frank discussions about how it does or doesn’t work in practice, and I think we were successful. (Read a write-up of the event.)

In service of our goals though, it’s important that we don’t expect everyone to come to us. To that end, I’ll be heading to London at the end of June to run a workshop on Designing (and Surviving) for the End of Life at GOOD19, after which i'll be connecting with old and new design research colleagues at User Research London.

Right before then, we’ll be running our Design Research for Product and Service Innovation training in Melbourne. We’re thrilled to announce that this is sold out, but if you’re interested in getting better at collecting and working with qualitative data, details on the waitlist are below.

In the meantime, we hope that the spaces you make, are part of, and visit are rewarding, supportive and fun. We know that ours is. Make sure you drop by sometime.

— Chris Marmo & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #35 here.

May 28, 2019

PG #34 – One foot in front of the other

I’m writing this days after the UN reports that 1 million species are at risk of extinction, and that CO2 levels at the Mauna Loa observatory have reached 415ppm for the first time in history. I’m also writing this hours after the Australian public has voted in a federal election, and our re-elected prime minister is a man who once waved a lump of coal around in parliament with the joy of a schoolyard bully.

As I write this, it seems we face another three years of cruelty towards people living in poverty, another three years of dismantling our social security system, another three years of pandering to white nationalists and racists, another three years of regression and inaction on climate, and another three years of cynical economic models that ignore the societal costs of inaction on all these issues.

But however we might feel about this particular election outcome, the challenges we face today are the same that we faced yesterday.

It seems to me the only solution to this crisis is transformative change – to overhaul the global economy to prioritise wellbeing and environmental sustainability rather than the pursuit of profit. We can no longer support a business-as-usual that perpetuates inequality and injustice. We can no longer support a business-as-usual that leads to ecological degradation and global warming. We must fight even harder than before for fairness, equity and sustainability.

And as I write this, I don’t yet have a clear way through this mess, other than to acknowledge that as designers we have agency, and we need to work together, to choose how to put that agency to use.

 — Reuben Stanton, Co-Founder and Design Director

Read the rest of Issue #34 here.

May 14, 2019

PG #33 – The ‘dark matter’ of design

Artistic image of dark matter, showing three abstract coloured circles (red, yellow and blue) on a black background
Image by Andrew Watson

The first time I heard the term ‘dark matter’ in relation to design was when Dan Hill used it in his excellent book Dark Matter and Trojan Horses. This was 2014, before ‘strategic design’ was something people talked about, and before Paper Giant got started. You could almost say the concept of ‘dark matter’ is why Paper Giant got started.

In astrophysics, dark matter refers to all the stuff that we know exists even though we don’t know what it might be. We have no way to observe it, but it literally holds the fabric of the universe together. In design, ‘dark matter’ is the underlying ideological, cultural, structural and systemic ‘stuff’ that shapes and controls how organisations work, how decisions get made, and what changes are considered possible. It’s the stuff that happens in the background of our work that we don’t and can’t see.

Designers are constantly experimenting with new techniques that help us observe dark matter: borrowing language (e.g. reframing design as ‘regeneration’), using tools of speculative fiction, applying different ways of visualising and mapping systems to help people see their context in new ways.

Since reading Dan’s book in 2014, I’ve only become more convinced that the heart of our work is about detecting this dark matter, observing its effects, and making it visible to others.

 — Reuben Stanton, Design Director

Read the rest of Issue #33 here.

May 1, 2019

PG #32 – Don’t Ignore The Outliers

People typically focus on the averages in their data. Designing for the middle 90% is usually faster, cheaper, more efficient. But the ‘outliers’ in your data are people, and decisions that ignore their needs might cause real suffering.

In this newsletter we take a look at; the importance of outliers, the neural implications of skim reading, the power of visual journalism and share our world-first framework for assessing refugee identities

 — Reuben and the PG Team

April 16, 2019

PG #31 – The power of small, sensitive interventions

Illustration of a man and a woman holding ends of a drawing compass as it sketches a circle with two marked points

People that know me know I talk a lot about how design intervenes in the world. Sometimes, more cynically, I use the term ‘interferes’. I use these words as a way of reflecting on the fact that design – especially strategic design – is explicitly about changing existing ways of doing things in order to have an impact: on people, on the future, on organisations, on the planet.

A few weeks ago I was humbled to be on a panel alongside the wonderful designers Lina Patel and Leander Kreltszheim, where we discussed ‘Communities of Care’. Something Lina said at the session really stuck with me:

People come up [to me and say], “Oh, I want to make an impact.”

We’re in the anthropocene right now. Whether you like it or not, you will make an impact. […] We are literally making an impact on the geology of this planet. I think a more useful question to ponder is, “What kind of impact am I having?”

Designers (including myself) could stand to be a lot more humble about the impact that we have. To borrow Lina’s words, “I just don’t think that many of us are making that big a difference.” We are privileged to work at a point of change in complex systems, but the scale of our impact is, in reality, pretty limited.

On that note, I love this idea of ‘small, sensitive interventions’ – by choosing and considering how and where we intervene in organisations, systems and feedback loops, perhaps outsize positive impact is possible. Perhaps with small, sensitive interventions we can undo the negative effects of large, clumsy, insensitive ones. I think it’s worth a shot.

— Reuben Stanton, Design Director

Read the rest of Issue #31 here.

 

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Paper Giant acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the lands on which our office is located, and the traditional owners of country on which we meet and work throughout Australia. We recognise that sovereignty over the land has never been ceded, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.