Spreading change: 6 new solutions and a Great Living Co.
B.-d. Farm Paris Creek makes biodynamic yogurt. Up in the Adelaide Hills.
When they started, back in 1987, the family owned only 40 cows. Few local farmers knew what biodynamic farming meant, let alone why you might want to switch over. That was until local farmers started hearing stories. The vet told them the Paris Creek cows were never sick. And any passerby could see that their fields were greener. Slowly, biodynamic practices spread. In 2002, a third farm converted. Paris Creek held reading groups with local farmers; they shared their emergent learning; they modelled different practice. Now the neighbouring farms supply Paris Creek with the majority of the milk they need to make their growing range of milk, yogurt, and cheese products.
What does yogurt have to do with social change?
In both cases, success depends on spreading better practice.
There’s spread that happens naturally, over time, as better practice supplants less effective practice. Yet raising the bar from the bottom-up doesn’t always work. It works when the ‘market’ incentivises what better practice yields. But as long as the ‘paying customer’ of social services (in Australia, that is predominately government) makes purchasing decisions based on how many people are served, rather than on what outcomes the services enable – there’s little impetus to convert to better quality practice. Compare that with the local farmers who had an incentive to convert their practices to get to a better quality of milk – after all, they knew they’d have a paying customer.
We’re finding output-focused funding is especially true in the ageing and caring space, where for the past several months we’ve been working on a project to improve outcomes for people in caring roles and relationships. Service providers receive funding to deliver a certain number of hours of care to a certain number of older people. There are over 300 different service providers in South Australia, and more than 3000 nation wide. There may be loads of ‘choice’ on paper, but on-the-ground, practice looks and feels similar. That’s because end users – the older people – aren’t actually the paying customer. Government, the paying customer, isn’t all the discerning, and has few mechanisms in place to systematically get to better practice.
We need to create mechanisms to get to better practice. From the bottom-up, and the top-down.
That’s the conclusion we came to after our Radical Redesign Team spent six-months hanging out with older people and practitioners. We co-designed a set of 6 solutions – what we’re calling The Great Living 6 – to create change from the bottom-up. These 6 solutions are tied to a single theory of change. A theory of change that says great living outcomes are the product of adopting certain behaviours (initiating, enjoying, exchanging, adapting, and shaping experiences) and having certain non-financial resources (an open mindset, motivational relationships, vibrant networks, and developmental services).
Each of the 6 solutions, detailed in our newly published Prospectus, are interactions designed to shift resources and behaviours for different segments of people. Take, for example, Weavers. Weavers is a solution designed for people new to caring roles, and aims to activate friends & family to play a part. We hope Weavers won’t just change outcomes for the carers we’re able to work with, but will inspire existing respite providers to engage friends and family in new ways.
But even if the 6 solutions were to shift behaviours, and inspire practitioners to shift their practices, it wouldn’t be enough. The extraordinary growth of the ageing population over the next 40 years necessitates continuous innovation and top-down changes to how services are bought and measured.
That’s why we’re also introducing something called The Great Living Company. The Great Living Company would be a new kind of entity set-up to co-design and prototype bottom-up solutions, as well as invest in different kinds of teams, culture, and measurement tools to drive radical change. As we argue in the Prospectus, we’ve created 30 more years by investing in public systems and biomedical research. We think it’s time to create new ways to live out those 30 years by investing in local networks and social innovation. Simply putting more money into service delivery and traditional research will not automatically lead to radical new practice.
Now that we’ve published the Prospectus, TACSI is looking for investors and partners. We’re opening up our ideas at a much earlier stage than we ever have before.
It’s exciting, and a tad bit frightening. The solutions visualised in the Prospectus may look real, but they still require lots of testing and iteration.
A week ago, we ran our third learning camp for the Radical Redesign Team. This one was called Prototyping Camp. As part of it, we headed to Paris Creek Farms to learn their approach to testing, iteration, and growth.
Here were 3 key messages we tried communicating at camp – in preparation for prototyping the Great Living 6 solutions.
(1) Everything can be prototyped. We’ve started to talk about prototyping for change, prototyping for growth, and prototyping for spread. Prototyping for change means testing roles, tools & interactions in order to learn whether they spark behaviour change. Prototyping for growth means testing the systems that are needed to run those interactions for more people – anything from hiring to training to contact management. Prototyping for spread means testing business models – anything from revenue generation to franchising contracts – so the interactions can scale with fidelity (i.e. so they still spark behaviour change).
(2) Prototyping is a loop. It starts with articulating a hunch. “I think stuck older people will engage with therapeutic interventions in the form of books & film.” It moves to generating and testing plausible alternatives. Then, to measuring & deciding between alternatives. And finally, circles back to revising the initial hunch. Good measurement is key. And incredibly challenging in the social space, where we’re often measuring things that aren’t readily observable (e.g changes in attitudes and beliefs), and where measurement is itself an interaction that can be designed and prototyped!
(3) Prototyping comes from a mindset that embraces failure, and does not expect success. In science, this is known as falsification. When you do an experiment, you invalidate hypotheses that aren’t true. Indeed, the point of experimentation is to reduce some of the uncertainty that exists in the world. So crossing stuff that doesn’t work off the list is success. It gives us ideas as to what might work – and therefore gets us closer to better, more effective practice.
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