This is my tenth winter in the Northern Hemisphere. I’ve had to acclimatise to Januaries of snow and maybe seven hours of daylight. Compared to my native New Zealand, England’s New Year starts slowly and shyly. And as I, like many, “stay at home to stop the virus”, this feels like a time more than ever to pause rather than push. I’ve stopped my weekly #booksandbrunch updates, slowed the speed on my audiobooks from 1.75x-1x, and given myself permission to ignore the pressure to buy books that might be useful for my career.
Which is why when my friend recommended Katherine May’s memoir Wintering, it had me at the title. Published just before the pandemic, the author’s readjustment to life after a mystery illness resonated with me more now more than ever.
I’ve also looked for reading that needs time and space. Poetry feels perfect. My chosen companion for 2021 (or as long as I can maintain it) is A Poem For Every Day of the Year. I’m surprised to have to say that I’m not thrilled with Helena Bonham Carter's narration surrounding the poems (maybe it’s the writing, but her performance is stiff?), but the daily dip into poems—often directly related to the day, from Burns' Night to Twelfth Night—reminds me of the invisible lines that connect us to our past.
Given my 2021 chosen theme of poetry, I was thrilled that a poet spoke at the Biden inauguration. NPR digs into Amanda Gorman’s process and history.
This month in digital government and design
- I’ve been investigating strategic service design for work. As part of my research, I discovered the Scottish Service Design Maturity Assessment Matrix and Kat McCauley's excellent Twitter thread explaining the reason for having ”The Scottish Approach to Service Design”
I also rediscovered Kate Tarling’s A common language to understanding services, Ben Holliday’s A ‘service centred’ approach to an organisation design and Zoe Gould’s So what is a service owner?. If we can’t get the right words and people, how can we even build the right things?
As much as I’m trying to take things slow, for one day I ignored my own advice and attended not one, but two virtual camps last Saturday. Whoops…. The first was the 2021 edition of UK Govcamp. I only caught the final day of the camp, attending sessions like Getting stuff done, together, Everyone wants a Target Operating Model! and Silos beyond government. I still need to finish reading the notes of other days, like an informative one on Thursday about design systems. Notes of sessions (well most of the session) are available from the session grid (google spreadsheet)
The second camp I attended was a last-minute discovery. Chicago UX Camp is, I found out, a quarterly-running series of high quality and low cost events (virtual tickets were a mere USD10). My highlight of the winter edition was Jeff Eaton's talk on the language of design systems but all the talks were consistently good. The videos are due to be released soon and I will share them when they come out.
The New Year has already brought some good reflections and showcases, like Harry Trimble’s thoughts on his two year stint leading design at the Red Cross. and the technical architecture behind a GOV.UK account. More of these in 2021 please.
Meanwhile, in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia-based Kelly Ann McKercher is doing amazing things in the co-design space. Following on from their book Beyond Sticky Notes, they’ve created cards to co-design models of care which are available for pre-order.
I’m glad to see some more rigorous texts related to design and gov in general bubbling up through the Twitter-sphere. Sasha Costanza-Chock’s book Design Justice won an American Prose Award (though in the engineering and technology category, huh?). The open course teaching guide Teaching Public Service in the Digital Age is slowly being released, jam-packed with well-researched sources. And Australian design academic Cameron Tonkinwise is organising reading sessions for Arturo Escobar’s valuable but incredibly dense social design book Designs for the Pluralverse
- I love film, and so love the “social networking for film lovers” site Letterboxd—and not just cos it was founded by a couple of Kiwis, I promise! Even if you don’t want to log your films on the site like I do, I recommend their interviews, for example filmmakers Kornél Mundruczó and Kata Wéber on Pieces of a Woman.
- Finally, if you want more joy from the internet (and don’t we all?). “Happy Birthday" is now in the public domain, and Matt Round has made you audio clips of creative interpretations of the song. I particularly like "Unenthusiastic Colleagues Who Can’t Remember Your Name".
Until next time,