We accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!

Starting on July 29th, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has hit the social media world by storm and hasn’t stopped yet. Last night we were challenged by my lovely hubby Edmond Wong. Check out his video here. 

Like most people, you may have heard whispers of this ice bucket challenge filtering through the virtual grapevines and been wondering what the big deal was and what the heck is ALS?

ALS was first found in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, but it wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease. Ending the career of one of the most beloved baseball players of all time, the disease is still most closely associated with his name. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. (Source: ALS Association website)

The ALS Association launched this public awareness campaign and have been putting eyes and dollars in their pockets to further their fight to find a cure.

We accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!

What we like about this challenge:

  • It’s about the people
  • A bias towards action
  • We can do more together than alone
  • A little risk can have a big impact

And for these reasons, we have chosen to challenge 3 friends that we think embody these values.


We nominate:

1. Dr. Brett Jacobsen, Head of School at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School 

2. Jen Hanson, Executive Director of Connected in Motion 

3. David Kelley, Founder of IDEO 

Here’s our video!

You have 24 hours to respond!


DT4i: Solving Complex Problems with Stakeholders

Last week was an incredible event-filled week that started off with our 2-day workshop DT4i: Solving Complex Problems with Stakeholders.


As DT4i got underway, it was quickly obvious that we had convened a really interesting group that guaranteed that our participants would be bumping into the many assumptions common in their own work environment. This silo-busting group included educators, social innovators,  front line non-profit workers, municipal staff and provincial public servants.


Using the theme of “ice cream & social enterprise” as the central challenge, the group divided up into teams to begin driving through the design-thinking process. Beginning with the critical, and sometimes the most awkward step, we find that the amount of time that any teams spent in the empathy phase will often determine the dynamics of the team, the work flow and ultimately the creativity in the outcomes of the process.

To help with the storming, forming and norming of the new project teams, we asked the workshop group to stop often to reflect on where they think they were in the process framed in our Task, Team & Self exercise. The first assumption of the day we helped to challenge was the expectation that feedback is useful for a later time or simply to reflect upon. Once gathering and compiling the room’s thoughts on the fly, we brought back the data and gave each team the opportunity to take ownership of their reflection and implement the feedback in realtime. The first piece of feedback was the need to set ground rules of how each team will work together to make sure everyone could brainstorm openly and generate.


Also, moving through the process not once but twice over the two days allowed each participant to be pushed out of their comfort zone, reflect upon what had happened and figure out what they would do differently… and then do it all over again. The benefit of coming to DT4i is not just the opportunity to identify and challenge your assumptions that we all bring into problem defining & framing but our ability to pivot our thinking and work plan based on real time feedback.


Check out the conversation that happened over on Twitter and find out when you can join us at our next event.


Back from Camp SXSWedu

At the beginning of March, I spoke at SXSWedu in Austin, Texas on “In The Trenches with K-12 Design Thinking” with Trey Boden, Dan Ryder and Alyssa Gallagher. Together, we  made a diverse panel speaking about the nitty gritty, down and dirty secrets of doing design thinking in schools.

In the short 1-hour panel, we talked about everything from getting started, the challenges of make time and space for design thinking, the value of light touch design thinking and developing a culture to support failing up. 

#SXSWedu 2014 - 13

Being a part of the panel, always re-inspires me for the work that we are doing and reminds me how lucky we are to be thinking through some seriously wicked problems. As the consultant on the panel, I am humbled to be asked to be a part of the conversation and to be valued for an outsider perspective. It is a welcomed position to be in from when I first started being involved in education conversations.

The best part of being on this panel was the chance to sit alongside Trey, Dan and Alyssa. This group came together from our Twitter Chat community, every Wednesday night at 9pm EST we get together on the hashtag #dtk12chat and talk about everything from design thinking in elementary school, focusing on the process rather than the product to education and social change. Every time I join in, I know I am bound to have a fruitful conversation and catch up with old and new friends.

For many of us, SXSWedu was our first face-to-face meeting with a group of people who we have been talking to for nearly 8 months. This week quickly turned into the foundation of friendships and community that I hadn’t anticipated. The greatest conversations were the ones that happened outside of the conference usually over a table of delicious Austin food. I realized that this is what it must feel like to go to Summer Camp. You never want to miss a moment of hanging out and yet your brain is drained from the stimulation. It was amazing knowing that at any moment at a conference of over 3000 people a friendly face was never too far away.


Our community is built on a culture of “Yes, and”, challenging assumptions and nurturing one another to fail up. I think this fostered connections and welcomed unexpected conversations simply because it was built on a foundation of design thinking.

We welcomed others to join in our chaos at a DTk12 Live from SXSWedu chat experience. It was too much fun being part of the The Show aka Dan Ryder as Oprah at SXSWedu and I think the very nature of being in the same place with Trey and Dan on the show to close off our excitement is something I will always remember and cherish.

Check out our madness:



Movie and Date Night: If You Build It

IFC Center : If You Build It Documentary www.ifccenter.com

Every few months or so, we gather a group of our fellow practitioners to catch up, mingle and most importantly cross-connect to see what might emerge. Usually we invite a few people through our network for a themed dinner, we have done public health + design a few times. This time we thought we do Movie and Date night to see “If You Build It” before reconnecting over dinner.

The documentary follows a year of Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller of Project H, the ups and downs of working with the students and the school board of Bertie County, losing their key champion and eventually their teaching salaries. Undeniably a journey of the uphill battle of bring an innovative solution to a undebatable wicked problem of engaging youth in their education experience.

Studio H - Design. Build. Transform. www.azuremagazine.com
Studio H – Design. Build. Transform. www.azuremagazine.com

By far my favourite moment is the one that most reminds me of why we do this kind of work at all, the giant smile on the faces of the students as they were able to put their chicken coop together and feel overwhelmingly proud of their efforts. You could see that these would be moments they would remember forever. The movie gave me inspiration and strength that the struggles are well worth the efforts and the smiles on those kids faces as they figured out how to put their ideas into execution, to see their designs come to life and the satisfaction of building a contribution to the community to be proud of are priceless rewards.

Like most people in our Community of Practice, learning from other design practitioners keeps us going and I am honoured to say that we are facing quite a few big ones in Toronto. After seeing Emily Pilloton’s TED Talk in 2010 where she talks about the “Teaching Design for Change”, it is needless to say that we instantly became fans of Emily’s work through Studio H. At Exhibit Change, we aspire to learn from those who are stepping up and out there into the world to share the message of what can happen when we take a risk at using design as a language for experimenting with boundaries and tensions. It is the ultimate play space if you can get just 1 person to believe it is possible.

I left the movie with a few hundred new ideas and questions burning, how might we innovate within the boundaries of the institution? how might we preserver to demonstrate our visions? how might we collaborate with unusual suspects for greater impact? how might systems learn to adapt to the ever changing times?

To join our Community of Practice, come be a part of our Google + group called Design Connector where we and others share ideas, resources and events.

Come practice with us.

Exhibit Change is a community of designers working to solve real world problems where they are happening. 

11419934165_5e4cb3e31e_zIn  our Design Thinking for Impact portfolio we are focused on working with individuals learning and practicing design thinking. We think that there are crucial lessons and principles that lend themselves to solving the complex problems that we face today. We offer a variety of workshops to keep you practicing, including Tune Up & DT4i.

[toggle title=”TUNE UP”]
With Tune Up, we are working with organizations and individuals learning design thinking together. Individuals are practicing their design thinking skills on an organization’s real problem. The organization is exposed to fresh ideas, a new community to be accountable to and a slew of next steps to pursue. Tune Up is a 1 day workshop.
[toggle title=”DT4i”]
In DT4i, we are working with individuals dedicated to practicing the process of design thinking in the safety of risk-free collaboration and coaching. The individuals attending DT4i workshops will get the opportunity to go through the design process twice to gain skills in user-centric approaches and prototyping. DT4i is a 2 day workshop.


Coming to our workshops, you will get a chance to:


[tab title=”DESIGN THINKING”]Thinking and solving problems using the design-thinking process means approaching a challenge through empathy, prototyping and iterating solutions. It is your opportunity to really spend time looking at the challenge from new and different perspectives.[/tab]
[tab title=”PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE”]The magic to design thinking is learning by doing, and doing it over and over again to learn from your own mistakes.[/tab]
[tab title=”OTHER BENEFITS”]

We promise you will be able to walk away with these experiences:

  • Hands-on & intensive collaboration with stakeholders
  • Safe space to test out ideas and assumptions
  • Intentional focus on balancing task and team dynamics
  • Bias towards action and prototyping concepts
  • Encourage active participation and roles for different leaders and champions




What to expect at each of our workshops:

All workshops can be customized to suit your needs. Interested in how we can bring our workshops to you and your group? Let’s chat! designthinking@exhibit-change.com

Rapid-Fire Tune-Up DT4i Design Labs
Timing 2 to 3-hours workshop 1 day workshop 2 day workshop 3 to 5 days
# of Participants  12 – 30 designers One organization + 12 designers 12 – 20 designers 16 – 24 designers
Description Fast-paced facilitated introduction to design thinking, working collaboratively to solve a relatable wicked problem Working closely with an organization’s “how might we”, designers will practice design thinking on a real world wicked problem Designers will spend 2 days practicing the design thinking process twice to get a sense of iteration & ideation Immersive design thinking process, working through a wicked problem directed towards an implementation strategy
Suitable for
  • Introduction to Design Thinking
  • Team Building
  • Focus on Creative Problem Solving
  • Introduction to Co-designing Practicing Design Thinking with Users
  •  Focus on Empathy
  • Studio environment
  • Focus on human-centered solutions & prototyping
  •  Co-created solutions with stakeholders
  • Focus on empathetic collaboration & integrated feedback


A year in review with Exhibit Change

Dear 2013,

It has been a fantastically great year of learning, growing and sharing. We are spending time this week thinking about all we have done, what has come of the year and where we are headed. Looking back at how we were Ringing in 2013, it is nice to see that the resolutions we made stuck and now we are ready to say goodbye again and bring on 2014.

This year, we have had the extreme pleasure of working with some fabulous collaborators, convening spaces for conversation, working to really embrace and celebrate failures as learning opportunities and having way too much fun.

As the final weeks of 2013 speed by, we are trying to tie up lose ends and working to do it with flare and perhaps put a bow on it.

Thanks for bringing us these highlights:


[section title=”AMAZING CONFERENCES”]


[section title=”PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT”]


[section title=”AND…”]We moved, did Strategic Planning and Colin came on board :)[/section]


What an amazing year, I will remember the network of collaborators, educators and friends who have supported us through, a focus on learning to get to failure and beyond, and ultimately that we are connecting the dots in ways I could never have imagined. I am so excited for what 2014 is going to bring.


[section title=”IN 2014, WE RESOLVE TO”]

  • celebrate our failures
  • commit to being a learning organization
  • practice our craft
  • live the process
  • make meaning of our work


See ya later 2013, we will remember you fondly!


c/o the Exhibit Change team

EC birthday party










Spending some time on us

This fall we embarked on strategic planning for Exhibit Change with our new core team, Colin and I, and our Makers, Terrence, Emily, Clara and Nisha to spend 1.5 days thinking through where we are headed. This is something we have tried to do before and always stumbled after the initial steps. This time around we felt like we needed to invest in a different way to get the most value out of the process. It was a pleasure to get to spend these days with some of my favourite people, focus our brains and not surprisingly I learned a lot about what it is like to be facilitated. 

After a few failed attempts at facilitating ourselves, we finally brought in Natalie Currie to help us out with our strategic planning. Much like a hair dresser trying to cut their own hair, we would have missed the hard to reach spots and only been able to see one perspective. Having a facilitator in the room let us concentrate on the content and not on the process (which was new for us) and such a relief. Natalie was fully warned walking into the room that we are a silly bunch and that her job was to keep us focused and reduce the number of tangents we went on – of course a few still got away from us.


Natalie used a few different sneaky facilitation tricks on us to get to some of the stuff below the surface. We designed a movie script for 10 years from now, an empathy map of our clients, ranked our priorities and came up with an intense 90 day action plan. Each day we left completely mentally exhausted. 

Moving forward, I am so proud of all that we have accomplished this year and totally “scare-cited” as Natalie would put it for next year. We have big plans for 2014, we are turning 5.