The Official Blog of the Youth Transition Funders Group

Hosted by Chris Sturgis, Strategic Advisor to YTFG

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Design Thinking

IDEO website
It’s fascinating to see how design and design thinking is advancing in our field. I’m curious to see if we start to see assumptions challenged, new insights, and new models develop when we take the time to design and redesign.  Here are a few efforts to build on design thinking in education and youth services:

Power of Design-Thinking and Partnerships with Design Firms:  The first time I heard of a foundation working with a design firm was the Kellogg Foundation’s New Options. I think that might have been the start of a trend.  Rockefeller Foundation invited IDEO to help them address the Youth Skills Gap and Long-Term Unemployment. Stay tuned... they may bring out some new insights that can help us shape the opportunity policy agenda for youth.  IDEO created a toolkit for social impact for Rockefeller as well. 

We Can All Be Designers:  We are now starting to see tool kits and courses to help us build our capacity for design thinking.  The most interesting to me out there is IDEO’s work in conjunction with Acumen in offering Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation, a FREE, five-week course. You’ve got to sign up as a group (they’ll help you find a partner if you don’t have one). From what I can tell there are self-guided materials, and then you apply it to an issue in your community. Deadline for registration is July 3rd. If you can’t do the course, you can take a look at the Human-Centered Design Tool Kit. They also have a Design Kit for Educators. I can’t help but think that this is a great thing for our young people to be involved in. Just think: a team at a youth organization could take on an issue that’s facing their community.
Starting with the Student/Youth Perspective: I love the toolkit RETHINK: Planning and Designing for K-12 Next Generation Learning produced by Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) for K-12 district, charter, and school leaders to use in the very early stages of conceptualizing and designing a next generation learning program, initiative, or whole school. There is such power when we start with the student’s perspective. Here they are:

  • Personalized to my needs and learning goals
  • Flexible so that I can try different ways to learn
  • Interactive and engaging to draw me in
  • Relevant to the life I’d like to lead
  • Paced by my own progress and measured against goals I understand
  • Constantly informed by different ways of demonstrating and measuring my progress
  • Collaborative with faculty, peers, and others; not limited by proximity
  • Responsive and supportive when I need extra help
  • Challenging but achievable with opportunities to become an expert in an area of interest
  • Available to me as much as it is to every other student

Transparent Design Principles: Once upon a time, we hired experts to figure things out for us. We knew what their expertise was but not necessarily their values and assumptions. Nowadays, there is much more transparency about design principles and much stronger emphasis on co-design.  It’s really helpful when you can see the values or principles that are driving a company up front – 2Revolutions put their design principles out front.  So does the Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab based at the College of Education, University of Kentucky (they are partners in CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network). Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how a traditional district or school would describe their design principles? Perhaps we should all put our design principles and values on our resumes?

It’s very powerful when foundations put their assumptions and design principles out front. Carnegie Corporation has demonstrated this level of transparency in their report Opportunity by Design that offers 10 design principles for states and districts to use in creating innovative schools. Carnegie is also launching a new organization, Springpoint, to support this work. 

If you see other powerful design principles or use of them, please send them our way. 

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