The Design Difference: Using Design to Conduct a Problem-Solving Workshop The Design Difference: Using Design to Conduct a Problem-Solving Workshop

The Design Difference: Using Design to Conduct a Problem-Solving Workshop

by Alissa Walker

February 2, 2011

In addition to Jackson, the organizers were careful to bring together an extremely diverse group of designers and non-designers, ranging from residents of Brownsville who could offer the most personal accounts of what has worked in the past, to Japanese residents who might be able to bring an outside perspective from another culture. Five countries were represented, with live translation bridging any language barriers. "I think the two critical aspects of this charrette was that each participant had direct experience working with community of need, so there was a great sense of humility to balance the optimism," says Casey. "In addition, each participant knew that this event was part of a longer journey and conversation."

Human-Centered Design

Turning Ideas Into Action

But perhaps the most important part of the charrette was a built-in dedication to follow through that might manage to transcend the pitfalls designers face when working in underserved communities and developing nations. Instead of creating a series of fanciful computerized renderings, or grand ideas that needed funding, we created simple but detailed, visually-based initiatives that built upon the work of our established contacts at Brownsville Partnership and Common Ground. "Our instant gratification culture, which is largely manufactured by design, was shifted in this charrette," says Casey. "We were able to deeply understand the years of effort by the Brownsville Partnership, and could see how this charrette is part of a process, not its end point."

At the end of the day, we posted our concepts around the room, marveling at the range and diversity of ideas. Some of the same objectives had a dozen different ways to achieve them listed beneath. Some of the concepts were the same, but had completely different goals. Casey then went through and organized the concepts thematically, from transportation ideas to crowdsourcing projects. At the end of the day, the group had hundreds of ideas grouped into 27 concepts for Brownsville and five major themes. Each of the participants voted for their favorite ideas, which would then be consolidated and streamlined by Casey and Common Ground into actionable initiatives for Brownsville.

Thanks to Valerie Casey and the Japan Society, you can download the all the charrette tools here to organize your own problem-solving workshop: Here's the Workshop Outline (PDF), the Brainstorming Map (PDF), and the Concept Worksheet (PDF).

In part three, we'll see the concepts that were prototyped for Brownsville and give you more information about how you can lend your time and services to the initiatives.

Read all three stories in the series here.

Photos by Ayumi Sakamoto

Recently on GOOD
Sign up to receive the best of GOOD delivered to your inbox each and every weekday
The Design Difference: Using Design to Conduct a Problem-Solving Workshop