Designing for Change: Insights and Anecdotes from the Future of Fish Co-Design Process, part 1

Supply chains are messy. They’re made up of a whole jumble of people and places, each with their own sets of priorities, motivations, and needs. And they’re always changing. From the outside, it can be difficult to decipher what’s going on. In a supply chain like seafood, that murkiness means it’s often impossible to follow a fish from ocean to plate. That’s why we don’t try to impact supply chains from the outside.
When planning a co-design workshop we aim to convene open-minded players who have self-interest in solving similar sets of issues. We find innovative thinkers unafraid of out of the box solutions, and we invite collaborators who will listen and contribute in equal measure.
Here’s a look inside a recent supply chain workshop hosted by Future of Fish. Over the course of two, two-day co-design workshops, our group took a whole list of issues and observations and whittled them down to a few prototypes with potential for lasting, sustainable change across the seafood supply chain.

Seattle, January 2016

We begin our process with plenty of group sharing and interactive exercises. Participants are not here to listen, they’re here to engage. So we start that practice early.

Context Setting: An all-women’s finance panel sets the tone for the day. Principium Investments’ Donna Morton shares her thoughts on how finance can be a tool for good. “You can’t be afraid of finance. There is room and important terrain for people with very diverse backgrounds.”

After brainstorming “observations”, we look for patterns. By the end of day 1 we have a whole marketplace of ideas and potential prototypes.

Supply chain members choose their groups and get to work. Rapid prototyping forces out-of-the-box thinking. By placing tight time restrictions on our groups and encouraging them to build, not write, they get a chance to examine the issue from new angles, and to test the viability of their idea.
This group built a “lobster trap” prototype meant to support collaborative margin distribution for players up and down the seafood supply chain. Profits are filtered down to a “margin pool”, then divided proportionally based on risk. It’s all about transparency and everybody wins.

Midway through the day we stop everything and present what we have. Nothing ever looks polished and there is always more work to be done. Feedback from others pushes groups to expand and clarify their models and presentations.
Final presentations provide a closing for the group and a chance to imagine a future that includes their project or initiative. It’s also a chance to build bonds between team members.
Everyone votes. A successful idea sees a lot of green cards in the air — if you see too many reds and yellows it’s probably time to revisit your idea, or craft a new pitch.
After following up with attendees, refining ideas, and restocking our supply of post-it notes, it’s time to plan round 2. Many attendees from the first workshop will join us for the second, and we recruit others based on the ideas and outcomes the group hopes to develop. This time we give people in the room context up front and ask them to consider how they might bring past prototypes to life.
Stay tuned for our updates from round 2!

Published May 12, 2016