Starter #1, Revision #18

Is a job a good outcome? When you’re starting over after an abusive, controlling relationship?

That’s one of the questions we’re taking on in our very first starter project. A partnership between Kennisland and the Federatie Opvang.

We spent Monday of last week in Arnhem, meeting staff of the Federatie and two Directors of Women’s Shelters.

In The Netherlands, like in lots of Western countries, there’s a big push to get people into the workforce. A job is seen as the ticket to self-sufficiency, and independence.

But is it? It’s not just any job that leads to self-sufficiency and independence. And is it self-sufficiency and independence that’s the goal? Or something more like interdependence?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll spend time with women and their families, to see, hear, and feel their perspective. How do they define a good outcome for themselves? What’s the role of work? And what new kinds of support could we co-develop?

One of our methodological hunches is that people can’t ask for a future they don’t know or believe exists. So we have to shape what they think is possible. By offering up reference points. Stories of others a bit like them. Stories of their past selves. Stories from books, media, film.

But who are we to decide which reference points to expose women to?

It’s a question we continually struggle with. It’s the reason we try to make our own values explicit. Because only when they are explicit can they be contestable. Our manifesto is one articulation of our values. Our own personal stories – which we’ll soon publish – are another. Neither are fixed.

In fact, this week we edited our manifesto. For the 18th time. Thanks to some helpful feedback from folks like Tim Draimin at Social Innovation Generation. Here’s what we changed:

– We clarified what we mean by good outcomes. For us good outcomes are in terms of people’s lives, not in terms of institutions. We also changed the title of this point – from ‘Design, debate, redesign, debate’ to ‘Ends trump means.’ We worried that the design and debate language was too jargony and hid our actual point of view.

– We added the word ‘interactions’ to our description of what we prototype. That’s because we believe in testing all the component parts of an idea. So if there’s an idea for a new family mentoring program, we’d experiment with everything from the roles, to the matching process, to the tools, to the setting, to what gets measured.

– We added more explanation about our ‘no consultancy’ business model. We feel strongly that external consultants shouldn’t be the only ones to profit from projects. If we’re serious about tapping into local resources, we must directly invest in local communities. So we’ve tried to be more straight-up about this.

We’d love to know what you think about our revisions…