Archives For participation economy

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If you’re reading this post on LinkedIn, then you already understand the power of communities working together to create new possibilities. But as we head into 2015, it’s worth underscoring the importance of community collaboration.

When Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus founded Grameen Bank, his innovation was not so much the idea of lending small sums of money to poor villagers in Bangladesh; it was the idea of lending to small groups of women who could help each other make the best use of the loans and ensure repayment. The community was the big idea.

Communities have long been the key to building things that an individual or family might find beyond their resources. Think about the barn raising tradition. Communities came together to help farmers build over a few days what may have taken months to do individually. A modern example of barn raising can be found atLocal Motors where automotive enthusiasts come together in micro-factories to design and build off-road vehicles faster, and at a fraction of the price, of conventional manufacturers.

Two years ago, I wrote about the importance of making others successful at IDEO. We have found that for our own brand of design thinking, collaboration is essential. It’s the only way we can tackle the kinds of complex challenges that we think most need solving. At IDEO at least, better together is a fundamental business strategy.

This basic insight — the power of collaboration — led us to create OpenIDEO, our online community that enables anyone to use design thinking to address pressing global issues collaboratively. We have been blown away by the passion and commitment of the community that has participated in more than 25 challenges. And we’ve learned that the idea of community collaboration is especially valuable in three different ways.

  • Better understanding of users. By involving a broader community in the research phase of a challenge, everyone gains a more complete understanding of all the stakeholders and variety of use cases. For example, an OpenIDEO participant from Uganda assembled a team to interview parents and educators in rural villages to get first-hand insights about the most pressing needs for early childhood development.
  • Relevant place to prototype ideas. Rather than designing in a vacuum, working with communities in need adds that magic formula necessary to come up with solutions that directly affect those who will benefit from it. You’ll also have a readymade place to try out and improve your ideas. For example, after realizing the need for safe recreational spaces for women in Istanbul, participants of OpenIDEO’s Women’s Safety challenge tested their idea through a prototype in that community.
  • Built-in motivation to implement the idea. New ideas need lots of prototyping and work before they’re ready for launch. If communities are collaborating to solve their own problems, it’s much more likely that they’ll be motivated to carry the idea forward and to implement the ideas. What’s more, the idea might be picked up by an entirely different group – maybe even in another part of the world – than the one who created it. For example, college students in New York City worked with an NGO in Nepal to develop a new project that helps low-income women support each other in Kathmandu.

If you want to see how some of these ideas are playing out, or contribute to one yourself, check out the latest community-based challenge on OpenIDEO, the transition to renewable energy.

This challenge is relevant to just about everyone on the planet. How can your involvement in this community push the effort to the next level?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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According to a UN report on aging, the world’s population is aging at an unprecedented rate. By 2050, the number of people 60 years or older will exceed the number of young people under age 15 for the first time in history. The effects of population aging are profound and impact everything from economic growth, labor markets, and taxes to healthcare, housing, and family structures.

Simply put, aging is a fact of life. Our parents, grandparents, friends, ourselves: we all will age. Whether we’re able to stay active, healthy, and retain our sense of autonomy as we age, well, that’s another matter. Which is why this question is so pressing: How might we all maintain wellbeing and thrive as we age?

This is the latest OpenIDEO design challenge posed by Mayo Clinic and it’s one I encourage you to contribute your creativity to. After all, staying mentally active is key to healthy aging.

What aspects of aging are you most concerned about?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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Now that government data is becoming more readily available, there are lots of interesting uses. Here’s one that we worked on with the Sunlight FoundationSitegeist is a mobile app that helps you access US Census data and other public details about a neighborhood. This means you can check on everything from average rent prices to how people commute—in seconds.

Try it on a local neighborhood. What did you learn?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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A recent article on the freelance workplace refers to an Intuit study that predicts 40% of the workforce will be freelance by 2020. To many, this is an exciting idea where talented and creative individuals get to leverage their skills free from the tyranny of the “boss.” To others, it is a scary proposition where individuals work crazy long hours with none of the traditional perks and protections of employment. What interests me is: How might we be intentional about the design of a freelance life such that we get more of the former and less of the latter?

What are the tools that we need to manage freelance careers? What are the new behaviors amongst individuals and corporations that might make freelancing sustainable? How might our social structures and education systems have to change to accommodate this shift in work style?

I would love to come back to this topic from time to time. What are the questions we should really be asking? Where might we look for insights and inspiration?

How have you designed your freelance life?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?

This is the question posed by the current Knight News Challenge, a media innovation contest open to participants anywhere in the world. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding from the Knight Foundation and feedback from a collaborative network of peers.

IDEO has customized the software platform that runs OpenIDEO.com to help the Knight Foundation transform the way they run their news challenges and issue grants. Join the challenge and submit your ideas here.

What’s your favorite media innovation today?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)