Week 6: Building and Testing + The Lab Impactathon

As we enter our final phase of Building and Testing, it's exciting to hear reports from the teams about your research activities and what kind of insights and ideas your teams are coming up with.

And, as you all know, this is a very big week for the Social Impact Lab PDX! Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Key Reminders for Building:

  • Consider impact over feasibility - It is easy to use possibility as a way to measure the quality of an idea; however, given that we are still in ideation and the level of impact that we want these projects to make, we encourage "blue sky" thinking during this stage as much as possible! If you have a few unknowns that you have to assume are going to be in place for your idea to work, it can be useful to identify what these are and then move forward. If your team is deciding between several ideas, consider first and foremost what impact the idea will have and if it is meeting an actual need.

  • Give yourself a creative constraint - While it may seem counter-intuitive, designing with specific parameters or constraints often results in really exciting ideas. For example, since tech-based solutions are really common these days, imagine if you had to design a non-tech based solution or idea to solve your project's challenge. Take one of your ideas that requires technology and consider if there is an "analog" or off-line version of what you're tying to test, that you could design and prototype during the Design / Build phase?

  • Define the key features - As you ideate or brainstorm with your team or on your own, you may get stuck (with no ideas flowing) or have too many ideas (and have no idea how to narrow them down). One way to get over this hurdle is to think about "features" of your key ideas. For example, given the major insights you have gathered from your research, what are key elements or features that could help address, alleviate, or solve those insights? These can even then be pulled together to create a powerful, coherent idea that addresses several issues at once.

What to Expect this Week and this Weekend:
During the Lab Impactathon, your team will be asked to create a low-fidelity prototype that can be tested and iterated on. This may seem intimidating, but keep it simple! You should be curious about your team's ideas and if they're headed in the right direction -- the Impactathon is the chance to do so.

For the purposes of the Social Impact Lab, a prototype can be thought of as an object or experience that is used to communicate and inform. It communicates the broad features of an idea to the end-user, and their interactions with it will inform your team about what needs to be modified. You will have time on Thursday and Friday to design and begin prototyping. On Saturday, you'll have the chance to finish prototyping and get direct feedback from key stakeholders / end-users about these prototypes. You'll then have about two weeks after the Lab Impactathon to finalize your designs based on your prototyping -- this could look like gathering even more targeted feedback.

A brief overview of upcoming activities and project milestones are below. In addition, to prepare for the flurry of activity this weekend, check out the optional Lab Challenge below (which can be completed individually, as pairs, or as a team).

NOTE: While we will be providing basic prototyping materials / supplies for the Lab Impactathon, we'll be asking you to brainstorm as a team any additional materials that you can bring from around your home (e.g. old magazines, paper bags, cardboard boxes, yarn/string/other scraps). We suggest planning on every team member bringing 3-5 items depending on what prototype(s) your team chooses to build.

Upcoming Lab Events and Milestones:

  • Thursday, November 1st at 6 pm @ Jama Software - Workshop #3: Build + Test

    • During the workshop, we'll be working together as a lab to provide input and feedback on team ideas. You'll be working with your team to decide what idea to move forward with. You'll also have time to begin designing a prototype to test during the Lab Impactathon.

    • Identify the specific prototyping materials you can bring from home to help build out your team's prototype.

  • Friday, November 2nd at 5:30 pm @ Jama Software - Lab Impactathon [DAY 1] Doors open at 5:15. Arrive at 5:30 for a pizza / salad dinner.* Activities begin at 6 pm and wrap-up at 9 pm

    • During the Friday evening session of the Impactathon, you'll be hearing from a guest speaker about prototyping and testing. You'll be working with your team to decide on what your feedback sessions will be testing as well as begin building prototypes.

    • Don't forget to bring any remaining needed prototyping materials to finish your team's prototype.

  • Saturday, November 3rd at 9 am @ Hatch Innovation - Lab Impactathon [DAY 2] Doors open at 8:45 am. Activities begin at 9 am. Lunch will be provided at noon.* Activities will wrap up at 5 pm.

    • During the Saturday AM session, you'll be hearing from a guest speaker. You'll also be working with your team to finish building your prototype and preparing for the feedback session.

    • During the Saturday PM session, you'll be engaging in several rounds of live feedback / testing (with key stakeholders) followed by team building-time to iterate and modify prototypes based on what you hear and observe. We'll end the afternoon with a final guest speaker.

    • NOTE ON FOOD: Light snacks will be available in the morning and afternoon; a full lunch will be provided.

Don't forget about our Lab Celebration
In addition, be sure to mark your calendars for the final community celebration where your team will be presenting your process and final designs to project sponsors. It's not too early to begin inviting peers, friends or family.

  • Thursday, November 15th at 6 pm @ WeWork - Community Celebration Hors d'oeuvres / refreshments will be provided*

*Gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options will be provided

Phew! So rest up, friends! Be in touch with any questions and we're excited to see you soon!

Week 5: Design Mindsets

As we enter the Design phase, be sure that you are making plans to complete any planned research activities. As you work with your team to craft insights/provocations and ideate (aka brainstorm) together, here are a few mindsets to practice and another lab challenge:

Design Mindsets:

  • Seek clarity - Your team may still be conducting research -- and that's okay! In fact, continuing the research and discovery process even after ideation is a great way to clarify and get even more focused on an idea. Use another round of research activities to refine your ideas even further.

  • Be experimental - In the same way that a Research mindset was to take action, a key Design mindset is to experiment. It's never too early to test a hypothesis, synthesis, or finding. Doing so in this design phase will help your team refine and narrow down ideas to move forward into the official "build and test" phase.

  • Focus on the human experience - While some of your research activities may have revealed key information about the systems, processes, and platforms that may be involved in a specific social challenge, you'll want to make sure that as you ideate, you're thinking about the human experience of this issue. Your ideas and insights should be from a human(-centered) perspective. You'll have the chance to validate your ideas and get specific feedback from key stakeholders during the third phase, but it's important to make sure that the ideas your team moves forward are solving issues related to real, actual experiences. 


Lab Challenge: Completing the Blueprint
Total Time: 1 hr (completed individually or pairs)

  • PREP: (15 min)

    • Review the service blueprint that your team drafted during last Thursday's workshop.

  • MAP: (30 min)

    • Give yourself another 15-20 minutes to complete the map

    • After your map is as complete as you can make it, identify the key Questions and Opportunities that you have

  • PLAN: (15 min)

    • Given the key questions you identified above, make one specific plan to research an answer (either through interview, observation, or secondary research). Invite a teammate to join you.

    • Given the opportunities you identified above, brainstorm at least one way to address the issue or alleviate the "pain" associated with this process step. Be prepared to share with your group.

Remaining Lab Events:

Finally, be sure to mark your calendars for next week's final workshop and following Lab Impactathon!

  • Thursday, November 1st at 6 pm @ Jama Software - Workshop #3: Build + Test

  • Friday, November 2nd - Saturday, November 3rd - Two-Day Impactathon

    • Friday, 11/2 at 6 pm @ Jama Software - Day 1

    • Saturday, 11/3 at 9 am - 5 pm @ Hatch Innovation - Day 2 [Lunch will be provided]

  • Thursday, November 15th at 6 pm @ WeWork - Community Celebration [Hors d'oeuvres / refreshments will be provided]

Week 4: Insights and Ideas

Moving towards insights

As your teams continue to conduct research activities, you may be ready to begin synthesizing your collective findings. One way to do this is to craft "insights" from your research output.

Insights are pivotal in the design process -- they help drive new ideas and ways of seeing a challenge. Insights can be characterized as being:

  • Authentic - Good insights are supported by learnings from real people or situations

  • Not obvious - Insights are not the first thing you would think of and perhaps help connect non-obvious elements in a new or compelling way

  • Revealing - Powerful insights reveal how really people think or feel. They are getting at the “heart” of the issue and not assuming behavior, action, or intent

At the Social Impact Lab, we like to turn insights into "provocations." You can think of provocations as being similar to insights but are often a bit more focused and also actionable -- they literally would provoke you to design a solution.

Provocations are characterized as being
    •   Informing - Provocations shed light on needs and wants based on prior research
    •   Focused - Provocations help highlight a specific aspect or combination of aspects (is neither too broad or narrow)
    •   Provoking - The prompt is actionable and influenceable

Examples of insights that can led to ideas

A couple years ago the OpenIDEO Portland Chapter worked with the Kind Fest in Seattle, Washington to help design an experience of "kindness." This was a pretty broad ask. To learn more, we conducted interviews within the OpenIDEO Portland Chapter community as well as did some research of various organizations and professionals who have studied the phenomenon of kindness (there are a lot of kindness researchers out there!). While kindness seems to be a topic we all should be familiar with, as we did our research, we began to learn more about the nuances. We crafted provocations that reflected what we had learned. We then used these provocations as a starting point for design.

Here are some examples of provocations from that challenge:

  • Expressing kindness may require overcoming kindness paralysis. How might we design an experience of kindness that prompts us to be brave?

  • Kindness has the ability to imprint on us, especially if the act incorporates some elements of risk, sacrifice, or surprise. How might we design an experience of kindness that incorporates risk, sacrifice or surprise?

  • The power of kindness can strengthen human connection. How might we design an experience of kindness that exemplifies connection?

You can begin to see how we can move from this level of insight or provocation to ideas. As your team finishes up research activities, you'll want to work together to craft some insights.

This will help you focus on what design ideas you wish to pursue and refine as a team.

Lab Challenge A: Crafting Provocations

Total time: 1 hr

  • PREP (10 min) - After each research activity, you should have been capturing notes, pictures, or audio of the most interesting things you notice.

    • Review these notes

    • Create a list of memorable ideas, words, phrases, quotes or stories to share with your team

    • Draw or take a picture. If you had to synthesize what you have learned about your topic from your research activities in a picture, without words, what would it be of?

  • ACTIVITY (40 min)

    • Capture individual “data” points on a sticky-note. Use short phrases or draw. (Tip: One idea per sticky)

    • Work as a small group to connect the dotes. "Cluster" the like ideas near each other, and begin to put new names on them

      • Are there ways to draw lines between individual data points or where there themes to your different points? Perhaps you can you find an untold story through the information you’ve collected (especially if you’ve had a chance to gather different points of view). This may be similarities between data points, or it could be differences.

      • Another way to ask this is “What was surprising, confusing, repeated topics throughout the different points of data collection?”

    • Focusing on 4-6 clusters, work in smaller teams to craft statements that are reflective of the collected cluster points

      • If you have a lot of clusters, you may wish to use a simple "voting" exercise to narrow. This can look like everyone getting a set number of "sticky dots" to place on their favorite themes or customers.

  • DEBRIEF (10 min)

    • Work as a team to identify some key insights that will help you focus both your research as well as your design. Edit these so they are authentic, non-obvious, and revealing.

Lab Challenge B: Ideation
Total time: 30 minutes

  • PREP (5 minutes)

    • Choose a select number of insights to address. (You can focus on one or have a few that you're trying to address at one time.)

  • ACTIVITY (15-20 minutes)

    • Write down as many ideas as possible that address the selected provocation(s). Remember that this is a brainstorm -- try not to edit your own ideas at this stage. Be as creative and wild as you can!

      • NOTE: Providing individual time to write down your ideas and asking everyone to share it is a simple way to make sure everyone gets equal chance to share their ideas

    • Post-up ideas where everyone can see. See if there are like "themes" between ideas or ways to connect these nodes of information in a new or interesting way.

    • If you have time, conduct another round of ideation with the newly identified theme as the brainstorming "prompt." This time, the ideas will be way more focused.

  • DEBRIEF (5 min)

    • Decide on what ideas you may wish to refine and develop.

Share your experience with on the Research channel in Slack.

Week 3: Research Reminders!

Reminders for the Research Phase:

  • Take action -- One of the common phrases in design thinking is "bias towards action." This simply means -- get going! It's easy to feel a bit overwhelmed by the largeness of your project design challenge or the pressure of crafting the perfect research activity or question. But the lab format is meant to be a place to practice and implement. If you're stuck or need some help, don't hesitate to reach out -- we're in your corner!

  • Be flexible -- Whether you are interviewing as part of your research or observing, here are a few ways to have a flexible mindset:

    • Gather stories not information -- Remember, getting to a story about why or how is a great way to practice listening and get some good take-aways that will help you later on. What your top three questions? What would you say to get people to share a story or show you something related to your inquiry?

    • Use the power of creative observation -- You can learn a lot from simply observing. What is an analogous experience relevant to your inquiry? What could you learn from a seemingly unrelated environment or occupation?

  • Stay curious -- This applies not just to observing and interviewing, but synthesizing and analyzing as well. As you begin to collect the take-aways from your research activities and compare them with your teammates, you may begin to find patterns or commonalities. Perhaps this is a phrase, something that someone said and was repeated again in another way by someone else; a habit, that you observed or heard about and then saw supported or replicated elsewhere; or just an anomaly -- a pink elephant that seems to appear in a few different contexts across the people you've listened to or places you've visited. Don't let these go unnoticed. Flag them and call attention to them. They may become important during the design phase. We'll be providing some tools for synthesizing your team's insights early next week.


Lab Challenge: Dynamic Duo Observation
Total time: 1.5 hours

  • PREP (15 min)

    • Ask a teammate to join you for an observation session at a specified location. Decide on the top three questions you have going into this observation.

    • Share your questions over email, but they do not need to be the same.

    • Decide on your plan. For example, arrive at the same location at the same time, but perhaps different areas. Decide if you will be in the same spot, different spots, etc. Make sure you decide on a place to meet after.

  • ACTIVITY (30 min)

    • Commit to observation for 30 minutes during the same time frame as your partner.

    • During the observation session, take notes. Write down or draw things that are addressing your questions or might be relevant to your inquiry.

  • DEBRIEF (45 min)

    • Immediately after the observation session, take 15 minutes to independently organize your notes and thoughts. Are there any patterns or commonalities that emerged?

    • Share your notes and observations with your partner. Between your two observations, what similarities were there? What differences? How does that inform your original inquiry (your initial three questions)?

Share your experience with your teammates or on the #research channel in Slack.

Week 2: Let your research begin!

As you prepare to meet as a team to decide on research activities, keep these key mindsets in mind: 

  • Be curious

  • Listen well

  • Observe and take note

Here are a few activity ideas that your teams can conduct during your meeting to help align on research activities and focus:

  • Consider “who do you need / want to listen to” (from Activity 01 last week)

  • Consider “who do you want to listen to” and “where do you want to observe” (from Activity 02 last week)

  • Consider what behaviors or industries that are analogous to your project’s design challenge

  • Consider what questions you have for your team or project sponsor

  • Review the onboarding pages available in the Team Huddle (your project sponsors have lots of great ideas about who to speak to and what to do!)

And, finally, a few tips:

  • Decide on how you collect your own “research findings” — As your team performs research activities, make sure you commit to having one shared space where these notes will be reported and stored (e.g. Google Drive/Docs, Slack or something like Box/Dropbox would likely work best)

    • For interviews, consider providing the following:

      • Use audio recordings — with people’s permission!

      • Typed up transcripts (of key quotes only vs. the entire interview)

    • For observations, consider providing the following:

      • Photos (e.g. spaces / places, items, objects, etc.)

      • Notes about things that stuck out (e.g. behaviors, patterns, items, objects, etc.)

  • Stay focused on research, not solutions (NOT providing solutions or ideas for the design challenge — yet) — This may be difficult with this amazing group of change makers, but the goal for Phase 1 is to hold space for questions, curiosity, and listening. Leaving the research activities (whether they are observations or first-hand interviews) with more questions is okay — and will ultimately help you craft good insights to facilitate the design phase!

  • Collaborate! Each team will be deciding on how they will best collaborate together, but don't forget to post updates about your progress or even your questions about research into the Social Impact Lab PDX Slack channel. We can learn a lot from each other!

Lab Challenge: Interviewing with Empathy

Total time: 1.5 hours 

  • PREP: (30 min)

    • Align with your team on who you will be interviewing. Work with your team lead to get in touch with key stakeholders from the project.

    • Work with one teammate to determine the three top questions you have going into this interview. (Note: Do not have more than two interviewers at a time unless you are interviewing a larger group of four or more.)      

      • Decide on logistics. Coordinate with your teammate's schedule before asking for an interview. Work as a pair to have one clear, informative ask.

        Example email: I am participating in the Social Impact Lab PDX, an eight-week marathon that pairs teams of professionals with local social impact projects. To learn more about design research, we’re conducting interviews with key stakeholders for the project and we were wondering if [insert interviewee request] would be available for a 15-20 minute phone conversation over the next couple weeks?

  • INTERVIEW (30 min)

    • Keep your interview brief. We’re asking people for their time. A lot can be learned in 20 minutes!

    • During the interview session, have one partner ask questions and the other taking notes:

      • If you are the question asker, be sure you are listening and prompting deeper questions. Remember, a great default question to ask is “Why” or “How”. Have your questions in mind but follow-up with thoughtful questions to dig deeper.

      • If you are the notetaker, write down or draw things that are addressing your questions or might be relevant to your inquiry.

  • DEBRIEF (45 min)

    • Immediately after the interview session, take 5-10 minutes to independently organize your notes and thoughts.

    • Share your notes and observations with your partner. Consider discussing:

      • What was surprising? 

      • What was confirmed?

      • What did you get answers to?

      • What do you have questions about?

      • What stories or quotes stuck out (if any)?

Share your experience with your teammates or on the #research channel in Slack.

Week 1: Quick check-in and workshop follow-up

So great to see you all at our Lab Kickoff and first workshop last night. 

Tell us what you think

We want to get your feedback on our workshop guest speakers and make sure the lab experience is off to a good start. Fill out this 2-minute survey.

Stay connected

  • Join our Slack worskpace — To help us stay connected as a PDX 18 lab cohort, we set up a Social Impact Lab PDX Slack space. We’ll send out invite links soon but you can join us by using this link. There are specific channels set up for each project as well as each phase to encourage cross-team collaboration and information sharing in between lab workshops.

  • Connect during Lab Office Hours next Thursday, 10/4 —Erin will be holding a virtual “Lab Office hour” on Thursday, 10/4, from 8-9 pm. If you have questions about your research activities or just want to connect, this is the perfect chance to collaborate with and hear from other lab participants that aren’t on your same team. Click here here to register.

Get caught up

  • There are a lot of resources that have been curated for you by the lab organizers and your project leads:

    • Check out the lab project pages for Solutions PDX or El Pasaporte Project — This contains an overview of the project, design challenge, and project history, including a video of your project lead speaking about the larger context for the challenge.

    • Check out the project onboarding pages (on our huddle page, info below) — This contains a list from your project lead about potential research ideas and activities! 

  • Familiarize yourself with the PDX Lab Huddle page (password: togetherpdx) — This is the one-stop shop for updates and resources related to the lab

Have a great Friday and wonderful weekend!

Week 1: Workshop #1 Reminder

The Social Impact Lab PDX kicks off tomorrow evening, Thursday, 9/26


We’re so excited to be welcoming such a wonderful cohort of Portland professionals to the first Portland lab. It has been thrilling to see applications roll in and we’re so excited that you will get the chance to meet each other tomorrow evening during our lab kickoff.

As you might imagine, some of you are super familiar with design thinking — and for others this is the first time you’ll be applying a design thinking framework to a real challenge. Because of the different levels of experience and expertise, we’ve done our best to both honor your request to work on your specified choice of project but also to create a good experience for you and your teammates.

You will be getting a follow-up email soon connecting you to your teammates. Because we had a number of applications roll in this past week, we are recommending that you connect with your Team Lead at the workshop on Thursday to find a time for an official team orientation after the kickoff (either over the weekend or early the following week). 

In the meantime, here’s a few things to take note of:

Our lab kickoff tomorrow and first workshop on Research is tomorrow evening at Jama Software at 6 pm (located at 135 SW Taylor Street, #200). Doors will open around 5:30 pm and we’ll want to start promptly at 6 pm so please keep commute / traffic / parking in mind. During this first lab workshop, you’ll have the chance to hear from two amazing guest speakers on design research. You’ll also get to work through some breakout activities together as a team. You should leave the workshop with some ideas for potential research activities you could conduct over the next few weeks, which you’ll be able to share with your team during your first official team meeting.

Check out the Lab Huddle page! - This will be the main page for lab news and updates over the next eight weeks. 

Mark your calendar for official lab events. Make sure that you’ve marked the dates for the other two workshops (on Thursday, 10/18 and Thursday, 11/1) and the two-day Impactathon on Friday, 11/2 and Saturday 11/3 (more details forthcoming). Also, it’s not too early to spread the word about the final celebration on Thursday, 11/15  This event will be free and open to the community — a great chance for your friends or colleagues to learn about what you’ll have been up to! :) 

Be in touch with any immediate questions and we look forward to meeting you all in person tomorrow!