March Break Career Exploration: Rapid Fire DT4i

After last week’s 2-day DT4i training workshop, we dove right back into workshop mode with the amazing youth from Success Beyond Limits (SBL) last Wednesday. As part of SBL’s March Break Career Exploration, our DT4i rapid fire workshop sought to connect the topic of youth entrepreneurship with the benefits of the design-thinking process.


Condensing two days of content into one afternoon, we weren’t sure what to expect as we moved 45 youth through the phases of the design-thinking process.

We really wanted to show the benefits of why teams should spend more time in the problem defining phase before moving into the problem solving phase. The key is understanding how best to use empathy in articulating your user needs, a true foundation for human-centred design.


It would be an understatement to say that the youth from Success Beyond Limits showed no end to generating new ideas. We were also impressed with how easily the youth could craft unique and detailed “point of views” or POVS through their user experience maps.


The ability to zone in on a specific user stood out in contrast to the other workshop earlier in the week. What we realized was the key difference between our two workshop groups was the youth’s ability to freely design for a specific user.

Professional experience, it seems, drives people towards designing one solution for everyone so no one is excluded. While this might sound logical at first glance, in the end these solution more often than not are solution that don’t work for anyone.


Another impressive feat the SBL youth demonstrated was the lack of fear in focusing on the process versus focusing on the final product. Rather, the youth were quite comfortable to concentrate on the design tensions that revealed themselves from the crafted user POVs. The end result was a whole suite of very creative solutions that started off with exploring the design challenge of ice cream & social enterprise. Proposed projects included designing service robots for seniors, mobile app ideas, outlining ethical farming practices and developing a new approach to manufacture ice cream.


What we learned from SBL’s freedom to focus on the process over the product is our need to highlight and push working professionals to give themselves permission to be uncomfortable and vulnerable in the design-thinking process.  The longer term advantage is the ability to creatively come up with new solutions to wicked problems. Otherwise, focusing on the product or “end goal” allows you to fall into the pattern of trying to solve new problems with the feasible solutions you already know.


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.


TEDx YMCA Academy: EduMakers

I feel honoured to have been asked to speak at the 5th TEDx event at the YMCA Academy this coming Saturday. I have attended 2 of the previous TEDx events hosted by the Academy and it’s always a welcomed source of inspiration to see the culture of dedication to learning and sharing that the Academy provides.

The TEDx YMCAA talk that has always stood out for me was by an actual student from the Academy who spoke about his experience of searching for, and eventually finding, a place where he wanted to learn. Having struggled with other schools, he liked the fact that YMCAA teachers respected you enough to let you call them by their first name and showed him that they genuinely wanted to get to know their students. He spoke of his experience at other schools where he went through the motions, did the homework but never felt it was worth his while to share what he had done with his teachers who, to him, didn’t seem to care at all about whether he was succeeding or not.  At the Academy, he’s always proud to show his work.

EdCampAnother TEDx moment that stands out for me also reinforced my understanding of how truly dedicated the Academy is towards making sure their students have a chance to succeed. It was an unscripted moment when halfway through the event, the Head of School Don Adams made an apology to 2 of his students. These 2 students were originally scheduled to talk at TEDx but both students had decided that it was too much pressure to speak. In a show of empathy, Don felt like he had asked a lot of them and he now owed them a great deal of respect for agreeing and having the courage to say they weren’t ready. He wasn’t worried about disappointing the crowd but mending his relationships with his students.

It was this passion and dedication to Don’s students that brought us to hosting Islands of Excellence, an education conference within the Academy and why we continue to work on our relationship with the school.

This Saturday at TEDx, I will be speaking about The Awkwardness of Collaboration. Here is a short blurb:

The Awkwardness of Collaboration

We have all been there, at the crossroads of trying to approach the conversation of how we are going to work together, facilitate our mutual success and wanting to tie each other up with rubber bands. There is a delicate balance to strike in the zone of playing nice, giving time to build trusting relationships and navigating how much to push one another. If at the root of it all, collaboration is meant to be greater at its sum then how might we question, provoke and evolve through the process?

Be a part of the conversation.

Twitter @ymcaacademy #TEDxYMCAAcademy #TEDx

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!

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


RETHINK: EWB National Conference – Engineering Change

Over the weekend of Jan 10-12, EWB Canada convened their greatest minds and hearts to their National Conference, RETHINK. Focused on Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Partnership for Global Development, EWB Canada is working to solve some of the world’s most wicked problems: poverty and inequality.

It was a pleasure to be there in a spectrum of capacities and to speak on 3 different panels. Our relationship with EWB Canada goes back to when we delivered a design thinking workshop for a pre-deployment team in 2012 and since then our admiration for their vision, ability to pivot and invest in people has only grown.


On Saturday, I was on a panel called “Physical and Non-Physical Spaces for Collaborative Entrepreneurship” and on Sunday, I was on 2 panels “The Future of Foreign Aid” and “The Innovation Forum”. Each panel was uniquely different and demonstrates the breadth of knowledge EWB Canada is working on bringing to their membership.

Along with 4 other panelists, we spoke about “Physical and Non-Physical Spaces for Collaborative Entrepreneurship” from all corners of the work. From academic, to government, to non-profit, social innovation and back again. Wearing our variety of hats, we spoke about the physical tactics of having white boards everywhere and different working environments – formal and informal, to the benefits of convening thinking spaces at events and during meetings and of course to the culture and trust in collaborative relationships. Throughout the diversity of perspectives it was clear that the overlaps were built from the community, how the space is formed, how the culture evolves and how the relationships spur collaborations.

Putting my Masters Student hat on, I had been given an opportunity to work on strategy and foresight for EWB Canada over the past semester and our group was asked to present on “The Future of Foreign Aid”. Our delivery provoked some deeper thinking around how EWB Canada will prepare for the uncertain future.

photo (1)

On Sunday afternoon, “The Innovation Forum” on “Facilitating in Complex Problem Environments” rounded out the conference for many with an opportunity to dive deeper into their own challenges. Through some unconventional methods we exposed a range of challenges that face facilitators and those operating in complex problem environments. Individually we may each have hesitations about our role, but together we are all facing similar challenges and learning together grows our ability to tackle the world’s most wicked problems.

It was a pleasure to share the weekend’s “stage” with Ryerson University, Hub Ottawa, Camaraderie, Ashoka, OCAD University, McMaster Innovation Lab and MaRs Solutions Lab alongside all the participants from EWB Canada.

“With new abilities to understand how problems connect, we are called to share and collaborate in our work, to create solutions larger than single organizations.”  – RETHINK website


Heads Up! Tune Up!

We are excited to be launching a new initiative called Tune Up!

Tune Up is hands-on design thinking applied to a real world wicked problem. 

Lately, we’ve been meeting so many individuals and organizations looking to get a bigger taste of design thinking in safe place to practice the cool tools and techniques. Which got us thinking:  how might we provide a great experience for what the design-thinking process is really like in action? And voila! Tune Up was born!


[section title=”INDIVIDUALS”]Tune Up is a great opportunity to put design thinking into practice on a real world wicked problem. Leading up to as well as during the workshop, a featured organization will provide you with some research and context to guide you as you tackle the day’s design challenge with our other Tune Up designers. Very much in the spirit of co-creation and human-centred design, this is a great change to work on articulating your unique perspectives and deliver an action-oriented plan that will definitely have real-world consequences. [/section]
[section title=”ORGANIZATIONS”]Tune Up is a great way to shed some light on a challenge you and your team are facing by bringing to forward to a room full of eager design-thinking practitioners. With your team of 4, you get a change to frame the design challenge for the day as well as be present and part of the conversations to provoke the Tune Up designers into prototyping potential approaches. [/section]


The ultimate goal for Tune Up is to expose both the organization and the designers to the design thinking process and facilitate collaborative learning.

The first Tune Up is happening on December 7, 2013. We plan on hosting a Tune Up with a new feature organization every 3-4 months.

Want to know how you or your team can get involved in Tune Up? We would love to hear from you!


ELNStudio & Design Driven Community Engagement


This Saturday the Exhibit Change team, Jenn, Nisha and Clara will have a great opportunity to help infuse design-driven community engagement into the many conversations happening at CivicAction’s 2013 Emerging Leaders Network Studio (ELNStudio).

We’re really excited to be part of this year’s event! ELNStudio has grown over the years to become a signature event for emerging leaders across all sectors and industries to come together, connect around the issues facing our region, and work out a plan to take action. This year’s Studio will focus on job creation and economic opportunities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and is shaping up to be an event not to be missed.


As the facilitator team for the Local Economic Development and Micro-Entrepreneurism topic, Exhibit Change will be brining our design-driven community engagement approach to help drive the delegates’ conversations into action during and after the November 2nd event.



Design-driven community engagement is a method of imagining what is possible, seeing things from a different point of view and being led by the power of the question.

The facilitation for ELNStudio was designed specifically with the intention of getting ideas to action. The facilitators have crafted a process that will evoke new perspectives, honour the multiple and diverse voices in the room and generate ways for participants to plug in their experiences and value. The approach comes together from our multitude of backgrounds including design thinking, Art of Hosting, business thinking and strategic foresight to name a few. Together, this process is meant to create a container for all the background ideas, visions and passions coming from the ELN community. [/section]

[section title=”SO WHAT?”]The impact of this facilitation method is to encourage leadership to emerge within the groups, and for the solutions to be human-centred and striving to influence systemic change. [/section]

ELNStudio is about creating space for innovators and initiators to take on their natural roles as change-makers, working together to build an action-centric team to foster and promote provocative disruptions.

We are confident that the facilitation will build a foundation for an action-oriented conversation, fueled by all the great minds in the room and develop to support the instigators who emerge as leaders of projects.



It ‘s important to highlight that this conversation won’t happen again with this exact group of people, or with the exact constraints and thinking; the facilitation process lets us not miss any opportunity to get the most value out of November 2nd.

We also only have one day to forge ahead. The design-driven community engagement approach will help us to figure out what conversations are already happening and which ideas have started to take root and collectively push us towards the next iteration.

Sounds like fun? Then be sure to join us on Saturday, November 2nd! Register for the event now or follow along on Twitter this November 2nd @elnonline 


ECOO 2013 Bingo

I am heading to ECOO later today and presenting tomorrow. While watching some of the twitter conversation. I am inspired from Audrey Watters work at #SXSWedu and figured I would take it upon myself to see where I could contribute some reality gaming to the conference.

Let’s see what happens and what I might learn from this experiment.

If you are around at ECOO tomorrow, come check out my panel with Andrew Campbell on “How Technology Can Break Down The Walls of School?

Play along via twitter at #ecoo13 or face-to-face 🙂

ECOO Bingo

Yes, and! EdCamp Design Thinking

On October 5, the first ever EdCamp Design Thinking happened at Bitmakers Lab in Toronto, Ontario. This was an opportunity for a group of educators, designers, entrepreneurs and learners to talk about “how might design thinking impact the future of education?” The day was rooted in participant-driven conversation, framed on design thinking with a distinct focus on taking questions to action.


In 2009, EdCamps were born out of the movement to “take back PD” in Philadelphia by a group of educators who were frustrated with mandated professional development and wanted to connect with educators to talk about what mattered to them. By their very nature of being an unconference, EdCamps are a platform for vibrant conversation and generate boatloads of inspiration and enthusiasm for the face-to-face participants and the ones following in the Twitter back channel. EdCamp Design Thinking was no different and intentionally gave participants a bias towards action. As the organizing committee, we wanted to balance the space for participants to lead conversation and to demonstrate a bit of the design thinking process. Participants were taken through “The Six Phases of Design Thinking” from the Henry Ford Learning Institute and the “Design Thinking Oreo Cookie” exercise from Exhibit Change to get a taste of what design thinking is about. This set up participants for the conversations that followed.


To build energy and a sense of what people were already talked about, the group was led through World Café. World Café is designed to encourage the kinds of conversations we have at cafes; the ones that we can’t pull ourselves away from and are fueled by caffeine and passion. In World Café participants moved to another table to connect with new people, all together everyone would have talked to 7 new people within 40 minutes and together are revealing the themes and patterns within the room. World Café is a tool to leverage the conversation that is happening now; the same group of people will never be in the same place and same time together again. In World Café, participants explored 2 big questions and then summarized the big ideas.  The questions were open-ended and designed to prompt conversation, participants were in charge of where the conversation went from there.


Following World Café, participants proposed their own session for Open Space. Open space is designed to have participants with something on their mind a time and place to discuss with others who might be thinking something similar. The topics ranged from “How to Assess the Process versus the Product?” to “How to create a culture of risk and failure?” to “How do we engage the Ministry of Education in redesigning EQAO for special education students?” – each question arose from the participants who didn’t know how to tackle these challenges alone and wanted to talk to others.


After a morning of fruitful conversations, the group had Salad Club. Salad Club is a collaborative and participant-driven way to bring lunch together in a beautiful and spontaneous way that can only happen that way once, much like a World Café. Everyone was asked to bring one fruit or vegetable and one protein and together we compiled a lovely salad bar that was suited to all dietary constraints. It is always magical to watch how easily Salad Club can come together and the variety that is created. It is really a wonderful metaphor for trusting people to bring what they can to fuel others; we are more together than we are apart.

The afternoon began with an energizer called “Yes, and!” This activity is meant to generate a positive ideas environment. We are so used to hearing someone’s idea and then saying, “yes, but…” “Yes, and!” let’s everyone feel like they are contributing, like their ideas are actually being heard and eliminates the feeling that one idea is the solution. This activity led us into the afternoon of more Open Space conversations.


I left the day feeling like a lot of seeds had been planted for deeper discussion. For some people this was their first EdCamp or their first introduction to design thinking and in some cases both, so I anticipate that it was a lot to digest. EdCamp Design Thinking was a taster of what design thinking could be like in education and I hope that after a bit of time to reflect that the ones eager for their next taste will reach out to see what’s next in their journey.The group was a little slow to pick up on ideas, many excited to carry on conversations that started in the morning and a few that wanted time to connect around new ideas. The afternoon passed quickly with some more action-oriented discussion of how might we apply design thinking in schools, education, for our own practice and learn from places where it is already happening. We closed the day with a circle and a symbolic simultaneous clap to indicate that we were on the same page.

I imagine that as we keep doing EdCamp Design Thinking that it will take on its own momentum and begin generating the conversations that will propel design thinking to the places that it needs to be.


It is always a delight when the conversation keeps going and other perspectives are shared, you can find a bit more out about the day from these archives of the day.

Tweet Archive of the Day – Storify

Richland Academy – Experiencing Design Thinking Ed Camp

Heidi Siwak – Class 61 begins inquiry world café

Communication, Communication, Yes, and….

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]


EdCamp Design Thinking is next weekend!!!

The first ever EdCamp Design Thinking is happening on October 5, 2013 at Bitmaker Labs!!! A good EdCamp starts with space. Where you have it effects the flow of conversation, the transition from space to space and the comfort of the attendees. We are so super excited to be at Bitmaker Lab, not only for their innovative work as an education experience as well as their inviting space and culture for supporting the community.

What is an EdCamp? 

It is a free, volunteer run, participant driven unconference. EdCamps emerged after original EdCamp Founders from Philly, attended a BarCamp in November 2009 and the movement was born. Since then, educators across the world are taking back professional development and having face to face meet ups to talk about education on Saturdays! The days are organized around conversations, the content for the agenda is generated by the people who attend and they almost always flow over to the bar.

What is EdCamp Design Thinking? 

It is all the good stuff of an EdCamp plus a focus on design thinking. EdCamps are open model unconference and support hacking and tweaking as necessary. The growing conversation about design thinking online and offline pushed the organizing committee to see what they could do with the question “How might we understand the impact of design thinking on education?” It is evident by the nearly sold out event that there is definitely an overwhelming energy.

What can attendees expect at EdCamp Design Thinking? 

For those who have been to an EdCamp before, attendees can expect to see some old faces, connect with people that they know are like-minded and drive them to think. For those who have never been before, they will be welcomed by all the seasoned attendees and the organizing committee. The day takes a slightly different approach to the EdCamp model with some additional unconference techniques layered with some design thinking terminology. We felt that the best way to build deep conversations was to do what the people are asking for, which is more context around design thinking and the space to talk about where they are at with the mindset and tools. Every one attending comes from a different place in education, whether they be a student, parent, designer, educator, administrator, yoga teacher or general EdCamp enthusiast there is something from absolutely everyone at EdCamp.


There are just a few tickets left, but if you are feeling like you can’t live without this event – show up and we will find space for you! And you can follow along from home in your Pajamas too #EdCampDT or @EdCampDT