5by5: Service Design for Social Innovation, Ione Ardaiz Osacar

Interview with Ione Ardaiz Osacar, Senior Social Innovator at TACSI (The Australian Centre for Social Innovation

by Thomas Brandenburg and Twisha Shah-Brandenburg

It is difficult to measure tangible and defined impact. We often draw on the approach of gathering “instances of impact”, that is stories of impact that we hear in our work and that helps us build the narrative of what we are doing. —Ione Ardaiz Osacar

Within the social innovation landscape, what issues/problems do you find lend themselves best to using a service design approach?

Large problems that require definition and framing are hard to grapple using service design tools. We draw on other tools and frameworks from other disciplines in order to map and start to make sense of wicked and undefined systemic problems.

That is why it becomes very valuable to work on multidisciplinary teams that come from social science, politics, economics, psychology backgrounds to be able to draw on theories and frameworks from all these disciplines in our projects. Ideally we work on mixed teams with people that come from a practitioner background that hold the content and people that come from a design background that hold the process.


What are some of the biggest challenges you face applying service design for social innovation?

The mindset that you work from is very similar in both disciplines: being human centred, involving all stakeholders and an action oriented approach that is aligned towards achieving the desired outcomes. However, the tools we have in service design today call for a linear way of thinking which can be restrictive when applying to complex social innovation problems.


What are the common problems faced in scaling social innovation?

As I shared in the SDN conference and drawing on the framework developed by Tamarack Institute and McConnell Family Foundation, there are three types of scaling in social innovation: scaling out, scaling deep and scaling up.

As service designers our skill set mainly focuses on scaling out. In this type of scaling the biggest challenge is that every community is very different to one another and it is crucial to understand the context in order to adapt the solutions accordingly.  

Scaling deep is where the biggest opportunity is to challenge existing cultural norms and mindsets. This is a slow process that takes time which as designers we are not always used to. It has another layer of complexity dealing with human behaviours as well as systems behaviours.

Lastly in scaling up the biggest challenge is to find ways to influence politics and the people involved in designing policies, this is another area that can be foreign to Service Designers.


In developing social innovation, what are some of the most useful activities and tools you have used, especially if you consider how you would engage stakeholders with diverse perspectives and backgrounds?

Growing a practice on a strong co-design approach and mindset. It’s important to reflect on the approach that one takes in every small step from an interview, to a workshop and to every interaction, in order to ensure that you are actually utilizing co-creation and not just checking off boxes. As George Aye shared in his presentation in the SDN conference and in this Medium article reflecting and understanding the power dynamics in interactions.

Tools that I have found useful to map complexity and build a shared understanding amongst everyone involved in the challenge are systems and stakeholders mapping. Using different forms of this tools, from 2D to 3D, is very valuable. Mapping the challenges in a community and understanding the leverage points that you could action against to create a desired change. And the most valuable aspect of these is not the outcome itself but the process to arrive to those outcomes, that is the conversations that take place and the relationships that are built.

Another very valuable tool to learn has been the Theory of Change. This helps map the rigour and intentionality of our work and the work that communities do. It has been very valuable to map the outcomes that organizations are seeking to achieve and to list out activities that need to be performed in order to achieve the desired outcomes.


What are the most useful framework(s) for measuring social impact, especially for  scale?

The Theory of Change framework is extremely valuable. It helps an organization develop an evaluation and monitoring framework. Tracking the impact with every partnership—communities, government departments, NGOs, etc. Understanding the key outputs that will help an organization visualise if it’s on the right track or not are very important to achieve the impact

It is difficult to measure tangible and defined impact. We often draw on the approach of gathering “instances of impact”, that is stories of impact that we hear in our work and that helps us build the narrative of what we are doing.