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December 12, 2018

Sophie Mei Birkin

17 change-makers — their journey so far

We joined the Clore cohort for the first time on 17th October at their first residential in Leamington Spa. This marked the kickoff to the challenge we are facilitating where they will work in teams to identify a pressing need from across the homelessness, housing and health sectors. The challenge will require the cohort to draw on bodies of knowledge grounded in reliable evidence, to problem solve and design solutions within their chosen field.

In our introduction to the challenge we demonstrated the power of challenging assumptions when problem solving. We believe that reliable evidence is the foundation to getting people to ask the right questions about homelessness, which is vital when designing solutions to complex problems. The challenge we’ve set is based on a design thinking methodology informed by our team’s strong links, both past and present, to the global design and innovation firm IDEO.  Design thinking is a human-centred process where the user is put at the heart of the problem solving journey; the needs of individuals are uncovered through research and the user is involved throughout the process meaning that you design solutions with, rather than for, them.

The leaders worked from our SHARE framework, which outlines five smart goals that are key to a future where homelessness, when it cannot be prevented, is only ever rare, brief and non-recurrent. We asked the cohort to discuss various ‘How might we?’ questions based on the framework, such as ‘How might we shift public mindsets around homelessness, such that the public believes homelessness is a solvable social issue?’ and ‘How might housing become a gateway to wellbeing?’ These questions served as prompts for the leaders to brainstorm which individuals their research would target if they were taking on these challenge areas, including secondary or peripheral users, who might indirectly benefit from their solutions.

The cohort were then taken through design research guidelines and interview practice. We encouraged an empathy-led approach, meaning you come to the table aware of your own biases and assumptions as a researcher and prioritise listening. Having considered research goals, potential users and different interview methods it was time for the cohort to formulate teams and begin planning and conducting their own research over the course of a month in preparation for our synthesis event.  

We held our ‘Synthesis’ session on 13th November in London, which was an opportunity for the cohort to come together, reflect on their learnings and share the stories they had gathered. The aim for the day was to hone in on potential challenge questions by identifying the problems and emerging insights from the leaders’ research to date.

The leaders began by ‘downloading’ their interviews to the rest of their team, explaining who they had spoken to and in what context, before drawing out notable quotes and insights. After this the teams worked to synthesise their observations and insights into themes, which provided new challenge opportunity areas. These areas gave the groups a new direction forward and established a foundation to begin brainstorming potential solutions.

In this video we outline the design thinking approach and the emerging leaders discuss their challenge areas.

 

We concluded the day with an inspirational talk by David Orr whose insights on effective leadership shed light on the reasons behind our partnership with Clore Social Leadership. David stated that ‘Leadership is always and inevitably an engagement with the future’ and that when facing challenging times within the sector leaders are merely ‘rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic rather than steering a new course away from the iceberg’ if they don’t employ innovative, bold and creative thinking. We believe that this approach could lend itself to change makers collaborating outside of their professional work structures to identify new ideas and use evidence as the basis to create innovative evidence-informed solutions for the sector.

The cohort will meet again on 19th December for their ‘Prototype’ session where they will further build on their ideas and create rapid prototypes to visually bring them to life. We are really looking forward to this day, which will be a great opportunity to come together, see how the team’s challenges have developed and collaborate further.

If you would like to know more about the Centre’s partnership with Clore Social Leadership please reach out to us at sophiem@homelessnessimpact.org and if you'd like to watch David Orr's talk you can do so here.

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