Design Thinking  | 4 MIN. READ

Partnering to Give Back (Part 2)

ExperiencePoint, February 27, 2014

Over the past year we’ve teamed up with several partners to provide change and innovation training to some incredible nonprofits.  Here’s a recent story we’re delighted to share.

“One core value at MDA is community involvement and providing Leadership that Matters. The offer from ExperiencePoint to host an ExperienceInnovation workshop with two nonprofits connected with MDA, demonstrated our joint commitment to social innovation and social change.”

Heather Wray-Isquierdo, Senior Consultant & Executive Coach
MDA Leadership Consulting

This fall, Heather Wray-Isquierdo of MDA Leadership Consulting, hosted an ExperienceInnovation workshop with 25 senior leaders from Jeremiah Program & FamilyMeans, two prominent nonprofits in Minnesota (USA). The workshop was designed to provide insights into design thinking and social innovation for the two leadership teams.

Supporting Communities of Change

Jeremiah Program provides single mothers and their children with a safe, affordable place to live, quality early childhood education, empowerment and life skills training, and support for career-track education.

FamilyMeans provides a place where families, children, couples and individuals can come to find help and work through challenges during difficult times in their lives.

These two organizations support very different social initiatives within their communities, however they share a common “How Might We” statement: HMW support the families that rely on our organizations, to the best of our ability, on a daily basis?

Following the ExperienceInnovation workshop, we spoke with Gloria Perez (President & CEO of Jeremiah Program), Arba-Della Beck (President of FamilyMeans) and Heather (MDA), on the experience.

What was the ExperienceInnovation experience like for you and your teams?

“This was a wonderful experience for our team” said Gloria Perez.  “The opportunity to bring two nonprofits to focus on a single design challenge for the day, was a positive one.  Participants not only focused on the challenge within ExperienceInnovation, but they were able to collaborate, generate and share unique insights on each other’s organizational challenges.

“We enjoyed having another agency in the mix, especially one that is in such a different place than we are organizationally” shared Arba-Della.

Heather emphasized that the prominent takeaways from this workshop went above and beyond the ExperienceInnovation tools.  It was also the collaborative environment that these two groups created to learn and grow together.

What design thinking tools and principles are you now applying in your organizations?

ExperienceInnovation provides participants with a hands-on experience with IDEO’s innovation process and what it feels like to be a design thinker.  The true work of applying the tools takes place following the workshop, when participants are back at the office and immersed in their daily work. Taking a step back from the workshop experience, Gloria and Arba-Della reflected on how certain elements of the workshop have assisted in their current organizational initiatives.

Arba-Della and her team at FamilyMeans are now working on their future role in community-based aging services. Taking a human-centered design approach, the leadership team is examining what aging services they currently provide, how to better integrate those services, understand what is happening externally and what services are needed but missing in the community.  Says Arba-Della, “It was interesting to figure out ways to observe situations in the community and in homes of older adults and their caregivers.  We are currently gathering more information and have started thinking about gaps in services and how we might experiment with new ideas.”

Gloria and her team are undergoing a national expansion of their services. With two fully operational sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul serving 300 women and children at any given time, the need to expand their services into Austin, TX and future communities such as Fargo, ND and Moorehead, MN is much needed.

Design is core to the work at Jeremiah Program. From designing and developing future campus sites to creating life skills programs for women and children, design and design thinking is integral to the work. “The ExperienceInnovation workshop increased our energy for creativity. We are less attached to an idea and agile to change. Change happens so quickly and the experience re-emphasized that there is no right way to do something.”

Overall, what was your biggest “win” from this experience?

“Now that we are aware of design thinking we notice there are a number of practices similar to this in terms of bringing innovation into the workplace. It must be a sign of our current work culture and something deeply needed. We now have a language and a process.  Our culture is based on social work values, ethics and practice so much of design thinking is not new, but is using similar concepts in new ways which we have found gratifying” shared Arba-Della.

Heather shared “the experience facilitating was an enriching one personally. Working with nonprofits provides insights into social innovation, how to work within constraints, but most importantly approaching organizational challenges through a human-centered approach.”

The team at ExperiencePoint is grateful to Heather, MDA Leadership Consulting, Jeremiah Program and FamilyMeans. Thank you for your work and impact in our communities. We are thankful that we could contribute in a small way to your meaningful work.

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