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Listening to people and communities

Watch this video to hear Nathan and Alex discuss the importance of listening to employees and communities
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<v ->One of the keys things is about</v> that ability to listen and listening as well doesn’t mean to say, oh yeah, that’s great, anyway, moving on. It means truly listening to what that person or that individual is saying to me. So one way in which I might do that for or I’ve done in the past for my job at Transport For London was around the Integrated Impact Assessment. Now that’s a very formalised approach to trying to capture the impact something might have ` on a number of groups.
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Now, the Integrated Impact Assessment, depending on which sections you look at, so take the Equalities Impact Assessment, it will look for all the different protected characteristics and then you would need to understand what is in scope and what is out of scope when you’re trying to do a scheme. Then you would think about how your scheme or project might impact those groups. So for example, if I’m doing something around air quality I would need to think about how air quality scheme might impact a small business for example but I also need to think about how it might impact women, people with disabilities, people from different ethnic minority backgrounds, sexual orientation and so on.
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I think when you take that structure what you start to realise is there’ll be gaps in your thinking and also that you can’t solve and you won’t know all the issues affecting those groups. So then the next step after that is you could create focus groups, which is one way. City hall or the Greater London Authority, for example they have something called Talk London which is an online space for to try and capture the different issues which Londoners are having, so that’s one way in which you can sort of gather that information and then collecting that information together and using that to inform your decision making.
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It’s really important to, how to run a focus group or actual fact how to run a meeting. And that can come from just being a manager and being open to listening to ideas. One of my colleagues did give me an example, the whole idea was a brainstorming session and this manager basically said, guys, I want to hear your voice, please speak up. And then when someone does speak, he goes that’s a rubbish idea. Now that straightaway sets the tone for ideas, innovation and you know, people to speak and collaborate and share things. As we were well known, men typically like to speak over women in meetings.
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So straight away, you’ve got a group of people which are probably less likely to speak up. So I think it’s really important be it focus groups or meetings in general, or even because of lock down we are in we’re on zoom calls mainly, how you can make sure everyone’s included. It’s very difficult to talk on zoom calls, for example where each person’s trying to get their voice heard. So I think meeting management skills is a key skill and trying to, you know create, encourage collaboration is really important. <v ->If I’d been told to design a product for</v> cocoa farmers in Brazil
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I would probably be out of my depth because I live in London, I live in an urban environment, you know, I’ve been to farms to see a farm but a farm in London, Surrey Docks Farm I’ve never actually gone to a Brazilian farm. I don’t know their stories, I don’t know their challenges. There’s been a lot of critiques on white supremacy and human centred design working together or in a case of maybe the sort of saviour complex that a designer might have when they engage with particular communities. And I think for me in my head, I always think of okay, you have to examine your team. Are you the right fit to take on it?
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And I’m thinking in the context of running Comuzi the studio, if are we the right people to do this work, can we partner up? Where do we lie, okay, maybe we’re good at executing the design but could we hire somebody, maybe a researcher or who can, you know spend time with their community, maybe speaking the language of these cocoa farmers, you know, giving us a much more better nuance than us going in there where we might not have the cultural sensitivity to be able to take on a local project like that.

In this video, Nathan and Alex discuss the importance of listening to employees and communities and bringing cultural sensitivity to your work.

Nathan shares approaches that facilitate listening: Integrated impact assessments can help you think about how your project might impact different groups, especially considering protected characteristics; focus groups and online forums can help capture feedback to inform decision making.

Alex reflects on the importance of asking yourself whether you’re the right person to take on a certain project. He also mentions critiques of Human-Centred Design and the ways it has supported White Supremacy. Further reading on that is listed below.

Now you’ve heard from the course team, reflect on these questions:

  • How does listening play a role in supporting innovation for you?
  • How do you decide whether you are the right fit for a project? -How do you decide when to bring in others?

Further resources:

  1. Darin Buzon. Design Thinking is a Rebrand for White Supremacy, FLAT Journal.

  2. UK Research and Innovation, 2020. Addressing under-representation and active participation This article has a helpful section on engagement and collective deliberation which are about listening to communities.

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