Surviving in uncertain times

Suzanne Boccalatte is a designer, writer, thinker and artist with qualifications in Communications Management. With over 20 years’ experience in adult education, art direction, design and strategy, Suzanne works with clients from some of the leading cultural and social institutions across Australia.

Suzanne was invited to talk at the 2014 NSW Regional Science Hubs Leadership Forum about building communities that inspire and endure. Her key message is that you must be relevant in order to thrive and survive in uncertain times. She began by framing the NSW Regional Science Hubs network in terms of a group of change-makers contributing to the innovation landscape.

To be more effective in our change making in the science engagement space, Suzanne says we need to build a strong case for change. But before we do this, we need to consider ourselves in the context of a rapidly changing world. The future is increasingly more uncertain, we live in a time of information overload and there is much more competition in the space we used to know as entertainment.

“If you cannot prove there’s value in what you do, and sound reasons for why you exist, you’re gone,” Suzanne warned. “Adapt or die! And realise that your competition is not who you think.”

A visit to Ikea, for example, is entertainment and may be more appealing and rewarding to many than a science engagement experience. There are so many activities on offer that anyone seeking an audience needs to work incredibly hard to present themselves as relevant and interesting. While this kind of uncertainty can be daunting, Suzanne says that it also creates a rich environment in which innovation thrives. Initiatives that disrupt and agitate can gain incredible momentum, particularly given the power of social media to amplify messages.

In terms of funding for local science engagement initiatives, Suzanne reminded us that many societal issues are competing for a limited pool of funds and the same audience. Adding to this complexity are dramatic changes in audience expectations, with ever increasing demands for participation and responsive dialogues.

Suzanne defines strategy as a journey to a position of advantage.

“Strategy is designing our future, creating a compelling argument for change,” she said.

Suzanne’s tool for making the case for change is set out below. It seeks to define where we are, where we want to be, what we need to do to get there and who we want to bring along. These are simple questions that can be applied to just about anything to make a case for change. The process involves extensive research that if done well can create the foundations of a solid strategy.

1. Define your audiences

  • Who are the people that affect you?
  • Who are the people or groups that you care most about?
  • Who are your advocates / rivals?
  • Who can’t you live without?
  • Who can’t live without you?

2. Where are you now?

  • What keeps you / your organisation up at night?
  • What keeps your audiences up at night? (Have you asked them?)

3. Where do you want to be?

  • What could the future look like?
  • What does success look like?
  • How do you want to be perceived?
  • What is it you most desire? (This should be possible not probable as we lose interest with probable)

4. Now and the future:
What are the factors at play in the space between these two places?

  • What are things that need to change?
  • What are the shifts in the systems, perceptions, behaviours?

What actions do you need to take?

  • What needs to happen for the changes to occur?
  • What projects will support the change?
  • How can we create momentum for change?
  • What needs to be established before the change?
  • Who do you need on board?

Suzanne’s tool for making a case for change is one that she uses in her business to decide an appropriate strategic response – be it a campaign, a website, an event or another type of communication activity.

Find out more about Suzanne Boccalatte and Boccalatte Studio at