Using Design Thinking to Create Positive Change in our Local Community

On the 22nd of November, we hosted a workshop to understand how some of Nottingham’s corporate organisations might collaborate to create positive, local, social change. Our focus was on how these organisations might collaborate to enable local young people to confidently enter the workplace and avoid unemployment

16 organisations wanted to take part. People who passionately spend their days developing and delivering corporate responsibility strategies and who have a desire to turbo-charge their impact by finding opportunities to work together as a whole.

The reasons for us to get involved were endless. We were excited by the challenge of collaborating across this many organisational cultures (because if work were easy it would be dull!); we could sense the immense potential that navigating this could deliver for young people in Nottingham; because we knew that our skillset and Design Thinking is perfect for this type of scenario; and because being HQ’d in Nottingham it was an opportunity for us to do something really useful for our community.

Here’s what we did.

Total participants: 17.
 Total time: 7 hours, including lunch and breaks.

1) Welcome
 20m
 Set-up: Round tables with 4–5 folk around each one. Colourful sharpies + post-it notes aplenty.
 Activity: Housekeeping. Purpose. Flow. Permissions.
 Purpose: To get clear on why we’re here, and that the day is about open minds and collaboration.

2) Getting to know you
 
10m
 Set-up: Standing up, moving around, music on.
 Activity: What’s your name, what you’re excited about today, what you wanted to be when you grew up.
 Purpose: To know who we’re in the room with, and why they’re here.
 
 
5m
 Set-up: At tables. Music off.
 Activity (part one): Private reflection on two questions. Capture each separate thought on a separate post it note — in this collaboration, what are you hopeful for? What are you fearful of?

15m
 Set-up: Huddled around a wall.
 Activity (part two): Huddle. Invite someone to share their first fear. Play snap. Invite participation from introverts. Manage extroverts. Keep the conversation flowing.
 Purpose: To build connection To understand our ambition and what might get in the way of us achieving it.

3) Mindsets — Be a Part of Something
15m
Set-up: A box containing Marble Run. Music on. Countdown clock at the ready.
 Activity: Each person takes two parts of Marble Run. Provide the challenge: ‘to collaboratively create a structure that enables the marble to be suspended in the air for as long as possible’. Let the team go. Stop watch on. Drop the marble. Share thoughts on the experience, and what could be done better next time. Repeat (applying what you’ve learnt). 
 Purpose: To bring to life what being a part of something means and involves.

4) Insights — Who are we solving a problem for?
 20m
 Set-up: Round tables. 3–4 folk per table. Piles of Sharpies and paper. 
 Activity: Insight gathering — in this case, from John Yarham, CEO of Futures Advice. Listen. Capture insights. Questions.
 Purpose: Get closer to who we’re solving for (we were a bit gutted not to have young people in the room … but we strive to always ensure ‘users’ are involved.

5) Would you rather?
 
60m
 
Set-up: Outline that the goal is to align but that to get there we’ll need to disagree, have different opinions — create permission that this is ok

Activity: Provide provocations — questions from the ‘Would you rather’ book. Question, explore what’s gone on. Then chuck the tough questions in regarding the scope of the solution for the problem at hand.

40m
 Set-up: Food. Space to think.
 Activity: Summarise the conversations into the 3 ideas which have surfaced. Eat lunch, discuss, and ponder.

5m
 Set-up: Music. Space to move. 
 Activity: Each idea on a different wall. Vote with your feet, and stand by the idea you want to develop further.

Purpose: To acknowledge we’re going to have different opinions, and get comfortable with sharing those views. To reach consensus and coalesce around a shared purpose, before allowing people to work on an idea they’re most excited about.

6) Build it 
 
40m
 Set-up: Flipcharts. Sharpies. Music. People huddled around tables, in the groups of the idea they’ve chosen.
 Activity: Capture all of the delicious detail about the idea that you can. Build it up. Make it awesome. Share with the other groups.
 Purpose: To capture initial thoughts on the idea, and get others on board.

7) Time Travel 
 
60m
 Set-up: Flipcharts. Sharpies. Music. Huddled in the same groups, allowing people to migrate if they’ve caught the buzz from another idea. 
 Activity: Step into the future. In six months’ time, how will you know if you’re being successful at making this idea a reality? Capture 6–8 points.
 Purpose: To imagine what it’s going to feel like to execute the idea, and what’s going to be happening. To create excitement for the journey.

8) Make it so
 
60m
 Set-up: Flipcharts. Sharpies. Music. Huddled in the same groups.
 Activity: Articulate realistic steps of what needs to happen to give the idea wings — by who, and by when.
 Purpose: To get real on what it’s going to take. Seek commitment to make it happen. Or realise it’s not going to happen, and revisit the idea

9) What’s been significant? 
 
10m
 Set-up: Flipchart stand at the front of the room, or a bit of wall space. 
 Activity: Take one post-it, and one Sharpie. One question — what’s been significant? Reflect privately, and then share with the group. Come to the front; say it; stick it.
 Purpose: To leave people with a positive boost and energy to go away and make the next steps happen.

We were inspired to share this post after reading the d.school’s blog on using Design Thinking in the wake of the 2016 Election. We’re passionate about enabling others to use Design Thinking on problems that really matter, and feel that the revolution of creative collaboration can only happen through sharing. If you use any of these tools and techniques, let us know how it went — we’d love to hear from you.

Thanks to everyone involved in the workshop, and thanks to the Stanford d.school for the inspiration to write this blog.

We’ll be hosting open workshops across the country in 2017. If you’d like to hear more, sign up here, or visit our website to find out other ways to collaborate with us.