2020 tested the resilience and reliability of human-centered processes. What does it look like when we can’t be together? What remains valuable when our priorities are upended and needs are urgent? Reflecting on 2020 revealed that our efforts to maintain connection to people by the simplest of interactions led to some of our most creative and meaningful work.
It’s been encouraging to hear the same from others in our community. A client recently shared how our past Learning Labs prepared their city for the pandemic:
“I must say, pandemic has turned our job into a continuing learning labs experience. Thanks for preparing us to meet this challenge, for real!”
– Henry Bankhead, Assistant Library and Recreation Director at San Rafael Public Library
As we validated the agility of human-centered design, we were still challenged with reimagining how to meet our clients’ most pressing needs. We leaned into our process, interviewing clients and holding community ideation sessions (e.g. COVID-19 and Anti-Racism community meetings; Reopening Local Government and Local Government Learning & Collaboration ideation sessions with ELGL), to inform the design of relevant Online and Remote Services.
Shifting our focus to what was ‘essential’ gave us the opportunity to grapple with ever-widening disparities around inclusive engagement. Remote facilitation has enabled us to convene in new ways and respond to new constraints, as illustrated by this quick pivot to a virtual community meeting early on in the pandemic. We’ve also continued parallel efforts to improve accessibility of digital services through our work with San Francisco Digital Services, helping them to connect to vulnerable or underrepresented populations through our partnerships with community-based organizations. One of our project outreach partners affirmed the importance of this work:
“As a Black woman, SF Native, small business owner, and leader of a community-based organization, it’s important that there are opportunities to hear the voices of the community when making adjustments to city response efforts that will directly affect us. I like reaching deep into my networks to influence these decisions.”
In our new virtual reality, we’ve continued to hone our skills in convening and facilitation, taking every engagement and meeting as an opportunity to expand our capacity to hold space and generate tangible outcomes, even while remote. We shared our learnings in a new Online Facilitation training and with a publicly available Online Facilitation Toolkit.
Optimism and reflective practice are a part of the CivicMakers DNA, and we’d like to take this opportunity to reflect and share where we’ve deepened our practice, and where we’d like to go next.