As we run and embed local prototypes, we build and enable local teams: users, practitioners and policymakers who co-design and experience new ways of living and doing and have the energy and capacity to make things happen at scale. Our teams evolve as the projects do.
Chris has a background in design and Sarah has a background in policy. Chris is from the UK; Sarah is from the USA. We build on our differences: our different backgrounds, skill sets, and ways of looking at the world. We came together because of our similarities: we both always ask why and how questions; like to imagine what could be different; and are committed to making change real. Sarah has a history working with governments and big organisations to develop policy with people in communities. Chris has a history working with people in communities to co-design services.
Sarah was trained in the biological and social sciences, and has advanced degrees in education and social policy. Chris was trained in design, and has worked in the private and public sectors. Our training means we see the world through lots of different lenses—from anthropology to sociology to psychology to politics to business. More important than our training, though, are our experiences working in a range of settings and environments. We have learned a lot from doing projects in varied contexts, from working in urban and rural environments, in businesses and governments, and across continents. But we think we’ve learned the most from engaging with all sorts of people, from young moms and older people unable to leave their homes to powerful ministers and small business owners.
Both of us have also run our own small businesses. Sarah started a youth-run organisation called Youth Infusion when she was a teenager to help public bodies better engage young people. For ten years, Chris operated as an independent consultant designing products and services. This has helped us to really value working with others to make things happen.
We work with organisations dedicated to social innovation and social impact, whether they are governmental, quasi-governmental, social enterprises or foundations. These organisations are increasingly called centres for social innovation, but they might also be known as innovation units, social enterprise incubators, etc.
We have a history of working with these kinds of organisations. Sarah and Chris met when they worked with Participle, a UK-based social enterprise. Chris was a founding member of Participle, and prior to that, helped start the RED unit at the UK’s Design Council. Sarah has worked extensively for government units and private foundations in the US and UK.
As InWithFor we believe we can help centers for social innovation demonstrate how to spark and sustain new kinds of practice and policy. Similarly, we believe we can help foundations recognize innovative practice worth funding. To do this, we work with the communities and in the places where these centers and foundations operate.
We always work in, with and for local communities to enable social change. We can’t co-design new kinds of practice and policy alone. We require local expertise and talent and are committed to building local capacity to do good problem-solving.
In our experience the best way to build capacity is to bring people along the journey. That means we look to engage people with backgrounds and skill sets best suited to the project at hand. Some will be seconded from the public sector; some will be students in policy, design and other disciplines; some will be local entrepreneurs and community members. The makeup of the team will change as the project grows and develops. We judge success by people on the ground knowing what great work looks and feels like.