What We’ve Learned by Prototyping Workshops

The discipline of iteration and testing have been the most important processes to our work at FabRiders. A final product is never produced, whether it’s a how-to guide or a project plan, without distributing lots of drafts and incorporating lots of feedback. All our work is a prototype, as even when it gets a final release we learn about it’s value and use to others that can be applied to future work. This is the same for our approach to designing workshops and events. Everytime we conduct a workshop, it’s basically an iteration that gets changed and hopefully improved each time. We always solicit feedback from participants and look for opportunities to collaborate with other trainer/facilitators to get ideas on how my exercises and methodologies can be improved.

FabRiders’ pipeline for prototyping workshops

This post documents the evolution and iteration of a one day workshop that was initially called ‘Hacking Human Centred Design for Social Change’ but is now titled ‘Designing Supporter-Centric Social Change Campaigns.’ It began as a series of exercises developed through work with some of FabRiders’ clients integrating user/human centred design methodologies into social change campaigns and projects. We began thinking about how to develop a workshop offering that would raise awareness of how incorporating human centred design methodologies, which focus on developing insights on real people and getting them involved in a process of co-creation, can contribute to movement building and strategies that lead to real social change. We started by developing some short sessions at Aspiration’s Non-profit Development (NPDev) Summit, which allowed us to get insights from other capacity builders focused on technology and social justice on what could be accomplished in a workshop format and what exercises might work.

In the past year it’s gone through a major evolution towards a one day workshop. At Mozfest in October 2016, the workshop was run as a one hour session, where the participants were mostly coder/developer types already well versed in human centred design methodologies. So we focused on raising their awareness of the process of developing a campaign strategy. Here the learning was on making the curriculum flexible to better meet the needs of the participants.

The next opportunity came at the Internet Freedom Festival in March, 2017 for a 2.5 hour session, which was attended by a good mix of coder/developer types and social change campaigners. During the workshop we ran the stakeholder mapping exercise and then developed personas (see point 5 below) and then wrapped up with a discussion about the insights the personas provided. At the festival we got a good cross section of folks that were both coder/developer types and social change campaigners. The benefit here for the participants was taking time to better understanding personal perspectives and motivations of the people involved or impacted in their campaigns.

Patrick working with participants on developing insights at the London workshop

We developed it as a full day workshop in partnership with Patrick Olszowski from Outrageous Impact in London in May 2017. Two things had avbig impact on the content of the workshop, one was the release of MobLab’s excellent Campaign Accelerator five-day workshop curriculum, which has a lot of synergies, and then working with Patrick, who had excellent exercises that helped participants  build insights from personas that can inform prototypes of campaign tactics.  A learning from the outreach work we did in London, was that the title ‘Hacking Human Centred Design for Social Change’ needed work, as we were getting sign-ups from people who wanted to better understand Human Centred Design methodologies in general, and weren’t really connected to social change campaigning. We realised that people had simply read the title of the workshop and signed up, rather than reading the description. I realised then that it should be called ‘Designing People Powered Social Change Campaigns’ or “Designing Participatory Campaigns’ but these are titles already being used by MobLab, and we want to respect their hard work and support the brand they are developing.

In July, 2017, we had access to the San Francisco NonProfit Tech Centre, and publicised the workshop under the new title ‘Designing Supporter-Centric Social Change Campaigns’. That title was more successful in our pitching and outreach, as all sign-ups were connected to some form of social change campaigning.

The one day curriculum nearly does it’s job in providing participants with an awareness of how applying human centred design methodologies to social change campaign planning is beneficial. We always explain to participants at the beginning that the workshop is a prototype and have gotten very helpful feedback from participants at the end of the workshop as a result.

Our current session design

Here’s what the agenda for the SF workshop looked like. And yes, we would love to get any advice or comments on how to improve this (send an email to workshops (at) fabriders.net)

  1. An introductory exercise in getting people to share stories about their personal motivations to work on their issue.
  2. We ran the Spectrogram to surface hot topics and get debate and discussion going.
  3. A review of the definition of ‘Campaign’ and getting participants to articulate the campaign goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound (yes, it’s the overused SMART acronym!)
  4. Stakeholder mapping and power analysis exercise in order to start to prioritise the types of stakeholders they need to engage more deeply – a key question here is: ‘who doesn’t have power but should have more by the end of your campaign’  And ending with identifying which key stakeholder group they should spend some time researching on how to engage more deeply
  5. An example of a persona

    Development of personas of real people from the key stakeholder groups they identified in the last exercise based on their own knowledge and assumptions – the persona template is basically:

    • Name
    • Age
    • Preferred method of communication
    • Life Goals
    • Values
    • How will this benefit them?
    • How will they be involved or impacted?
    • What do they think/feel about the campaign (or the issue)
    • Where do they get their info about the issue?
  6. Development of insight/point of view statements based on the personas – From https://mobilisationlab.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/CA-sense-final.pdf, page 40 – Person + Barrier/Motivation + Interesting Learning E.g.: Tech workers + want opportunities to innovate and create solutions together + believe that tech can make the world better.
  7. Formulation of focus question ‘how might we..’ Questions based on the insights/point of view statements From: https://mobilisationlab.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/CA-sense-final.pdf, page 43
    How might we (action) (object) (qualifier) (end result)?
    e.g: How might we involve tech workers to co-create innovative solutions and sustainable tech projects?
  8. A review of the process of prototyping in a campaign context from: https://mobilisationlab.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/CA-prototype-final.pdf Page 14
  9. Brainstorming prototype tactics based on the ‘how might we…’ statements.  Basically a post-it note generating exercise where they then decide which ones are the most interesting and  then developing their ideas further.
  10. Presenting the tactics (in small groups) to each other and soliciting feedback.
  11. Wrap up of the day with a final go round asking participants to share their major ‘aha’s’

Just to note that we make it clear to people that the exercises starting at point 5 would be needed to be re-run in the real world and it’s to give them an idea on the type of research needed to engage and understand their stakeholders.

Current Challenges

Our big struggle this time round was point 3 in getting people to be able to clearly articulate a SMART goal for their campaign. It took nearly 45 minutes to do it and it meant we didn’t get them working on personas until after lunch, which was not ideal in the flow of the day, and allow for more time for them to brainstorm and test tactics. My current challenge is to figure out a way to get them to make sure they can articulate a focused campaign goal before the start of the workshop.

I’d also love to figure out a meaningful exercise that would give them an opportunity to interact with real people powered campaign examples.

What’s Next

We will run the workshop at least two more times this autumn. In October in London (TBD), hopefully partnering again with Patrick, and then again at the SF NonProfit Tech Centre on November 13th, partnering with Aspiration and iEcology. And very likely run a session at the next NonProfit Developer Summit on prototyping workshops.

Once we feel we have a ‘good’ curriculum we will publish it to the FabToolkit. You can also find other workshop curriculum we’ve developed through prototyping:

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