Facilitating the IPCUK Neighbourhoods design process – Full

Read the Design Summary first


At the UK Permaculture Convergence in September 2014 I went along to a workshop about getting involved in making the International Permaculture Convergence happening in London in a years time hugely successful. This is going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wanted to support the small staff team at the Permaculture Association in making it great. Joining a working group seemed to be the way forwards, but I was already feeling quite busy and reluctant to commit to something ongoing. So I got in touch with the Welcome and Wellbeing working group and offered to do a design for an aspect of the convergence. I felt that this would allow me to manage my time more effectively than having to participate in all of the working group activities. Out of the possible options to design I chose the Neighbourhoods as building community is something I am passionate about. It felt a little overwhelming to take individual responsibility for designing an aspect of an event this big and I also wanted as part of the process to ‘pay it forwards’ and share my learnings with others earlier on in the diploma process or with less experience of people-based designing. So I put out an invitation to the working group and on the diploma facebook group and got a very quick enthusiastic response from 5 other people, none of whom had used the design web before. In fact in the midst of all that I moved house and survived Christmas and had quite a long pause where I was kind of avoiding admitting to myself what I had taken on! But the suggested target of a first draft by the beginning of April started to loom large and with only 2 months to go before then and a design team recruited I jumped into action! I quickly realised that there was going to need to be lots of planning of how the designing was actually going to come about – designing the design process. And with one design still to do for my diploma I was immensely grateful when Looby, my tutor, suggested that I did this as my final design.

The Design

With such a sudden start and a short timeline we got things underway before I had a chance to really start the designing and it took a few weeks of short term, reactive designing to catch up with myself! You can click on a picture below to see it bigger or you can zoom in really close to them here.

From this design I produced a pattern design based on my experiences and learning, which can be used in the future for aiding similar designs.

Pattern design – online, collaborative designing with the design web

As a final evaluation step I have looked at whether I have met the SMART goals that I set myself.

  1. Sharing my experience and learnings of the design web and collaborative designing
    1. Everyone in the design team will have experienced a cycle of the design web by Sept 2015 – If they fill out the feedback survey then they will all have had the opportunity to experience the full cycle already, apart from Denise who hasn’t got involved.
    2. I will actively apply my previous learnings to the process and make them explicit where possible – I have definitely actively applied my previous learnings. I haven’t alway made them explicit, I feel that may have been a layer too many in the rest of the design teams learning process.
  2. Produce a successful IPCUK Neighbourhoods design
    1. Produce a first draft of the overall pattern of the design by April 2015 which then goes for feedback – this has been achieved
    2. Pattern and detail (full) design completed by September 2015 – this was mostly achieved
    3. Average rating of at least 8 out of 10 on IPC feedback – not able to know yet
  3. Improve my online group designing and facilitation
    1. The score my design team give me for facilitation has gone up by April 2015 and again by September 2015 – I didn’t do a baseline for this, but I have collected qualitative feedback. Only one person responded but they said that they had learnt a lot and were getting what they had hoped out of it.
    2. My star of facilitation ability has gone up from now by April 2015 and again by September 2015 – I did not get round to creating the star and I am unclear as to what I was intending to include on it. I do feel like I have learnt a lot from this design and therefore my facilitation skills should have improved.
  4. Enjoyable and creative process for everyone
    1. Enjoyment check-in each week for everyone in the design team confirms the overall enjoyment – I did this to a certain extent but I didn’t always ask explicitly. I asked in the April feedback survey, only one person responded but they gave it 8 out of 10.
  5. Produce a template for using the design web for online, collaborative, events design
    1. First draft of design web template produced by June 2015 with a second iteration by October 2015 – I have produced the first draft.

Overall Evaluation

Design Framework Evaluation: Design Web

This design was a system within a system, so I was using the design web to plan using the design web! It took me a while to get those different layers defined in my mind, but once I did it was very straight forwards to go through the anchor points designing the process. My familiarity with using the design web let me work through it efficiently and at the same time making sure I had considered all of the aspects. Using the design web for the neighbourhoods design was intentionally done to share my learnings and to introduce others to it. As such no-one else in the design team was familiar with using it. As one of the beneficial features of the design web is its non-linear nature I was reluctant to just walk through the anchor points one by one, as I wanted to demonstrate this. However, practically looking at one anchor point per week was the most straight forwards approach as people needed some introduction to them. I feel that the design web has been a great framework to use for the neighbourhoods design as it encourages bringing in existing learnings and highlights important areas to consider but is flexible enough to fit to any type of design including this one with both invisible structure and physical layout  designing needed. Introducing others to the design web has definitely improved my understanding of it, especially through having to answer detailed questions as to what we were doing and why. It is, however, challenging for some people who like to understand the whole process at the beginning, as it is dynamic and therefore you cannot say for sure what the steps will be.

Tools used Evaluation

Design tools evaluation

Design Process Evaluation

What went well?

  •  It has met my needs so far and allowed me to manage the process and produce a first draft on schedule
  • On the whole it has been enjoyable and creative
  • It really enabled me to pool and utilise my previous learnings and then pull them all together into a pattern design which can be shared
  • So overall lots of good yields
  • Made connections with many interesting people including the convergence team

What was challenging?

  • I experienced some frustration around not using more interesting tools and techniques in this process design, but it felt a bit unnecessary when the aim was making the neighbourhoods design diverse and I was limited on time
  • Needing to have finished before I began!
  • Vast quantities of information gathering needed at the beginning of the neighbourhoods design
  • Boundaries of the neighbourhoods design and responsibilities not clearly defined
  • Coming up with sensible SMART goals, my attempts to make qualitative information measurable just feel annoying to me and I don’t get round to doing the baselines! I need to find some meaningful ways of measuring.
  • Receiving feedback in a challenging format
  • Keeping clarity on and explaining to others the multiple aspects of the design

What would I do differently next time?

  • I would spend time considering meaningful measurement of my design goals and would make sure that producing the baseline was integral in that process
  • I would think abundantly and give myself at least a week to do the process design before jumping into the content designing, as there would still be abundant time and it would make for a much more enjoyable beginning.
  • Check-in with members of the design team regularly and explicitly on how things are going and whether they are experiencing any challenges
  • Check others understanding of what you are saying/suggesting when communicating online, as it is easy to misinterpret without intonation and body language

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