Hi all! I haven’t had much time to write on here this year, so here’s an update of what I’ve been busy with. Much has changed this year for me. The top three developments: Rainmaker, the service design fringe festival, and feeling like a grown-up.
1. I joined Rainmaker.
I joined in January as the first service design hire at Rainmaker, and now there are quite a few of us. I introduced Rainmakers to service design, and it fits perfectly with what Rainmaker does. Rainmaker is a digital transformation consultancy, working mainly with government clients.
Unlike some pure service design agencies, Rainmaker has a huge wealth of experience in ‘delivery’ – a word that business/government people use to mean getting stuff done despite obstacles. Making service design activity happen can be problematic because it’s often unfamiliar in the organisation we’re doing it in. ‘Delivery managers’ know how internal politics work, so they help remove ‘blockers’ (business-speak for obstacles). This expertise makes all the difference in a service design project.
I’m pretty happy with this arrangement. I play to my strengths more. I’m part of making a more effective change in this sort of team set up.
With Rainmaker, I’ve worked at the Food Standards Agency; Business, Innovation and Skills (now Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy); and HS2. The big-picture design research project at HS2 laid the foundations for a whole ream of further projects that Rainmaker is still working on. 9 months on, HS2 and Rainmakers at HS2 are still using a toolkit I made happen in collaboration with the client-consultant team. Not bad for an intense week of work at the end of a 10-week design research project. (Ok, ok, I’m thrilled and flattered that I ended up doing something useful!)
I’ve never felt more supported at work than at Rainmaker. They are flexible and concerned when I am unwell, take me seriously if I flag an issue, receptive and collaborative when I have ideas, and wholeheartedly endorse my own enterprise, the service design fringe festival.
2. The Service Design Fringe Festival is really flying.
The 2016 festival was double the size of the 2015 festival – double the attendees, and double the events. We had 30 events over 11 days, with almost 1000 attendees in total. We had spaces in the Oxo Tower with other events going on all around London.
For the first time, the festival attracted significant funding, allowing me to hire a few part time pros on contracts for a few weeks to organise the festival together, and I could cover my own time too. We attracted 50 volunteers, though we didn’t have the capacity to work with them all this time. We upped our game in terms of quality: we invested in the website, maps, social media, and event space setting. We even have a bank account now. We got attention: I was interviewed by Design Week on my birthday, and we were in the top 3 recommendations from Plan over the course of LDF. Lots of people said nice things about us, with visitors scoring events 8.6 out of 10 on average. I don’t have anything to compare that to, but I’ve got a feeling it’s a pretty darn good rating.
We learnt a great deal from running the festival this year. The new scale brought unprecedented challenges. We anticipate that 2017 will be bigger yet, so we are working now on developing how we do things. (Please give me a shout if you know someone who’d be good as a sponsorship manager for the festival!)
My post-uni plan for years was: work for a few years, do an MA, then launch a consultancy off the back of the MA. What’s happened instead: work for a few years, learn more from working than current MAs know how to teach, occasionally lecture on MAs, launch a design festival, help build a service design practice within a consultancy. Turns out I didn’t need an MA to make cool stuff happen.
I feel so privileged to be working on something that I believe in, in a style that I enjoy. I work with people I like, I play to my strengths, I get to have ideas and make them happen, and goodness, I actually earn my living from this! However, I work so hard that I get ill, so that’s the issue to work on for 2017.
3. I feel like an adult.
I’ve learnt a bit about managing people through the festival – and my style is what I could have predicted it to be: encouraging people to trust their own instincts, which works because I hire the right people in the first place. And only adults are managers, right?!
Another thing that made me feel like a grown up was my proactive reaction to this year’s global political shifts: I asked myself, ‘what is within my power to change?’ I promptly wrote an inclusion policy/manifesto/thing for the festival, which I hope to develop and test with the 2017 festival team. In addition, I have been writing and speaking more publicly about my experiences of discrimination. I hope that by being more open about my experiences, people that don’t experience discrimination may act with more empathy than before, and people that do experience discrimination feel understood. The personal is political.
At my core, I strive to be non-judgemental; act with empathy; listen and playfully collaborate; be authentically me; and know that change is possible, one minuscule change at a time. I bring this attitude to my work and it runs through my personal life, too. I feel like an adult now because I know who I am, and I make time for what I value.
This bit of paper is pinned on my wall. To do this, you also need to know what you value.
Dear reader, I hope you have had a good year, or at least you are able to pick out the good things that happened for you this year. Despite personal & health problems, and global politics not going the direction I’d like, 2016 has been a good year for making new friends and work satisfaction for me. Big thank you to Rainmakers (esp. Matt, Jan, Tom B, Ilan, & Cotters), HS2ers (J2, you were the best), and the festival team (Katie, Harry, Xime, Culainn, Claire, Sean & Emily, Sophia, Phoebe & Jim – what stars you are). Happy new year!