Making IS the conference #BIF2015

The focus of the conference today was on Action Collabs – that is, small group sessions where you work through the design thinking process, starting by listening to stories to help identify what the actual problems are, then using a variety of techniques to try to come up with creative solutions for the problem. More info is available on the ISKME website:

This morning I grabbed a seat at the front of the room so that I could easily see the screen. I had no idea that I was sitting at a table that would soon be filled with students from the Ever Forward Club from Oakland.

In many ways, I was totally out of my element. I very much could not relate to what the youth in on my table were experiencing. I don’t even have the US cultural context to help me better understand (there was an occasional language barrier issue – I’m just not at all away of the culture).  That being said, it was definitely a rewarding solution.

Listening to the speakers tell there stories, and sorting through the key ideas to identify problem areas provided my first sense of disconnection. What I saw as the biggest problem ‘the need for emotional support systems‘ was not at the forefront in the minds of the students. The students were much more concerned with ‘violence around the school and community‘. It really spoke to how those of us who are generating solutions are not necessarily aware of what the problem priorities really are.

The next step in the process had us talking about parallels in other environments. This was actually a huge challenge for our group. We had too many students and not enough other voices – which meant that we didn’t have a lot of different parallels. Our group did come up with a few different ideas for parallel – support by military for personnel at home, support at refugee camps, the #itgetsbetter campaign. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough here that enough of the group could relate to – such that I don’t thing it inspired much creation.

In the afternoon, we then started with physical prototyping of our idea. This is where things got really interesting. The students had come up with an idea of a peer type support network. They wanted a way to know other who are going through the same things they are, and they want to connect with peers who might help them talk about their issues.

In the end we came up with a ‘solution’ – “It’s a website that pairs up individuals with common problems in life that offers group or one-on-one support in a virtual and physical space”. We built a physical space that was safe (‘the spot’). We also created some form of survey. We talked about having wrist bands that helped to identify people with common problems, avoiding name tags as some people would want to participate without sharing their names.

In the end, I didn’t necessarily make any new professional connections; however, I did grow. I learned just a little bit about the experiences of some of the kids who are part of the Ever Forward Club. Thanks everyone on team ‘the Spot’. It was a great learning experience for me.

I also want to highlight that at Big Ideas Fest, that Making IS the conference. What I mean by that is that making activities are not just concurrent sessions at the conference, rather, it is integrated into the conference itself. We learn about the design thinking process, not just by hearing about it, but rather by doing it. So today I learned more about the action collab process, by practicing it.

They also had some top notch speakers today. I wish I could talk to every single one of the presenters. Unfortunately, some of them came in, gave speech, and left. I always find it unfortunate when that happens at conferences. I really wish that all the speakers spent more time engaged with the conference and actually integrating with the conversations that our happening around their presentations.

2 responses

  1. scottx5 Avatar

    This sounds really interesting Rebecca. I’m interested in how to design a responsive process into health care here. So far no matter which door I try my concerns are detached from me, de-humanized and coded into a neutralized “response category.” Maybe we have too much faith in designing things?

    Good look at the Alberta care system–what I experience is the same


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