How can we find the best college campuses to join the DFA network and prepare them to start a Studio?
Every year DFA had over 70 universities wanting to join the network, but we could only accept 4-6 schools. Therefore we needed an application process that would highlight campus communities most ripe to support a DFA studio. The application process is a year long, going from building a community, hosting a workshop, leading a project, and setting the vision for how leaders will organize to make the most impact in their community. See here for a sample of the DFA application process I designed from 2014.
DFA Mentorship Training:
How can we best prepare volunteer professionals to coach DFA teams?
As a core practice in Design for America, student teams are encouraged to work with professionals in the area to receive guidance on their projects. However, often times those who volunteer to help don't always know the best way to add value and do not have much context to the work of Design for America. Therefore, after numerous interviews with volunteers, I created a two part system to onboard them. Step 1 was simply to give them an overview of the different ways of getting involved as a mentor. Step 2, recognizing that being a "coach" is the most intensive and requires a set of vocabulary most familiar to those already in DFA, I created a 30 minute training video viewable here to introduce coaches to various scenarios they might encounter and various prompts for them to consider how they might respond.
The results from initial testing were positive with the biggest change being seen with the degree to which volunteers understand what is expected at each step of the process.
New Studio Application Process
DFA Mentor Overview Video
As baby boomers are leaving the workforce, millennials, those born from 1980-1999 are entering. There is a need for companies to understand how to best attract top millennial talent in order to thrive.
I have been managing millennials through my work and teaching for the last eight years. I take pride in creating a workplace where people want to come in everyday and bring their whole selves. This does not happen magically. It takes diligent effort and constant reflection as a manager to understand the behavior I am modeling for others and the culture of interaction between individuals and a team. Throughout my time at Design for America, I created a variety of mechanisms to help build a culture that was holistic, friendly, professional, innovative, and diligent.
See below for a few of the practices I developed in the office and the home video on the left are some parting words from my staff.
Job Description Preference:
What are the most important factors for millennials when reviewing job descriptions?
I conducted a research study to help answer this question and found that the most important factor for millennials was "professional growth." Millennials are seeking to build on their knowledge gained while in college, apply this knowledge and gain support from those within the company to help them continue to learn and develop. Read the full abstract here.
How can we quickly introduce new DFA Fellows to all aspects of the organization while fostering team bonding?
I developed a one-week onboarding program for new Design for America Fellows to enable them to thrive most effectively for their year. This onboarding included communication style assessments, co-creating and defining one's role and goals, and most popular, an overnight retreat along Lake Michigan. Providing this strong foundation enables a team to build trust and work more effectively throughout the year.
How can we foster dialogue, trust, and open communication in the office?
Every month I organized a reflection breakfast for the staff. This included bringing in tasty treats and allowing everyone to journal in silence based on various prompts related to them as a person and work. Each person then shared their reflections while the rest of us wrote comments and compliments on post-it notes. The person could read the comments later, while we moved on to the next person to share. This allowed the team to keep a pulse on how each member was doing from a holistic perspective and address any concerns while sharing in a safe space.
Staff & Standing Meetings:
How can we keep the team updated in a short period of time?
I created a simple mechanism where every Monday each team member would write on a post-it note: Updates, Discussions, or Meetings. This allowed us to quickly see everything that is going on, leave time for quick discussions and get on the calendar longer conversations that needed to be had. Additionally, we would hold daily standing meetings with the outline for our day followed by a "low" and "high," meaning something that happened to them recently that was unfortunate or difficult along with something fun and exciting. This allowed us to continue to understand each other as whole people and be considerate of each other's needs while in the workplace.
How can we most effectively work with each other, while staying sensitive to each other's differences and needs?
Everyone works differently. Some are more analytical, some are more intuitive, some are planners, some are more in the moment. I asked each team member to make a post of their communication preferences and after a discussion, place them at their desk. This way each of us can keep in mind the best way to get through to and work with each other. You can see my workplace preferences on the left.
Goodbye Dinner with DFA Team
Staff Retreat at Lake Michigan
Individual Communication Preferences
Business Model Design
How can we increase our funding while aligning with our mission of students working on local and social design projects?
I created a new revenue stream for Design for America by securing a variety of corporate sponsored projects. The initiative recruits 5 teams from 5 universities to conduct 10-week projects facilitated virtually by DFA and then presented at the company's headquarters. Here DFA provides value to the company not only by the fresh ideas presented by the students but also creates a talent pipeline for the sponsoring company, while students work on socially relevant topics aligned with the company's bottom line. The projects were very well received and the program is now ongoing. Some sample projects I secured include:
How can we increase the brand awareness of the Alliance for Community Development?
The Capital Connections Conference is an annual event hosted by the Alliance for Community Development. In my first year organizing the event, I brought in renowned speaker and activist, Rev. Jesse Jackson, secured $15k in pitch prize money through our partner, I doubled the attendance, tripled the ticket sales and received an overall 4.2 out 5 satisfaction rating from audience members. Check out a recap of the event here.
DFA Leadership Studio:
How can we equip DFA studio leaders with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to lead an effective studio on their campus?
DFA's Leadership Studio is the flagship training experience for campus leaders to deepen their leadership skills and knowledge in human-centered design to then bring this practice back to their colleges. As the creator of the weekend's training program, my role ranged from curriculum designer and fundraiser to designer of the collateral and managing our team to ensure a seamless event.
Past Leadership Studio projects I developed include enhancing the lives of those touched by:
Enhancing the Lives of those touched by Down Syndrome
Leadership Studio 2015. Featured on ABC.
Enhancing the Lives of those Touched by Breast Cancer
Leadership Studio 2014. Sponsored by 3M.
I have been teaching at the college level since I was 23 at the Rhode Island School of Design, Pratt, and Northwestern University (NU). I take great pride in the development of my students and their progress. On the left you will see a few samples of students' work from NU.
The intention of this course was to introduce students to the power of design as a differentiator in the marketplace and expression of form. We as humans surround ourselves with designed objects that represent a part of ourselves- either a memory from our past sparking a sense of nostalgia, something that represents our current identity and who we perceive ourselves to be, or an aspiration for the future and who we want to become. It was the goal of this class to equip students with an introduction into industrial design to more deeply understand the impact the design world has on our lives and culture.
I am grateful for the numerous opportunities I've had to share my passion. On the left is my TEDx talk along with a recent feature on KTVU News and below are selected speaking engagements and publications.
2016 KTVU News, Oakland, CA Interviewee: “Tech Equity in Oakland."
2009 April Brown University, Providence, RI Guest Judge: Social Innovation Business Competition
2009 March Metropolis Magazine Interviewee: “Products for a New Age”
In addition to the above, I have facilitated design-thinking workshops and lectured at dozens of universities across the US including Vanderbilt, UCLA, Duke, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, UC Berkeley, Case-Western Reserve and more.