I led another prototyping workshop for this Summer’s Design for America teams. As usual, the teams were full of energy and great ideas. This session’s teams were taking on the following issues:
Improving literacy among younger children
Helping people with dementia stay engaged and attentive
Helping young homeless people keep from losing important personal items like their ID, Social Security cards, etc.
I was there to help the teams move from brainstorming to expressing their ideas in more tangible forms. I wanted them to come away from the afternoon with an understanding that “prototyping” is more than just making things, but a whole new way of communicating.
Each team had very different visions amongst their members as to how they could address their constituency’s problems. By the end of the afternoon all the teams had something visceral they can now take to people and validate.
Today was the day the teams presented their projects to sponsors, mentors, and peers. It was truly inspiring. Back in August my company, Idea Momentum, ran a prototyping workshop for them. It was one of a series that was part of their Summer Studio program.
For those of you unfamiliar with DFA, it’s a freaking cool program that was started at Northwestern University by a professor named Liz Gerber. It takes students from various majors like engineering, biology etc. and introduces them to user-centered design methods. The goal is to come up with solutions for pressing social issues.
Our workshop was towards the end of the process, so we were able to see all the ideas before they had a chance to really gel. So it was especially interesting to see how much the ideas all evolved for the better in such a short period.
For this Summer’s studio program, there were four teams with different assignments:
Reduce falls among the aging
Reduce obesity among young children through healthier eating habits
Reduce water waste at restaurants
Reduce unemployment among the disabled
If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking they’ve all bit off more than they can chew. Today’s event was a presentation of all four teams ideas for solutions. Not only did each group present great ideas, they presented plausible solutions.
These kids all came up with solutions that were easy to grasp and totally feasible. To me that’s at the heart of innovation. Otherwise, who cares if you can come up with big ideas to big problems if they’ll never get implemented. That’s just an exercise in futility.
Lastly, I don’t want to leave out Sami and Thea, who are doing an awesome job running the day to day and nitty gritty. Thanks for inviting us.