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Mar 1, 2012

Service Design, Co-Design, Better Design (Idea #5*)

http://www.inspireux.com/2009/01/19/good-design-isnt-decoration-good-design-is-p

Design is a discipline from workforce professionals could hugely benefit, if only the word "design" didn't make us so uneasy. Among American public policy and program stakeholders, "design" is often perceived as having to do with aesthetics alone—as not central to the serious business of work, learning and economic opportunity.

A quick (and unscientific) scan of panels and presentations at key workforce conferences and events (NAWB, SETA, CWA, NAWDP and NASWA) provides some context. The word "design" is used infrequently—words like "(re)tooling," "(re)engineering," and "(re)building" are used much more often. When "design" does appear, it tends to be used in the following contexts:

  • Workforce professionals "design programs" to meet legal, financial, or organizational requirements (but apply design methodologies to solving customer problems or meeting community needs less often);
  • Workforce professionals "improve" or "expand" "program designs". In these cases, it's not clear whether the designs themselves are examined for fit or integrity. The priority overall seems to be "scaling" existing "designs."
  • Workforce professionals "design" reporting documents, databases, and ways of measuring activity. In fact, the balance of "design" work seems to be focused on reporting rather than actually doing. 

What is design?
I'm with Jeffrey Veen on this one. It's only worth talking about (and doing) good design, and "Good design is problem solving." For those who want more depth, listen to this fantastic talk by Bill Moggridge, author of Designing Interactions (an amazing—if voluminous—resource) and Director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. The talk is called, "What is Design?"

How Can Design Benefit Workforce Programs and Policies?
Our WEadership project revealed many opportunities, but our focus here is on the potential of three key (and overlapping) design-industry trends.

  1. Design for the 90%. In the past decade, designers themselves have led a movement intended to make design more accessible. One of these efforts (and one that has captured the imaginations of social entrepreneurs, innovators, and changemakers all over the world) is "Design for the other 90%" (also referred to as Bottom-of-the-Pyramind or BOP Design). This effort, which began as an exhibit, has morphed into a book and a movement of sorts, catalyzing related initiatives like "Design with the other 90%: Cities" and, of course, a network—called The Other 90%. This entire effort is focused on solving fundamental human problems in areas like health, employment, and education. We could all learn something from this movement that could inform the design of our workforce, education, and economic development efforts.
  2.  

  3. Service Design (sometimes called experience design) is also increasingly characterized as a movement. The aim is to improve the interaction between service providers and customers by making intentional choices about the service environment, sequence, and nature of provision that lead to better outcomes for all. Service design is an interdisciplinary approach to process improvement (and sometimes wholesale re-engineering) that takes into account the motivations, preferences, and objectives of those using the service. It focuses on meeting customers needs in a high-quality way on the theory that customers will achieve better outcomes through better service (while also enjoying a more pleasant experience). Skeptics generally point out that workforce centers are not Starbucks shops (they are correct). But the workforce system could learn something from service design that could help improve the experience of career transition—and education and training—so that it's a better experience for people in need of positive experiences and for the service providers themselves.
  4.  

  5. My favorite of the three trends is Co-Design (sometimes called collaborative design or participatory design or even co-creation). The central idea is that people who use or benefit from programs and services are engaged in designing them—and not in a perfunctory way, in a fundamental way. I use the phrase "programs and services" loosely here, because a typical co-design process begins with a program that is not working very well and concludes with a solution to a problem that may not be a program or service at all . And that's the point —to develop collaborative solutions to shared problems, not just to review or tweak existing programs. Co-design processes have the potential to invest government agencies, non-profit organizations, social innovators, and citizens and community members in each others' success—and to build community innovation capacity, which is why codesign projects are so popular in the social innovation community. Here is a sweet and simple video that explains co-design, brought to you by our friends at ThinkPublic:

 

So what do you say? Can you think of a wicked workforce problem that serious design methodologies could help us address?

Resources:

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.

 

 

 

 

Post
Mar 1, 2012

Get Serious About Social Enterprise (Idea #4*)

http://blip.tv/episode/2769043

Social Enterprises have a played a role at the margins of the field of workforce development for decades. Many non-profit organizations supported by public workforce development resources operate social enterprises, even if not directly supported by those government resources. St. Patrick's Center (St. Louis, MO) for example, runs a restaurant called McMurphy's Grill that trains formerly homeless individuals and others who face employment barriers. The project is supported by a combination of grants loans, donations, and the revenue it generates—government is the source of only a small fraction of these resources. 

The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), a San Francisco-based venture philanthropy organization, is unique in its focus on social enterprises as job creation engines. REDF invests in California-based social enterprises—non-profit operated businesses selling goods and services demanded by the marketplace while intentionally creating jobs for young people and adults who would otherwise have difficulty finding them. Importantly, REDF received a Social Innovation Fund grant (there is a new solicitation out right now for this same program—applications are due March 27) for the expressed purpose of developing a social enterprise model that can be scaled nationally, making the organization one-to-watch for workforce development professionals.

There are also for-profit ventures that seek to meet the twin goals of creating employment and delivering products or services valued in the marketplace—like Ben & Jerry's Partnershops. Innovative cooperative models—like Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio—also lie at the intersection of mission and market. These employee-owned for-profit ventures seek to achieve triple bottom-line returns (social, economic, environmental).

The surge of interest in legal entities that can advance social good and meet market needs is evident in the rise of new kinds of businesses—like Low-profit Limited Liability Companies (L3Cs), Flexible-purpose and Benefit Corporations, and Benefit Corporations.

There is even an argument that suggests these hybrid entities are the new philanthropy, making it more urgent that workforce professionals engage with social enterprise strategies.

During the past decade, social enterprises have moved from fringe efforts to the mainstream as the field has expanded and become much more diverse.

Here are a few possiblities (especially at a time when the central problem we face in workforce is not enough jobs):

  • Social enterprises (businesses) that generate resources which can be reinvested into current (and under-resourced) workforce programs (any business can do this—here are a few examples);
  • Social enterprises that employ people and generate products and services needed in the marketplace (like Chicago's Beeline honey-based products); and
  • Social enterprises that employ people and generate products and services needed in the marketplace, which themselves solve social or environmental problems (like the Portland ReBuilding Center or Goodwill Industries).

Yet, the connections between the fields of social enterprise and workforce development (the incubators, funders, associations, conferences and key thought-leaders) are tenuous.

Let's change that (right now).

__________________________________________

SPR recently developed a webinar and the following resource guide on social enterprises. We are optimistic about the potential of social enterprise strategies for workforce development.

 

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.

Post
Feb 28, 2012

Targeted Neighborhood Strategy (Idea #3*)

The Annie Casey Foundation's Annual Kids Count Data book for 2011 is out.

And in what should be no surprise for anyone and a giant disappointment for everyone, childhood poverty is up, again.

"[O]ver the last decade there has been a significant decline in economic
well-being for low income children and families. Data also reveals the
impact of the job and foreclosure crisis on children. In 2010, 11
percent of children had at least one unemployed parent and 4 percent
have been affected by foreclosure since 2007."

Go ahead and see for yourself—here's the book.

What to do?

In Georgia, the number of kids living in high-poverty areas has increased by 81 percent over the past decade.

One in four children in Georgia lives in poverty, the highest rate the state has seen in 40 years. one in ten young Georgians is growing up in an area where at least 30 percent of neighbors live below the federal poverty line—about $22,000 per year for a family of four.

And this story is not Georgia's alone.

But many Georgia communities are trying something new—community partnerships (collaboratives) that target the highest poverty neighborhoods with an array services intended to increase incomes, improve health, raise skill levels, and help families achieve higher levels of economic security (two of these partnerships are Promise Neighborhood efforts).

So what about this kind of approach to workforce development? We saw a taste of it a decade ago with the Youth Opportunity Movement, but the work Georgia is doing targets the community as a whole, not just one demographic group.

What if communities (even wealthier ones) targeted their most in-need neighborhoods? Workforce agencies could serve as "backbone organizations" that support partners acting in alignment ot achieve shared goals. This is sometimes called a collective impact approach, and some workforce agencies use it already—like Worksystems, the Workforce Board in Portland, Oregon, which is organizing youth services in this way. (This approach is also covered in The WEadership Guide.)

There are really two complementary ideas (but we'll count it as one in keeping with the one-idea-per-post approach we've take here):

  • Targeting communities in need and redesign intervientions and services to meet those needs more effectively (a deep but narrow approach)
  • Aligning multiple organizations around a set of shared goals and developed a collaborative strategy for change

Either or both are worthy of trying given myriad of workforce challenges our communities are facing.

How about it?

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.

 

 

 

Post
Feb 25, 2012

Digital & Media Literacy: A New Kind of "Sector" Strategy? (Idea #2*)

Photo from Howard's TED Talk in 2008

Digital literacy. We used to think this meant something akin to "the ability to use a computer to access basic information." But as the web has become increasingly central to our personal, professional, and economic lives, understanding how to interact with it requires more than just knowing the mechanics of search and the ability to use basic applications.

Howard Rheingold authored "Attention and other Social Media Literacies" in 2010, but it's still loaded with insights that have yet to find their way into the majority of approaches to digital literacy. Rheingold (author of Smart Mobs, among other groundbreaking analyses, and new media explorer extraordinaire) focuses on five literacies:

  • Attention
  • Participation
  • Collaboration
  • Network awareness
  • Critical consumption

And he makes this critical point:

"Although I consider attention to be fundamental to all the other
literacies, the one that links together all the others, and although it is the one I will spend the most time discussing in this article, none of these literacies live in isolation. They are interconnected. You need to learn how to exercise mindful deployment of your attention online if you are going to become a critical consumer of
digital media; productive use of Twitter or YouTube requires knowledge of who your public is, how your participation meets their needs (and what you get in return), and how memes flow through networked publics. Ultimately, the most important fluency is not in mastering a particular literacy but in being able to put all five of these literacies together into a way of being in digital culture."

Is this the the way we understand digital literacy in the workforce system?

It turns out the White House thinks digital literacy is pretty important, too, and partnered with the US Department of Commerce on DigitalLiteracy.gov. In fact, this month, DigitalLiteracy.gov is highlighting its collection of resources on Job Training.

And hey, look here! the site also features the Mozilla Badges project we have cited a number of times on this blog.

So...what would it look like if the workforce champions in a community launched a major initiative around digitial literacy—engaging libraries, schools, museums, and others in raising skill-levels in the five Rheingold literacies? (There's a virtual course in how to do this on Rheingold's home- and posterous pages, with new ideas likely in his soon-to-be-published new book scheduled to arrive Spring 2012).

Or how about re-thinking sector or pathway strategies, focusing on the sectors in which these skills with be most essential? Or the sectors less likely to take up this cause? Or the demographic groups that may be in greatest need of them? Or maybe a sector strategy for workforce development professionals?

Here's a little inspiration to get you started...(this is Sean, but scroll down and you'll find a treasure trove of videos about digital literacy).

 

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.

 

Post
Feb 25, 2012

Collaborative Consumption (or sharing stuff so we don't all need to own it—Idea #1*)

http://collaborativeconsumption.com/

Collaborative consumption.

Rachel Botsman coined the phrase, but the movement away from individual ownership to sharing is big—and it's global. If you are not familiar with the idea of collaborative consumption, here are three ways to catch up fast:

"What does this have to do with workforce development?" you might ask.

A lot.

First, people in the throes of unplanned career transition often need to radically reduce their expenses. Collaborative consumption facilitates this in three ways:

  • It helps people access products and services they need (from lawnmowers to cars to kids clothing) without having to buy them outright;
  • It helps people monetize stuff that have but rarely use (renting lawnmowers, car or tools, even a spare bedroom, for example); and
  • It helps people develop new networks—by meeting and interacting with neighbors they may not know and whom they might not meet in other ways. These interactions help people newly-isolated from former colleagues interact with others, keeping spirits up and possibly leading to new opportunities for paid work.

In addition, as we noted in our post on peer-ro-peer learning and badges, new platforms are enabling people to learn real skills from each other that can help them build portfolios or transition jobs or careers. This is a form of sharing that builds skills and credentials.

Finally, from the perspective of growing numbers of collaborative consumers, the shift away from individual ownership is not a temporary one. New terms like "The Share Economy" are redefining what it means to trade with each other. We see this in the rise of co-housing and co-working—people intentionally sharing their homes and workplaces with others not for the money alone, but for a host of other benefits that accrue socially, professionally, and in terms of community well-being.

What else could we do?

The implications for workforce development are quite significant from a program point of view (are we helping people who need to downsize understand how to participate in this alternative economy?), a policy point of view (are we facilitating the lifelong learning we have been advocating all these year, now that so much of it is accessible at no cost?), and from an organizational point of view (how could our agencies and organizations benefit from participating in the collaborative consumption movement?).

Oh the possibilities...

Here are two additional resources that may help you see them:
1. Anya Kamanetz's Edupunks' Guide to a DIY Credential
2. Shareable's
The Gen Y Guide to Collaborative Consumption.

Got stuff to share?

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.

 

of everything you might ever need and toward  stuff and toward

Post
Feb 24, 2012

311 for Workforce Development (Idea #5*)

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/11/ff_311_new_york/all/1

"Hey [insert your city here]! I have a question!"

311. It's the phone number many cities and municipalities use to manage citizen inquiries. And it's so much more.

Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and New York are all using 311 to respond more effectively and efficiently to resident inquiries and to make their cities smarter.

It's that "making cities smarter" bit that we are particularly interested in. Look what New York City learned in its implementation (this can't-stop-reading WIRED piece is like a tutorial on 311, pay particular attention to "As Useful As...").

What would 311 for workforce looks like? In cities that already have 311, is workforce connected to it?

So what if...

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.

Post
Feb 24, 2012

P2PU, Skillshare, Badges—Let's See What We Can Make of This! (Idea #4*)

Skillshare's motto is "Learn anything from anyone anywhere." P2PU offers a School of Webcraft in which you can learn Java, PHP, and HTML (in Spanish). There are more (and better) self-directed learning platforms and opportunities everyday. They are low-cost (many are free) and increasingly social—providing access to peer support and feedback not unlike what you might expect in a more traditional classroom.

Only you can learn at your own pace, on your own time, and there's no pesky parking to deal with.

The Mozilla Badges project (facilitated by HASTAC and funded by the MacArthur Foundation) is working on solutions to the one thing learners need that these new platforms have not yet been able to provide: credentials—the currency of learning that individuals can trade on when applying for jobs. advancing their careers, or just developing their professional portfolios. This is one of the most sophisticated inquiries into the nature of credentials that I have seen (I was jumping up and down with such enthusiasm during the first webinar that I ripped the head-set out of my ears...twice).

The idea is simple: as individuals learn, they accumulate badges that demonstrate their mastery of specific skills—think an adult version of girls scout badges, but portable so you can display them on various social media profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).

This effort is also providing a solution for one of the thorniest problems workforce professionals face—the softskills problem. The right badge system can enable peers, co-workers, supervisors, and reports to "vouch" for your ability to work in teams, communicate, and all do all the other things that make you a great colleague instead of just a tolerable one.

Too gamey for workforce you say? The VA doesn't think so.

And have a listen to Brad Burham here at BigThink. He starts out talking about SOPA and innovation, and winds up citing the importance of retraining and explains why traditional models are cost-prohibitive (and possibly less effective). Seriously, have a listen (it's only four minutes).

 

Now, let's level up.

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.

Post
Feb 24, 2012

Leverage the "Gig" (Idea #3*)

In my state (Oregon), there are six people looking for every one job—this despite a rosier than expected jobs picture in January.

We need to get beyond thinking about the traditional "job" as the goal. What we want is people working in productive and meaningful ways that allow them to earn decent wages and contribute to the overall well-being of their communities. Work can take the form of a job, but it can also take the form of a series of "gigs"—shorter periods of typically intense work. Some industries—typically in the creative sector—are organized around the "gig" already: film, music, performance art, etc.

Greg Hartle and I talked about this as part of his "Ten-Dollars-and-a-Laptop" Project. Feel free to have a listen.

 

What would happen if we facilitated access to "gigs" through the workforce system and not just "jobs"? Would more people find paid work? What else would people need to help navigate this kind of work and document what they learn?

Let's find out...

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.

Post
Feb 22, 2012

Meet the Intern—and Re-make the Internship (Idea #2*)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/2581218229/sizes/m/in/photostream/

The Adult Intern.

When people shift careers, whether by choice or necessity, they often want a test-drive. This has been true for decades. Yet, we retain the notion that internships are for the young. This idea is outdated.

It's 2012.

People change jobs and entire careers more often and we need better on-ramps.

(Would you enroll in a training program to prepare you for a new industry if you'd never worked in that industry before?)

The depth and duration of the current recession has brought more coverage of the issue in the mainstream media, though even well-respected reporters seem to have a hard time with the idea that adults can be interns.

Let's change this. Let's redefine, rebrand or come up with an entirely new way of thinking about internships for adults (career-tern-ships? trial-secondments?).  And then let's create some great ones...

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.

 

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