Stories from our Design Jam

October 12, 2020

At Skills of the Modern Age, we believe design thinking is a crucial skill set that can help us tackle some of the world’s most important problems; that’s why design skills are at the heart of almost all our learning programs.

One of our flagship design skills programs, the Design Jam sets participants a huge challenge: using design thinking to create a real solution for a real social impact problem in just two days.

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At our most recent Design Jam, we gathered five teams of innovators and changemakers who wanted to sharpen their skills, and set them loose on five design challenges provided by our awesome social impact partners.

Our teams had two days to complete customer interviews and design research, generate creative ideas, prototype their solution and gather feedback, and finally present their insights and recommendations to our social impact partners.

Read on to hear their stories, and what they learnt along the way!

Learning from real customers

The first stage of the Design Jam process was for our teams to dive in and gain a deeper understanding of their challenge with a variety of tools: empathy maps, customer personas, desktop research, and real customer interviews.

We pushed teams to get on the phone to real-world customers on the afternoon of Day 1, and their interviews gave them a range of powerful new insights to help them redefine the problems they were working on.

A group of people networking outside at the Design Jam Bootcamp
The Design Jam is a great chance to make new connections and build networks as well as learn new skills.

The team working on Avivo’s challenge, for example, found that when they asked support workers what made them feel valued, the answers were surprising. Instead of public recognition, the team realised that support workers really wanted ‘back office’ workers to understand the work they do and why it’s important.

After running their own interviews, the team working on Dismantle’s challenge realised they needed to narrow their focus to business customers. Dismantle’s ‘Renew’ program connects vulnerable young people with employment opportunities, and the design team found that the biggest challenge faced by the program was getting employers on board.

Prototyping new solutions

Once our design teams had redefined their challenges based on their research and customer empathy work, it was time to generate creative new ideas for solutions that would meet the needs of those customers.

We encouraged our teams to make their ideas real by building a prototype: an early version of their idea that they could show to customers to get their genuine reactions and feedback.

The team working on Women in Technology WA’s challenge had decided to build a web platform helping women to find opportunities in tech, and organisations to find women with tech skills. Rather than coding an entire website, the team set to work prototyping their platform in Powerpoint, producing a mock-up of the site in just over an hour.

Properl Youth Arts WA creative trailblazers
Prototypes for a new regional youth arts ambassador program created for the Propel Youth Arts WA challenge. Please note that these are workshop prototypes only and do not reflect real products or services offered by our partners.

Similarly, the team working on Propel Youth Arts WA’s challenge team used Canva to prototype the marketing materials for their solution — a regional youth arts ambassador program. Rather than just tell customers about their plans for the program, they were able to share real documents that brought their solution to life and helped them to gather more valuable feedback.

Responding to customer feedback

The final stage of the Design Jam was for our teams to collect some feedback on their prototypes — once again, by talking to real customers.

They shared their prototypes with customers and took note of the responses, paying attention to what might be missing and what could be improved about their solutions.

The team working on Cystic Fibrosis WA’s challenge to build connection among young people with CF had designed a mentoring program linking those young people to adults with CF.

Connecting people with cystic fibrosis
The team working on the Cystic Fibrosis WA challenge mocked up a web page within CFWA’s actual website, to make their prototype feel as real as possible. Please note that this is a workshop prototype only and does not reflect real products or services offered by our partners.

When they shared their prototype with potential customers, they found that they’d focussed all their attention on the mentee side of the experience — their idea was strong, but they needed to make some tweaks to ensure the program was attractive and user-friendly for the adult mentors too.

Sharing insights and recommendations

With the design process complete, we were joined by representatives from each of our five social impact partner organisations, keen to hear what our design teams had learnt and what next steps they recommended.

Design Jam bootcamp participants sharing solutions with our partners
Design Jam participants share their solutions with our partners at the end of Day 2, and many of the projects and ideas they recommend are put into practice!

In just five minutes each, our design teams shared their new customer insights, their changes in direction across the design process, and the solutions they’d built, as well as suggestions on how our social impact partners could build on their work. We’re excited to hear our partners’ updates, as we know some of these projects are being launched in the real world very soon!

Skills of the Modern Age extends a huge thank you to all of our social impact partners; Avivo, Dismantle, Women in Technology WA, Propel Youth Arts WA and Cystic Fibrosis WA, as well as the brilliant Design Jam participants who bravely jumped into the design process and came up with some fantastic solutions.

We can’t wait for next time — if you’d like to register your interest for the Design Jam in 2021, head to this link! Skills of the Modern Age We're a future skills academy helping people get excited…

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