Weekend warriors

“Thank God it’s Friday.”

I’ve used that phrase so many times in my life, I can’t even remember, even if it did lose its meaning for a while back in the dark days of my final uni year, where the traditional ideas of time off and relaxation went out the window (along with any notion of nutritional balance, personal grooming and normal social interaction). At degree show this year, I stood with a group of guys who I’d graduated with, talking about the past year and what was different – when the return of the weekend was mentioned, we all looked wistfully into the middle distance, smiling.

So these little pockets of workless freedom now come along every week, and like everyone else, I have to think about what the hell to do with myself now I’ve cut loose of the Art School. If you know me, you’ll know a few things – namely that I hate to be idle, I need to be social, I make astonishing sandwiches and I’ll travel back to Scotland at the drop of a hat. A whole year after I got my Saturday nights and Sunday mornings back, I decided the best way to spend the weekend would be doing design, in a uni, at Social Innovation Camp. Go figure.

Catherine and a James leading the way...

If you’re not familiar with the premise, it’s fairly straightforward – from near enough 100 submitted social start-up ideas, the good people at SI Camp whittle them down to the six most promising, and issue a call to arms. A bunch of developers, service designers and graphic designers then muster themselves and help those with the ideas to bring something together by the Sunday afternoon, ready to pitch for the glory of victory, and the promise of the support to make things happen. In a nutshell – 36 hours to change the world.

Team ShareCare, including a bevvy of men called James.

In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect from the weekend. I walked into my team – originally titled Lend-A-Hand, later ShareCareClub – and saw a thought out, well-justified idea that was already being piled into by the project’s development team, and generally, a lot of other people called James. Did I arrive too late? Would there be any role for a service designer? Was another James really what my team needed?

Ralph and Kirsty during our epic blether. What a guy, unbelievable stories to tell.

It took a while to figure this one out, but in the best traditions of design, I listened, and I waited. My role was a little different from what I’m used to, but I hope I helped the team get the most out of our time talking to stakeholders, and to give them a bit of an education in mixing new insights into the concept, and mapping out the detail of the future service – even if we were blighted with some truly terrible post-it notes and an inability to notice when the mountain of dinner pizza had arrived. I hope that the guys I was working with got something out of it all – it certainly showed me the benefit of working in a team that includes developers throughout the design process, which strikes me as a great, productive way to work.

Half the service plan is on the floor at this point... love cheap post its.

In the truest sense, it was a team effort that involved everyone, and it was great to work with such an enthusiastic bunch of people. I will push a lot of credit towards the dev team for doing such an awesome job at creating a brilliant, engaging tech demo for the final pitch. Seeing dozens of people around the room leap up at receiving the ‘call to action’ for the service was experience design at its finest, and I couldn’t help but grin like an idiot as I heard the messages hitting their targets.

#sicamp feed at the presentations... we cut it fine, no mistake.

At the end of the weekend, with everyone fading a bit, and the smell of pizza crusts and stale coffee hanging rank in the air, the project won the backing of IRISS, and I was grinning all over again. When you do the maths (as Glen from SI Camp did) and think about the sheer amount of man-hours and effort that the 80-odd people there put in over the weekend, it’s pretty humbling, and utterly inspiring – as weekends go, it wasn’t relaxing, but bloody hell, it gives you faith in what a small group of focused, driven people can produce. If this weekend shows what enthusiasm and ability can combine to do, then God help anyone who doubts what can be achieved by those who believe in the power of social innovation.


The troops, some beers, and a train back to Glasgow

A massive thanks to everyone involved in the weekend – all the organisers, all the judges, everyone who gave up their time to help bring six great ideas to life – and of course, a special thanks to my team, especially Catherine, whose idea Lend-A-Hand (and subsequently ShareCareClub) was. It was a pleasure to be involved in such a worthwhile piece of work! Finally, well done to Food Radar, who won the overall event prize with a really nice concept around reducing food waste in retail.

  1. Only just spotted this write-up. Great summary of the weekend. Thanks again for all your valuable help – you were an excellent addition to the long list of James’.

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