Co-creation on a global scale – innovation labs for healthy living

9 September, 2013 - 09:57

Brendon Clark is one of the senior researchers working at the Interactive Institute. He has a background in anthropology with a PhD in user centred design. He specializes in collaboration frameworks, knowledge generation and knowledge transfer. In 2011, Brendon spent six months working together with Veryday in an innovation project where one of the world’s biggest companies, PepsiCo’s Global Nutrition Group (GNG), was the client.

What was your motivation to get involved in a project like this?
– I was intrigued by the ambition of the project: Healthy food, a dedication to the consumer, an unprecedented collaborative arrangement. Coming from ethnography, it is crucial to understand how people organize their lives. It was obvious from the start that this project was a massive undertaking to stimulate value creation with many different players and interests involved. One of the interesting things they approached me with was that Pepsi was shifting focus from merely products to occasions when people might consume their products. That represented a huge organizational challenge that I wanted to meet.

This project gave you the opportunity to meet a lot of different people from all parts of the world. What do you remember the most?
– I was in a house on the outskirts of Sao Paulo with a family that had come across financially hard times since the father’s motorcycle accident. Once they finished their meal, I engaged them in a type of boundary work on the kitchen table where they ate, separating food items in piles, sketching out where they bought each of the food items and the transport the used to get them. It was a like complex maze of long bus and metro trips with his free disabled card and hitching rides in order to get the children’s favorites, making a huge effort to satisfy everyone’s wishes and save money. In a country of such upward mobility, it was moving.

You spent six months full time in this project. What are you most proud of?
– I had never seen the magic of “the collaborative” and “tangible engagement” at this magnitude. By the time we were in Brazil, we had a core team of at least 10 people, including people from PepsiCo, who had completely re-thought how they would even give presentations, moving away from PowerPoint presentations to use more engaging tangible ways, even in meetings with the highest executives. It was greatly satisfying for me to see so many people gain new insight on what they were doing.

What did it mean to you to work in this setting together with these partners?
– A project of this size, involving this range of people, agendas, and resources, required us to perform at our highest level day after day after day, for a long period of time. It was very satisfying to see the impact of my efforts while engaging seasoned professionals from so many backgrounds and levels, whether the illustrators to the high executives. But it was also a new experience to work non-stop without time to reflect. In research, we carve out time in projects to reflect upon what we do through writing academic papers and by reviewing the work of other researchers. This creates a different set of references to draw upon for re-thinking your work. For this half year, I had to put all that aside. 

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