Practice Makes..

My initial learning goals included: 

  • Uniting administrative and creative practices — thinking about all assets of the project as creative. I think this helps stretch the boundaries of possibility through each element of the process. This has been a challenge, because communication with our partner has been sporadic based on limited capacity of the museum director. As a result, there has been much time dedicated to basic scheduling and administrative tasks that really haven’t felt creative. Perhaps my initial learning goal was a pipe dream and what I learned is that you can’t always unite the admin and the creative.
  • Better insight on how to leverage technology & media in my practice. What might be helpful at this point is spending some time refining the muscle of how identity creative solutions to challenges & opportunities. I’m imagining almost a mock situation in class where we have to come up with creative solutions together for different orgs challenges, or maybe we do a rapid brainstorm for each of the other students’ projects. I feel like I’m still accessing my comfort zone of possible solutions for to address The Griot’s needs, rather than accessing new bodies of knowledge in terms of an ever more expansive and refined ability to help partners address problems in effective, sustainable and refreshing ways.
  • Have better command of the north star within my practice (I called it my ‘nucleus’, which would be why I do the work, and to what end do I think it matters). One challenge of co-design is to have a strong sense of your contributions and expertise, but also be a deep listener and collaborator with your partner. Preferencing the voice of our partner over our own sometimes makes it hard to have our own voice. For example, right now we are having an interesting situation where one of our interviewees has said something somewhat contradictory to our central partner’s insight — how are we as an outside partner supposed to navigate and critically examine this? What guiding principals do we use — our own, our partner organization’s, our individual partner’s?

Other Lingering Questions

I’m still wondering what the best tactics are to be able to address the needs of a co-design partner when you do not possess the skills needed to address their challenge. If, for example, Lois chooses to work with 3D printing, should Aki & I master 3D printing and work with her, should we bring in a new partner who is more knowledgable, or should we try to find a different tactic that addresses the need? My gut says the first, that we collectively learn to use the tools that the work is calling for. But this still remains a question! Especially with the limited time of the class it is hard to accomplish mastery of a new skill and then also apply to a real life partner where there are real stakes.

It may be helpful for me to practice in class some of the methods we have discussed, like listening method, before trying them with partners. This will give a better sense of familiarity with some of the new tactics involved in co-design that will allow us to present these methods to our partner with a deeper understand of how to enact them and what mutual benefit we will gain from engaging with them.

Reflections on my progress…

I looked back at my first post for this class to refresh my memory about what my learning goals were.  This sentence that I wrote jumped out to me: “I am excited to learn more tools and use my curiosity and desire to find connections as a way to co-design new solutions.”

I am realizing this sentence sounds pretty vague!  And one reflection is I’m wishing I had written more concretely what my goals were so I could see if I was reaching them (or at least orienting to them).

Another thing I noticed is that my goal is “tool” oriented.  I have SO appreciated the tools I’ve learned from this class.  The listening methods, Daphne’s research on power mapping, writing a design brief, etc.  I have felt like I am learning some pretty specific tools that I hope to implement in my work going forward.  I also think that “tools” is just the tip of the iceberg of what we’re learning.  I feel like most of our work has been about giving me the chance to practice the framework of design justice.  I have been trying to be really intentional about thinking about my approach to life and work (in and out of the CoDesign Studio class) through Design Justice Principle 1: We use design to sustain, heal, and empower our communities, as well as to seek liberation from exploitative and oppressive systems.  The idea that our work can be a tool for collective liberation really speaks to me and I keep thinking about how to implement that well.

I have also been reflecting on how much I wish we could speak with our partner more.  It’s hard to walk the line between showing her respect by diligently reaching out to communicate with her versus showing her respect by not burdening her too much with our outreach because she has so much to do.  I’m grappling with how to show up best for our partner and thinking about how much easier it is when you know your partner well.  Thankfully I have Mallory to help guide me!  And it’s reminding me that when I do any sort of design work in the future (for me, that will likely be policy design work), I need to make sure I bring the community based organizations I’ve worked with before into the room.  I’m better positioned to bring them into the room because I think I have a positive, developed, trusting relationship with them and I know them well enough to have a better sense of the cues that suggest whether I’m reaching out enough or too much.  And if I have that positive relationship with them and I can help bring them into rooms with my fancy Harvard degree, then hopefully there are other organizations that they know that I don’t know and they can bring those people into the room too.

Not being able to reach out to our partner more and not knowing more about how our partner is perceived has also been something I’ve been thinking about in terms of how to best show up for our partner.  I love getting to know new people, and it’s really hard to know how to support someone when you don’t know them.  So I think this is good exercise for getting to know a partner through what they say and what others say about them.  I think Mallory and I will be working to get more information on what others think about our partner to help build out our knowledge.  I wish we had done that a little bit sooner.