March 21st, 2014 | Posted by admin in arts & science | news | ways of working - (Comments Off on Therapiness)

IMG_5515Public art and hospital developments are a good match.  Whether staff, patient or visitor, hospitals are sites that test us – the weariness of long stay, the drama of bad news, the weird sensory emporium of chemo chimes, endless corridors, and chemical smells.  So I have been pleased to be involved in NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde’s work in this area, particularly the 100 Flowers project, taking its inspiration from the now extinct pleasure of giving and receiving visitor flowers, and destined to enhance the inside and outside of new buildings.

My first encounters with this agenda were a percent for art scheme in a new super-hospital in the North East of England, quickly followed by an arts and gardens scheme in a Thames Valley hospital redevelopment.  The challenges of synthesising artistic vision, client comfort zone, and project practicalities seem even more distant than the intervening years in the current developments in Glasgow.  The Health Board is attuned to the creative process, governance includes artists, and the method reaches into the communities served by the hospitals.

A flavour of the approach can be absorbed through these attachments – the Gartnaval Royal Hospital 2014 Legacy Public Art Commission and associated ‘art in the gart’ vision document.  For the artists among you the deadline is the 7th April.  Gartnavel Royal Hospital Legacy CommissionFinal4 artinthegart 16pp_proofNo2

Friends Theme

April 27th, 2013 | Posted by admin in ways of working - (Comments Off on Friends Theme)

What on earth can Einstein’s ‘commonwealth of ideas’ or Woodrow-Wilson’s ‘Fourteen Points’, both steeped in an early C20th ideal of building respectful alliances,  have to do with operating a business today?

At the point strategic consultancy becomes process consultancy our tendency can be to mull over the forces ranged against progress rather than focusing on what our allies need to support us effectively.  A more utilitarian approach of seeking out the shared project can both reframe apparently insurmountable obstacles and create conditions to allow people to do their jobs.

 This working towards ‘total happiness’ or, if you prefer, ‘an outcomes based approach’ isn’t just a load of old Kant, and even Mind Tools tells us to nurture our allies.  Most people in most organisations have roles that require them to make progress. Providing allies with what they need to support you effectively is sometimes more important than strategising around a problem.

Why is it always about the screen?

March 18th, 2012 | Posted by admin in arts & science | digital | ways of working - (Comments Off on Why is it always about the screen?)

Ben Templeton of Thoughtden made a thought provoking contribution to NESTA’s Digital Day in Edinburgh last week.  The day gave us good examples from the English end of the scheme (video streaming to music venues; apps aimed at students; digital kiosks). Ben also gave us great homilies: “if a project isn’t working take things away, don’t add things”;  “failing early is important”; “its all about the content”;  “think about ways to make it more human”.  His examples were fun, especially the ones that got away, like ‘TamigArtchi’ an app where you looked after Tracy Emin on your phone.

I was left wondering how the haptic world and Ben’s entrepreneurial world will collide and if our sensorium will escape imprisonment in the screen.  There is an increasing interest in how the multi-sensory and digital are coming together.   Last years Sensory Worlds Conference (www.iash.ed.ac.uk/Sawyer/Conference.html) at the University of Edinburgh was but one example of international collaborations emerging around a rediscovery of the senses.

Ben reminded us of how frustrating it is that so much of our living requires paying attention to a screen and the creative digital challenge of emancipating us from it.

The Complexity of Science and Innovation Policy – Danny Horling of the Rathenau Inst.

January 30th, 2012 | Posted by admin in arts & science | ways of working - (Comments Off on The Complexity of Science and Innovation Policy – Danny Horling of the Rathenau Inst.)
This debate was organised by University of Edinburgh and has great relevance for any sector where policy doesn’t seem to keep pace with developments in technology, production or distribution.  Horlings is concerned that policy makers don’t see that research and policy are all part of the same process, using ‘hard evidence for short term policy’ when scientists know their work is a longer term project, with different accountabilities. His research is founded on the concepts of ‘focus’ and ‘mass’ and he found that Holland, like its comparator countries, had experienced economic ‘despecialisation’ since the early 1980’s, with primary sectors either stable or in decline. This contrasts sharply with many Asian countries where a top down focus on specialism had seen rapid sectoral growth.
The research was controversial for policy makers in that it revealed that Dutch sectors that were both growing and increasing market share were in environmental and health science areas, and not at all aligned with where R&D spend had been applied. This situation may be partly due to the complex science system, with a range of agency applied between research (Universities) and policy (Government). Attempts to direct research through resourcing have stumbled on a ‘grant shopping’ approach at work within the research co-ordinating frame of heirarchy, networks and markets. Associated research also found that the application of management to research groups made no difference to the quality and impact of results, whereas extended networking did. While a scientist’s work consists of ‘multiple finite research tools’ they are applied in relation to the potential reputational gain for the scientist. Their mapping of individual portfolios found that PhD study was only a gateway to research and that scientists then adopted a portfolio of parallel research trails that only stabilised once they reached a senior position.
Horlings questions whether intervention in the ‘natural processes’ of the science system is always necessary, and whether ‘softer’ incentivizing interventions may be more effective, such as rewarding useful knowledge, or involving scientist in weighing the opportunity costs of research decisions. The research is clearly a useful reality check on the way the science system has developed a separate rationale from the evidence and evaluation that should guide investment. That is not to say that investment in stable or declining sectors may not be valuable. They represent a critical mass of the economy and ‘running to stay still’ is the only viable strategy. Also the concept of the ‘natural process’ and the neutrality of Universities themselves in his actor based approach could be considered a kind of ivory towerism. The overall project is, however, exciting and the Institute is currently helping develop indicators and map stakeholders in areas of the CCI sector that have traditionally remained opaque to this approach. The question of the relationship between research and the narrative that informs the policy frame, as opposed to the relationship between research and policymaker is ripe for more exploration.  This conclusion mirrors discussions in CCI where a decade of evidence doesn’t appear to have formed into a meaningful narrative for policymakers.


Frank Fischer at the Public Policy Network seminar

December 14th, 2011 | Posted by admin in ways of working - (Comments Off on Frank Fischer at the Public Policy Network seminar)

The Public Policy Network continues to debate at the interface between academe and the professions. Frank Fischer’s (author of Citizens, Experts and the Environment) seminar on citizen participation and the politics of risk assessment was, of course, really topical. His four levels of risk evaluation provide for ideological, situational and and societal factors. Can’t help feeling that academics don’t really understand that for most of us a ‘process’ is a ‘model’ going wrong, and that there is a crisis of legitimacy for experts, not a crisis in legitimizing experts.