Over the past few years, we’ve noticed a trend towards “designers” (people skilled in product design, industrial design and human-centered design) taking a greater role in organisations working on social and environmental innovations. This is good news for change makers, as designers bring a great toolset for achieving change in our sectors, including the capacity to better test and ensure that products and services are effective and engage users. But it’s also caused a bit of heat in some kitchens, as evaluators and designers clash over whose role it is to monitor, test and evaluate the initiatives.
While working with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI), Jess Dart has been known to refer to this dynamic between designers and evaluators as “the cook and the chef”. The designers we’ve worked with tend to be highly pragmatic, “get in there and give stuff a go”-types who are not afraid to prototype with what they have, nor afraid to fail fast. Evaluators, on the other hand, can be a bit more classical in their approaches, deliberate and focused on method and the final assessment.
So how can and do these roles work together? Is it like Maggie Beer and Simon Bryant, the original cook and chef, who share a love of cooking and a collaborative approach, with Simon prepping Maggie’s herbs and Maggie taking Simon’s corn tamales out of the oven? Or is it more like My Kitchen Rules, with every cook following their own recipe, and paring knives at the ready?
We think there are four ways this dynamic can play out: