Innovative ways to inspire creativity and big ideas

Using Human-centered design principles and activities to increase civic engagement.

Human-centered design activities for Inclusive Innovation Week events

Inclusive Innovation Week is coming up soon and the events have started to take shape! We listened to your comments at last year’s City Theatre Meetup about what you would like to see in Inclusive Innovation Week 2018. You highlighted themes such as Intergenerational Connections, Immigrant and Refugee Experience, Youth Voice, the Maker Community, Disability Awareness, and Women Entrepreneurship. With these themes as a focus, we planned Meetups to gather community members, organizations, and stakeholders and inspire collaborative and community-focused events for Inclusive Innovation Week. Hopefully, you attended one (or more than one) Meetup but if you haven’t, they have been overflowing with inspiring and innovative ideas from residents, non-profit leads, city employees, and entrepreneurs alike.

When we started planning these sessions, we wanted to find a way to make these meetings more meaningful and innovative. Our partners and participants always bring great ideas and energy to our events, but we wanted to find a way to end each session with concrete projects and a plan to carry them out. We needed structure to create meaning, and so we reached out to the Sprout Fund and the LUMA Institute for their expertise. They shared human-centered design principles and innovative activities that made our sessions more impactful and increased the level of civic engagement. We want to share the activities and techniques we used with you and hopefully, you can take them back to your workplace! The techniques below are courtesy of our incredible partners at the Sprout Fund and the LUMA Institute (Thank you so much!).

Sprout Fund Ideation and Concept Poster Activity

The Sprout Fund provided activities, resources, and guidance for our planning sessions on Intergenerational Connections and the Maker Community. The activities included independent brainstorming, clustering, and a concept poster.

First, we put up a few guiding questions for an independent brainstorming activity. The questions all centered around the theme for the planning session and challenged individuals to think deeply about the details and difficulties of bringing people together. Individuals were given ten minutes to brainstorm on sticky notes and then share out to the group. As each person shared their ideas, they added their sticky notes to the board and clustered their sticky notes with similar ideas. What similarities can we find after bringing our ideas together?

Independent brainstorming and grouping activity from the Intergenerational Connections Meetup

After sharing out, we started to notice a few major clusters. We split up into teams and started planning events around these clusters using the posters shown below. The posters contained boxes for name, location, partners, participants, resources needed, and resources available. These concept posters created structure and helped identify the most important aspects of an event while still allowing room for creativity. Let’s make these ideas a reality.

Concept posters from the Intergenerational Connections Meetup

At the end of the session, we asked individuals who they thought was missing from this meeting and what other partners they would like to see involved in these events. This created the opportunity for people to imagine beyond their own organizations and partnerships, towards a more inclusive and collaborative event. In April, these posters will come to life creating an inclusive and impactful experience for everyone!

LUMA Institute Creative Matrix and Big Idea Poster

Thanks to the LUMA Institute, we had several successful and structured Meetups. The planning sessions centered around Immigrants and Refugees, Women Entreprenuership, and Disability Awareness were led by LUMA Institute staff, Ali Riehle and Laura Vinchesi.

All of these planning sessions included a brainstorming matrix activity called the “creative matrix”. The participants were seperated into teams randomly and gathered around a matrix (pictured below). The matrix had challenge questions listed on the top, each highlighting a different way of addressing the topic. For example, some of the questions for the Immigrant and Refugee session were “How may we shine a spotlight on Pittsburgh’s immigrants and refugees?” and “How do we make sure everyone in Pittsburgh feels welcome?” On the left side of the matrix, there were categories that could “enable” solutions. These categories included people, places, games, and event types and helped individuals address the challenge questions through different lenses. Participants were given sticky notes and fifteen minutes to brainstorm individually and place their notes on the matrix. This exercise is focused on quantity. It helps you generate a large number of ideas, promotes divergent thinking, helps you think of new and unusual ideas, and invites input from all team members. Think bold, fresh, crazy ideas.

Creative matrix activity at the Immigrant and Refugee session (Left) and Women Entrepreneurship session (Right)

Afterwards, each team shared out to their team members and “up-voted” their favorite ideas with dot stickers. However, if you have too many good ideas, you may want to use an Importance/Difficulty matrix, as we did during the Immigrant and Refugee session. The up-voted sticky notes were placed on an Importance/Difficulty matrix to determine which ideas would be the most effective and impactful. This is an exercise in feasibility and prioritization. What can we do to make the biggest impact given our resources and constraints?

Importance/Difficulty matrix activity at the Immigrant and Refugee session

Finally, each team chose a few ideas and incorporated them into an event poster. This Big Idea poster was similar to a magazine feature for their event including a headline, featured picture, description, date, location, and lists of participants and partners. Some versions even contained some of the obstacles they will face while planning the event or what impact the event will have on the community. The poster promotes a vision of the future, helps build a business case, garners support from decision makers, and provides a road map for moving forward. What needs to happen to make this event a reality? How do we pitch it?

Big Idea concept posters at the Women Entrepreneurship session

Afterwards, each team shared their poster with the larger group in a three-minute pitch. Everyone in the room listened and voted on their favorites ideas. It was incredibly inspiring to hear the ideas of all the participants and witness the creativity and excitement each one of them brought into the room!

Share out at the Women Entrepreneurship planning session

Reflection and Next Steps

Thanks to these ideation tools and activities, we were able to creatively brainstorm while still having structure and productivity in mind. We created groups for collaboration with concrete goals and outlined next steps to make these events a reality. Here are just a few of the ideas that are turning into events:

  • International Soccer Tournament for locals, immigrants, and refugees
  • Silent Disco
  • Immigrant and Refugee Movie Week at the Row House
  • Robot Petting Zoo
  • Oral history, present, and future walk through Lawrenceville

If you are interested in hosting an event or supporting an existing event, please take a look at the event-planning toolkit on our website for tips on how to get involved. Stay up to date with our Inclusive Innovation Week 2018 calendar as more events take shape. We are ready to help your ideas come to life!

For more information on these ideation activities and human-centered design principles, contact the LUMA Institute for resources and workshops. To learn more about how the Sprout Fund solves problems, shares knowledge, and seeds change, visit their website.

(Left to Right) Pictures from the Disability Awareness, Women Entrepreneurship, Immigrant and Refugee, and Youth Voice planning sessions

Inclusive Innovation Week is an event week and platform spearheaded by the City of Pittsburgh and URA to amplify opportunity for all and encourage cross-sector collaboration. Inclusive Innovation Week 2018 will be April 2nd to April 8th with events held all over the city! Keep up to date with our calendar for more information.