Apeldoorn Brief

What’s it mean to stand on your own feet?

When you’ve left an abusive relationship; have young kids; are moving house; and are no longer in contact with friends and family? And should standing on your own feet even be the goal?

1 million people in The Netherlands experience domestic violence each year. For 200,000 people, domestic violence is a regular reality. About 16,000 women are living in Shelters, trying to start a new reality.

Lately there’s been a real focus on work as part of women’s new lives. Policy emphasizes participation and social activation. Services talk about women’s engagement in daily work activities.

It’s not easy. When you’re starting over, there’s lots to juggle. Work can become just another stressor. Something else that feels like a ‘have to’ without much choice or control.

  • How do we enable women to be in control, and transition into the lives they imagine?
  • How might we redefine good outcomes? And catalyze opportunities that move women & their families forward?
  • What kinds of formal & informal supports can we build along the way?

This is the focus of our first Starter Project in The Netherlands. In partnership with Kennisland,  Federatie Opvang (the Federation of Shelters), and Moviera Apeldoorn

Apeldoorn is a mid-sized city in the East of Holland and on the edge of the Bible Belt.

From late November 2013 until February 2014, we’ll be on-the-ground in Apeldoorn, getting to know women, the staff at Shelters, and tapping into the resources of the broader community. Together, we’ll develop and visualize a set of scenarios for how to redefine and improve outcomes with women and their families. Our ambition is to build momentum and attract the funding to make these scenarios real. To prototype, revise, and embed them locally.

Have a read of our brochure explaining the project to women (in Dutch)…

Want to know a bit more about our process?

Starter projects are all about identifying a shared need for change, and making visible what exactly could change. They start with naming a group of people on the margins – like women transitioning out of abusive relationships – and by gathering folks with a stake in the challenge.

First, we form the team & scan the literature

We pull together an interdisciplinary team of designers, social scientists, and community folks. We like to have people with a background in the issue and the local area on the team! That’s why we’re really pleased to have Carita, a social worker at Moviera Apeldoorn on board. Together, we search the literature to try and get a better handle on the issue and identify inspirational practice around the world. We like to build on what already works!

Second, we spend time with families in their homes and professionals in systems

We learn the most by spending lots and lots of time with people. In their homes and workplaces. Here we draw on community outreach & ethnographic methods. Then we compile stories of people and professionals’ everyday lives. We use these stories to surface disconnects. Between what people say they want, and what they actually do. Between the intent of a policy, and the practice on-the-ground. Between the kind of formal services offered, and the informal supports available to people.

Third, we reframe challenges and debate good outcomes.

Here, we synthesize our observations and conversations. And try to dig beneath the disconnects by naming the different values and assumptions. We ask critical questions like: What does it mean to do well? What’s a good outcome, for whom? We find fresh insights come from the positive deviants: the people experiencing the same social challenge, but doing surprisingly well. We visualize what we learn, and use storytelling techniques and role play to help people see & feel different versions of good living. The goal is to debate and redefine what we’re all working towards.

Fourth, we co-develop and visualize scenarios.

Using behavior change theory, we explore what factors influence peoples’ outcomes. Some of these factors are at an individual level – about their confidence, skills, motivations – and some are at a relationship level, a family level, an organizational level, and a policy level. We go back out to people in their homes and to professionals in systems to develop concrete ideas for prompting change at each level. We might come up with ideas for new experiences, new roles, new tools, new networks, new rules, new incentives – or ideas for dismantling what’s getting in the way. We draw storyboards of possible interventions and make props so that the ideas are tangible and testable.

Fifth, we look for funders to prototype & embed.

photo credit: inwithfor TACSI 2012
photo credit: inwithfor TACSI 2012

Ideas are nice, but insufficient. We use the scenarios we’ve developed to try and attract funders and champions for the next phase of work: prototyping and embedding. Prototyping is where make our ideas real. You actually build a small-scale version of the intervention, test it out, and revise it. Over and over again. We like to prototype on-the-ground and within systems. And then we work to build local teams to take forward the prototypes, and bring more and more people into the movement for change.

Want to know more? Contact Sarah from InWithForward or Thijs from Kennisland.