Personal Weekly Reflection

Jay Huh
Jay Huh
Jan 15 · 53 min read

Week 01 — Introduction (19.01.14 ~ 01.20)

The second semester began with the new project with Microsoft. We had a chance to meet Margaret Price(Principal Design Strategist) and Ben Boesel (Device Design Studio), who is responsible for this project at MS through online. There were some technical issues for the first time but the conversation went quite well. We spent some time introducing ourselves individually, and then we could hear about their intent and explanation.

talking with Magaret and Ben (Jan 14th, 2019)

Brief: Empathy at Scale

“The mission is to operationalize how to engage with the super wicked design challenges to create desirable futures.

The brief topic is Empathy at Scale, which is quite broad and abstract but interesting. I could come up with several ambiguous ideas when I first heard the brief. I thought that Empathy is the thing that ties people together to a society. Because it makes us understand and respect others, and help us maintain our relationship. We feel empathy to others when we have some similar experience. Also, as a design student who is interested in user-centered design, I believe empathizing is one of the most important abilities that designers should improve. Because design is oriented from users and designers should act as a representative of their voices, needs, and desires.

How can we create solutions using empathy?

How can we define desirable futures?

Team Activity — Understanding Members

Since this is the project for the whole semester, team collaboration could be a really important issue. We discussed our preferred working style, strengths and weaknesses, and goals on the project.

In general, three among four are inner processors who need more time alone to ponder on things before sharing with others. Also, we found out that we are all open to bringing up even small topics and making an active conversation about it before making a decision. Sometimes it might lead to disagreement or conflicts but we all agree with that active communication could finally lead us to an agreement. We could manage our team meeting style considering these characteristics.

For the skills of each team member, Saloni is good at getting feedback from others and asking questions. This is crucial for team working because we could have more chance to listen to others’ voices and consider other perspectives. She told us that she wants to improve time-managing skills. Carlie is strong at story-telling, and Khushi is capable to take care of details and visual design.

What team members said for my strength is bringing up broad ideas, listening and paying attention to others’ idea, and prototyping in high quality. Since I could prepare various ideas but I felt my English communication skill is not enough to explain in details, I wanted to improve this skill so that I could contribute more to our team.

What does it mean? — Understanding the Topic

I spent some time to look through the provided resources. The points that I pointed out were:

Super-wicked problems (climate change) are impossible to deal without each individual’s active participation. How we induce/resonate people to change their behaviors by using empathy in scale?

  • Even though we could get information or indirectly experience many global problems, it is difficult to empathize them.
  • Empathy conjures up active engagement strong empathy changes our behavior. How can we change people’s behavior? How can we shape a story that will resonate with people?
  • Designed product * Interaction by user = User Experience function over time → Sustainability

About Empathy

Research on empathy (Jan 20th, 2019)

We conducted some research on empathy and shared together.

Empathy vs Sympathy

Empathy is the ability to experience the feelings of another person. It goes beyond sympathy, which is caring and understanding for the suffering of others.

Learning/teaching Empathy

There were some controversial on whether empathy is the thing that can be learnable. There was interesting research about Aibo, a Japanese robot dog toy. It was so popular and famous but some psychologists worried about this: children began to think dogs are the things that can always be fixed after it is broken while playing with this robot toy. Children sometimes treated real dogs like Aibo, hitting, kicking, or even throwing. This research showed the importance of teaching how to sympathize animals, from the early ages.

Triggers of Empathy

People do not always feel empathy with others. Then, what triggers empathy? Shared or similar experience usually induce people to feel empathy with others. In other words, people feel empathy when they feel the connections.

Self Empathy

It is also important to point out that people also feel empathy for themselves. And it is quite strong. People tend to change their behavior actively when they actually feel something, especially negative effects.

17 UN Sustainable Development Goals

Ideation on 17 UNSDGs (Jan 18th, 2019)

We spent some time on 17 topics of UN SDGs to narrow down the areas. Based on the correlation with empathy and climate change, and our personal interests, we chose 7 topics among them. Then, we conducted ideation on each topic to explore what are the possibilities are there related to empathy and climate change. By mapping on the graph, we could understand the relationship with each topic and empathy & climate change.

Finally, we chose worker exploitation. We are touching upon how the social and the environmental cannot be de-linked, and that addressing one will affect the other. Capitalism, in its current shade, has been accused of being inherently exploitative and unsustainable, and also leads to the rising inequality of our present day. We hope to generate empathy towards labor workers as an exercise to demonstrate some of these themes.

Week 02 — Territory Mapping (19.01.21 ~ 01.27)

Narrowing down the scope

Territory Map Ideation (Jan 22th, 2019)
Territory Map 01 (Jan 22th, 2019)

We tried to focus on regional manufacturing labors. For the research purpose, we thought that regional labors have better accessibility than others. Also, considering Pittsburgh’s context, where a great mining industry existed, there seemed many resources that we could use.

Territory Map 01 (Jan 22th, 2019)

Then, we designed our territory map. After finding the stakeholders of the manufacturing industry, we explored what are the possibilities or challenges could be related to each stakeholder.

Because of the climate changes and shifting of the industry, many low-income workers have to move to other areas, which arises loss of shelter and migration. Since blue-collar workers are more likely to be affected by a lack of food, they are also suffering from resource scarcity and under-nutrition. A poor working condition could give negative effects to their health. International Labor Organization adopted just transition movement so that unions might able to transfer workers to more sustainable but there are still many barriers for them to actually handle this problem. These are the possibility that we found through our territory mapping.

HMW Question

Connection to SDGs

Connection to SDGs (Jan 24th, 2019)


After the presentation, we could get many feedbacks from Microsoft, professors, and cohorts;

  • More reasons for the topic: what is a blue color worker and why?
  • What might the target audience be: empathize between who and who?
  • What kind of actions are feasible?
  • What actions do you think would be feasible?
  • Available CMU resources: Anita, Charlee, Dylan, and Linda
  • Movie recommendation: I, Daniel Blake

My personal opinion, our topic couldn’t fully persuade others. The scope was not clear enough. We were not confident about the topic and this made us less confident. Also, we talked a lot about empathy and our process, but I felt like we summarized it too much, so we couldn’t have them follow us through the story.

The first thing we decided to do was taking some time individually to think about the project until Friday. Reframing what problem are we going to explore might be helpful. Why the question should be followed.

What did you learn this deliverable?

Designing the territory map was not easy, but it was a great activity for us to think about what is the most important point that we want to deal with. I think we could not make a clear territory map because we didn’t actually have a specific idea.

What are you most proud of?

It was so interesting to see how other teams went through with the same topic. Every team had its own perspective and idea, which was great. I felt proud of our cohorts.

What did your team do really well?

What we did well was that we opened our mind to others and got many feedbacks. The most important thing that we should do is to reframe our idea about empathy and the problem that we want to solve.

What did you question about your experience?

I was confused about how can we go through this topic since every member of our team didn’t feel confident about it. We should spend several days to decide whether we should stick to our original plan and go further or be open to other directions.

What changes or additions should your team make to the team contract?

The first thing we decided is to add to our team contract was a red, yellow, green card system for time efficiency. If anyone on the team has a red card about any decision, we wouldn’t go ahead with it. It would be up to the green member to convince others to an orange, but if they hold on to the red, we don’t move ahead. This method might make us spend more time making a decision, but help us to be more confident about our ideas.

Personal Development

We each spent some time to develop our topic further. Since our idea was started with a group of people(blue collar workers) not the problem itself, I thought it is essential for us to define what is the ultimate problem that we want to solve.

When defining the problem, what I believe was that we should find the problem that is caused by a lack of understanding or empathy between two groups. And it can be solved by changing people’s behaviors or attitude. Also, it should be a global problem. After reframing the direction that we should go, I realized that I could not find the possibility how to develop from ‘blue collar workers’ itself because the problems we found, such as low income or poor working condition, were things that cannot be solved in this way. Thus, I began to find other topics.

NIMBY Problems (Jan 25th, 2019)

Among the topics that we had discussed together, I found that NIMBY (Not In My Background) phenomenon is one of the great issues in recent days. According to research, this social problem usually happens when it comes to deciding new energy factories (nuclear power plant or wind power plant) or other facilities that are essential to solving the international or local issues. NIMBY is fundamentally the conflict between the host community and other groups, energy development actors or government, thus, it seemed to be suitable for our topic.

Based on this process, I developed an HMW question;

How might we encourage empathy between host communities and other actors to help them better understand each other’s stance so that they could reach an agreement which is beneficial for the whole?

I felt really passionate about this topic and other team members also did, but it seemed like they are more interested in exploring the workers. I felt I should have developed this idea earlier so that we could easily change our direction. After a team meeting, we decided to narrow down the workers into service workers such as child cares or cleaners.

Ideation on Service Workers (Jan 25th, 2019)
Research Plan (Jan 25th, 2019)

After we conducted ideation about the types of service workers, we made some plans about how to start research. We wrote down some contacts that we could reach out and questions that we should ask them.

Week 03 — Exploratory Research Plan (19.01.28 ~ 02.03)

Booth Game

We played a booth game during the class to increase team collaboration skills. I participated as a Kirk Kim, whose main goal is to win the competition by attracting judges. Even though it was just a game, it provided me with a chance to think about what is my and my team members’ goal and how can we achieve all of them.

Interview with Gatekeepers — Francis and Kristin

To get to know more information about labor and low-income space, we reached out to Francis Carder, a CMU Ph.D. in Transition Design, who has worked with local labor unions and communities around labor and food challenges. We also spoke with CMU Professor, Kristin Hughes, who works with members of at-risk communities to address complex social problems.

(Left to Right) Francis Carter, Kristin Hughes

From Francis, we could learn the struggles of labor workers in the context of unions. Also, we talked about the replacement of service workers by automated machines. For example, working in a fast food store was a common way to start a job for teenagers. However, the positions have been automated throughout the years, which makes younger generations difficult to start their job careers.

Kristin gave us insights about how should we manage this topic. While talking with her, we realized that we did not have a shared understanding of empathy even within a team. Since we all have a different background, we all have a different perspective toward workers. Kristin recommended us to talk about empathy and how do we think about this project as a group. As she said, we also felt needs to share our thinking.

Why? — Questioning Our Direction

Why Service Workers, not homeless or other poor people?

I personally spent some time thinking about ‘why low-income service workers?’, which led me to think about the specific features of them.

  • Trying to work and make living but suffering from the financial problem: they have will to stand up, but no chance to learn new skills.
  • Even though they are important people to support society, but they suffer from visible & invisible discrimination from society: people don’t recognize their importance, which makes them treat service workers inequal and disrespectful.

Redefining Empathy

After the interview, we started to talk about our experiences with low-income service workers, with a focus on experiences we’d had that made us feel empathetic.

Ideation on Specific Problems of Low-wage Service Workers (Feb 1, 2019)
Our Definition of Empathy (Feb 1, 2019)

Next, we revisited some of the key objectives in order to achieve consensus. First, we discussed the need to further define the type of empathy we believe will be of value in our project. Through research, we had identified 4 types of empathy that build upon one another: self, cognitive, emotional and compassionate.

  1. Self-Empathizing: Self-love and awareness; this is needed in order to draw similarities and biases between yourself and others.
  2. Cognitive: this is rational empathy; reminding oneself to take another person point of view.
  3. Emotional: You feel someone else’s pain; like crying during a movie when someone loses a family member.
  4. Compassionate: You take action to support people you have empathy for; this might be an advocacy group or a financial gift.

Since cognitive empathy is the basic starting point to build strong empathy, we focused on defining cognitive empathy. My definition was this;

Cognitive empathy is an imagination. It’s the process of imagining ourselves in others’ shoes.

I thought the way to make people feel empathy to others is letting them find the relationship between themselves and others. If the relationship is closer, empathy becomes stronger. We feel empathy for others — because we are all live animals / because we are humans / because we are same-sex / because we are from the same country / because we are similar age / or more. The more information we know about someone else, the more empathy we could feel. It’s about story-telling. (We also often feel empathy for a character of fiction.)

Research Planning

We developed a research plan that scopes down our problem to CMU. We targeted three different types of service workers, managers, experts, and service users(mainly students). We came up with the following 5 research objectives:

  1. Learn about the individuals professional/personal journey in order to recognize patterns.
  2. Understand the pain points of workers in their day-to-day routine to discover opportunities for empathy intervention.
  3. Understand where they feel an empathy gap and where empathy shows up in their lives in order to narrow down a group of “empathizers”.
  4. Gauge common hopes and concerns associated with their work to inform our narratives for the empathizers.
  5. Understand the current landscape of research around the minimum wage; the wage gap; skill training currently underway in order to communicate/augment it through our solution.

This weekend, we are each developing a research method (or set of questions) that will help us fulfill these objectives. Methodologies include user interviews, shadowing, emotion mapping, and love/breakup letters.

Week 04 — Conducting Research (19.02.04 ~ 02.10)

Designing Research Materials

Meeting outside (Feb 2, 2019)

Since the weather became warmer, we took a meeting outside. We got feedback about our research direction and materials. Thus, we could finalize the preparation for research: interview questions, appreciation/break up letters, and priorities sorting.

01. Worker Interview Questions

Interview questions for workers

02. Student Interview Questions

Interview questions for students

03. Appreciation/Break up Letters

Appreciation/Break up Letters for job and student

We designed our own appreciation/break up letters for job and student, respectively. In order to make the workers comfortable to fill out the form, we designed structures. It also helps us to get the information that we want.

04. Emotion Map & Priority Sorting

Priority cards and graphs

To understand where workers feel an empathy gap and gauge common hopes and concerns associated with their work to inform our narratives for the empathizers, we designed this method.

Conducting Research

There might be an empathy gap between students and service workers in the campus.

Interview with Joe & Jason (Feb 5, 2019) / Interview with Davon (Feb 6, 2019)

Before reaching out to interviewees, we set this assumption by ourselves. Then, We conducted research on several service workers on our campus — two pipe workers, two food workers, one bus driver, and one cleaner. Also, we interviewed 5 different students and one expert who had experience in organizing unions.

While doing the research, I was quite surprised that most of them are satisfied with their work and relationship with students. Since CMU is one of the most privileged universities in the world and students are highly educated from their very young, they are generally polite toward service workers.

Research Synthesis #01 (Feb 9, 2019)
Research Synthesis #02 (Feb 9, 2019)

Then, we spent our whole weekends synthesizing and figuring out the insights from our research. Honestly, we had different perspectives toward our research and had difficulties on narrowing down our focus groups and defining problems.

These are the several insights that I would like to focus on:

  • Service workers are quite satisfied with their work, pay, and relationship with students.
  • There are gaps between service workers and their supervisors — because supervisors are usually not involved in unions.
  • Students are polite but indifferent to service workers. There are no meaningful conversation or relationship between them.
Research Synthesis #03 (Feb 9, 2019)

We narrowed down to two ideas — the gap between service workers and mid-level supervisor and lack of relationship between service workers and students. However, we failed to make an agreement on choosing one of them.

I thought the needs for understanding and communication is much larger in the relationship between workers and their supervisors because they have to meet each other inevitably in their workplace. In contrast, I wasn’t fully convinced about the reason why students and workers should share empathy. Furthermore, our research showed that workers do not feel any emotional gap with students.

But I thought that it is also interesting to regard CMU students as potential policymakers or decision makers, who can affect a huge influence on service workers in the future. Which means, in order to deal with socio-economic inequality, we should focus on changing their thinkings and bias toward minimum income service workers. Thus, it might be meaningful to try to instill empathy with minimum workers into them.

Week 05 — Discovery and Exploratory Research Synthesis Presentation (19.02.11 ~ 02.17)


Presentation (Feb 13, 2019)

01. Why Low Wage Service Workers

We are focusing on economic inequality. In the United States, the wealthiest 20% of U.S households hold 89% of the country’s wealth. Lower-income workers are a large and significant part of society and the economy. However, since the 1980s, unfair work practices, and a growing income gap have left workers dangerously vulnerable.

02. Problem At Scale

We’re seeing these problems playing out on a variety of scales. One of them is in our backyard.

03. Territory of Exploration

We started by looking at the two ends of the socio-economic spectrum.

We focused on the campus for this research because it is a microcosm of the relationship that we are looking for. W had a hypothesis that there was a lack of opportunity for interaction and hence a lack of understanding.

04. Research Process

05. Insights

06. Opportunity for Empathy

Through the research, we could design the diagram that shows the relationship between three groups; management, service workers, and consumers.

The problems lay in the conflict of interest between workers and management work in a power structure in their relationship makes it hard to intervene with empathy. Tying back to where we began there seems to be more opportunity with the consumers who can empathize with the service workers due to the power that consumers have with businesses. Workers and consumers can build solidarity together for greater influence on management than workers and unions alone.

07. Design Imperatives

08. HMW


We spent really much time on the discussion to make an agreement on our direction while preparing for the presentation. I could realize how difficult to manage different opinions. Since each member had a completely different interpretation about the result of the research we conducted — Some of us wanted to focus on the relationship between workers and management, while others saw the more possibility between workers and students.

Even two days before the presentation, we were so confused about whether we should conduct more research to find concrete problems or not. But, I personally believed we already did enough research and it is up to us how wisely reorganize the insights to support our ideas. Thus, I tried to figure out the way to integrate all of our ideas into one, and finally, we could decide our stakeholders into three groups.

It was a great start because, before that, we limited ourselves to two stakeholder groups. Based on this, we could build our narratives for the presentation in a day — honestly, we could finish our preparation right before the presentation so that we could not even assign parts for presentation. In contrary to our worries, we could get positive feedback from MS, professors, and cohorts. Even though there are still a lot of vague areas that we should deal with throughout the project, I am satisfied with the second presentation.

Week 06 — (19.02.18 ~ 02.24)

Workshop with Liz Sanders

Now it’s time to think about generative research plans. Thankfully, Liz Sanders, the participatory design researcher, visited us and we could think about the various options of methods. With her research materials, we could plan the general structure of our research.

Liz Sanders — Participatory Design Special Session (Feb 15, 2019)

It was also interesting to listen to other groups’ thinkings. I was so surprised at the fact that each group has so different opinions and ways of using the materials. Most of the groups used various blocks or toys to visualize their stories, but we went through the comparatively simple way by using the method cards. We decided to use persona building as our main generative research.

Liz Sanders — Participatory Design Special Session (Feb 15, 2019)

After we planned our generative research goals and methods, we spent some time to set our goals of this research. Thus, We tried to make the concrete questions that we want to explore.

Generatie Research Goals:


  • What specific problems exist between workers and management?
  • What is workers’ mental model of management? And of unions?
  • How do workers think about consumers?
  • What do workers wish consumers knew about them?
  • What do workers wish consumers knew about their job?
  • What are the workers’ needs and challenges?
  • What is the one way workers think they could use help? And one way they would help people?
  • What do they think community looks like?
  • How sensitive is the management of worker challenges?


  • What do consumers feel their responsibility is towards businesses/role?
  • What are the challenges that workers face?
  • What is the consumers mental model of the service structure? And of unions?
  • In an ideal world, what would the relationship between the workers and the consumer?
  • In an ideal world, what could be the relationship between consumers and a company?


  • How sensitive is the management of worker challenges?

Ideas About Research Methods:

After setting the questions, we did a quick brainstorming session for finding the best tools or methods to find the answer to the questions using generative research methods. We came up with many ideas but after getting feedback from professors and cohorts — for example, introvert people could feel uncomfortable to participate in puppets/role play methods — we could narrow down to these methods.

Developing the activities (Feb 23, 2019)

1st Activity — Persona Building

Ask workers to think about their, customers’ and managers’ motivations and challenges. This activity might include personality or interests, use a character of management to create a story to learn about their mental models.

2nd Activity — Community Reflection

Let them think about their own community and what they can do for the communities and what the communities can do for them.

Pilot Design with Chen

Pilot Test with Chen (Feb 23, 2019)

To understand whether our research method works well or not, we asked for a pilot test to Chen, a 2nd-year MDes student. It was my first time to developing the research tool by myself and test on someone. Through this process, I realized that it is really difficult to design the research methods that could provide answers to our questions. But, on the other hand, it was quite exciting to see that someone follows my direction and narratives and creates something that I intended to do.

Thankfully, Chen gave us a lot of great insights and feedback, which was so helpful for us. Firstly, she said it is difficult to put herself in the shoes of a customer or manager. Also, she said that her impressions and stereotypes of these people are easier to create. Trying to imagine me in their place and empathize with them is tough. The nature of a service workers’ job is fast and cheap — can’t expect a customer to give time to build a relationship. More food items you promote, you get a higher share of the money. However, this conflicts with customers health. For Activity 2, she suggested that dividing what they have done and what they wish to do is much better to find out the information that we want.

After revising the tools, we went out to find workers in CMU.

Pilot Design with CMU Food Custodial workers

CMU Food Custodial Workers (Feb 23, 2019)

We could find two custodial workers and they actively participated in our research. It was quite surprising that they are understanding the other groups’ perspective well — customers and management. Generally, we could find our research works quite well. While talking with them, we could also learn that they still have communication problems with their management, which was one of the important findings from our previous interview research. Also, through the research, we could realize that they think management only takes care of their customers, not the employees.

After several pilot tests, I realized that our tools should be developed. For example, the persona-building workshop gave us insights on how people think about the relationship system between service workers, customers, and management, however, there is no way to learn about their ideal relationship. Maybe we could add additional workshop after that, by letting them draw or make a collage of ideal relationship between workers, customers, and management. But in general, it was quite exciting for me to conduct generative research.

Week 07 — (19.02.25 ~ 03.03)

Pilot Design with Cat & Gautham

Pilot Test with Cat & Gautham (Feb 25, 2019)

We could do a pilot design test on other team members — Cat and Gautham helped us. While doing the workshop with them, we could develop the third activity — using cards to trigger more creative ideas for idea future relationship or community.

The Third Activity — Ideal Future Cards

Inspired by the future cards of Stuart Candy, we designed our own cards. In order to let participants feel comfortable to generate ideas that they could not have thought about before, this activity encourages them to choose the future keywords(orange) and things or mediums(blue) that they want and make a full sentence based on them. The last third card(gray) will be given to participants to write down any behaviors that they would like to do for their communities among what they have written in the 2nd Activity.

While making these cards, it also helped us to think about what kinds of designs or interventions we could design. At the first time, I tried to think about the idea that uses a specific technology. However, I soon realized that it does not have to use technology sometimes — maybe it could be an off-line service or even campaign. It made me more open to a variety of mediums.

Workshop for Service Workers & Gen-Z Students

We could finally do the workshop for workers and students. It was not easy to invite them, especially workers, because they have a really hectic schedule. While gathering them, we could learn most workers have two jobs to sustain their living. After spending quite much time on looking for workers who are available to participate in our workshop, we could gather four participants — even though one canceled right before it started.

Research Workshop with Service Workers(left) and Students(right) (Mar 1~2, 2019)
Research Workshop with Service Workers (Mar 1, 2019)

It was fun, and while doing the workshop I could learn several things. The most important thing is that it is really crucial to provide time to let them explain what they have done. In the first workshop with workers, we could not do it well. Since we prepared 3 different activities and they could only spend an hour, we tried to give more time to them to think more about the activity. It was good, however, I felt like we could not learn much enough from them. Also, after the workshop, it was quite difficult to understand their intent. This helped us to change our point on the second workshop with undergraduate students — to provide more time to share their ideas with other participants and us. It was helpful for us to better understand their intent and deep thinkings that didn’t expose.

Research Synthesis

Then, we spent some time for synthesizing the activities.

Research Synthesis (Mar 2, 2019)

Firstly, we extracted the affinities or conflicts connections between the three stakeholders(workers, consumers, and managers) made by participants. It was interesting to see that workers and consumers have similar views and they understand well on other stakeholders’ challenges and motivations. The biggest problems we found were a bad work-life balance, lack of agency, undervalued as an employee & person, and challenging teamwork.

Then, through the second activity, we could learn what kinds of behaviors that people are willing to do for their community. We could group them with these categories — they are willing to share information, help kids, build solidarity, provide financial support, and spend more time for others. They want their communities to provide an opportunity to grow, understand & respect, and provide security.

In the third activity, we realized that workers usually picked up these keywords — equal, united, accommodating, cooperative, and flourishing. Otherwise, students picked up happy, supportive, and harmonious cards. Through this, we could understand the difference between their perspective towards the future. However, I thought that this third activity was not effective to learn more about the participants’ thinkings. Rather than that, it seemed like the thing we should do for generating ideas.

Research Synthesis (Mar 2, 2019)
Research Synthesis (Mar 2, 2019)

Based on this, we tried to set our approach and generate high-level ideas. While doing the research, I realized that each worker does not know well about their co-workers because they do not have enough chance to know each other. Thus, I tried to think about how can we encourage those interactions. For example, we could provide a rest space where they could take a rest together or prepare before they shift.

Also, in the context of school, a big organization, I thought there might be an opportunity to let workers use the resources. For example, we could encourage them to join student clubs together based on their interests. Or we could also design a platform for workers to learn skills from students.

Week 08 — (19.03.04 ~ 03.10)

Generative Research Presentation

01. Recapping

We started with mentioning our scope and HMW statement. We thought that solidarity as a required bridge for inequality. We are trying to use solidarity as a measure to determine if empathy has occurred. The dignity of labor that covers fair work practices, but also respect and security.

02. Research Overview

Then we shared our generative research goals and overview. We designed three different activities — persona building, community reflection, and ideal future cards.

03. Research Process and Synthesis

From each activity, we could learn many things. First activity showed that a number of affinities lay between management and service workers, such as wanting to make the business better or making consumers happy. We also confirmed through this exercise that most conflicts also lay between workers and management.

In the second activity, we could learn that workers do a lot for their community but they feel that the community does not do enough for them. Also, the ‘community’ behaviors of the two groups (consumers and workers) were distinctly different and sometimes complementary — consumers want to help others more and workers hope to get more resources.

Lastly, the third activity did not give us the kinds of results that we expected, but one striking observation was that workers and consumers chose quite different types of future cards.

04. Insights

Then, we could extract three insights from the learnings of the research.

  1. When we chose low-income service workers, we were focussed on income disparity. However, after we talked to people, we found that money was a motivation, but they were more concerned with the poor work culture. Thus, by fostering valuable relationships, our solution could make workers happier contributors and ensure more dignity in the workplace.
  2. Through our conversations, we learned that decisions are often made around them but not with them, and as multiple people told us, they don’t take their input. So there was an opportunity for our solution to facilitate a greater sense of agency and value at the workplace.
  3. The insight was about our consumers — we saw that their hectic schedules prevented them from having the bandwidth to make connections with this new group of people. Thus, we found an opportunity to create alternate ways to share commonalities between employees and customers.

05. Two Personas

Then, we shared two personas that we developed through our research.

Zahara is a cashier working in the food sector, and as a result, has built enough of a relationship with customers that she sees day in and day out, to know what they want. Customers give her feedback because she’s who they meet– they have no time to escalate it. But no one at the company is listening to her, and in turn, to the customer.

Nathan has a tough enough life balancing his high career aspirations with his desire to make social connections and maintain important relationships at this time in his life. He expects value for his money, though, in good food options and quality service. If he doesn’t get it, he gives feedback to the employee.

06–1. Concept 1: Encouraging Consumer-Worker Co-operative

A platform to make participation in collaborative action easy and attractive through mutually beneficial interaction

We started with thinking about how could existing motivations of each member of the triad towards enabling empathy. The consumer wants fresh healthy food, the worker wants to feel empowered and equal, and the manager needs to tend to profits for the sustainability of the business. But these need not be mutually exclusive interests.

A multi-stakeholder cooperative is one in which multiple groups of people have ownership. While their investment can be unequal, it is essentially 1 member-1 vote, eliminating the power dynamics that inhibit empathy, and encouraging agency and participation. Cooperatives rely on conventional participation. This concept uses technology to breathe new life into them through easy and rewarding ways for customers and employees to engage & act on shared community goals, generating empathy.

06–2. Concept 2: Harnessing Community Data to Build Solidarity

An internal tool that aggregates community data for employees and management to organize and prioritize acts of solidarity

This idea is about an internal tool that aggregates community data on employees and the greater community to identify and organize actions that can be taken to show support.

For example, a recent poll shows that Jewish members of the squirrel hill community feel marginalized and there have been reports of an increasing # of anti-Semitic crimes. By using this platform, a manager can get this data about the community their business is in and then and actually see that a majority of their customers are Jewish. By comparing that % with employees, managers can prioritize efforts to support the Jewish community — and set up a campaign that enables employees to come up with an idea to show support. In this case, the employees have decided to add a new kosher option to their menu to show the Jewish community they value their business. This action creates solidarity between the customers and employees and sparks conversations between the two.

Week 10 — (19.03.18 ~ 03.24)

I couldn’t fully participate in this week because I had an interview for my summer internship. But I could follow up after I came back.

Concept Exploration

Since the concepts that came out of our generative research phase were intentionally high level ‘approaches’, we spent more time getting into the details this week. First, though, we began the week with a recap exercise. Since this brief has so many moving parts, we’ve found it helpful at every phase to recap how we got to where we are, and where we’d like to go from there.

Framing and Futuring

In our recap, we revisited our problem statement, our definition of solidarity as a manifestation of empathy, our UNSDGs and specific goals within them that aligned with our research. We wanted to situate all this within a time frame to clearly ideate along what we were working towards, and for this, we discussed a similar exercise conducted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Framing our solution space (Mar 19, 2019)

We then used the CLA method (Inayatullah, 2005) to deconstruct our current state by incorporating what we’ve learned through primary and secondary research, and then worked on the ideal future state based on this.

This method was helpful in tackling a cross-section of our current state problem to get to a holistic picture of the root cause which we then used to throw up articulation of a desired or ‘preferable’ future (in place of the ‘probable’ that might result from a trajectory along the status-quo). For example, the devaluing of workers– which we heard in our primary research– is a systemic problem that comes from not only surface causes of power hierarchies and poor communication, but also goes down to the capitalist, extractive way of doing business and the method by which value is attached to different types of labor.

Concept Generation

We decided to explore multiple early concepts before deciding on anything, covering the range of pragmatic to blue-sky in our exploration. This was helpful to understand our boundary of play, and we then discussed those concepts against all the criteria which we would need to satisfy with our final concept.

Roses, Buds, and Thorns

Analyzing our concepts with a rose/bud/thorn framework was helpful in surfacing themes and concerns that we could use to refine our next level of concepts. Some of our themes related to how we can bring about empathy– like leveraging location or physical space, but some were more of an empathic approach in themselves– like enabling participation, or workers as a source of knowledge, that arose out of opportunities that our research pointed us to.

Generating and synthesizing concept (May 23th, 2019)

We then did a critique to see which ideas to develop further, and what would be the best way to flesh them out into whole concepts that we could get feedback on. Next week we’ll be focusing on rapid iterations, nailing down key components of our solution as we go.

Week 11 — (19.03.25 ~ 03.31)

Concept Exploration

1. Finding Commonalities

Through this idea, I tried to think about how to find commonalities between workers and consumers, how to show backstage workers’ contribution, and how to provide a platform to show appreciations or reviews.

2. Gamification

Digital Stamps (Mar 27th, 2019)

After we decided to develop a co-op concept, I took part to think about how can we motivate consumers who are members of the co-ops. According to our research, we found out that the most important thing that consumers generally want is reasonable price and service. I tried to develop my idea to use this as a motivation.

If the co-ops make policy to encourage to decrease the use of plastic bags, the most important thing is how many consumers actually follow the policy with action. By using a digital stamp and giving discount coupons to them, I thought consumer members at co-op could be encouraged. To develop this idea, we could think about what other tangible rewards that they can receive other than discount coupons.

Carbon Consumption (Mar 30th, 2019)

After getting feedback, I also develop another gamification idea to motivate consumers. In this concept, I used AR(Augmented Reality) to provide additional information related to the food that they are going to buy — how much carbon or waste that their choice could make, how eco-friendly choice did they make. By providing detail information, consumers could well be informed to make a better decision. After they finish their shopping, images will be shown that represent the total carbon/waste consumption. Through this, consumers could be aware of their contribution to the co-op’s policy.

Generally, I could get positive feedback about this concept. Especially, the idea of providing visual feedback that represents their own impact seemed to be a good way to motivate consumers to actively change their behaviors.

Using Emerging Technology

Possibilities of tech (Mar 28th, 2019)

During the working session in Research methods for design class, we could learn more about the technology and how can we apply to our concept. Since we have to analyze customers’ notes or feedback, human language processing could be used. Then, based on that, we could generate data through crowdsourcing and categorize them into specific ways using machine learning. We also expect to generate insights and provide predictions of the future. To share information more smoothly, we talked about Airdrop — the technology that uses Wi-fi and Bluetooth.

This work session was helpful for us to think about what kinds of technology we could apply. Even though we don’t know much about them, Jeff, a second-year student and TA of this class helped us by explaining in details.

Getting Feedback about Concepts

Sharing feedbacks on our concept (Mar 30th, 2019)

After each member got feedback about her/his concept, we shared together.

Feedback From Consumers

The most important thing for consumers is how can we motivate them. While doing the test with workers, we learned that workers generally think consumers do not have motivations to actively participate in co-ops. We find it is important to think about tangible benefits for consumers. Another way to motivate consumers is by providing visual feedback about their action. It will show their impact on co-ops in different levels which makes them realize that their action is crucial.

Feedback From Workers

We realized that CMU workers do not see themselves as part of the platform. They sometimes do not fully understand their goals in relation to the whole business. Also, we could learn that there is no segregation between consumers and workers, which is a good thing.

Feedback From Management

Managers gave us feedback about how to make connections between reportees and data. Also, we could learn that it is important to connect personal interests and data. To develop our concept, we could think about using data to discover common connections.

JTBD(Jobs to be don)

JTBD (Mar 30th, 2019)

To develop our concept further, we spent some time to think about JTBD for service workers and consumers. It is a method that allows us to make it clear what goals should be tackled for each stakeholder. We came up with the main JTBD and secondary JTBD by using the form of Action + Object + Context.

Service Workers

  1. Do my job well autonomously / Clearly understand individual goals in relation to business
  2. Contribute ideas to positively impact business
  3. Be rewarded for contributions
  4. Have positive relationships at work
  5. Seek growth in personal or professional

Conscious Workers

  1. Buy food that resonates with their values / Discover feel-good aspects of business
  2. Get benefits for customer loyalty
  3. Contribute feedback that is acted on

Setting these goals to cover, we decided to integrate and develop our concept and wireframes. I thought that this method helped us make concrete goals. Through this exercise, we could think about what each stakeholder want to achieve and how can we help them to do that.

Week 12 — (19.04.01 ~ 04.07)

Initial Wireframe

Based on the insights from the feedback, we developed our initial wireframe in a more concrete way. Since we have three different stakeholders, we designed three different flows of wireframes, even though most of the screens are overlapped. After designing a paper wireframe, we refined them into a low fidelity digital wireframe to get feedback from the East End Coop.

Initial Wireframe (Apr 1th, 2019)
Initial Wireframe (Apr 1th, 2019)

While developing a wireframe, I could come up with several questions. The most difficult thing for me is how can we define our product — is it a platform for sharing stories just like social media? Or, is it an application that makes consumers find, join, and manage the coops easier? We spent quite a lot of time thinking about how we expect our users to think about this application. Including these doubts and the following questions in mind, we could visit East End Coop.

Evaluative Research

We tried to make an appointment with workers before we visit, but it was not easy because they did not reply to our email. When we got there, we tried to reach out to workers for evaluative research but it did not turn out well. But, fortunately, we could talk with three consumers. They all had quite different perspectives on coops, which was really helpful for us.

Feedback from consumers (Apr 1th, 2019)

These are the most important thing among their feedback.

  • Most consumers don’t care about what’s going on in coops. What they care about is what benefits that they could get if they join the coops. However, even though consumers only care about extrinsic values, we found that we could provide an opportunity to develop them into intrinsic values.
  • This application seems to be helpful to manage multiple coop membership cards. But not that meaningful.
  • Rather than watching a long video, I’d want to just read the texts quickly. Because of time and data constraints, watching a long introduction video is not that efficient.
  • It would be great if we could reframe this platform as a common ground for all of us, not each individual. We felt the needs to reconsider the sentences and expressions.
Feedback from a worker’s perspective (Apr 3th, 2019)

We could also get feedback from Francis Carter, a Ph.D. in Transition Design. Since he had experience in unions, we thought that he would be a great person who can provide the perspective of workers.

  • Generally, it looks great and deals with problems well.
  • How can we integrate people’s opinions who are not on this platform?
  • In the endorsement stage, we could allow people to choose the people that they want to be supported.

Final Wireframe Development

Refining Wireframe (Apr 7th, 2019)

Based on the feedback, we could develop further our wireframe.

While thinking about how can we generate empathy, I thought that empathy is the thing that cannot be generated instantly. Rather, continuous exposure to someone could make me feel empathy. Thus, we decided to focus on how can we provide opportunities to meet deep stories and intimate interactions within the platform.

Through the research, people do more care about the benefits and extrinsic values when they join a coop. Therefore, we thought that it is important for us to attract people by providing enough information related to extrinsic values. However, after they get into our platform, they could encounter numerous opportunities that could develop intrinsic values.

Week 13 — (19.04.08 ~ 04.14)

Evaluative Research Presentation

Our Problem Space and HMW Statement

Evaluative Research Presentation (Apr 10th, 2019)

For the preparation for the final presentation, we tried to recap every important information that we covered until now. Starting briefly explaining the reasons why we decided to focus on economic inequality and service workers.

Why Solidarity

Evaluative Research Presentation (Apr 10th, 2019)

Since solidarity is the most important foundation in our concept, it is crucial for us to explain what is solidarity and how it is related to empathy.

While empathy comes easily to people with shared identities, solidarity has the power to bring groups of people across their difference by providing common goals to work towards– solidarity, therefore, feeds empathy. Acts of solidarity are also easier to manifest, making it a reliable indicator for the presence of empathy on our platform.

Visioning — Why Cooperativism

Evaluative Research Presentation (Apr 10th, 2019)

Then, we introduced the visioning method that we used, which allowed us to come up with Cooperativism.

We recognized that in the current paradigm of our problem, there is limited ability to create space for empathy between workers, consumers, and management. So, Where are we headed and what do we want to do about it?

In this probable future, with little systematic change to current trends, workers, governments, and businesses, will all be forced to react to change in a big way. According to Bain & Co report about labor in the future; the aging baby boomer population will drastically change the job market supply and demand. Automation is picking up and income inequality is contenting to rise.

So we thought about how we might intervene to create a preferable future, one that is proactive, and one that benefits all our stakeholders and generates solidarity through the gates of the service workplace.

Cooperativism & Our Concept, Common Ground

Evaluative Research Presentation (Apr 10th, 2019)

In order to drive towards this preferred future, we looked to Cooperativism as a model for solidarity.

Common Ground is a digital platform that empowers workers and consumers to cooperate around shared goals. All three stakeholders are part of this system. Workers and consumers use the mobile app to collaborate. The management uses a desktop platform which translates these conversations using NLP and machine learning into actionable feedback & analytics connected through the cloud. This cloud platform allows for scale, specifically the formation of a network of co-ops that can be housed on the Common Ground platform.

Wireframes & Scenario

Evaluative Research Presentation (Apr 10th, 2019)

Since we thought that it is important for us to show our wireframes based on our storyboard or scenario, we designed our presentation like above — showing key screens and context using photos.

The story shows how a consumer member onboard Common Ground, how they interact with worker members, How worker members start a discussion, how worker members and consumer members cooperate for their common goals on this platform, how management can learn about their members, and finally how a consumer member will keep motivated to discover and participate in other coops.

How We Got Here

Evaluative Research Presentation (Apr 10th, 2019)

To make the presentation flow more understandable to anyone who does not know much about our concept, we introduced our concept first, and than explained how we got to that design.

We began with speed dating multiple concepts around this model. Using this high-level feedback and a team exercise to identify the factors we wanted our solution to meet, we then went into testing early paper prototypes with consumers and workers, at co-ops and outside. We had some very helpful conversations that gave us some strong signals of being on the right track.

But we also derived some key insights from these conversations that guided the design of the platform.

  • We wanted the platform to help people easily move from tapping into their extrinsic to intrinsic motivation
  • While this was always the aim of our platform, we needed to ensure each part of our platform was enabling a mindset shift to think of the collective, inspired by the vision of the community
  • The last directly reiterated something that we’d learned in the paper Margaret had referred us to on the cognitive costs of empathy. People would need to see the efficacy of even small actions of solidarity, for them to be motivated to participate.

Generally, I felt satisfied with our concept and work. Even though we could not convince all people, at least we found values in our project and idea. Based on feedback, we could refine our concept in a better way.

Week 14 — (19.04.15 ~ 04.21)

Ideation for Final Presentation

How can we prepare for the final presentation?

Ideation for Final Presentation (Apr 15th, 2019)

During the class, we mixed up the teams and spent some time to think about the contents we should prepare for the final presentation to Microsoft.

In the final presentation, there might be many audiences who do not know anything about our project. Thus, we tried to think about how to provide basic contexts of the project effectively. That was why we started with introducing the project brief and problems that we focus on. Also, it was an important issue for us to decide the orders of the contents in the final presentation because there will be a 2 min concept video.

I thought that concept video should stand alone without any explanation because it should be in our portfolio. That is why the video has to focus on the high-level concept overview, rather than introducing specific detail features of our product. Also, video and sound is a great medium to show the contexts and emotional atmosphere. I thought that it is important to show empathetic features of our product in the video.

Timeline of Deliverables

Timeline (Apr 15th, 2019)

Our team developed a timeline for the final presentation. We decided to meet every Tuesday and Friday other than classes. The big chunks of works we should do are refining wireframes, branding, prototyping high fidelity interactions, writing a video script, video shooting, and editing.

Reframing Concepts — Taglines & Narratives

Taglines & Narratives (Apr 16th, 2019)

How can we define our concept in one sentence?

To reframe our concept again, we spent some time to think about our taglines. We came up with several ideas, but we all agreed that the followings are the best ones that show our intent well;

  • Building community-driven business
  • The future of business is shard
  • Reinventing our collective role in a business
  • Activating our ownership in a business

This activity helped us to narrow down the representative features of our product/service when we think about narratives. I thought that it is important to relate our features to solidarity or empathy.

  • Joining/Adding Co-ops: Having empathy with a business
  • Discovering: Sharing & watching human-centered stories via videos makes you greater empathy
  • Event/In Store: Face-to-face interaction, Engaging with people you would not engage with normally
  • Discussion: Participation for the common goals
  • Participation: Visual Feedback that is reflective of the principles of co-ops

While talking, we also realized that it will be meaningful to show who is currently excluded in the business decision-making process and how our product can intervene in this problem. I thought that this is a really important point to reframe our concept because we could concretely show how the relationship between consumer members, worker members, and managers could be changed.

Concept Video Storyboard

Concept Video Storyboard (Apr 17th, 2019)

After sharing some interesting videos we found on the internet, we tried to design a storyboard for our concept video. This is the storyboard I developed.

Firstly, I thought that it would be more interesting to introduce our product with a character who is the main user. The video starts with him holding the phone with our logo screen, and he introduces simply what is Common Ground.

Then, he explains just like he is sharing his stories — “before I use this app, I was indifferent to co-ops and ~. But it completely changed my relationship with other members in co-ops.” Showing how his contribution to the decision-making process changes using animations or icons.

The camera focuses on and closes up to the phone and it will show the detail features of our design. I imagined that the whole scenes could be shifted using zoom in and out effects while the main character acts following the specific stories.

I thought that using diagrams or icons could be considered when we have to show the flow of how collected comments or votes have a scalable impact on the results.

But while we were developing the storyboard for our video, we soon realized that we need to think about the whole storyline of the 10 min presentation first. This is wiser because then we could decide which information or stories should be included in the video.

Evaluative Research — REI

Visiting REI Co-op (Apr 18th, 2019)

While developing the whole scenario for the presentation, we made an arrangement with the REI manager and met him. He was really nice and active to help us and giving feedback. Also, it was lucky for us — in addition to him, we could also get some feedback from another worker who works with him. This evaluative research was really valuable for us.

They were generally very positive to our product.

  • Face to face interaction is important: each co-op holds their own classes or workshop. We should think about how our product can initiate face-to-face meetings and help manage afterward.
  • The user should not be able to directly contact people without friending them first. People might hesitate to be contacted by random strangers and might find it weird for their info to be public.
  • Strengthen the values aspect of the platform. It is a high priority for our users, not only in finding co-ops but also connecting with others that share the same values.
  • The categories in starting a discussion page are confusing.
  • Anonymity for workers is important, especially when management views their actions and discussions.
  • We should re-think about the feature of a private gratitude letter. They said it would be more meaningful to make it public rather than private.

Based on the feedback, we started to refine our features and wireframes.

Week 15 — (19.04.22 ~ 04.28)

UI Design & Wireframe Refinement

To start designing the main colors of our product, we spent some time exploring the images that match well with the mental models of our product. Since we thought that greenish color is suitable for the visualizing the abstract concept of cooperation, communication, and positive impact. Also, we imagined designing our product with generally rounded forms rather than sharp cornered shapes because it would be more visually comfortable and friendly. The following images are the ones we tried to refer to.

Branding References from &

After refining the wireframes, we adapted visual design on them. In the Discover page, we tried to add the event recommendation feature because consumers might want to participate in an event near their location before actually joining the co-op who holds the event. Also, when a user gets into a co-op’s page, a video that shows the values of the co-op will be automatically played.

UI Design First Iteration (Apr 26, 2019)

At the first time, we designed like this. But we could not fully satisfied with the output. I thought that our branding color should not be emphasized too much. Rather, I tried to find ways to step back our branding a little bit and provide space for each co-op to represent themselves using their own colors.

In addition, I realized that the screen that is divided into two sections of maps and event recommendations looks confusing. Since the information about the events would be anyway represented on the map as well. Thus, instead of dividing the sections, we decided to use a layer for event recommendations (like the below UIs) that would naturally go up and disappear when a user touches the maps.

UI Design Development (Apr 27, 2019)

When developing the UI designs, we tried to remove strong colors so that a user could focus on the real contents which are the most important things. Also, we tried to give sections to use each co-op’s own colors or logos, just like the first row.

We also decided to design the JOIN button at the end of the screen of a co-op page for functional purpose. Since people might join the co-op after learning more about empathetic toward the members, workers, and the co-ops’ values, we thought that it would be better to show the button later than at the initial stage of the screen.

Branding & Logos

We tried to design several logos using the name ‘common ground’. ‘Nunito’ was chosen as the main font since we thought that its rounded form works well with our design. These are the exploration of the logos.

Common Ground Logos (Apr 27, 2019)
Contribution Visualizations (Apr 27, 2019)

In order to encourage users to be active on this platform and provide feedback to their participation, we designed badges. According to the level of contribution, the leaf will grow into the tree. This badge will be shown in the member’s own profile. We tried to come up with various ideas of shapes, but I thought that the tree metaphor is the best way to show the growth process.

Concept Video Narratives

Week 16 — (19.04.29 ~ 05.05)

Video Production


The Script (May 5, 2019)

We spent a lot of time to refine the script. The most difficult thing was introducing our concept in 2 minutes, which is a really short time. We tried to provide an overview of the concept rather than explain in details — and that is why we did not visualize the whole mobile interface in the video. We wanted the audiences to focus more on the people and the context.


The Storyboard (May 5, 2019)

After failing to produce the video that we wanted, we tried to develop a storyboard again based on the video pieces we shot. Since it was quite difficult to calculate the period of time, we wrote the pieces of the script for each scene. It was helpful to understand how the scenes look like and how to plan the transitions between the scenes.


Final Logo (May 5, 2019)

Also, we finalized the logo. We thought that the main feature of our product is to link people to people through common values. That’s why we visualized the link in the logo.

Week 17 — (19.05.06~ 05.10)

Final Presentation (May 10, 2019)

Finally… The final presentation started. We could not sleep much before the final presentation because most of the materials — especially the slides and the video were finalized right before the presentation. But as always, it was the nervous and exciting moment to share the work we have done for 16 weeks.

Final Presentation

Final Presentation — Problem Space (May 10, 2019)

We started with how we framed the problem. Income inequality in the US is the highest it’s been in nearly 100 years — since 1928 — the year an Iowan named Otto invented sliced bread. It’s hard to even imagine the depths of technological changes that have happened since then — but what seems clear is that at large, technology not working to address inequality. But why does this matter to us?

There are 3 major trends happening today that will dramatically affect business as usual. Not only is income inequality putting stress on our political system, but automation and the acceleration of technology will change the types of jobs available and the competition for those jobs. Finally, baby boomers are set to retire, removing a large percentage of people from the workforce. These are trends that will affect all socio-economic levels, but they present the biggest challenge to the most vulnerable in our workforce. Those are the people who work in the service industry, in hourly and low-income roles.

2/3 of people earning minimum wage or lower are employed in the service industry. That’s 39 million, equal to all of the “knowledge-based” and “creative class” occupations combined. The majority of these working are employed across 5 occupations including food service, sales, personal services, grounds maintenance, & health care support.

Final Presentation — Stakeholders & Insights (May 10, 2019)

Then, we introduced our stakeholders and 3 biggest insights from the research process.

To better understand the landscape of this problem, we spoke to 3 key stakeholders: managers, consumers, and workers in low-income service roles. Throughout this process, we’ve been designing with our stakeholders and not just for them. And we did that by involving them in our research process, from exploratory to evaluative stages. Through our research, we identified 3 opportunities where empathy could make a difference.

  1. We learned that consumers want to support businesses that are responsible and fair to employees and the community, but they don’t feel like they know enough to proactively change their behavior. The opportunity here was to Help them commit to services that reflect their beliefs by providing access to unbiased information on company values.
  2. Next, we spoke to food service workers, where we uncovered one of our most surprising insights. We thought that wages were going to be the biggest stress for workers, but we learned that service workers are equally concerned about the poor quality of relationships at work, particularly with management. There was a clear opportunity to create a place for workers to connect on a more personal level with management as well as co-workers.
  3. Finally, we learned that workers are excluded from decision-making at the workplace and don’t feel valued for the work they do. However, service workers are the ones that directly interface with customers, and have a lot of knowledge about the day-to-day business and how it runs. We identified an opportunity to leverage this on-the-ground knowledge to contribute to business decisions.
Final Presentation — HMW & Our Definition of Empathy (May 10, 2019)

Our framework for empathy is built around these two terms: solidarity and dignity of labor. Solidarity is defined as a bond between individuals or groups formed by uniting people around common goals or principles. For us, the dignity of labor encompasses a more holistic ideal of social, political and economic inclusion at the workplace.

So, how does this relate to empathy? In the conventional consumer-service worker relationship, interactions are brief and transactional– the inherent power imbalance creates sympathy at best. It provides little opportunity for empathy. Solidarity has the power to recognize asymmetry while bringing groups of people together by providing common goals that they can work towards. In this way, solidarity feeds empathy.

Final Presentation — Why Co-op? (May 10, 2019)

After introducing our definition of empathy, we explained our concept. The most important question was ‘why co-op?’.

Our solution focuses on promoting and scaling a co-operative business model, one that currently employs 10% of the workforce worldwide. A cooperative is a value-based business, owned and operated for the benefit of its members, not outside investors.

Many people asked us why co-ops — not other forms of business? The reality is that co-ops gave us an opportunity to tackle empathy at 3 levels.

  1. The first one is the system approach — all co-ops have seven principles that create a framework for social, political & economic inclusion.
  2. At a group level, it creates a community based on a shared understanding of the co-op structure.
  3. And finally, at an individual level: diverse members can connect around shared values.
Final Presentation — Commit, Connect, and Contribute (May 10, 2019)

Common ground aims to blur the line between employees and consumers — helping all ‘members’ along a journey to commit, connect and contribute around the community’s goals. Common ground helps nudge users from being ‘consumers’ to being ‘members’, from extrinsic rewards like benefits, discounts and tangible value to more intrinsic motivation from enacting shared values and seeing collaboration turn into real change.

To achieve this, it helps members manage their memberships and benefits. Also, their contribution — such as buying something at a store, join an event, or even participating in a discussion — ties to the contribution level which is shown on the membership cards as a medal. In order to help members commit to more co-ops, we helped them find all easily organized in one place. Members can discover coops based on place, values or distance. In the co-op page, videos are shown. The videos are an opportunity to learn about the culture of the co-op and the stories of the members.

On this platform, not only do members find values that they share in common, but they can also find co-op and event recommendations that help them connect offline and online with others from the co-op. This helps them support people and activities that align with their values.

Common Ground also helps members contribute. Custom-built for the co-operative model, discussions on Common Ground are inherently designed to build consensus. Each new discussion is endorsed by members intelligently selected by the platform, that ensures the contribution is relevant and enriching for the community. This check and balance also reduce the likelihood of excessive posts by over-zealous members, which was much appreciated in our evaluative research.

Some of our conversations with existing members of co-operative communities uncovered two latent needs. Showing appreciation, as our conversations showed, can be an important way for the community’s members to provide affirmations to each other’s work. We also discovered that even within co-ops, there were some situations where employees felt more comfortable discussing topics anonymously. So we included this consideration within our discussion feature.

Even though our focus was between service workers and consumers, management is usually responsible for the decision making in co-ops.
So we used all of these conversations between members to become actionable data that aligns with the co-op’s goals and helps management make decisions on behalf of the community.

Final Presentation — (May 10, 2019)

As we mentioned earlier, co-ops currently employ 10% of global workers. We believe that technology can play a crucial role in helping them scale by removing barriers to discovery and participation.

Not only connecting members within a co-op, but the platform can also connect co-ops across sectors or geographies to collaborate and achieve efficiencies. So, in the end, success to us looks like social political and financial inclusion.


It was a long journey, and it was tough for me. I felt several feelings right after the final presentation was over. I was so happy it was over but also felt sorry about myself because I believe that I could have done much better than what I did. But I am trying to enjoy the moment and prepare for being better next time, rather than spending time for regretting the past.

Club 33

I learned a lot during the process. It was my first time to go through the whole research process, which was sometimes boring but became a great experience. Now I could understand how the full design process works — from the exploration of the problem space to the final prototyping. This experience made me realize that in which process I usually enjoy the most.

My English communication problem made me frustrated very often. Because the concept and problem space we focused on were really complex and intangible space, it was even difficult for me to fully understand and contribute to the discussion. Sometimes, I had to spend the whole effort of my brain to understand what others say rather than expressing my ideas. However, I believe it is the process of being familiar with the new language and culture. I will become better and better as time goes by.

The most important thing I learned through this project was about team dynamics. Maybe it is more about how to deal with people. In the near future, I might confront a variety of people, team members, and designers. But I cannot meet people who always have the same ideas as me. I would confront some situations to persuade others, lead members, and deal with emotional people. Just like always it is, the team project gave me a lot of learning and I think I should keep in mind what I have learned and do my best to become a better team member.

51712_Grad Design Studio II

A course by Peter Scupelli | Carnegie Mellon University | Spring 2019

Jay Huh

Written by

Jay Huh

@CMU MDes Candidate |

51712_Grad Design Studio II

A course by Peter Scupelli | Carnegie Mellon University | Spring 2019

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