2013: The Best Year Yet

Not sure what to put as the headline picture… maybe something that sums up the eternal summer in my mind:
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2013 was not an easy ride. On New Year’s Day last year, I was struggling with my entrepreneurial ideas, scrabbling round for odd graphics jobs and single. To be honest – that was all fine. I had tons of hope and confidence that things would work out. New Year’s Day was probably a low point though. I woke up with that awful vomiting bug that flavoured last year’s winter news. Yummy.

It’s Christmas Eve almost a year later, and I have even more hope and confidence, a wonderful opportunity and challenge with FutureGov in the shape of an innovation hub in a council, and a handsome prince of a boyfriend.

I’m living with my family and saving up to move out. I get to see my mum and little brother every day – mum’s work as an artist is fascinating and Tamir (12) is beginning to theorise about society and behaviour. I’m very proud of my whole family, and all my friends too.

2013 was the year we said goodbye to our beautiful Sophiya Haque. It was the year that I started to get career jobs and got good at doing nail art. I’m currently sporting Christmas puddings.

Things haven’t been a walk in the park, but they could have been a lot worse. I spent a good few months unemployed, before March and in September and October. Being unemployed can be hard work and stressful. I would spend all hours perfecting job applications or making huge effort to go to as many events as possible in order to meet collaborators. I’d also spend time on unpaid self-directed side projects to keep improving my design skills. Some of that time, I would be working in the theatre bar job I’ve had on and off since 2010.

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Last year and early this year, I was working on turning my university project about well-being into a service or a course. The Superhero Badge Workshops went down well but I wasn’t sure how to make enough money out of the ideas to keep going. I had a couple of meetings with interested business people but I didn’t understand how to develop my ideas into something they could work with.

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I decided to get some more experience of the working world by trying to work for companies I respected. Participle advertised for two jobs at Circle – out of 220 people, I got down to the last three. They didn’t give me either job. Instead, they created a new job for me – to do the service design legwork for developing the new branch of Circle in Kensington & Chelsea. I loved researching the area and meeting all the older people I encountered. Most of all, I loved the magic of bringing them together where they would make friends and tell me stories about their lives. I continued there after the launch of the new Circle to help get the regular events established, until the funding for my position ran out.

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Image from wearefuturegov.com

Then in late October I started at FutureGov. FutureGov is another service design agency, but works specifically with technology and councils. I had disregarded it for a while because I didn’t think of myself as a huge techie person. On the other hand, I strongly believe that public services need to be updated, and designers are in a good position to help. Design is creative problem solving. This is done through making effort to understand the user needs deeply in order to find a good solution, listening to ideas that users have so they have more of a stake in the outcome, and prototyping and testing ideas. This is not the generally preferred way of working in councils, but the approach has a proven track record in the design world – therefore, it’s worth trying to see if it works when applied to public services.

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I wasn’t after a specific job with FutureGov – we met for coffee one day and they gave me a job in the innovation lab in Surrey council. It’s very new and things are still changing there. My contribution to the project (apart from being an optimistic, energetic presence) is to organise open events for council staff. That means getting in guest speakers to talk about case studies where design thinking has been useful, running workshops about design tools, and supporting council staff in their own projects. It’s a bit like a university design course, with lectures, skills workshops and tutorials for project support. (If you’d like to be a guest speaker, hit me up on lior@wearefuturegov.com.) I’ve never organised an events programme on this scale before with this kind of audience; also I have found the council environment challenging – some people seem to be more interested in asserting their power than in doing what’s best for the people they are running a public service for. It has shocked me and now I understand a little better why our public services are the way they are. Not everyone is on a power trip and there is some great leadership in Surrey. I have faith and hope that if we all pull together, we can make things better for everyone.


Image from naturalkitchenadventures.com

Next year, I want to nail this events programme in Shift, and help make a difference to the people who can make a difference to public services in Surrey. I want to learn as much as I can from everywhere so that I will be able to eventually run my own projects, and feel equipped to handle the stumbling blocks that arise. I enjoyed a 20 day yoga trial this year and I hope to find somewhere affordable where I can do more yoga (hot yoga was a revelation). I want to go to a life drawing class with my friends, and to Prague with my boyfriend. I’ll see my middle brother graduate from Warwick which I am very much looking forward to.

Right now everything is fine with me. Reading Lucy Mangan in the Guardian Weekend, I realised that if she got to be so popular, us Brits must really love angry cynicism. I probably shouldn’t write about how happy I am – that might go down really badly with my peers. People might think I’m ‘rubbing it in their faces’. If that’s the case – what is the world coming to if we can’t show that we are happy? Are we all meant to pretend to be miserable to satisfy the most miserable among us?

Happiness is not a commodity to be jealous of. Happiness is a fleeting feeling of joy to be spread to others while you’re feeling it. Well-being is that long burning glowing satisfaction that all is well. Appreciating what I have and framing it in a positive way makes me feel happy. And I want to spread that joy around. Christmas is such great opportunity to do that. Christmas – watch out, Lior is coming!

I’ll leave you with my biggest achievement of the year:
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