DOTI Fest 2019 round-up

We are Snook
Nov 6, 2019 · 6 min read

Our top takeaways from Snook’s first Design On The Inside festival

When Snook first started organising DOTI events two years ago they were intimate affairs. People got together over breakfast to share their ideas and experiences of using Design On The Inside of their organisations.

After successful events in the North and South of the UK, we decided to spread the reach and launch a full festival. We organised a day of talks, panel discussions, fireside chats and workshops with bonus dancing afterwards.

The plan was for everyone who attended to leave energised and full of practical ideas they can put into action in their workplace.

So what happened?

DOTI Fest 2019 took place on Thursday 31st October. We chose the Oval Space to host it because, like us, they’re intent on becoming a truly environmentally-conscious organisation. They’re already plastic-free (rare for a venue that hosts a lot of live music). It’s also an awesome, industrial space in a peaceful canal-side part of East London. We wanted it to be different from other conferences, reflecting our commitment to sustainability, inclusivity and diversity, practical, actionable ideas and fun.

We had 30 guest speakers (full line up here), 250 people came, and one of them brought their dog. There was a crèche for kids, delicious vegan food, beautiful spoken word poetry from Thembe Mvula and a giant glitterball, ready to transform the space into a party afterwards.

We had two spaces which held simultaneous sessions. We heard from attendees that it was often difficult to choose!

Our keynotes in Oval Space came from Lou Downe, author of Good Services, Shanti Mathew of NY’s Public Policy lab, Alastair Parvin of Open Systems Lab and Steve ‘Buzz’ Pearce who’s driven design and strategy at Skyscanner and Skype. They covered topics ranging from how to design better, more inclusive services to dragging the archaic planning system into the 21st century and how to put integrity and vulnerability at the heart of leadership.

Across the courtyard in The Pickle Factory, there were panel discussions about inclusive healthcare, the power of charities working together as collaborators rather than competitors and the role of place in a socially cohesive society.

After lunch, in-house Snooks hosted two workshops in the Oval Space. The first, on inclusive recruitment, was kicked off by Daniel Sintim, Inclusion and Talent Specialist at GDS. Then Dr Debbie Martin from Extinction Rebellion introduced the workshop on designing for the climate crisis.

In the Pickle Factory, there were ‘fireside chats’ on subjects ranging from housing and grass-roots activism to designing with communities and the ethical and environmental impact of fashion supply chains. There was no actual fireplace, but the warmth and intimacy of these talks captured the feeling of informal, in-depth dialogues that we were after.

The closing keynote was a tour de force by Indy Johar on the pivotal moment we find ourselves at in history and the necessity to design a more inclusive, sustainable future for the planet and everyone on it.

Here are our top 10 takeaways from DOTI Fest 2019

1. “Start somewhere, anywhere, start making things better and people will come”

Lou Downe kicked off the day encouraging us to just get on with making things better by design. They shared 3 of the 15 principles of Good Services. They should be a) easy to find, b) intuitive to use and c) openly shared so they’re widely adopted. “Make things open, it makes things better.”

2. The tension of designing at different scales

On one hand, in a panel discussion, Derek Bardowell talked about the challenges of scaling services. But in the closing keynote Indy Johar told us to think bigger - “It is not always small. It is not always an MVP. Think about the creation of the NHS, the abolition of slavery — large scale transformations of society. We’ve lost the confidence to deploy at scale”. We need to do both.

3. Integrity in design comes from embodying values

Steve ‘Buzz’ Pearce ranked accountability, autonomy and alignment, in that order, for good leadership. “If you are accountable you will be influential, guaranteed”. The impact of our daily choices around what we buy and wear was exposed in the fireside chat about fast fashion supply chains, and Indy Johar made the point that even the pronouns we use say something about the way we view our place in the world. We are what we do.

4. The importance of collaboration in systems change

It’s a given that work gets stronger when people within an organisation work together with a common goal. But fostering a collaborative approach between organisations that usually compete for funding can be revolutionary and have a far-reaching impact.

5. “Start from what’s strong, not what’s wrong”

This quote from the morning’s panel discussion about social cohesion was echoed in the afternoon fireside chat about designing with communities. Sometimes you just need to create an opportunity for existing strengths to be fully utilised.

6. Commit to proper dialogue

Really listen to the people you’re working with. When you put people from diverse backgrounds together and have a conversation, people realise the common needs they have and begin to work together.

7. The power of procrastination

Laura Coryton started campaigning to ban tampon tax as a way to avoid revising for exams. The campaign succeeded, generated a £15million pound fund and got MPs saying the word tampon in parliament! More importantly, it has inspired a wave of other grassroots activism, with similar campaigns launching, and winning worldwide.

8. The fashion industry contributes to 10% of the world’s global carbon emissions and more than all 28 EU member states combined

Large corporations won’t regulate themselves — the government needs to get involved. But in the meantime, we can all take responsibility for our own choices. We can stop buying clothes from the fashion giants, recycle more and support smaller traders who’ve committed to better ethical and ecological practices. If we all did made these small personal changes, the impact would be enormous.

9. “Here’s my advice. Get used to the feeling that you’re not making a difference, not doing enough. Make peace with that feeling. Your position in a system determines what power you have. There is glory and honour in doing your part”

Wise words from Shanti Mathew. She shared 7 principles for designing in the public sector, all of which help to ensure that her work with disadvantaged communities actually has great impact. But in a city like New York, with such complex, interrelated social problems, the feeling that whatever you do is not enough is a given. Having a designated couch to weep tears of frustration on when needed will give you the strength to carry on.

10. “It’s up to designers to stretch the imagination of the possible”

In the closing keynote, Indy Johar blew everyone’s minds with a whistlestop tour of the magnitude of the responsibilities we face at this point in time. Automation, climate change and the seismic shifts this will cause in society invite a larger, nobler response where we start to design a future for the common good. It was bracing (there were some audible gasps at “If we want a future, everyone in this room will have to be vegan”). But ultimately it reminded us of the potential value of our work.

We’ll (hopefully) be running DOTI Fest again next year. Sign up to our newsletter and follow us at @weareDOTI for updates about this and all the other work we do to design a world where everyone can thrive.


Since 2009 we’ve been helping organisations put effective change in place — designing products and services that make the world more human.

We are Snook

Written by

Hello, we are Snook. A design studio built to make the world more human.


Since 2009 we’ve been helping organisations put effective change in place — designing products and services that make the world more human.

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