#RDS4 Presentation: Watch us talk about Fifth Space

Watch as we share our experiences in The Fifth Space at the Symposium here:

Wendy, Bobae, and Krista said it best.

“Fifth Space is a way to un-learn what you think you know. It’s a way to check your assumptions.”

“Fifth Space challenges you to start with people and focus on what you can do, and not with all the rules and things you think you cannot do.”

“Fifth Space is a different way to approach your every day job. It’s about not looking at work as ‘work’ but more about looking at what it’s for, and giving you some motivation and vision.”

It was 10pm and we were gathered in a cafe – with a big sheet of paper in front of us – co-producing the next day’s presentation. There’s nothing like a bit of urgency to bring a collection of people together and it was that moment, that we felt like a team. Not just staff from posAbilities, Simon Fraser Society for Community, Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, and InWithForward – but an actual Fifth Space team.

We were an aberration. A team of practitioners at an academic design symposium, called Relating Systems Thinking and Design 4. Just seven months ago, we had introduced the concept of service and systems design to 29 staff within the disability sector. Designing isn’t just something designers do. Designing is something we all do – when we take an abstract idea and make it real.

In the Fifth Space, we challenged where ideas come from, what makes a good idea, and how to test & tweak ideas so they can really exist. We think good ideas are grounded in end users’ every day realities, and which prompt real change in what they say, do, and want. Ultimately, we want to to create services and systems that help people move from just getting by to flourishing. To having real meaning, purpose, and a sense of the future.

We were one of dozens of talks and presentations. We got to hear about Ann Pendleton-Jullian’s work on eco-tourism in Kenya and with a women’s university in the Middle East. We dived deeper into Ben Weinlick of Skills Society’s approach to innovation in the disability sector – using a range of creativity tools and places. We were introduced to Alex Ryan and his team’s work with Co-Lab in Alberta, and how they work with civil servants to advance projects.

Lots of new tools were thrown at us – giga mapping, rich pictures, etc. – but there was a lot less talk about the value set underpinning these tools. Some of the best questions we got asked were about the ethics of working with folks and intervening in their lives. We talked about how the existing system is already an intervention, and that it’s actually unethical to sit by and not try to change things that are creating sub-par outcomes.

Some of our most honest and vulnerable conversations were about what it feels like to be part of a team that has ‘change’ as its core function. Most of us don’t like change all that much. It’s uncomfortable and uncertain and scary. If the Fifth Space does anything, then, I hope it normalizes that change is all of those things. But it can also be re-invigorating. Because it calls on us to actually use our passions, experiences, insights.

That’s what I saw in Banff. I saw Krista, Wendy, Bobae, Lisa Joy and Janey draw on their full selves, and reflect on what it’s like when work isn’t just the thing you do from 9-5 but has some sort of deeper purpose.