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A half-year mission process in 90 minutes

Published: 24 February 2020

Tobias Öhman

Handläggare

A few weeks ago we were asked if we could "create something interactive" that shows what mission work is all about during the Innovation Council meeting in Kalmar. Around 100 local actors would be invited to create dialogue and interest in innovation. In addition, the prime minister would participate. How on earth could we show how a mission-oriented approach works, when it has been a long and complicated process that has so far taken 6 months?

Graphic facilitator Caroline Sellstone documents in real time

In order to have it all in place in time, we chose to gather relatively much material before the workshop. It had to be a little bit like a cooking program where we already prepared most things so that the participants would not have to sit and wait.

To continue the cooking parable, here comes Vinnova's recipe for a mission process in mini format. We can call it an appetizer. I will try to, at the same time, weave important principles and design choices that form a framework in a mission-oriented way of working.

Step 1: Preparation

You take a lot of knowledge about the complex system and the people you want to engage. Or, as in our case: You take what you have and do as much as you can.

If we had had more time, we would have started the preparation by getting to know people in Kalmar. We had gone to places in the county and met people, and we would have tried to understand what issues that are important and relevant to the county. We would have tried to figure out who the big players and the small new ones are, and so on. But now it was enough to read a lot of strategy documents and find a way to get a good mix of participants. We also had a short interview with about thirty of them.

Step 2: Ingredients

Without the right mix of participants we will not get to the breadth of views and interests required to create system changes. The individual ideas are not central here, but how the ideas are interconnected and how they can be realized thanks to our understanding of all parts of the system and a common direction for cooperation.

After some research, we managed to gain an understanding of the global issues that are important from Kalmar's perspective. Thus, the basic prerequisites for a mission process were in place. The issues were divided into seven areas: food, mobility, health, leisure, tourism, water and housing.

Step 3. Cooking

The workshop was prepared with some examples of goals and a first attempt at a combined mission for each area. The multidisciplinary groups were then separated around the tables to formulate their own joint statement of intent,
something to strive for: you know, that appetizing picture of the perfectly cooked dish.

The next step for mission work is to quickly get started with measures, to bring down high-flying target formulations for proposals to concrete changes. The systems that we want to change, in fact, consist of concrete places and people.

The material we prepared was seven stylized environmental images. One for each area and table.

The maps and areas were consciously paired together in a way that inspires cross-fertilization of ideas. The "food" areas, for example, did not have a farm or restaurant as an environmental image, but a school with its surroundings. It creates ideas about the combination "school" and "food". We already have a good reason to believe that this combination can create system change (read our blog about school food here).

We also produced a number of fictitious but credible people who could be in the environment and be interested in the topics. In the workshop itself, we use storytelling as a way of talking about a vision of the future that is played out in the environment, with the intended people as the main characters.

The task for the participants at the workshop will then be to continue the story, as it would play out in a future where the overall goal for the area had been achieved.

As the story grows, new concrete elements come into the story as well. Each table was assigned to draw or write these into the environmental map. Eventually, we have a story and an environmental description filled with various intended changes, causes of the changes and the
relationship between them.

Step 4: The meal is served

To further understand the whole, the group is assigned to think through what desired (and perhaps undesirable) effects the changes are likely to lead to, for an example: goods delivered by bicycle instead of a car leads to lower carbon dioxide emissions, but can also lead to more personal accidents.

The exercise should then be completed with a reflection on both process and results. Now we finally get to taste the appetizer. It's just an appetizer, but it can taste really good and make you want to try some more.

In later blog posts we will tell you more about how the workshop went and what it resulted in. And, most importantly: How do you go from starter to main course?

Text: Tobias Öhman

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