Curiko comes from seven years of social research & development. Just like the private sector invests in future products and services, we're investing in the future of social supports and community relationships. Over the years, we've tested new roles, platforms and service models– all designed to address social isolation, and transition our social safety nets into trampolines. Curiko brings all of our learning together in one place.
Three disability service providers and one social design organization came together to ask: What is the lived experience of social isolation, especially for people with developmental disabilities? Thirty or so years since the closure of institutions, Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, Kinsight and posAbilities recognized that too many people with developmental disabilities weren't really flourishing as part of community. So a group of designers and social scientists from InWithForward plus staff from the three partner agencies moved into Apartment #301 of a social housing complex in Burnaby to learn about people's every day realities. That's how our interdisciplinary team was born!
Over ten weeks, we met fifty neighbours with and without disabilities and generated eleven ideas for change. We were struck by the drudgery of the every day. For so many of our neighbours with disabilities, each day looked like a carbon copy of the day before. We came to see how without a regular source of novelty, stimulation and celebration, our brains, bodies and spirits can languish, and so too can our relationships. Indeed, the quality of our relationships depends on the quality of our shared experiences. That's the challenge our first prototype, Kudoz, addressed. Kudoz is an online platform connecting people with and without disabilities to splendid, 1:1 learning experiences.
Alongside co-developing Kudoz, we asked: how do we build capacity within the community living sector to co-create and experiment? We brought together thirty staff from across the three partner agencies to listen, learn, and co-develop solutions with people with disabilities. Out of this design process came Real Talk. Ethnographic research revealed that way too many folks with disabilities lacked meaningful opportunities to explore their sexuality. Real Talk is a catalogue of videos and a format for facilitated viewing parties, which promote frank discussions of sexuality, dating and relationships. Content is made with and by folks with disabilities.
Building capacity takes more than training. We learned capacity is not just about process or skills, but about values and culture. Experimental cultures rub against hierarchy and compliance, requiring high tolerance for uncertainty and emergence. So we worked with our three partner agencies to carve out some new roles and practices around social research & development. A couple of prototypes emerged, including Meraki. Meraki is a subscription box service introducing people with disabilities to niche interests. Each box is inspired by a community member, and seeks to make novelty part of the every day.
With funding from Community Living British Columbia, Vancouver Foundation, Public Health Canada and ongoing support from BACI, Kinsight and posAbilities, we began to grow Kudoz, Real Talk, and Meraki. That meant thoughtfully designing everything from hiring processes to evaluation metrics to all of our backend technology and tools. We started to track the impact of our prototypes, creating a database of change stories, and asking: who do our prototypes work for, when, and who do they leave out? How can we continually reimagine what we do, and how?
Kudoz, Meraki and Real Talk were working pretty well for people who weren't yet entrenched in the social service system. But, we were struggling to help some staff, families, and people with disabilities see that novelty, learning, and growth was for them! And we were finding elements of the stauts quo creep back into practice. Needing to prove our value to funders, we started operating more like a program than a platform, holding rather than ceding control. And we found ourselves adopting some dominant system logics— focusing on outcomes funders cared about, like employment and independence, over some of the things people cared about, like how connected they felt and the quality of their relationships. Time for another round of social research & development.
A worldwide pandemic hit. All of the usual structures and supports for folks with disabilities shifted overnight. Suddenly uncertainty, emergence, and novelty was the base condition. Seeking to take advantage of this window of change, we launched two new prototypes: CoMakeDo and Neighbourhood Organizer. CoMakeDo hosts virtual groups and online community for folks with and without disabiilities. Neighbourhood Organizer creates opportunities for people to connect to the places & spaces where they live, bridging lines of difference.
Kudoz, Real Talk, Meraki, CoMakeDo and Neighbourhood Organizer are five solutions co-designed around a common goal: creating the conditions for flourishing lives and flourishing communities. Curiko brings these five solutions into one platform, and makes explicit our shared values. Flourishing lives and flourishing communities are grounded in equality: in the belief that we are all equal, and we are all different. Through Curiko, we can learn how to be in equal relationships, forging authentic connections with ourselves, community members, and the world around us.