design

Design thinking will make your team more democratic

Originally posted on Medium 

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We often talk about design thinking in terms of generating creative and user-centered insights and solutions. Less often do we talk about design thinking as a way to align and empower teams and individual contributors. Despite best intentions, teams can revert to hierarchies and groupthink, instead of enabling equal participation and representation of people and ideas around the table. Avoiding these traps is possible through thoughtful facilitation and setting of expectations.

Here’s three ways you can use design thinking to make your team more democratic. (more…)

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So, you want to be a design thinker…

Originally posted on Medium

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Everyone can be a designer, but not everyone is a Designer. What’s the difference, and why should you care?

Design thinking is everywhere. Corporations are tripping over each other trying to adopt it; consulting firms are in a race to acquire design shops;universities are adding it to coursework; and the Facebook group I moderate that started as a few people interested in social innovation design floods my notifications with activity and join requests.

On one end of the design spectrum are the students, innovators, and entrepreneurs reading about this design race, and attending online courses, in-person bootcamps, and design sprints. They’re trying to figure out how to apply design thinking to their work, or how to get a job in it.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the trained Designers. They’ve dedicated long careers to visual, experience, industrial, product, and other forms of design. They have MFAs and BAs in a Design discipline. The thing everyone else is scrambling to learn more about and do, they live and breathe every day, and they don’t add “thinking” or “human-centered” to it to make it real. And no, their job is not just about making things look good. (more…)

The Design Resources You Need

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Photo by Jeff Sheldon via Unsplash.com. It’s on the resource list!

“Design thinking,” “human-centered design,” or just “design” is becoming so popular we can’t keep up. A few years ago, I had to explain why design is important; now, there’s non-stop questions about how to learn more. There’s so many great courses, toolkits, readings, and online tools for design that we decided to mobilize the collaborative power of the Internet to consolidate them into one master list. Whether you’ve just heard about this whole design thing, or you’re a design master looking for some new exercises or visual tools, this Google doc is a great place to start. And it’s open, so please add your favorite resources!

What Jury Dury Taught Me About Government Innovation

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Photo of long voting line via NY Daily News

Originally posted on Medium. 

I left my California beach town vacation early to return to frozen New York for the democratic tradition and right of jury duty. For two days, I sat in a stale room with intermittent wifi with over 100 citizens from across socio-economic backgrounds. Unfortunately, what should’ve been a privileged and proud citizen experience turned out to be a futile, inefficient, and outdated process. I say this not to diminish the importance of diverse citizen juries, but to acknowledge the frustration I saw and heard from my fellow citizens in the room, and experienced myself. At the end of the second day, my peers and I cheered and sighed in relief as we heard that we are free from serving on a jury for the next several years. I was at once thrilled that I was done with what was a dreaded and annoying process, and saddened that most citizens would leave the court house with even less confidence or interest in their government.

“As a country, we haven’t invested in or changed the ways we engage with democracy; we’re interacting with 20th century institutions in the 21st century.”

A graduate student in public policy, I’ve been involved with government since high school. What struck me as I sat in the jury room is that while I’ve interacted with the government in many ways as an employee, student, and engaged citizen, for many in the room, this is one of the only times they’ll interact with the government this year, and they were left sorely disappointed in how it functions. (more…)

We Can Design the Future of Wearables for Social Good

“The best way to predict the future is to design it.” – Buckminster Fuller

Image: keoni101/Flickr

There is a future for wearable technology beyond the Apple Watch, and it can be for social good. On March 31, 2015, nearly 40 participants came together for Technology Salon New York City where we discussed the future of wearables in international development.

Here are my two summaries of the thought-provoking discussion: 

We Can Design the Future of Wearables for Social Good, Huffington Post

Development, data, and ethical design for our wearable futures, Wait…What? [co-author with Linda Raftree]

As we wrote, “The rapid evolution of technology urges us to think about how technology affects our relationships with our body, family, community, and society. What do we want those relationships to look like in the future? We have an opportunity, as consumers, makers and planners of wearables for the international context to view ourselves as stakeholders in building the future opportunities of this space. Wearables today are where the Internet was during its first five mainstream years. Now is the perfect time to put our stake in the ground and create the future we wish to exist in.”

Journal Publication on Empathy in International Security

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The latest issue of The Journal of Culture, Language and International Security includes an article by me on Cultivating Empathy and Internal Awareness for International Security Actors. As Robert Jervis said, “The ability to see the world and oneself as others do is never easy and failures of empathy explain a number of foreign policy disasters.”

Check out the issue here (PDF) and learn more about the Journal and Institute for the Study of Culture and Language here.

Why I Chose an MPA Program

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Columbia University

“The path is made by walking,” writes poet Antonio Machado. My path has certainly been a winding one–leading from Capitol Hill to a military analysis think tank, from ed-tech in India to a design school in New York. Two weeks ago, I began my newest endeavor–graduate school. A Master in Public Administration degree wasn’t always part of the plan, but after accounting for my experiences and interests over the years, it now seems like it was inevitable.

I’ve been interested in public service and international affairs since childhood, but as I made a shift towards the world of social entrepreneurship after college (which I explained in this essay two years ago) I became determined to pursue an MBA. Business school has become the graduate school of choice for those working in social enterprise. The good and bad (and expensive) reasons to attend any graduate school aside, the thinking goes that a strong understanding of business will enable better business models and management for social change initiatives. As you’ll see on this blog and others, there is a lot of truth to that notion, and many smart, impactful social entrepreneurs with an MBA.

But while working with social businesses in India and New York, I was continually struck by my own lack of knowledge about socioeconomics, despite a BA in Political Science. And I saw how business and its tools–without a dedication to iterating on theories of social change and understanding socioeconomic dynamics–cannot alone solve the complex problems we face. As I explain in this Huffington Post article, “a social entrepreneur can run the most transparent, well-managed, profitable social enterprise in the world, and still not be solving the social problem their business is founded upon.” Furthermore, after seeing social enterprises in action, I realized that policy and social justice, and integration of social initiatives with policy change, is more important than ever. (more…)