dundee

10 things I learned building the Know Sugar Shop

The Know Sugar Shop prototype was an interactive retail space set up in August 2014 in the Wellgate Shopping Centre in Dundee. The purpose was to test our idea of a Know Sugar Shop and get feedback for three product ideas. Visitors explored their sugar consumption, took the ‘Know Sugar Challenge’, underwent a health check and engaged with a sample kitchen space, taking home healthy ‘grab bags’ full of ingredients to make low sugar meals. There was also a Now I Know Sugar, my pledge is chalkboard upon leaving the shop, which encouraged visitors to focus on their future relationship with sugar. We made a video of the prototype... [vimeo 105554006 w=500 h=281]

Know Sugar from Snook on Vimeo.

I've had a good few months to reflect on this and I've been working in the background to wrap up our initial funding bid and figure out what happens next. Building and delivering this pop up was actually one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had, seriously, it was incredible for so many reasons and I really learned a lot.

Here goes...

1. Be clear about why

This shop was the final phase of a year long design process. Know Sugar is a movement made up of shops, products and services. We had to test a) the appetite for the concept itself b) gather feedback on our specific product and service ideas c) gather data to prove the need for Know Sugar and the potential impact it could have. This was not a trial, we weren't selling anything, it was a proof of concept.

2. Enthusiasm attracts Enthusiasm

The overarching feedback we got from from everyone involved the shop, was that of genuine enthusiasm. We all really believe in the idea, and we really care about what Know Sugar is trying to tackle, you can't buy that - never overestimate the power of genuine enthusiasm.

3. Plan, Plan, Plan

Deep down we all expected stress, drama, something to go wrong, that's how it goes right? Well, not this time, the core delivery team and I planned it within an inch of it's life - and I'm proud to say everyone knew what was happening when and where, it flowed beautifully. It was physically stressful in that our bodies and minds were tired, but everything went to plan.

4. Nothing beats bringing form to invisible things

This idea has been floating in several heads for months, the day we started to sketch, make models and bring things to life was a very important one. 'Physicating' is king.

5. A pop up shop is a shit tonne of work (and expensive)

Anyone who has ever taken over a physical shop space will know this; lighting, wifi, opening times, air conditioning, wall fittings, floor surfaces, permissions, copy writing, printing, building, wire framing, loading vans, unloading vans, scaffolding, ladders, rubbish, and ceiling tiles all add to the work load. We shouldn't underestimate the number of man hours (and different skill sets) involved across prep', build, deliver, and debrief. All of the above costs more than anyone will estimate it does.

IMG_1556

6. Data matters

We had a really clear plan of what we were capturing and why. At the end of each day we regrouped and tweaked this accordingly. We used clickers to count the people entering and leaving; each volunteer had a different questionnaire tailored to their specific element of the experience; time was scheduled to gather all this data and then make sense of it; guidelines for photography and social media were set up before hand - I wish we'd had more time to play with the data afterwards.

7. People are wonderful

I still can't get over the sense of community we created in such a short space of time, over 17 volunteers gave up their weekend to help make this happen. I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you! Each of them came for different reasons and they all took their roles and responsibilities seriously.

Early on in the process I realised I needed support on the physical build of the space and the products themselves. I brought in Akiko; an architect, and Nicky; a product designer and maker, we worked together with Alex to design everything.  I'll be honest when I first saw that empty space I was shit scared, we had so little time and so little money. Alex, Nicky and Akiko and I pulled out all the stops to deliver and they were militant optimists throughout the whole process.

10513440_341838499299131_6737839110979363769_n

unnamed

IMG_1326

Alex and I driving up to Dundee from Glasgow on the big day...

IMG_1561

Akiko and Nicky driving up to Dundee from Edinburgh on the big day

IMG_1562

Akiko.  I'm so proud to call Akiko Kobayashi my friend. I've known her for a few years now but I'd never seen her in 'architect mode' before - boy is she talented, and I now see the skill set of an architect from a new perspective. This would not have been possible without her skills and abilities in working with the built environment.

14906558512_7bf7fab9e8_z

Nicky. Nicky Hume can only be described as a legend. It doesn't matter what you throw at her, she delivers, and she drives a massive van in a spectacular fashion. Nicky was our maker, she brought beautiful and functional form to my paper prototypes - any product design firm out there would be lucky to have her.

14718669819_104135fc9f_z

Alex. Alex Clarke is my production wing woman, we now communicate without speech, all kinds of brilliance. Alex and I spent many late nights together and every single physical and digital graphic, icon, and product was down to the talent and hard work of Alex.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 20.58.31

IMG_1521

IMG_1472

Mike, Louise, Hazel, Mike Press, Louise Valentine, and Hazel White; thank you for giving our team a place to lay our heads and keep us fed and watered. I'm so proud to be a DJCAD graduate, and your actions say so much about the genuine relationship you have with your students - I'm lucky to call you my teachers and my friends, thank you.

10584050_10152795034888296_9130413409192700456_n

Gillian. Gillian Easson is a woman who is driving change in Dundee in remarkable, subtle, and impactful ways, she threw herself into this, bringing endless energy and belief in our idea!

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 20.39.21

Nicola. We'd never met before, but Nicola Gilray dived straight in, she brought some Dolly Parton music to the shop, amazing! Great energy and incomparable people skills.

14720314558_986a2c1aef_z

Hans. Quietly brilliant with the patience of a saint. Hans Tuteja spent hours studying how people were reacting to our window displays, and helping us understand what worked and what didn't work.

Taylor and Andrew are a pair to be reckoned with. Both are in second year at the art school and volunteered themselves for the most complicated aspect of the whole shop experience - the Know Sugar scale. They were absolutely brilliant and are both very natural facilitators - I can't wait to see what they do next.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 20.43.52

Chloe. Chloe travelled all the way from London to work with us, amazing! As a designer and a nutritionist, Chloe was a joy to have around and spent a lot of time talking through our idea of The Open Kitchen with people - an idea her mum toyed with a few years ago! It makes me really proud that the Know Sugar experience influenced Chloe's decision to come and study on my programme at Hyper Island :)

14843298709_33be70ba0d_z

Charlotte. Charlotte is wild, her imagination is off the scale and she dived into our kids corner, playing with giant sugar cubes and helping young kids understand the dangers of sugar. She also threw in a few cheeky sugar performances - gold dust.

14906387342_b9ec900354_z

 

Sarah. Sarah supported me to keep this project thriving whilst we were both running our business. She stepped in when I was out of the country to lead the initial phase of design research. This provided us with a solid foundation of insights to build upon. At times this project was a big stretch on our resources and to say it wasn't good for our cash flow is an understatement. I couldn't have done it without Sarah's support to make it work for our team and our business.

14674543561_f00a091e2c_z

Lucy. I'm proud to call Lucy my friend. Lucy's such a fantastic listener and guided entire families through our digital feedback form, to capture their ideas. Her scientific lens to the process added value in capturing the data of the day.

14924947712_bab6e32802_z

Professor Annie Anderson. As a Professor in Public Health Annie was a great resource throughout the whole process, she educated our whole team on many of the dos and don'ts of sugar, and the myths that are out there. She spent time having one to one coaching sessions with visitors who wanted some time with a Know Sugar expert. Her knowledge and experience gave our idea depth and evidence, her support inspired all of us.

14843565768_a0853aa0f4_z

Chris. Well she's my mum, she's awesome. My mum has a superpower, the power of making human beings feel safe, and to come and get involved in Snook's crazy ideas, she definitely delivered over this weekend.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 20.38.29

Ewan. Ewan has been part of this project since the beginning, I want to be like Ewan when I grow up, enough said. I've learned a lot from working beside him during this process and his ability to make the numbers add up, and make sense, has me in awe.

14902231751_c4a32ebd45_z

Andy. Andy has been part of this project since the beginning and as someone who has lived through the journey of being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes he has been forced to get to know sugar. Andy's our extreme user, his story and passion really helped our visitors understand the seriousness of what we are dealing with.

IMG_1571

Eilidh. Eilidh has been part of this project since the beginning too. As someone who suffers from various conditions that make food shopping a tough challenge, she has contributed so much value to how our ideas have developed. Although circumstances prevented her being there as much as she’d have liked to during the days of the shop, when Eilidh arrived she got stuck right in immediately and had some really informative in-depth conversations with visitors.

14697651303_98672c3bfb_z

Jenny. Jenny Marra is the Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament for North East Scotland, Shadow Minister for Health, Well-being and Sport. Her support helped us rally a crowd, and some press. It was fantastic to have someone like Jenny there to show the public she believed in the potential of our idea.

14710989837_6d62e85978_z

Amit. We’d never met before but Amit Garg has such a powerful story to tell, about his mums battle with sugar, and it was great to watch him use his story in such an engaging way.

14738544809_6c593027ee_z

Kathryn. A talented photographer who creates beautiful imagery absolutely effortlessly. I made a new friend in Kathryn over these couple of days and it's been brilliant watching her journey since then. If you ever need a photographer you know who to call.

14902220401_12b88e34a6_z

Michael. Michael is part of the Design in Action team who funded this project. He is an excellent designer and he asks the questions no one else thinks to ask. It was a pleasure to see him in action with his academic hat on, and I wish him every success in his PhD. Oh, and he has immaculate handwriting.

IMG_1570

Brian and Dawn. Another pair to be reckoned with. The Design in Action duo pounded the streets telling local shoppers about the shop and taking #knowsugarselfies. Brian pulled out all the stops to help me get all the equipment we needed for this weekend. We absolutely could not have done it without them.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 20.44.58

Dale. The boy who lived inside the giant fluffy heart, he made everyone laugh and was a brilliant heart!

14718738888_81a83d9961_z

Barry. Barry provided us with graphic design support when we were stretched to our limits - over the wonders of the internet he made the materials we needed to start advertising the shop! Amazing support.

IMG_1402

John. The man in charge of the shopping centre who looked after us and saw the value in what we were doing. John invited us to keep our window displays up so we can hopefully return before October. Thanks for believing in us John.

8. Design is the difference

The relationship our country has with sugar is a problem our government and national health service are grappling with. Many experts from the public sector have shared their positive impressions on what we created and are keen for us to share how we did what we did. The difference in how we approached this problem was design. We co-designed the solutions from the outset and crafted the whole experience - from prototyping to business modelling - using service design methods and an over arching approach of human centered design. We know for this concept to scale we have to work closely with all stakeholders and we are continuing to talk to organisations like Diabetes UK and Action Against Salt to figure out how to make this happen.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 22.35.20

9. Finding the true value

The big learning we took away from this prototype was the value of our idea. And most importantly, what aspect of the idea was the most valuable. We prototyped four product and service ideas as well as the digital element. We learned the digital element is the weakest and of the least value to our target customer. Over 85% of our visitors weren't active online and very few even had an email address they checked regularly. We learned the 'shop' aspect is the most valuable and has the most potential. People engaged and we collected evidence that their experience in the shop, albeit limited, had an impact on how they think about the sugar they consume.

10. People make ideas happen

Put your ideas out into the world. To quote Seth Godin:

"Ideas in secret die. They need light and air or they starve to death."

I'll end from a quote from Mike Press... and here is a Storify of the day.

" This event was a great demonstration of how well considered and executed service design can engage with people, build their awareness over a health issue and challenge behaviours. The design values were well evident, the tools very well designed and the whole concept well developed. However, without volunteers who were confident, clear and adaptable, the project would never have succeeded. These are my photos of these great individuals all doing a very effective job. Well done to the whole team. "

This project has attracted interest from several private investors and I'm on the hunt to find the person who will take Know Sugar to the next level. If you are interested in getting involved drop me a line.

10 things I learned building the Know Sugar Shop

The Know Sugar Shop prototype was an interactive retail space set up in August 2014 in the Wellgate Shopping Centre in Dundee. The purpose was to test our idea of a Know Sugar Shop and get feedback for three product ideas. Visitors explored their sugar consumption, took the ‘Know Sugar Challenge’, underwent a health check and engaged with a sample kitchen space, taking home healthy ‘grab bags’ full of ingredients to make low sugar meals. There was also a Now I Know Sugar, my pledge is chalkboard upon leaving the shop, which encouraged visitors to focus on their future relationship with sugar. We made a video of the prototype... [vimeo 105554006 w=500 h=281]

Know Sugar from Snook on Vimeo.

I've had a good few months to reflect on this and I've been working in the background to wrap up our initial funding bid and figure out what happens next. Building and delivering this pop up was actually one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had, seriously, it was incredible for so many reasons and I really learned a lot.

Here goes...

1. Be clear about why

This shop was the final phase of a year long design process. Know Sugar is a movement made up of shops, products and services. We had to test a) the appetite for the concept itself b) gather feedback on our specific product and service ideas c) gather data to prove the need for Know Sugar and the potential impact it could have. This was not a trial, we weren't selling anything, it was a proof of concept.

2. Enthusiasm attracts Enthusiasm

The overarching feedback we got from from everyone involved the shop, was that of genuine enthusiasm. We all really believe in the idea, and we really care about what Know Sugar is trying to tackle, you can't buy that - never overestimate the power of genuine enthusiasm.

3. Plan, Plan, Plan

Deep down we all expected stress, drama, something to go wrong, that's how it goes right? Well, not this time, the core delivery team and I planned it within an inch of it's life - and I'm proud to say everyone knew what was happening when and where, it flowed beautifully. It was physically stressful in that our bodies and minds were tired, but everything went to plan.

4. Nothing beats bringing form to invisible things

This idea has been floating in several heads for months, the day we started to sketch, make models and bring things to life was a very important one. 'Physicating' is king.

5. A pop up shop is a shit tonne of work (and expensive)

Anyone who has ever taken over a physical shop space will know this; lighting, wifi, opening times, air conditioning, wall fittings, floor surfaces, permissions, copy writing, printing, building, wire framing, loading vans, unloading vans, scaffolding, ladders, rubbish, and ceiling tiles all add to the work load. We shouldn't underestimate the number of man hours (and different skill sets) involved across prep', build, deliver, and debrief. All of the above costs more than anyone will estimate it does.

IMG_1556

6. Data matters

We had a really clear plan of what we were capturing and why. At the end of each day we regrouped and tweaked this accordingly. We used clickers to count the people entering and leaving; each volunteer had a different questionnaire tailored to their specific element of the experience; time was scheduled to gather all this data and then make sense of it; guidelines for photography and social media were set up before hand - I wish we'd had more time to play with the data afterwards.

7. People are wonderful

I still can't get over the sense of community we created in such a short space of time, over 17 volunteers gave up their weekend to help make this happen. I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you! Each of them came for different reasons and they all took their roles and responsibilities seriously.

Early on in the process I realised I needed support on the physical build of the space and the products themselves. I brought in Akiko; an architect, and Nicky; a product designer and maker, we worked together with Alex to design everything.  I'll be honest when I first saw that empty space I was shit scared, we had so little time and so little money. Alex, Nicky and Akiko and I pulled out all the stops to deliver and they were militant optimists throughout the whole process.

10513440_341838499299131_6737839110979363769_n

unnamed

IMG_1326

Alex and I driving up to Dundee from Glasgow on the big day...

IMG_1561

Akiko and Nicky driving up to Dundee from Edinburgh on the big day

IMG_1562

Akiko.  I'm so proud to call Akiko Kobayashi my friend. I've known her for a few years now but I'd never seen her in 'architect mode' before - boy is she talented, and I now see the skill set of an architect from a new perspective. This would not have been possible without her skills and abilities in working with the built environment.

14906558512_7bf7fab9e8_z

Nicky. Nicky Hume can only be described as a legend. It doesn't matter what you throw at her, she delivers, and she drives a massive van in a spectacular fashion. Nicky was our maker, she brought beautiful and functional form to my paper prototypes - any product design firm out there would be lucky to have her.

14718669819_104135fc9f_z

Alex. Alex Clarke is my production wing woman, we now communicate without speech, all kinds of brilliance. Alex and I spent many late nights together and every single physical and digital graphic, icon, and product was down to the talent and hard work of Alex.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 20.58.31

IMG_1521

IMG_1472

Mike, Louise, Hazel, Mike Press, Louise Valentine, and Hazel White; thank you for giving our team a place to lay our heads and keep us fed and watered. I'm so proud to be a DJCAD graduate, and your actions say so much about the genuine relationship you have with your students - I'm lucky to call you my teachers and my friends, thank you.

10584050_10152795034888296_9130413409192700456_n

Gillian. Gillian Easson is a woman who is driving change in Dundee in remarkable, subtle, and impactful ways, she threw herself into this, bringing endless energy and belief in our idea!

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 20.39.21

Nicola. We'd never met before, but Nicola Gilray dived straight in, she brought some Dolly Parton music to the shop, amazing! Great energy and incomparable people skills.

14720314558_986a2c1aef_z

Hans. Quietly brilliant with the patience of a saint. Hans Tuteja spent hours studying how people were reacting to our window displays, and helping us understand what worked and what didn't work.

Taylor and Andrew are a pair to be reckoned with. Both are in second year at the art school and volunteered themselves for the most complicated aspect of the whole shop experience - the Know Sugar scale. They were absolutely brilliant and are both very natural facilitators - I can't wait to see what they do next.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 20.43.52

Chloe. Chloe travelled all the way from London to work with us, amazing! As a designer and a nutritionist, Chloe was a joy to have around and spent a lot of time talking through our idea of The Open Kitchen with people - an idea her mum toyed with a few years ago! It makes me really proud that the Know Sugar experience influenced Chloe's decision to come and study on my programme at Hyper Island :)

14843298709_33be70ba0d_z

Charlotte. Charlotte is wild, her imagination is off the scale and she dived into our kids corner, playing with giant sugar cubes and helping young kids understand the dangers of sugar. She also threw in a few cheeky sugar performances - gold dust.

14906387342_b9ec900354_z

 

Sarah. Sarah supported me to keep this project thriving whilst we were both running our business. She stepped in when I was out of the country to lead the initial phase of design research. This provided us with a solid foundation of insights to build upon. At times this project was a big stretch on our resources and to say it wasn't good for our cash flow is an understatement. I couldn't have done it without Sarah's support to make it work for our team and our business.

14674543561_f00a091e2c_z

Lucy. I'm proud to call Lucy my friend. Lucy's such a fantastic listener and guided entire families through our digital feedback form, to capture their ideas. Her scientific lens to the process added value in capturing the data of the day.

14924947712_bab6e32802_z

Professor Annie Anderson. As a Professor in Public Health Annie was a great resource throughout the whole process, she educated our whole team on many of the dos and don'ts of sugar, and the myths that are out there. She spent time having one to one coaching sessions with visitors who wanted some time with a Know Sugar expert. Her knowledge and experience gave our idea depth and evidence, her support inspired all of us.

14843565768_a0853aa0f4_z

Chris. Well she's my mum, she's awesome. My mum has a superpower, the power of making human beings feel safe, and to come and get involved in Snook's crazy ideas, she definitely delivered over this weekend.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 20.38.29

Ewan. Ewan has been part of this project since the beginning, I want to be like Ewan when I grow up, enough said. I've learned a lot from working beside him during this process and his ability to make the numbers add up, and make sense, has me in awe.

14902231751_c4a32ebd45_z

Andy. Andy has been part of this project since the beginning and as someone who has lived through the journey of being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes he has been forced to get to know sugar. Andy's our extreme user, his story and passion really helped our visitors understand the seriousness of what we are dealing with.

IMG_1571

Eilidh. Eilidh has been part of this project since the beginning too. As someone who suffers from various conditions that make food shopping a tough challenge, she has contributed so much value to how our ideas have developed. Although circumstances prevented her being there as much as she’d have liked to during the days of the shop, when Eilidh arrived she got stuck right in immediately and had some really informative in-depth conversations with visitors.

14697651303_98672c3bfb_z

Jenny. Jenny Marra is the Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament for North East Scotland, Shadow Minister for Health, Well-being and Sport. Her support helped us rally a crowd, and some press. It was fantastic to have someone like Jenny there to show the public she believed in the potential of our idea.

14710989837_6d62e85978_z

Amit. We’d never met before but Amit Garg has such a powerful story to tell, about his mums battle with sugar, and it was great to watch him use his story in such an engaging way.

14738544809_6c593027ee_z

Kathryn. A talented photographer who creates beautiful imagery absolutely effortlessly. I made a new friend in Kathryn over these couple of days and it's been brilliant watching her journey since then. If you ever need a photographer you know who to call.

14902220401_12b88e34a6_z

Michael. Michael is part of the Design in Action team who funded this project. He is an excellent designer and he asks the questions no one else thinks to ask. It was a pleasure to see him in action with his academic hat on, and I wish him every success in his PhD. Oh, and he has immaculate handwriting.

IMG_1570

Brian and Dawn. Another pair to be reckoned with. The Design in Action duo pounded the streets telling local shoppers about the shop and taking #knowsugarselfies. Brian pulled out all the stops to help me get all the equipment we needed for this weekend. We absolutely could not have done it without them.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 20.44.58

Dale. The boy who lived inside the giant fluffy heart, he made everyone laugh and was a brilliant heart!

14718738888_81a83d9961_z

Barry. Barry provided us with graphic design support when we were stretched to our limits - over the wonders of the internet he made the materials we needed to start advertising the shop! Amazing support.

IMG_1402

John. The man in charge of the shopping centre who looked after us and saw the value in what we were doing. John invited us to keep our window displays up so we can hopefully return before October. Thanks for believing in us John.

8. Design is the difference

The relationship our country has with sugar is a problem our government and national health service are grappling with. Many experts from the public sector have shared their positive impressions on what we created and are keen for us to share how we did what we did. The difference in how we approached this problem was design. We co-designed the solutions from the outset and crafted the whole experience - from prototyping to business modelling - using service design methods and an over arching approach of human centered design. We know for this concept to scale we have to work closely with all stakeholders and we are continuing to talk to organisations like Diabetes UK and Action Against Salt to figure out how to make this happen.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 22.35.20

9. Finding the true value

The big learning we took away from this prototype was the value of our idea. And most importantly, what aspect of the idea was the most valuable. We prototyped four product and service ideas as well as the digital element. We learned the digital element is the weakest and of the least value to our target customer. Over 85% of our visitors weren't active online and very few even had an email address they checked regularly. We learned the 'shop' aspect is the most valuable and has the most potential. People engaged and we collected evidence that their experience in the shop, albeit limited, had an impact on how they think about the sugar they consume.

10. People make ideas happen

Put your ideas out into the world. To quote Seth Godin:

"Ideas in secret die. They need light and air or they starve to death."

I'll end from a quote from Mike Press... and here is a Storify of the day.

" This event was a great demonstration of how well considered and executed service design can engage with people, build their awareness over a health issue and challenge behaviours. The design values were well evident, the tools very well designed and the whole concept well developed. However, without volunteers who were confident, clear and adaptable, the project would never have succeeded. These are my photos of these great individuals all doing a very effective job. Well done to the whole team. "

This project has attracted interest from several private investors and I'm on the hunt to find the person who will take Know Sugar to the next level. If you are interested in getting involved drop me a line.

Cloudbusting, Kite Flying and Star gazing

Dundee is a magnificent city that faces extraordinary challenges and last week I spent a day talking and thinking about how the creative and cultural sector can help tackle those challenges. Cloudbusting is the first in a series of national gatherings led by the creative producers, Big Sky, which seeks to answer big societal questions. This time it was part of the DCA'Blue Skies weekend. The room was made up of the private, public and third sector - businessmen, entreprenuers, artists and chief execs. This mix is not an easy one to bring together so well done Bryan Beattie!

snook

The day launched with businessmen Ellis Watson, the CEO of the regional newspaper publisher DC Thomson, former Mirror Group boss and chief executive of Simon Cowell's entertainment company Syco. Ellis set the scene of the day by talking about looking over horizons so we can build an intellectual framework to combat poverty in Dundee. It was refreshing and almost relieving to hear someone from Ellis's background talk passionately about why the cultural and creative sector is fundamental to the days conversation.

In this case statistics are important but they do require context and balance so I'll just list a few to help you understand the reality of what Dundee faces: in different parts of the city, areas that are just a stones throw away from each other have a difference in life expectancy of 23 years.  In Dundee the absurd juxtaposition between poverty and affluence is brought into sharper focus because of the small size of the city. In Polmont young offenders institute, 73% of the young men were previously in the care system.

One more statistic for you and remember this one as you drive through dundee and see all the water front developments, and read the newspaper about the big plans for the V and A museum ... remember that currently over one quarter of households in Dundee live in poverty.

I've worked in Dundee, I lived there for five years and compared to other places I have lived and worked there is at times an absence of hope in the city. Aspiration is being bred out of people and where are the role models?

Admittedly, there are great initiatives happening throughout the city and lots of people working very hard and doing an incredible job but the net outcomes suggest it's not working. Poverty pervading in spite of  amazing efforts suggests either a lack of clear strategy or a lack of implementation of that strategy.  There can be no other reason for amazing effort and hard work not producing better results.

Jenny Marra, Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament for North East Scotland and Shadow Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, bravely admitted that all political parties are struggling with answers and ideas. This is not because of a lack of focus or a want to make things better but the stark reality that throwing money at services alone is not enough. Politicians are famously good that identifying the issues but now it's not even answers but ideas they need the most.

Jenny is working to change the labour party conference so you are not allowed to approach the podium unless you have an idea to offer because so many of the speeches identify the problems - we all know what the problems are  - it's seeking solutions that will start to change our city and change our country.

Admirably, Jenny embraced her political stance and voiced the elephant in the room - the budget implications in all of this. However, the truth is that the most successful policy since Scottish Parliament opened 13 years ago is  the smoking ban. It was a good, simple idea and it cost nothing. Unless politicians are able to be bold and imaginative lives in Scotland will not change.

Professor Nora Kearney, a friend of Snooks, then talked openly and honestly about how struck she was by the deprivation after moving to Dundee from Glasgow. Usually we can all live in our pretty houses and drive our nice cars but Dundee is very small - it's very difficult to hide from the poverty.

So what does Kite Flying have to do with all this? The potential Scotland has and where it has come from in the last decade is phenomenal and there is so much excitement around what we could do as a country. Dundee plays a big part in this with the re-generation of  the water front and V and A. Yet, Scotland is often termed as the sick man of Europe. However, if you took Dundee and Glasgow out of Scotland and stuck it out in the Atlantic the health outcomes of Scotland would be the same as the rest of Europe.

But what does poverty mean actually? GDP? Life expectancy? Slums in cambodia? How do we visualise poverty? Nora's day job shows that poverty means you are much more likely to get cancer and if you are poor you are much more likely to die of cancer even if you get diagnosed at the same stage and go through the same pathway as a wealthier person. But this is not about a disease phenomem it is about a whole host of social and cultural issues. Poverty kills. It kills life, it kills health and it kills spirit.

So how do we move to star gazing? All the evidence would suggest that we have to look at things differently and seek more  creative ways of doing things. There are already great plans in place such as the Dundee Partnership Fairness Strategy. Things like this are key drivers for change in the future because this has to be tackled collectively. It is not the responsibility of one sector or one individual or organisation.  This requires long term collaboration on a big scale. Undoubtedly, this will take at least two generations to shift. This requires significant and prolonged effort - not short term solutions.

And what about rainbow chasing? Nora believes the pot of gold does exist at the end of the rainbow in Dundee. The arts, music, sport and the cultural history that Dundee have must be harnessed. Dundee has got a fantastic heritage and we should build on that. How do we harness the creative power of the city and make it meaningful? How does Dennis The Menace influence the Fairness Strategy? The opportunities are enormous and the challenges are great but working collaboratively we can really make a difference.

Andy Milne, the CEO of SURF  talked about the 'creatification of everyone' stating the giving workers the creativity and autonomy to do things differently should be the focus of Government .

We watched a short video from the Chief Medical Officer of Scotland, Dr Harry Burns who talked about the biology associated with being poor and he reminded us all that it never says cause of death: poor housing or cause of death: poor on any birth certificate.

Chris van der Kuyl, the CEO of Bright Solid talked honestly and openly about the public sector fixation on controlling everything and reminded the audience that days of IT teams being in control are coming to a sharp and swift end.

"If you think someone in Silicon Valley is going to come up with the tech that will solve the problems in Dundee you are wrong. The solutions have to come from here - from us - from Dundee's people"

Artist, Jacqueline Donachie brought waves of raw emotion into the room by sharing her families battle with Muscular Dystrophy. She believes we deserve beauty in all areas of life. Why isn't the doctors surgery as nice as a hair salon?  I believe the same 'levels of service' are deserved in in all areas of life. Why does dining in my local restaurant make me smile and always deliver yet the national health service make me feel stupid and fail to understand my needs?

One shocking thing Jacqueline told us was that she met with a group of world class academics who have been researching the disease for twenty years but (and this beggars belief!) had never, once, ever met someone with Muscular Dystrophy.

Liz from Fablevision introduced us to their work to bring communities together through Govan Thegither. Alan Lyddiard talked about his previous projects with the homeless and challenged the audience to think about what would happen if the homeless could curate an exhibition at the V and A and think about the people outside the room who don't agree with us. Peter Kelly from the Poverty Alliance asked who's poverty is it anyway? One problem is how middle class people perceive the problem in the first place.

  • 38% of people think poverty is an inevitable part of modern society
  • 19% structural injustice
  • 28% think it's laziness and lack of will power
  • 79% of people think poverty is governments job

How can we tackle this?

  • Real life stories delivered by real people
  • Practical alternatives to current approaches
  • Realise poverty and inequality are equal  ( this has implications for how we talk about the wider system )

There are two key documents from Government out there The Community Led Regeneration and the Community Empowerment Renewal Bill ( will come out at the end of September and is currently being consulted on ) But as Nora rightly asks "Why do we need a bill so we can talk to each other?"

We must debunk this myth of scarcity. The money is there - it's a question of where we put it. Of course Cloudbusting was full of  'haves' - what are we all personally going to give up for the 'have nots'?  If you are preaching equality - how do you preach it in your daily life? Do you go to the shops and use the churches and play parks in the deprived areas near you? What would happen if we all did that....

And yes all of what I heard at Cloudbusting made sense but the reality is that currently systems stop us acting upon fresh ideas. This is our focus at Snook - how to work inside the systems and find solutions from a stance of humility, with no agenda and no pre determined answers.  Our focus in on helping people to articulate their own solutions.

 As journalist Lesley Riddoch says  "We need to stop trying to do the wrong things righter" because this is too big to ignore but small enough to tackle. The most important and vital tool we have is the attitude and desire to re-think things so we can make an even more profound difference. Projects and processes with limited outcomes are perhaps just the wrong things to be doing and we need to say this confidently. We must be confident to think wide, deep and look far and be unashamedly and ludicrously ambitious for our future. We need to be bold.

P.S Lovely to catch up with Gillian Easson and thanks for the newspaper picture above! great to see Hazel White and Liz Gardiner and meet new, curious people!

Dundee gets fresh and fruity

AN innovative weekly fruit and vegetable stall was opened for the first time yesterday at one of Scotland's busiest hospitals. "The weekly stall, aimed at helping to ensure patients, staff and visitors can get access to the freshest produce available, has been launched at Dundee's Ninewells Hospital. In partnership with Dundee Cyrenians, NHS Tayside will run the market stall every Tuesday between 11am and 4pm in the Fresh Air Garden at the main entrance to the hospital 3340228729_311c079805

NHS Tayside is also planning to extend the initiative to Perth Royal Infirmary and Stracathro Hospital Murray Petrie, chairman of NHS Tayside's single delivery unit, said: "This weekly stall is a great opportunity for staff to have access to the freshest fruit and vegetables and help them get their recommended five a day. The market stall is another example of an innovative partnership which can make a real difference to our patients, visitors and staff."

Dr Drew Walker, NHS Tayside's director of public health, added: "We know that average fruit and vegetable consumption in Scotland falls far short of the recommended five portions per person per day and this is contributing to a wide range of health problems in Tayside"

"This new initiative is an indication of the commitment of NHS Tayside to increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, improving nutrition generally and tackling avoidable causes of ill-health."

Wonderful. Hopefully, this will be the start of many similar initiatives in Dundee.

Thank you to Jonathan for discovery.

The Studio Unbound

Today I am giving a presentation to University staff and students on the power of social networking.

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"MDes student Lauren Currie explores the power of online social networking, and demonstrates the tools students at Duncan of Jordanstone are using to move ideas forward, form networks with practitioners around the world, and build a reputation before and after graduation.

“For the designer to become a producer, she must have the skills to begin directing content, by critically navigating the social, aesthetic, and technological systems across which communications flow.”

(Ellen Lupton, 1998)

In highlighting the creative people all over the world using social networking to their advantage, Lauren will discuss the dynamic, conversational value of online networking and show how ideas of teaching and learning need to move away from the confines of the studio towards other, often ad-hoc and virtual, venues.

Joining from London via video conferencing will be Kate Andrews, design writer and networker extraordinaire, who will share her own insights into the potential offered by new technology.

Focusing on the new possibilities and opportunities the digital world presents, this talk will demonstrate that the world has changed and is changing, and that design courses must change with it if they are to stay relevant."

Thank you to everyone who sent me links and shared their story with me. Jonathan will be twittering during the talk starting at 12.30pm so tune in! Photographs and feedback coming soon...