A Flood of Complexity

Yesterday Toronto was hit with a massive rainstorm that dumped more than 120mm of rain on parts of the city

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Evaluating Social Innovation For Social Impact

Earlier this week I has the pleasure of attending talks from Bryan Boyer from the Helsinki Design Lab and learning

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Evaluation and Design For Changing Conditions

If we are serious about addressing the social, political, health and environmental challenges posed to us in this age of global complexity we need to launch from these start points into something more sophisticated that brings these areas further together. The cross training of designers and evaluators and innovators of all stripes is a next step. So, too, is building the scholarship and research base for this emergent field of inquiry and practice. Better theories, evidence and examples will make it easier for all of us to lift the many boats needed to traverse these seas.

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Wet and Dry Design for Social Innovation

Create systems that are too bounded (dry) and we risk sucking the moisture from the human elements (the wet) that make real social innovation happen. Our challenge is finding the right balance between the controlled, stable environments that these new technologies afford and the self-organized, emergent and innovative environments needed to implement and scale our initiatives more effectively.

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The Art of Complexity and Public Health

In public health we use focus groups — which were initially designed to focus a research question, not serve as a means of research unto itself — to generalize from a group-think scenario to an entire community and then claim that we know them. Really? Is this beholding? Is this the kind of contemplative inquiry that makes sense for public health. Could we learn more from artists? Our methods certainly could (see art of public health), but perhaps the way of the artist is also something we could learn more from

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Storytelling, Sense-making, and Systems Thinking

I teach a class in systems thinking perspectives on public health. This past week we discussed the role of narratives and storytelling as ways to learn about systems and how to organize diverse information and make sense of that. All stories are fiction, but for systems thinkers, some stories are useful.

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Spectrum Thinking and Complex Systems

Systems thinking requires spectrum thinking. People must be able to see things on a gradient, rather than in absolute compartments. Students can’t be faulted too much for having a hard time with this when they are graded based on letters where a B+ is a 79 and an A- is one percentage point higher, yet the mere presence of a B (anything) on a transcript can mean the difference between an award, admission, or a job and not.

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