Finally, an exciting employee engagement scheme!

Ecoinomy, the web start up founded by sustainability guru, John Grant has launched! Using employee engagement, service design and exciting innovation, Ecoinomy’s ‘eco.system’ rewards employees for actions they haven’t taken. The employees are then financially rewarded, communities are formed, employees gain a sense of achievement and motivation and the company saves money by saving energy.

You have to love win, win situations – the environment wins, the employee wins and the company wins!

I could write about this for hours but instead I recommend watching the launch video. It is great to see a famous dragon on board too to help spread the word!

For more information, go to the corporate website

Inspired by children

The Design Council’s Water Design Challenge has given me the opportunity to work with pupils at a secondary school to help them understand how design can be used to reduce their water consumption.

Today was a kick off session with the pupils to discuss the findings they had discovered from doing an audit on the school’s water consumption. Maybe I was a little naive as to what they would have discovered or maybe I am not used to working with eleven year old girls but I came away really impressed and inspired.

We discussed water consumption in general to get them thinking more broadly than water use at the school and when showing them the virtual water chart, one girl boldy told me that ‘we should not worry about the amount of water in meat production as animals are treated badly, not given enough water to live on and are injected with antibiotics!’ I only had a two hour session to inspire and guide the pupils and had not prepared myself for answering comments like this!

Using the Design Council’s ‘double diamond‘ design process we were able to throw all their ideas onto the table, let the range of ideas be very broad and then see how they could be used to define the brief. I love the fact that the girls had really explored the school, noticed every single dripping tap, are concerned with families in Africa not having enough water to live and feel that this year’s school fund raiser should not be throwing wet sponges at the teachers as it is bad for the environment.

I felt so happy that girls who haven’t chosen their preferred subject route at school yet can be this passionate and knowledgeable about environmental issues. I was expecting to need to really tease ideas out of them but instead had to really work hard to make sure their ideas were captured properly.

The pupils have two weeks now to define their idea and come up with a brief that they want to develop. I’m so excited to see what update they email me on Monday so I can see how best to guide them down an effective, engaging and creative route.

Taking part in this challenge has really made me understand the power of empowering the younger generation. Give them a subject that they can relate to (I asked the pupils to list the moments when they use water in their day and one of the first ones was ‘when I go swimming’ – I hadn’t thought of that one!), add some creativity, tell some stories and they will run with it. Guideance, of course is essential to keep the ideas flowing in the right direction but the fresh minds and active brains are priceless!

My thoughts are now looking at how we can get children involved in other environmental problem solving. Has anyone considered an OpenIDEO platform for children?

Since writing this blog post I’ve read a great article about how ‘children are among the world’s most important innovators’ in Knowledge Wharton Today – worth a read!

The People’s Supermarket Yard Party

Today was a lovely sunny, mild Saturday which suited a yard party at The People’s Supermarket perfectly. I hadn’t been to the supermarket since I interviewed Arthur Potts Dawson for my masters thesis back in September and it was really encouraging to see how it has developed. The channel 4 tv series has clearly been a huge help in increasing its members and attracting more customers; the shelves were well stocked, there were more selling units being used and the range of stock has increased.

Today’s event was part of the Fairtrade Fortnight – an initiative set up to ‘ask the nation to show off about buying Fairtrade which offers 7.5 million people in the developing world a more secure future’ – something I feel is worth supporting. There was Divine chocolate tasting, coffee tasting, popcorn, live music, talks and the best bit, a bicycle powered banana smoothie maker!

The People's Supermarket Yard Party

There was such a great community feel to the party. The volunteers were friendly, everyone was made to feel welcome and such a great idea to run an event where everyone has to walk through the shop to get to it.

Potts Dawson is definitely doing a good job. He has been quoted to say ‘let’s take on Tesco with a ‘people’s supermarket’ and I think, after today’s visit, you can say he is doing exactly that; the lovely bunches of flowers for sale outside were beautifully displayed and very affordable, there were loaves of ‘rustic’ bread being sold off for 50p, you could serve yourself small jars of spices for 10p each (perfect amount if you’re not a huge spice lover) and there were large bags of sugar and flower allowing you to take what you needed. The communication around the shop and small messages about the food made you want to buy from them. The unusual yet appealing brands encouraged you to wander through the aisles and the fresh produce was simply refreshing to see.

The People's Supermarket

If you haven’t been before, I highly recommend a visit. The prices are decided by the members. Some I’d say were higher than expected while others were lower but overall the experience makes it worth shopping there. At the end of the day, you are helping promote independent supermarkets. No more Tescos please…..

Well done, People’s Supermarket!

Have you thought about your new domain suffix?

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve only just found out that the option to have a new range of domain suffixes is going to be possible later this year! I became aware of this when a discussion about URL availability led onto the .eco suffix.

Dot Eco

I like the idea of owning the URL but having read up on the topic, I am likely to be priced out or may have to prove my environmental creds to be allowed to use it.

At first it sounds great – we can expand our Internet options with the sometimes controversial .love, .sport or even .god at the end of addresses as discussed in the Washington Post. Maybe it will stimulate our creative side, allow clearer distinction between sites and allow organisations have the domain they have always wanted. Or is it just a money making decision? Apparently the high price to own the sites will prevent cyber hackers from buying up sites but that sounds like a convenient excuse to me. Impact Lab argue that the internet could become too cluttered with the availability of the extra sites.

It will be interesting to see how strict the credentials are to be able to buy one of these new suffixes. I wonder what credentials you’ll need for a .sex site….? And will .geek be popular?

Currently half of the 220million Internet sites are currently .com or .net and it appears from quick research that the UK is one of the few countries that use unusual suffixes. It is helpful to recognise that .org is an organisation or .tv tends to be tv or media based but my frustration lies with having a .info address and email which is often rejected as ‘not recognised’ on online forms.

How long will it take for the new suffixes to be popular and accepted? Dane Carlson blogged about the subject discussing how in a decade, the .com URL is likely to be as uncommon as .biz is today when ‘hundreds of new top-level domains enter the market’.

It is a sign of the times that eco-friendly and environmental sites are now popular enough that there will be a demand for dedicated domain suffixes but I do hope that ethically, people do not buy them up to make money from them. I would like to think that the established environmental sites don’t feel the need to join the new wave of suffixes and continue to have energy, confidence and support they currently have. We do not need companies greenwashing by creating new websites.

For more information, have a look at the Dot Eco website, especially the section on policy and accountability

Presenting ‘social cohesion’ to the Kingston MA students

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to present ‘promoting social cohesion’ to the current MA Design for Development students. It is a subject that I am passionate about and always great to be able to discuss the topic with fresh participants. The current students are impressively up to speed with service design and social innovation and we had a great discussion.

Promoting Social Cohesion

I have been working with a charity shop in Dalston to see how social innovation and service design methods can help improve the shop and it’s been a challenging yet rewarding project. The main topics covered in my presentation were the challenges faced with real life social innovation projects; understanding the end users and stakeholders, having empathy with the people affected by the project/service, thinking on your feet, having time to reflect and understanding how to use design thinking to tackle different situations.

We then discussed the barriers and enablers for the four projects I am currently working on: Ecoinomy, a work placed engagement system that motivates employees to use less energy, the Water Design Challenge;, working with a school in Southampton to help them use design to reduce their water consumption, The People’s Kitchen;, a food waste collection initiative which provides a meal for the community and the charity shop project.

The People's Kitchen

Barriers and Enablers

It was a helpful way for me to reflect on the projects I am working on and very satisfying that we all came up with similar words/themes.

Continue to learn: a project never runs as originally planned. It is stimulating to be open to a change of direction (often for the better) and to use the insights gained along the way to benefit the project.

Keep a fresh mind: It is very easy to get too absorbed in a project, especially when you are the only service designer. Taking a step back or speaking to people outside about what you’re experiencing is essential. It is amazing how people unrelated to your project or service design can be helpful with an idea.

Be confident: There will often be times when a project isn’t going as planned or in the direction you had desired. Barriers come up all the time, stakeholders can change their minds about decisions and time can run out. It is important to stay confident at all times (or at least appear confident!) so that the rest of the team/stakeholders do not worry about the project. It is always possible to involve new people if necessary or discuss how to face a certain situation with the project team.

Add value: There is no point in carrying out a project (especially as a service designer/design thinker) if you are not adding value. Remind yourself that as the project evolves, you need to be able to measure how the project is going, think about where value can be added and refer back to your original aims on a regular basis.