Working on How We Work


We’re always noodling on how to make design practices more equitable and how to de-bias our work. This has resulted in some edits to core design methods as we continue to evolve what we do and how we do it.





Our mission is embodied not only in the outcomes of our work, but in the doing of it. These are the values that ground us.



Mobilizing design’s optimism
The practice of design is naturally optimistic. Designers are problem-solvers, bending towards doing and solving rather than dwelling in the brokenness. Design is creative and generative and scrappy in ways that we think are helpful levers in making dents in big challenges.

Valuing people’s people-ness
We bring forward the stories and perspectives of the people we work with and for. We do not pathologize, we do not other, we work to bring trauma-sensitive practices into our research. We try to recognize that expertise and wisdom live in people and places that dominant culture doesn’t always acknowledge.

De-biasing the work
Great design articulates perspectives, and perspective is biased. How to proceed? We’re always thinking about:
      • how to make the design process less transactional and more reciprocal
      • how to reflect on where power, expertise and authority lay 
      • how to be culturally-sustaining with our design, and
      • how to question our own roles and points of view

Seeing process and outcomes as one
If we are working towards equity and justice, changes have to be inscribed in mindsets and behaviors, not only activated in experiences or systems.
 



How we’ve evolved


We were founded in 2016 as an experiment.




V1


We were tired of designing things for people for whom the world is already pretty well designed. Rather, we sought to redesign the systems that structurally reinforce this divide.

We saw the opportunity for design to be used differently in the social sector, to be used not only at the programmatic level but at the systemic level. Our hypothesis was that design could be a lever for system change. But we didn’t know what that would mean or what it might look like.

And so we launched v1 of our experiment. We drew a boundary around a system and got to work. For two years, we worked within the education ecosystem of Boston (literally: we were based in a room in BPS Central Office), attempting to nudge people, teams and organizations towards more collective, people-centered, cross-disciplinary work.

V2


During v2, we dipped our toe into additional sectors to see if what we had learned crossed over. It did. We found that the lessons we learned from education in Boston held true in other spaces.

We validated some of the key challenges to system equity: that they are not designed to serve all users, that they obfuscate rather than clarify, that they are self-protective and not very good at learning from themselves or others. And, ultimately, that they’re also people. The challenge of systems redesign is both human and structural.

This helped us to sharpen our design toolkit and to think critically about where design can be of highest value. Recognizing the power and the biases inherent to the design process, we pushed hard on ourselves and our methods.

V3


Welcome to v3. We have a strong sense of the challenges of complex social systems and the ways that design can serve as a point of leverage.


Onward.

Our mission is to use design to reduce structural inequity in America. 
Agncy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  © 2020 Agncy Design Inc.
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augusta@agncy.org 
Brookline, Massachusetts