This week Project Breaker kicked off here in Portland. .Breaker website explains what they do in this way; "Customized design challenges in cities nationwide task teams of students with designing innovative solutions to real-world problems. Groups of executives and educators enrich the process and learn alongside."
Gina Condon from the Construct Foundation invited me to aid in the empathy phase of the design challenge. Basically I wrangled high school students and helped them get from point a to point b. I also supported them while they were out in the field interviewing community members. It was an exciting two days to be a part of and it reminded me of my love for the design thinking process and why it is such important work.
Watching these high school students approach strangers on the street and listening to their thoughtful questions was inspiring. They are really taking this work seriously. From a group interview at EcoDistricts to small group interviews at Metro, Cully Living, and UD + P, the students that I worked with gathered information about the city of Portland and the needs that these organizations see for our city. They talked about homelessness, the lack of affordable housing, the rapid development of our city, traffic, neighborhood struggles, and poor city planning. They learned to ask good questions by first asking questions that got little to no response. They practiced active listening with important community members who are 20 years their senior. They interviewed Lyft drivers, food cart owners, artists, baristas and grandmothers. These students that are volunteering 8 hours a day for 11 days filled their notebooks with quotes and questions and then made inferences on what they saw and heard.
Now they have the difficult task of sorting through all of those notes. They have move to the define stage of the process, where they will look for themes within their research and then use those themes to choose their area of interest. I look forward to attending the pitch next week to see what kinds of brilliant ideas they have to help benefit our city and make it livable for many years to come!