Saturday, May 28, 2011

Design innovation workshop, Philadelphia

In March I co-facilitated the four-day Design Challenge 2011 for students at Temple University, Philadelphia, with James Moustefellos who with Youngjin Yoo directs the Center for Design + Innovation within the Fox School of Business.

An open call to students across all departments at Temple resulted in around 18 teams signing up for the day. All of them had to be mixed in terms of disciplines, drawing on at least two departments, although the majority of participants came from the Fox Business School.

The challenge to the students focussed on the area of the city close to the Temple campus, North Broad St. The project asked students
- How can we use increasingly pervasive digital technology to re-imagine the future of the city?
- Can we use digital technologies to inspire, mobilize and create social, economic, cultural, political and intellectual connections to solve the complex challenges that cities face today
- Can we build a sustainable open platform that encourages and supports a vibrant ecosystem of neighbors, entrepreneurs and communities?

Over four days, students worked together to do first-hand research in the North Broad area and then come up with service concepts to address issues they identified. This included a detailed briefing with input from community leaders and from city organisations (on Monday) and a one day workshop (on Thursday) led by James and I, which was a day of intense idea generation and visualisation. The presentations at the end of the day, judged by a team of entrepreneurs, community leaders and academics, showed what a wide range of responses. Students presented their insights from their research, and then proposals for a new service journey or service encounter, communicate in a range of media from collage, to sketches, to role play. The successful propositions combined an understanding of the service ecology around North Broad St, and a creative reconfiguration of community resources supported by digital technologies.

As a learning experience for the students, it showed how design-based approaches support rapid collaboration and proposition development. As a way to build relationships between the university and its community and city, it showed how to engage student energy and entrepreneurial drive. I look forward to next year.

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