design is a conversation, design thinking, Uncategorized

My Thesis Proposal

ThesisProposalThis is my current thesis proposal as of this morning. It grows daily. I will post updates when it makes sense to do so. I am also including my Preliminary Bibliography. If a reader is so inclined, suggestions are very welcome! This work is copyrighted. ©2018. Casey Hrynkow. All rights reserved.

Needing to Belong

Helping Mainstream Canadians Care About the Homeless.
A Graduate Project in Design for Social Innovation Through Simon Fraser University and Emily Carr University of Art and Design

1. Introduction

Homelessness is an uncomfortable issue for Canadians. People not directly affected by it don’t want to see it in their communities, often blaming the homeless themselves for the situation. Since homelessness became an unavoidable issue in the 1990s in Canada, well-informed and well-intentioned experts in public policy, social work, health care, law enforcement — to name a few — have worked on developing solutions, largely in isolation from each other, and the problem continues to grow. It grows not only in major cities but in smaller towns. But it appears to be a reality to which our society will need to adapt rather than ignore. Many Canadians just want it to go away. How can we change that? How might we sensitize mainstream Canadian society to the causes of homelessness in order to help drive the political will to make change on a national level?

My particular source of interest in this project is personal. I lost a brother 20 years ago. He had ended up homeless, ultimately dying of a drug overdose. We were a comfortable “west-side” family with hidden traumas that ultimately pushed my brother to become drug dependent. He was a bright, kind, articulate human being. And yet, as a homeless addict, he was invisible and, admittedly, frightening in many ways, even to his own family. He was seen as beyond help by many people. Why does that shift happen? Can it be mitigated, if not entirely changed?

There are so many threads to homelessness, human nature being chief among them. The perception that weak moral character is somehow the root cause of mental illness, drug dependency, poverty, and random misadventure hinders meaningful work on solving homelessness. As long as Canadians and their various levels of government continue to view the homeless as “less than” and to pass the problem back and forth between them, it cannot be adequately addressed.

If we as a society begin to operate from the premise that a small percentage of the Canadian population will always need social support and that, as a civilized society we bear a responsibility to care for them, we can then begin to work in earnest. Can we adapt our thinking?

This project seeks to seed a meaningful shift in Canadians’ perceptions of people who are homeless.

Through Simon Fraser University’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program and the Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) Lab at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, this project will look at ways to generate effective communication solutions through co-creation, design thinking and generative design based on the premise that, when people are brought together in unfamiliar groupings for facilitated workshops that help them think in cross-disciplinary ways, true innovation can be achieved.

How is it that, by a change in circumstance, a person we know, love, or live with can become someone we will then walk by without seeing?

2. Desired objectives and anticipated outcomes

This research will explore the efficacy of design thinking methodologies in bringing disparate segments of the population together to deal with “wicked problems” such as homelessness. At the very least, it is anticipated that this research will open up new lines of communication around homelessness in Canada. At its greatest extent, people will begin to see each other differently, more respectfully and with greater compassion.

“Adaptive challenges can only be addressed through changes in people’s perceptions” — Lisa Kay Solomon

3. Proposed Sections and Timeline

This work and timeline is described in a wholly linear way. This is not how design thinking works, however. For purposes of setting timeframes, it is described in the following way:

What we know about homelessness in Canada

Secondary Research/Literature Review

Completion: end Spring 2018

What is being done to mitigate homelessness in Canada and abroad

Secondary Research/Literature Review

Completion: end Spring 2018

What we don’t know understand about the homeless

Primary Research/Expert Interviews

Completion: end Fall 2018

Defining Opportunity Space

Conclusions from Research and Definition of Problem/Opportunity

Completion: end Fall 2018

What would shift our view of the homeless?

Primary Research/ Co-creation Workshops

Completion: end Fall 2018

Design Response

Design Solution

Completion: end Spring 2019


Paper and Designed Outcomes

Completion: Fall 2019

4. Ethics Approval

This project will likely require Research Ethics Board Approval for Level 3, Minimal Risk. There is some potential for psychological harm and/or social harm.

Research participants are anticipated to be members of the general public, over the age of 18 years, who may have experienced personal loss or trauma associated with this subject, In addition there is potential for social stigma surrounding the sharing of personal stories or opinions.

5. Glossary of Key Terms

Design Thinking: This is a methodology of borrowing from the way designers solve problems to help non-designers see problems in new ways, break down barriers to innovation. It involves using disruptive thinking exercises in group settings to explore deeper meaning, new meaning and future possibilities.

Restorative Practices: Growing out of the practice of Restorative Justice, Restorative Practices are a an emerging social science based in psychology, social work, criminology, sociology, organizational development and leadership that seek to increase social capital and understanding through use of participatory learning and decision making.

Wicked Problems: Wicked problems are referred to as such, not because of their degrees of difficulty, but because “traditional methods can’t resolve them”. The term was coined by Horst W.J. Ritter in Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning , Policy Sciences, 4:2 (1973:June). Specifically, a wicked problem is on for which:

1 There is no definitive formulation. The information needed to understand the problem depends upon one’s idea for solving it. Formulating a wicked problem is the problem.

2 There is no stopping rule. Because solving the problem is identical to understanding it, there are no criteria for sufficient understanding and therefore completion.

3 Solutions are not true or false, but good or bad.

4 There is no immediate and no ultimate test of the solution.

5 Every solution is “one-shot” — there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error. Every solution leaves traces that cannot be undone.

6 No enumerable set of solutions (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-decried set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.

7 Every wicked problem is unique.

8 Every wicked problem can be considered a symptom of another problem.

9 The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numbers ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of a problem’s resolution. This definition is particularly germane to the problem in my research. To adapt from Dr. Ritter’s paper, homelessness can be explained by drug dependency, weak moral character, not enough policing, social depravity, criminality. It can also be explained as a health issue, a mental health issue, a crisis, as well as an obligation to care for our fellow human beings because we are a wealthy western society.

10 The planner has no right to be wrong. The planner is responsible for the well-being of many; there is no such thing as hypotheses that can be proposed, tested, and refuted.

6. Preliminary Bibliography

Aleem, Zeeshan. “14 Years After Decriminalizing All Drugs, Here’s What Portugal Looks Like”. Mic. 2015.

Benjaminsen, Lars and Evelyn Dyb. “The Effectiveness of Homeless Policies-Variations among the Scandinavian Countries.” European Journal of Homelessness. 2 (2008): 45–67. Web. 3. Dec. 2011.

Berti, Mario. “Handcuffed Access: Homelessness and the Justice System.” Urban Geography. 2010.

Culhane, Dara. “Their Spirits Live within Us: Aboriginal Women in Downtown Eastside

Vancouver Emerging into Visibility.” American Indian Quarterly 27, no. 3/4 (2003):593–606.

Dawson, Massam, and Stephens, “Vancouver Peer Reference Group Report on Peer Support for Homelessness and Mental Health. Canadian Electronic Library/DesLibris.

Gaetz, Donaldson, Richter and Gulliver. “The State of Homelessness in Canada.” Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press. 2013.

Global Homelessness Statistics. Homeless World Cup Foundation.

Graham, “Rounding ’em up on the East Side of the Wild West”. University of British Columbia. 2007.

Gulliver-Garcia, T. (2016). Putting an End to Child & Family Homelessness in Canada.Toronto: Raising the Roof

Hansen, Finn Kenneth. “The Homeless Strategy in Denmark.” European Journal of Homelessness. 4 (2010): 112–125. Web. 2. Dec. 2011

Hutter, “Northern Ontario First Nation Residents Get to Design Their Own Homes in Pilot Project”. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2017.

Kerr, Daniel. “We Know What the Problem Is: Using video and radio oral history to develop collaborative analysis of homelessness”. The Oral History Review. 1 January 2003. Vol.30(1). pp.27–45

Klein and Copas. “Unpacking the Numbers.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. 2010.

Lupick, Travis. “Fighting for Space”. Arsenal Pulp Press. Vancouver. 2017.

Martinsen, Britta. “How Denmark has helped its homeless young people”.
The Guardian. 2017.

Manzini, Ezio. “Design, When Everybody Designs, An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation.” The MIT Press. Cambridge. 2015.

Martinsen, Britta. “How Denmark has helped its homeless young people”. The Guardian. 2017.

Masuda, Greg. “The Right to Remain.” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2015.

“Plans to End Homelessness”. Homeless Hub. 2017. plans-end-homelessness

Plewnia, Frederik; Guenther, Edeltraud. uwf UmweltWirtschaftsForum, 2017, Vol. 25 (1), pp. 117–124. [Peer Review Journal]

Rittel, Horst W.J., Webber, Melvin M. “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning”. Policy Sciences 4. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Amsterdam. 1973. p. 155–169.

Smith, Craig. “Homeless Find a Champion in Canada’s Medicine Hat”. New York Times. 2017.

Van Lier, Bas. “No Doubt That We Need Design to Solve Mankind’s Problems.” Climate Action and What Design Can Do. 2017.

Vanwynsberghe, Surborg, and Wyly, “When the Games Come to Town”; “Canada Canada — National Strategies to Address Homelessness.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 2013.

Wood, Jessica. “Finland Shows the World How to End Chronic Homelessness.”
Culture Trip. 2017.

Woodward, Eberle, Kraus, Goldberg. Regional Homelessness Plan for Greater Vancouver. Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness. 2001.

design leadership, design thinking

We have a moral and financial​ obligation to care for those who are unable to manage in the mainstream

Photo credit: Peter Kim, Anita Place tent city, 2017

My letter to the Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows News (January 19) in response to the NIMBY resistance to housing the homeless within our community. This captures some of my thoughts on seeing the homeless as human beings.

In dealing with solutions to homelessness in Maple Ridge, I wonder if we could all take two deep breaths and do the following.

Recognize that the homeless are human beings. They are human beings who may be sick, mentally and physically wounded — but they are not morally-weak human waste. The homeless are without a decent, safe, reliable place to live often because they are unable to find living spaces that suit their circumstances. Others are simply and suddenly without a home.

About 20 per cent of the homeless are youth who may have been forced to leave home too early due to abuse or neglect. The LGBTQ2S in this group are overrepresented at about 40 per cent of that youth population. They are not yet ready to care for themselves and homelessness in this group contributes to further abuse, mental illness and addiction.

They need support and care in the community.

Roughly 26 per cent of the population in Canadian shelters are women, often put in this situation due to violence at home for themselves and their children. Would any woman actually want to stay in a shelter, let alone a tent? Like youth, women in shelters are at greatly increased risk of violence, sexual exploitation and abuse.

Recognize that as a wealthy, western society, we have a moral and financial obligation (through the taxes we pay into governments at all levels) to care for those who are unable to manage in the mainstream. We need to begin to see the homeless as human beings once again. They are someone’s daughters or sons, sisters or brothers.

As a community, we need to consider harm reduction in safe, clean shelters that house people with addictions. We need to keep them and the neighbourhoods in which they live safe. No needles outside. No dealers lurking around. Safe injection with supervision indoors. That requires resident health care, as well as law enforcement support.

We need safe, clean shelters that protect women and children, as well as youth from being prayed upon and hurt. They need support to step up to homes they can rely on.

We need to give folks who can’t manage financially as way to climb back up and feel a strong sense of belonging and contributing in our society.

No want wants the homeless in Maple Ridge. But they’re here, whether we like it or not. Moving them around is not going to make homelessness go away. And sticking our heads in the sand and saying it can’t be near us is making the problem much worse as we shame and ostracize people who have a right to feel a sense of belonging and dignity, even when they’re ill.

If we do it right, it will be better for everyone in Maple Ridge, and it won’t harm those near the shelters.

design is a conversation, design leadership, design thinking

Five-Dollar Words and the Chasm Between Points of View

A Chasm, with Figures by Robert Adam

Photo © Tate Creative Commons Licence CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)

I was confronted today by the extreme difficulty of bringing any kind of understanding between Canadians and the homelessness crisis. It has deflated me so much. But this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way in this project (and many others I’ve taken on) so I’m going to rest and try not to get too down about it. And I’ll also try to explain how I feel.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to go through post-graduate work and not use words that regular folks find…I don’t know….“hoity-toity”? I was faced with this today when, in the heat of the moment, I used a couple of “five-dollar” words in defending my position on homelessness. This immediately set me up for the inevitable reaction of “oh, big word!”. Hardly the response I was looking for. My students will attest to the fact that I use everyday language in defiance of academic language. I speak in “street” more than anyone else over 60 years of age that I know. But sometimes, the right word is the right word…and it’s not in the lexicon (oops, five-dollar word) of the average Joe.

It’s interesting that this provides ammo for the “average Canadian” to make a judgment about me. They might now believe that I’m: elitist, wealthy, out of touch, or something else they may have said when I left the room. Suffice to say, I was dismissed right then and there. It dug a big, fat chasm between me and the people I wanted to understand. In the work I’m trying to do, I can’t spend my research time among academics. I need to be talking to regular people about their fears and concerns around the homeless people in our community. I’m going to have to find a way to tone it down. But I also need to stay out of those rabbit holes I wrote about yesterday.

People are raging about the relocation of the homeless into their neighbourhoods. I get that. It’s a really, really messy situation. But my work is not to defend relocation of homeless camps into more suitable housing. My job is to understand what is behind the fear and disrespect of the homeless. This is complicated by the fact that the criminal element among the homeless in the local tent camp (they’re not nearly all criminals or thieves, folks) are stealing stuff from my neighbourhood (most recently our own propane tank). It’s human nature to make it US and THEM, making them the “others”.  We are distinctly uncomfortable with anyone who is not like us, who don’t go to work like we do, who don’t have the same physical mobility as we do, who aren’t the same age, colour, faith, income strata, education level, etc. etc. We all make judgments about people who aren’t like us. So here I sit tonight, anxious, upset and frustrated at what seems like an insurmountable wall of challenge to change human nature, even on a small scale.

design is a conversation, design thinking, leading by design, Uncategorized

Rabbit Holes and Dystopia



Photo: Pixabay

One of the biggest challenges with research is the distractions. My situation is likely no different than any other researcher. You have a giant field of interest. You have beaten yourself into narrowing your focus in order to make your work something that can be completed within your lifetime. And then you find yet another interesting thread of study that is valuable, but not absolutely specific to your research question. It’s almost like a puppy. You can’t not pick it up and spend some time with it, and then it’s an hour later and you haven’t found the information you actually needed to find. I believe the dives into these rabbit holes enrich your work ultimately, but it’s really hard not to let them take you astray. My research question is:


How might we seed a meaningful shift in Canadians’ perceptions of people who are homeless?


Today, while driving, I was probably a bit too lost in my thoughts about homelessness and what I perceive may be a sense of hopelessness in not having a safe, consistent housing situation and having people look at you as if you are less than human. Added to my reverie was the thick mist pouring down around the car as it and others around me churned up rooster tails of water that splashed on the cars around them. It seemed so cold and bleak, a dystopia of homelessness in grey. The combination of the weather and my thoughts were not only discouraging but made me question everything I was doing with my life. Fortunately, I’m old enough to know that devil on my shoulder and shook it off. I’ve worked many hours today, lost in my computer, writing, searching and thinking. Time to take a break.

design is a conversation, design thinking, designing in teams, leading by design, Uncategorized

Pushed into the Shadows

HomelessTentCampHorizontalHelping Mainstream Canadians
Care About the Homeless: 

A Graduate Project in Design for Social Innovation Through Simon Fraser University and Emily Carr University of Art and Design 


I am in the middle of completing my Masters in Graduate Liberal Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Although I am trained as a graphic designer, I have spent most of my career facilitating groups of people to help them find ways of expressing their core feelings about brands. For the last six years, I have focussed that work on helping communities express what their cities and towns mean to them and what they would like to be in the future. I have developed skills in helping people break out of their normal ways of thinking and solving problems and this is what I am bringing to my thesis work. My thesis question, at present, is

How might we seed a meaningful shift in
Canadians’ perceptions of people who are homeless?

This blog will document my thinking, challenges and progress.


Trudeau government should speak/act to oppose bridge that would facilitate LNG & fuel supertankers on Fraser River: Susan Jones writes PM

This is a seminal decision for the current federal government. The Trudeau government has pledged to make the environment a priority and this particular plan for an improved crossing over the Deas slough is all wrong.


Massey replacement bridge image, little lies, MVW, 26-Apr-2016Susan Jones of Delta, British Columbia, has shared with MetroVanWatch this letter, which she sent on May 7, 2016 to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and key members of the federal Cabinet, as well as many Members of Parliament based in B.C. (see list at bottom). We have added some bold for the convenience of readers. If your views are similar to those of Ms. Jones, or you would like to add your voice to the dialogue with the federal government, you may wish to write them yourself too. You can find your MP using your postal code.


Federal Accountability to the new B.C. bridge facilitating LNG and fuel supertankers on the Fraser River

To the Government of Canada, a letter by Susan Jones, Delta, B.C., May 7, 2016

As you are aware, the Government of British Columbia plans to build the largest bridge ever built in B.C.  The BC…

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design is a conversation, design leadership, design thinking

My AhHa Moment of the Day


The question. We always think we know what the question is. We just need the answer.

I am always dogging clients to let go of their idea of what the question is and to reframe. And now, the shoe is on the other foot. I realized in reading Design for Growth by Jeannie Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie that I have framed a question and forgotten that it might not be the right one. The flash of realization was almost blinding. I’m excited to see how many ways I can parse the problem now. What is really needed? How can I tease that out of the research I am doing and will do?