Conference Program

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Opening Remarks

Theme One—The Decade Cycle: 10 Years Back, 10 Years Forward

What have we learned from the last 10 years? And what do the next 10 look like? How do we continue to break down silos and institutionalize design?In the span of 10 years, what was once new and agile becomes bureaucratic and baked into the system. There can be a multitude of political shifts. Leadership changes cause rapid change in priority, growth, and direction. And the thing that was once new and experimental might not be the vehicle for change anymore — another reformation is needed.

What have we learned from the last 10 years? And what do the next 10 look like? How do we continue to break down silos and institutionalize design?In the span of 10 years, what was once new and agile becomes bureaucratic and baked into the system. There can be a multitude of political shifts. Leadership changes cause rapid change in priority, growth, and direction. And the thing that was once new and experimental might not be the vehicle for change anymore — another reformation is needed.

Theme One Intro

Civic design is a young field with old roots – and we forget those roots at our own peril. This talk will be a narrative survey, starting with activists challenging the design of public spaces in the 60s, and will trace a fifty year arc from those roots to the language of accessibility we use today so often in the public sector. We’ll cover organizations, private and public, that have shaped the field, and end suggesting what we owe ourselves for the next fifty years. A reference guide for early careers, and a deeper contextualization for someone later in their career.

You can move much faster when others have paved a way. About a decade later than others, our federal-level government digital service unit only started in late 2020, during the pandemic. It’s growing rapidly now, expanding to 120 people by the end of 2022, and taking shortcuts thanks to other units elsewhere. We share what we achieved by building on the experiences and outputs from other international digital service units, how planting the seeds through a fellowship program was pivotal as an enabler, and where we want to be by 2030.

Break

Depending on where you are in the world, there are several reasons why civic design has become a valuable methodology for governments. Within the scope of our work in Istanbul, we would like to talk about increasing the capacity of institutions producing and providing public services to create innovative services and system design and adapting civic design models to innovative service development processes for local governments in developing countries. We will present our Karakoy project as an example of these topics.

In Australia, the public sector is marred by a legacy of efficiency-driven systems that put some of Australia’s most vulnerable at risk. The outcomes of recent Royal Commissions triggered by these failures suggest that the public sector is moving into a new era. Project proposals now require ethnographic research and meaningful collaboration with people who have lived experience of systems failure. We will share our trajectory as a ten-year-old design organization advocating for and driving these practices, recent project case studies about mental health reform and co-production, and a series of provocations about the path we see ahead.

Break

The design industry’s relationship to the field of business has long been established and continues to become further entangled each year. But designers aren’t just satisfied with only disrupting the business sector—they’re keen to disrupt the social sector too. Unfortunately, the weaknesses baked into the discipline of design (that have been present from the start) are readily exposed when designers enter complex social issues and treat them like any other human-centered innovation challenge. The lack of a moral framework, let alone a set of ethical guidelines, put designers at great risk of doing more harm than good.

Break

Four female leads at Coforma reflect on their first year in civic design: a Product Design Lead, a Design Research Lead, a Content Design Lead and a DesignOps Lead. Using diaries, they’ll journal about their prior experiences (10 years back), their first year at Coforma, and postulate on the 10 years ahead. Framed in their respective areas of practice, our four panelists will discuss design as discipline, as experience, as architecture and as vehicle for revolutionary change. We hope to uncover multi-potentialities within the civic design and technology space that could influence endless improvements within the private sector.

Wrap-Up

Opening Remarks

Theme Two—Power Structures: Shifting How and By Whom Design Gets Done

Many civic designers work on a spectrum of “Design For/ Design With/ Design By” to fit the opportunity for influencing change. Some civic designers have been able to become the facilitators for communities designing their own solutions, while others are having to fight to engage the people who use and deliver the service they are working on. As these power structures continue to shift, how do civic designers navigate within their own organizations, communities, and field of practice to know when to employ the right methods? Where does design provide craft that is different from other types of expertise? How do we care for our communities, our colleagues, our teams, and ourselves as we design?

Many civic designers work on a spectrum of “Design For/ Design With/ Design By” to fit the opportunity for influencing change. Some civic designers have been able to become the facilitators for communities designing their own solutions, while others are having to fight to engage the people who use and deliver the service they are working on. As these power structures continue to shift, how do civic designers navigate within their own organizations, communities, and field of practice to know when to employ the right methods? Where does design provide craft that is different from other types of expertise? How do we care for our communities, our colleagues, our teams, and ourselves as we design?

Theme Two Intro

Senseless acts of violence change lives forever. For the victims and their families, life will never be the same. But wounds, particularly those inflicted by racism and hatred, injure entire communities; and communities must find a way to move on. Civic design, practiced at a community level and led by leaders from inside, offers a generative approach to restoring agency, purpose and power. It has the potential to rekindle hope and trust, and to reclaim power, despite those who tried to take it away. This session illustrates how civic design is being used to heal an injured community.

Without relationships, qualitative research findings will be filed away and forgotten. By focusing on two core types of relationships, researchers can make their findings relevant and impactful. First, researchers must build trusting relationships with those they aim to learn from: clients of government programs, frontline workers, and community-based organization staff. And in order to do anything with the collected data, researchers must also build relationships with those who have the authority to actually improve the government programs and systems. In this session, speakers will share how they’ve realized the full potential of research through building authentic, trusting relationships to influence change.

Break

Hear how we worked collaboratively to build the conditions for co-design, supporting the development of more inclusive products, policy and services, during a pandemic. We’ll share the reality of strategically embedding co-design practices across disciplines, through co-created tools, a community of practice and practical application. We’ll discuss: when is it right to co-design, and how can government or other large organizations co-design with equity? Key takeaways: The reality of co-design Methods and tools we used to build the right conditions for co-design. Practical applications of co-design When is it right to co-design and not co-design?

At a large U.S. federal agency, we’ve partnered across agency personnel, vendors, and contracts to build a single design culture that delivers an exceptional customer experience while meeting evolving business needs. We’ve built collaboration and critique rituals, tooling approaches, and design governance processes to organize 75+ designers into a unified practice all working together on a single, digital experience. We’ll share what worked, what didn’t, and provide a set of principles and tactics you can use right away – in any government agency – to begin building your own cohesive design practice, even when your ecosystem is anything but cohesive.

Break

The role of innovator and civic designer is often one that pushes for change, sees things through a different lens. However, people with marginalized identities are often challenged to be seen, heard, and make an impact in work places. We will chat about our challenges as innovators in homogeneous spaces, but also tactics and tools we can use to help diverse groups of people be champions of change in civic spaces. This session will unpack the ways in which our hidden biases can minimize the contributions of designers and how we can uplift groups of people as champions of change.

Break

There’s scant data on how the economics of a successful civic design practice squares with its values. What’s fair pay for doing this work and a fair price to pay or charge for it? And how do you start and scale a design team that values a culture of care, transparency, and empowerment — for staff, partners, and publics — when our shared unit of value is a dollar bill? This session will provide real numbers and tools for making your team’s business model and team structure as radically collaborative, transparent, and equitable as your design product.

Wrap-Up

Opening Remarks

Theme Three—Physical Environments: Interactions Beyond Screens

The work of civic designers increasingly spans the blurring lines between the public and digital worlds. Designers must consider how people spend their time in and moving through these spaces as they navigate personal, family, community, and commercial needs. We’ll examine the innovative strategies, tools, and technologies designers employ to pursue equitable, inclusive, and connected public spaces.

The work of civic designers increasingly spans the blurring lines between the public and digital worlds. Designers must consider how people spend their time in and moving through these spaces as they navigate personal, family, community, and commercial needs. We’ll examine the innovative strategies, tools, and technologies designers employ to pursue equitable, inclusive, and connected public spaces.

Theme Three Intro

Want to learn how to make the future you see in your mind come to life? Cut through red tape, flip limitations on their head and inspire meaningful progress in both the short and long-term by creating artifacts from the future. Artifacts from the future are designed objects or creative representations of everyday life at a different point in time, meant to persuade or challenge, develop champions and align resources. Learn how to create and share your own “preferred futures” as well as cautionary ones through artifact design with a civic design strategist, experiential designer and certified futurist.

This session examines design interactions beyond screens — supermarkets, train stations and kiosks alike — to examine the ways we’ve grafted the digital world into everyday life without bringing along the users of these tools and technologies. We’ll explore the ways that friction causes bottlenecks in the delivery of government services and how designers can use research and collaboration to uncover these pitfalls before they’re too hard to fix.

Break

Providing information to public transit riders is complex. The information needs to be consistent across touchpoints and channels. Like many old, large organization ours is defined by its silos. When information is inconsistent across channels and touchpoints our organizational silos become apparent. More importantly, inconsistent information causes confusion for transit riders. While we can’t stop maintaining and improving the information in our ‘silos,’ we build bridges across them so that riders get consistent information. This approach requires us to be intentional and patient.

Art, culture and city planning are no longer just analog aspects of civic life. We are building culture and emotion into the designs of our most impactful public spaces: our city halls, our parks, and our neighborhoods. How do we leverage technology to design our neighborhoods and parks? But also spark the culture, connection, and conversation that is unique to geography and physical place? In this session, we’ll explore the ways in which we’re building cities for the future, and leveraging technology to design better, more connected public spaces.

Break

TBD

Break

Amahra Spence will speak on the themes of the conference, reflect back key insights that emerged over the course of the three days, and leave us with critical questions we can carry forward as a community, and individuals after the conference is over.