We've been working hard on developing more knowledge about human-centered design's application to social welfare programs innovation. As the video below highlights, it is a powerful set of tools when you are trying to introduce innovative ideas without a lot of existing social science research - it allows the knowledge of families' experience, frontline staff, and managers to be central in the redesign process
Interested in using this video with others? My Consortium colleagues at Mathematica created a nice User's Guide that frames up some questions. You can also use it to find other videos by the other great scholars in the Consortium who focus on material hardship, fatherhood programs, and the spatial realities of poverty today.
This summer, we are engaged with two county governments in an intensive human-centered design project. In it, we are exploring how local government could change its operations to focus on serving holistically families in need of support. This work is a fundamental redesign, trying to advance a 2-generational service model. It is also an honor to be exploring a 'big idea' in our field - What if we stopped merely implementing categorical programs and redesigned services with people in need at the center?
In many ways, I am drawing on lessons learned 20 years ago in my dissertation in this project. But I'm now equipped with a range of tools to carry out creative design processes and backwards mapping analysis. I'm grateful to be working with my talented Future Services Institute colleagues, Sook Jin Ong and Robin Phinney.
This week, we at the Future Services Institute hosted our first National Summit on Whole Families Redesign. We brought together some of the best minds doing research about family circumstances and enabled them to have frank and honest conversations with people working in county and state government, nonprofit organizations about what it takes - and what gets in the way - of having systems work for families. Want to know what happened? Check out the Harvest site.
Last week, I was invited to an international gathering of Art of Hosting practitioners who are interested in harvesting conversations that matter, developmental evaluation, and research. It was a great gathering in Nova Scotia, called and hosted by Monica Nissen, Tuesday Ryan-Hart, Tim Merry, Brave Space and others.
During the session I did about research, a colleague recorded it in video. If you are interested, it can be found here on Vimeo.
Can't wait to gather again with like-minded leaders in the field.
This week, I was asked by my colleagues Dr. Samuel Myers to speak to a community leadership group he convenes, the Wilkins Center Community Fellows. It is not unusual for me to talk with practitioner groups of nonprofit organizations. What was unusual was for me to be asked to talk about "implementation theory." While I believe there is nothing as practical as a good theory, I also rarely think that practitioners who run nonprofits or battle it out in public agencies need to learn mine
Instead, I do a lot of simulations, case studies, tool development. But Sam wanted me to talk about implementation theory. To do so, I drew upon work from my book and article in Policy Studies Journal, my ongoing projects in the Future Services Institute, and my deep engagement of David Snowden's Cynefin Framework.
As I thought about it more, I also realized that I often undervalue the role of my deep scholarly research and theorizing work. This is an understandable response as I try to decenter conventional authority sources as a full Professor at a Research One University. But I also think it means that I hide this work from those for who it might be helpful. So in an effort to share more widely, I've attached slides from the talk below.
In my role at the Humphrey School, I've been wondering how public affairs educators should respond to the U.S. election, where clearly a majority of people do not feel well served by the existing public institutions or practices. The technocratic solutions that are offered to public problems in not responding to people's needs.
In my class the day after the election, students from across the globe thought together about the implications of the election on their own professional commitments. This is what they offered:
Again this year, I am happy to offer probono design for public and nonprofit organizations who have needs for program evaluation. As part of a graduate-level course at the Humphrey School, we create utilization-focused plans for agencies using rigorous evaluation methods and appropriate alignment with organizations' needs. If you are interested, see the request for proposals here.
Over the past six months, we've been in discussion with county, state and nonprofit leaders about how the Humphrey School might offer resources to support policy and program improvement in the Human Services field. Today, we've launched the Future Services Institute with the convening of a dynamic group of advisors. They will help us respond to the important needs in our region and bring the unique talents of staff, doctoral students, and faculty in systems analysis, facilitation, evaluation, and training into the fields where they are needed.
Attached is the scope of our work in these first years, strategies where our advisors think that we can make the most differences given the needs for high quality evaluation, program-based peer learning, and training.
This month, my team at the Humphrey School and I have been in dialogue with some great county human service directors here in Minnesota about what is needed now to help really improve public service delivery in our state. We are struggling with huge racial disparities in outcomes across most areas & are growing more racial diverse. So it is neither morally justifiable or sustainable. Things have to change in the operations of public & nonprofit service organizations.
As we've talked, we realize that there needs to develop some alternatives spaces where people working in the system can work through ideas, develop innovative solutions and prototype them (without risk), and develop their own skills. And I feel like the Humphrey School's Public & Nonprofit Leadership Center can provide that platform. It also provides a way to apply the theory and know-how I've articulated in my book and recent articles.
We've landed on the name "Future Services Institute" and are going to explore a few programmatic efforts - bolstering the peer learning networks that we facilitate, conducting program evaluations, hosting innovation labs, and seeing if we might create a new graduate certificate at the Humphrey for mid-career students. So stay tuned!
As part of the Hubert Project leadership team, I've worked with doctoral and masters students to develop an array of teaching materials that highlight key issues and quandaries in policy and program implementation. It's grown to quite a collection on the Hubert Project web-site. See the list below for short video briefs (<4 minutes) to extensive & engaged e-studies. Enjoy!