Design Club
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Design Club

Design Club: a hybrid model for teaching design thinking to children

For our Reboot project, funded by Grant for the Web, we worked on creating best-in-class design education, expanding our global reach and experimenting with Web Monetisation

Children working on an app design project, October 2021

Project Update

Our Design Club: Reboot project came to an end in December, after 14 months. Starting in October 2020, the $15,000 funding we received from Grant for the Web has proved invaluable — it’s been crucial in helping us develop a hybrid model for inspiring the next generation of design thinkers.

The global pandemic forced us to question and reassess our entire operational model, from mentor onboarding and recruitment to club delivery and user experience. Design Club: Reboot has done exactly what it said on the tin — enabling us to redesign our resources, review our processes, re-engage with children and schools, and reinvigorate our mentor community.

The pandemic isn’t over, but Design Club feels fit for a hybrid future. We’re looking forward to building on everything we’ve learned in 2022.

Progress on objectives

We had three objectives for the project:

1. Best-in-class design education: To enable more design clubs and activities for children by providing teachers, volunteers and parents with a wider range of projects and activities.

As mentioned in our first Grant Report last year, we realised that a wider range of projects and activities is not necessarily what our community wants. Mentors and potential mentors were often unsure of where to find the exact information they needed to get started, and asked for a clearer path and guidance through existing app design projects. So — in addition to creating new resources — we also tried to streamline our offerings, introducing separate Worksheets and Projects sections to our website, and adding specific slide decks and delivery guides for every project.

The new projects section on our website

2. Global reach: To create accessible video tutorials so we can engage a diverse, international group of mentors and children.

Creating video tutorials has been hard when things are so in flux. We’ve been reluctant to invest time — and especially volunteer time — in producing videos while our hybrid content and delivery strategy is still changing and developing. The past two years have been a time of experimentation and iteration. We’re still prototyping!

Instead of video tutorials, we’ve found that — for now at least — the best way to improve our global reach is to open up our Meetups to an international audience. Since October 2020 we’ve run 6 Zoom Meetups with around 25 people attending each time. We’ve used these sessions to introduce Design Club, showcase latest experiments, walk through new materials and answer questions. It’s been great to welcome participants based in the US, Nigeria, Brazil and Peru, as well as here in the UK.

We want to give everyone who engages with us the best possible user experience. We’ve learnt so much from every new person who’s shown an interest in using our resources. The live “how to” sessions delivered over Zoom have given us the chance to chat with every person joining the call, learn more about their needs and find out how we might genuinely be able to help them.

Zoom Meetups proved a great way for mentors to share learnings

3. Web Monetization (for Design Club and others): To learn how Web Monetization could play a role in funding Design Club and share Web Monetization opportunities with our mentor community, supporters, and fellow online educators.

We implemented Coil on our website back in September 2020. Since then, we’ve been taking micropayments from Coil subscribers, but the income is minimal because very few Coil subscribers visit our site.

Our primary goal is to encourage people to volunteer to run design thinking activities with children — so it’s been tricky for us to “muddy” this key message with requests for people to join Coil (and pay a membership fee).

Web Monetization (through Coil) is definitely a revenue stream we’re happy to explore but, for now at least, our main sources of funding are donations and grants. This means our limited resources are still best focused on improving Design Club’s social impact rather than creating bonus elements for the tiny proportion of website visitors who are also Coil subscribers. We appreciate this may change with time!

Key activities

Here are the key activities for our project — and what we delivered.

1. Resource Hub

Refreshed existing content and added 16 new items.

Created a brand new set of People and Challenge cards with diverse personas and topical social challenges.

Created a new Challenge generator.

Created an Explore how apps make money worksheet to help children think about different revenue models and the ethics of the products they’re designing.

Children using new worksheets while joining Design Club online, March 2021 (Photo: Paul Donnellon)

2. Video tutorials
As mentioned, we’ve found live tutorials best suited to the current environment. Instead of pre-packaged videos, we decided to deliver regular live online “how to” sessions, like this one. So far, we’ve run three sessions, using this slide deck as the basis (and updating each time). The sessions were open to all. We walked potential mentors through our resources, found out more about people’s motivations for running a club, and answered questions.

We recorded the first session but realised that people felt more comfortable without being recorded. Instead, we’ve decided to continue to run our “how tos” regularly, and try different times of day. This way, it will be easier for people to attend live if they wish — and join from different time zones.

We also hosted online video tutorials for Stem-mets in Nigeria and Tecky Brains in Peru, after their founders reached out to us. We’re delighted that Tecky Brains has since joined us as a Reboot Supporter :)

Stem Mets summer camp with design thinking activities, July 2021
Tecky Brains design thinking course, advertised November 2021

3. Coil landing page and campaign
Created and ran a campaign to drive signups to Coil. This included a landing page on our website, a blog post (see below) explaining why we’re working with Coil, and social media content.

We encouraged our community to signup to Coil as a way of supporting Design Club. In order to keep the messaging simple, we focused on inspiring and explaining the benefits of Coil Membership, rather than also encouraging people to become Coil Creators. This would have involved different explanatory content and an additional call to action.

Updates on Design Club’s Instagram page, Autumn 2021

4. Redesigned website
Rebuilt our website using Webflow. And added a new Impact page.

Screenshots from our new website

5. Blog posts
Published 7 blog posts charting our Reboot and Web Monetization journey.

6. Events
Ran 3 events about our reboot and Web Monetization, including two Meetups and a sector roundtable.

We originally thought the roundtable would be an opportunity for Design Club (and potentially other grantees) to share learnings about Web Monetization with our peers in the EdTech for Good community — we were hoping to preach the Web Monetization gospel! But we realised we’re not quite at the evangelical stage yet. Even by the end of the project, we weren’t ready to preach or teach — we were still curious and willing to learn.

So instead we hosted a design workshop, sharing our journey so far with other Coil users who’d been working on ways to explain and promote Coil to their own design-led audiences. It was brilliant to get together with like-minded folk and share the frustrations and positives of working with Coil. And it was fantastic to be joined by Uchi at Coil, who we know will replay our feedback to his team. See the Miro board for highlights of our discussion.

Coil for designers workshop (clockwise from top left: Noam and Jemima (Design Club), Veethika (GitLab / Launchpad), Uchi (Coil), Grame (Prototypr) and Leonie (Tink)

Communications and marketing

We published regular stories about Design Club: Reboot on our Medium blog (see links above) as well as frequent posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

We didn’t factor merchandising (lanyards and badges) into our original budget as we had a good supply at the onset of the project in October 2020. However after two project extensions we needed to replenish our stock!

Design Club lanyards and badges are a key part of our marketing (and the club experience). They’ve been essential to the success of Design Club: Reboot. We gave them to children and mentors at the handful of events and real life Design Clubs, and delivered them to children who engaged in Design Clubs remotely. These highly visible branded items reward children for their achievements and help raise awareness of Design Club with potential new participants and mentors.

What’s next?

Here in London, we’ve been in the midst of another wave of Covid. Yet again, there was talk of lockdowns. But this time we’re ready. We have added our online project to the website, and scheduled our next Zoom Meetup.

We’re excited to see a handful of new Design Clubs starting in the next few weeks. We have another online club in London, a one day immersive club in Manchester, and hopefully a regular real life club starting up again at Kingston University.

Internationally, we are expecting to see online Design Clubs in Peru, run by our new reboot supporter (and delivery partner), Tecky Brains. And we look forward to hearing about Stem-mets progress with design thinking projects in Nigeria.

What community support would benefit your project?

We’ve really enjoyed being part of the Grant for the Web community. We look forward to continuing to share our experiences of Web Monetisation and to learn from others experimenting with Coil and exploring the best ways to promote its benefits to our communities.

As we mentioned in our last report, we’re very happy to follow and connect with other grantees, and hear about similar projects. Please do leave us a message if you’d like to connect or have any learnings to share that you think could be relevant to our mission of inspiring the next generation of design thinkers :)

This report was originally published on the Grant for the Web community.

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