Learn With Questions

So excited to be announcing this new program – The Exhibit Change Designership is here!!!!

In many ways, The Exhibit Change Designership has already been happening in bits and pieces. From convening people into thought-provoking conversations like EdCamp Toronto, Hong Kong or Design Thinking; to pushing the envelope at the Bad Kids Collective first unconference of Everybody’s a Teacher; to collaborating on different kinds of learning opportunities like UExperience and The Department of Imaginary Affairs. Ultimately, all of these projects were instigators for this designership.

Basically, the designership is one-year version of these events that have come before it. The designership is for a cohort of shift disturbers to come together and learn, design, do, push, and experiment. This is not going to be for the those shy of hard work.

The designership all comes down to one fundamental rule: Learn With Questions. This will be our mantra. We learn more by leading with curiosity, open-minds and the ability to dive deeper.

Applications are open until August 15th.

For more information go here.

Share with #LearnWithQuestions


How to be a Shift Disturber?

Part innovator. Part entrepreneur. Part rebel. Partly undefined. A shift disturber is really about making changes, shaking things up, provoking a reaction, creating a dialogue, venturing out to the fringes and doing a lonely little dance.

Since the term was first coined, there are a few of us who have been tossing the term around and testing out the shift disturbing spectrum. I personally, have adopted the term as a nearly perfect fit to how I feel about my work and my purpose. As someone that has often felt like an outsider and observer, I feel like being a shift disturber is my active role to say “Hey! my points of view are valid too and I am just looking for a little respect.”

While I think that being a shift disturber takes on many iterations and reflect where a person is at in their journey, I do think there are some core values to being a shift disturber.

Together, with a few of my fellow shift disturbers we are going to build a living manifesto to share. Feel free to comment or tweet me @jennzia with #shiftdisturber to join the process.

Reposted from my personal blog www.designthinkingme.com May 16, 2013

A Year in Review

2015 has been a year like no other. That is nearly an understatement. Exhibit Change has continued to grow and morph and there is a lot of exciting changes coming in 2016.

While there haven’t been nearly enough updates as to what is going on, that doesn’t mean nothing has been going on. In fact there has been a ton.

This year, I partnered with Blair Francey of BF Design to start the Department of Imaginary Affairs. The DIA is all about bringing forward ways to foster imagination about city building and urban planning. Our main focus has been on getting our youngest citizens involved. We started with a Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Installation called The East Side Story.

In another collaboration, I along with Trey Boden have been doing a podcast called This Is Iterative. The podcast is all about design and education. Season 1 aired earlier this year and we are in the process of taping Season 2. 

I also spent the year working with organizations such as Success Beyond Limits, Green Change and YouthREX to do design thinking workshops and projects.

And last but not least, I am starting my greatest new adventure. I had a baby!!! Baby Jackson was born on August 20th. He is the most unbelievable learning I have ever had.

I hope 2015 has been exciting, fulfilling and a rollercoaster of learning like mine.


ps. Very excited to announce a new workshop called Design Thinking For Educators. Join me and Heidi Siwak on February 20th for this extremely unique workshop specifically designed for teachers. Registration is open now. Early Bird is on until January 1. Register here. 

From Season 1 to 2

ThisIsIterative3 (1)

Earlier this year, This is Iterative aired Season 1 all about the process of design thinking and our work as educators understanding our own vulnerabilities and struggles.

In total Season 1 is 9 episodes. We worked really hard to follow the design thinking process as a way of laying out the flow of each week, we also did two interviews and finally shared our learning about starting this podcast on the last episode.

I am particularly proud of the fact that we got this out and we are learning from the process each and every time we re-connect. I think we were able to cover a wide breadth of topics while getting our podcast legs. I love the fact that Trey and I are able to simply share our experiences and that in turn can help others.

Check out Season 1 and let us know what you think.

We are in the process of taping Season 2 to be released in the new year. Already we have done a great episode on giving and getting feedback and another episode on learning from others.

I think for Season 2 you can expect more about getting in touch with design thinking in practice and find out about where Trey and I are constantly looking for inspiration.

The East Side Story

DIA NBYet another Scotiabank Nuit Blanche has come and gone. And we weren’t about to miss out on the fun. This year as a part of the Department of Imaginary Affairs we had another successful installation in St. James Park. It brings us great pride to be able to be one of very few installations on the east side of Toronto. The vibrance here is unparalleled and the warmth of the community can be felt even in the coldest hours of the night.

Before Scotiabank Nuit Blanche night arrived, we could already feel the anticipation building. We were surprisingly delighted to find The East Side story had made it to the City News “Top 5 Installations to check out” – noting that,

“The Department of Imaginary Affairs spent the past few months going to local festivals, gathering stories that will make up the content of giant books displayed outdoors at St. James Park.”

It was nice to see all our hard work was being noticed.

Don’t worry if you missed out on seeing our larger than life storybooks for yourself, we got some great coverage and pictures to capture it all. We had worked tirelessly to collect stories and it all culminated in a 144 stories on pages 6 feet by 10 feet. We wanted the experience of sharing stories to be spread into every aspect of the installation including turning the pages.

Thankfully this did not go unnoticed, as documented here,

“Finally, a reader turns the page, needing her friend to help her carry the vinyl sheet over to the other side. East Side Story is meant to be interactive; the reading is supposed to be a communal act.”  (Nuit Blanche 2015: The East Side Story, CanCulture)

And last but not least, this lovely anecdote from a visitor on the night of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche really encapsulates why we do this.

“My favourite display was an installation, developed over many months and presented as a “storybook” of the thoughts and ideas of residents of Toronto’s East side. Produced by the “Department of Imaginary Affairs” (love the name), this was a unique project about and by Torontonians…It was a real treat and I can only hope that the creators of this installation, Blair Francey and Jennifer Chan, are able to capture the content from the “Storybook” and translate it into a format that can be shared far and wide for more people to enjoy.” (The Magic of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, City Living Guide)

Check out the great video and pictures from the night. And don’t worry if you missed out on this adventure, there is more to come in 2016!!!!



This is Iterative

ThisIsIterative3 (1)

Starting in January of this year, Trey Boden and I have been recording ourselves every two weeks (just about) and posting podcasts every 2 weeks (for the most part) about design and education. The podcast is called This is Iterative. We have done 5 episodes so far!

This all started last year when I was in Austin with Trey to speak on “In the Trenches with K12 Design Thinking” at SXSWedu. This really got us talking about the vulnerability of what happens when we teach design thinking and when we do design thinking in schools.

These podcasts were partially a way for Trey and I to try our hand at podcasting and see what we would learn along the process and then also to share whatever wisdom we have in hopes of engaging people in a larger conversation about how we teach and do design thinking in education.

So far we have 5 episodes – you can listen to them here – we decided we would follow the d.school model and give our episodes a theme based on the design thinking model that comes from Stanford.

In Episode 1, we talk about what we are thinking and why we are doing this. In Episode 2, we get into the different models of design thinking. In Episode 3, we take stab at defining what we think Empathy is. In Episode 4, Trey interviews student Anya from his school on her journey through Empathy. In Episode 5, we talk about Defining.

I am so proud of what we have accomplished this far. We definitely have had some bumps in the road. We went off schedule for a bit and had to really talk about if we could stay committed in light of our busy lives. We are dedicated to getting through this season.

In our upcoming episodes we will continue down the design thinking model into ideation, prototype and evaluation.

I am particularly excited cause I will be interviewing Heidi Siwak soon to get her thoughts on design thinking, integrative thinking and the applications in her classroom.

Stay tuned!

Hive Toronto MeetUp – One Collaboration Doesn’t Fit All

group website

For this year’s first Hive Toronto Meetup, we delivered a workshop called “One Collaboration Doesn’t Fit All”. Hive Toronto is a network of youth-serving organizations and inherent in their culture is collaboration. It is about this network working together to do more. And yet we have all been in one too many collaborations that didn’t pan out for one reason or another.

Bringing together design thinking and best practices about collaboration, Jenn led a hands-on and participatory workshop for participants. The workshop was scheduled for 2 hours, so participants were really only able to get a quick taste and introduction to design thinking. The goal of the workshop was to demonstrate some of the existing collaboration group dynamics that appear in everyday collaborations through somewhat fictitious and extreme challenges.

Here are some of the challenges that groups faced:

  • Collaborations formed based on minimal shared goals
  • Working through a task without knowing the teams strengths or weaknesses
  • Directives given in step-by-step rather all at once
  • Sudden changes to plans
  • Short timelines

feedback website

Divided into groups, teams were asked to:

  1. Elect one person to come select 2 pieces of paper
  2. Create a mindmap connecting these two words
  3. Identify possible areas for solutions
  4. Elect one person to come select a final piece of paper
  5. Work to understand their user
  6. Come up with ideas to solve their user’s problem
  7. Present their idea and receive feedback

The full report back is here. 

What if? Teachers Beyond the Classroom

What if? This is the first of hopefully a series of posts that act as reflections and provocations to design challenges that Exhibit Change has encountered. The What if? questions are not intended to be solutions or definitive statements, but rather questions that begin a series of exploration and understanding. 

A few weeks ago, I participated in a community forum.

The event’s goal is “to develop a strategy to help underemployed and unemployed teachers explore career opportunities outside of schools”.


“In 2006, 30 percent of teachers in their first year after graduation were either unemployed or underemployed. By 2010, that proportion had more than doubled, to 68 percent. Nearly one in four new teachers got no work at all, up from just three percent in 2006.” – Way Too Many Teachers: University Affairs

Leaving the day, this challenge started gnawing at me and I thought What if?

What If, we took a studio approach to this design challenge? Who would be the right people to interview? How could we get decision-makers to put strategies in place to mitigate this? Who are the teachers that are still enrolling for these positions when the circumstances seem so grim? What happens if all teacher colleges stopped operating for 5 years?

This is something I am looking into investigating more.


On November 22 2014, CivicAction’s DiverseCity Fellows Neil Price, Jamil Javani and Michael Bosompra hosted Teachers Beyond the Classroom community forum at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.

My concern heading into the day was that our panel was going to be surface level to the deeper employment challenges and immediate need for solutions. The room was a mix of pre-service teachers, teachers working in schools now, and teachers who have left schools and are working in different areas of education now – including a school trustee and business.

To kick off the day, I participate in a panel alongside Camesha Cox, a teacher who has started her own organization called The Reading Partnership and David Montemurro, a teacher educator from OISE who works to place teacher candidates in field placements. I was representing the perspective of someone that has collaborated with educators.


I am thankful to Neil, Jamil and Michael for taking on this wicked problem. There will be report and the community forum was structured around these research questions:

  • What skills do teachers bring to the table for non-school employers, and what careers need those skills?
  • Are teachers’ college students being adequately prepared for job opportunities outside of schools?
  • What impact can teachers’ college graduates have on various industries and organizations in Ontario?
  • How can employers, governments, and universities better support teachers’ college students and alumni in finding work outside of schools?
  • How might recent changes to teacher education in Ontario impact teacher employment outside of schools?


Evolving Exhibit Change

I am proud to announce that Exhibit Change is going on a evolution journey.

With a lot of excitement and a good mixture of freaked-out-ness, Exhibit Change is embarking on a refining process. It is time to put the mess out on the table and to see what comes out of it.


To capture this process, I have started a new website called Evolving Exhibit Change, you can go there to read more closely about the process. 

HMW question

There are 2 reasons for a new website rather than posting here.

1. Having a clean space that doesn’t come with all the baggage, assumptions, history and existing goals is the best way to really say I don’t know where this is going and I am ok with that.

2. At some point, I think that a new website will likely happen and I want to be able to continue capturing what is happening while that transformation is ongoing.

GS workshop

Hopefully you are now asking yourself, how can I help?

There are a ton of ways! 

1. Check out the ENGAGE page on the Evolving Exhibit Change site – over there I will be sharing current questions through polls and surveys to get a sense of where the EC community is at.

2. Do the collaborator/supporter/friend survey – don’t worry there are no right or wrong answers.

3. Volunteer for a longer interview – if you’d like to see yourself as a future client of Exhibit Change give me a holler at designthinking [at] exhibit-change.com and we can set up a call or coffee.

4. And of course, following along and stay tuned to the evolving process, through Facebook, Twitter and the Evolving EC website. 



Our Tune Up Experience Tackling Accessibility

Last year, we hosted a Tune Up Workshop with Equal Grounds. Tune Up, is a hands-on design workshop taking ideas to action while practicing how to co-design solutions with users. For Tune Up last year, we had 20 practicing design thinkers and 4 people from Equal Grounds participate in designing 4 possible ways that Equal Grounds could offer services and get their enterprise off the ground. Here is a blog from Co-Founder, Terrence Ho.


It’s been almost a year since we participated in the Exhibit Change Tune Up back in December 2013.

Equal Grounds started in 2013 a few years after my brother Torrance graduated from college and could not find employment. We decided that if employers were not willing to provide opportunities we would create opportunities for him instead. After prototyping different things that he could do from data entry for small businesses to running a petition campaign, we were contacted by a family friend that heard about our project and wanted her son to be involved who also has muscular dystrophy. That’s when I realized there are many more individuals that are impacted besides my brother and his friend.

We brought our team to Tune Up because we felt we needed clarity in our direction and whether what we are tackling and our problem definition of “how do we create employment opportunities for people with disabilities” is actually true or a problem that doesn’t exist.

There were four key concepts that came out of Tune Up:

  • Internship Concept – whereby a company brings on an individual with accessible needs into their workplace for a short period of time or on a small project to see of there’s a fit.
  • Accessibility Website – as a source for information on AODA and consulting services.
  • Accessibility Centre – where individuals with disabilities can work from, with on site attendants to allow persons to work remotely for other companies and have proper care. It was even suggested that we have a remote site in a warmer climate of Florida!
  • Accessibility Association and Awards – bringing together all organizations working on employment and accessibility and awarding other organizations and companies that have achieved and gone beyond the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) standards.

What these concepts from the design thinkers that day did for us is validate our concepts that we were testing and have thought about.

Nine months after Tune Up this is where we are, still tackling the opportunity of “how can we create employment opportunities for people with disabilities?” There are three key initiatives we are focused on:

1) Inclusive Consulting: We designed and pitched an accessible consultancy at the Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) Studio and Showcase where we received positive feedback from the panel. Our main focus is to provide AODA audits, training and strategic/metric development. This has spun into its own entity called Employable Accessible People. We are currently building our team of consultants as we gear up for our first client.


2) Arts and Socialization: We’ve also been prototyping a wheelchair dance and theatre program for the last seven months. With eight core members we continue to adjust our program to meet our member’s needs. We teach everything from line dance and salsa to improv activities. We were recently invited to participate in the opening ceremonies of the ParaPan Am Games in 2015. We are very excited with this opportunity and continue to look for more individuals with mobility needs to join our wheelchair/scooter dance and theatre program.

3) Writing and Awareness: Our third endeavor is our Enables Me network around raising awareness through writing. We have a team of writers sharing their personal experiences and to report on accessibility news locally and abroad on topics from sports, work, travel and technology. You can read the stories at:

Our objective is to become a go to source for accessibility stories and information online. We continue to look for writers that want to share their personal experiences and to report on accessibility news.

As you can tell our work continues to evolve well after Tune Up, we are thankful for the opportunity to have the minds of so many thoughtful and experienced individuals that day.

— Terrence

A HUGE thank you to Terrence for recounting this story for us to share.