Using Design Thinking to build trust, develop meaningful relationships and respond to unmet needs
By Caroline Lu, Advisory Designer, IBM Design/Watson Customer Engagement
Selected images from our slideshow we played during our final presentation to 80 members of the Durham community.
Our first steps in Durham began with a city tour followed by a home-cooked Durham style barbeque. (This means that barbeque here is made with pork and vinegar, as opposed to the tomato based sauce in Memphis, opposed to no sauce and beef in Texas.)
Throughout our 3-week project, we embraced the principles of IBM Design Thinking and immersed ourselves in the community with many Design Thinking activities in getting to know Durham.
Our project kick-off with 60 members of the community included breaking out into 6 roundtable discussions. We continued with: 32 interviews with various members of the community ranging from community based organizations like the North Carolina Diaper Bank, Healing With CAARE, Inc., to various sectors of government, city, education, and, health, like the Durham County Department of Public Health. We also conducted interviews with people working on existing tools like United Way’s 211 and Durham Neighborhood Compass.
We boarded a mini-bus for a city tour of Durham by our friends from Brown Hat Tours. We spoke with and observed committee meetings at the Partnership for a Healthy Durham. We conducted site visits at Lincoln Community Health Center, a federally qualified health center. We also met with the East Durham Children’s Initiative and volunteered with kids in packing laundry detergent for distribution. And, we also experienced a basketball game at North Carolina Central University, the nation’s first public liberal arts college founded for African-Americans.
Marching band playing at North Carolina Central University where the men’s basketball team, The Eagles, beat South Carolina State University 85-62
Design Thinking is a methodology about bringing people together. Design Thinking is about intent. It’s about basing any sort of outcome on human-centered needs. It’s about working together, co-creating and making sure that everybody is at the table. –And literally, we were from the start!
During our first week, we conducted a 25-person Design Thinking workshop with members of the community. Here, we were understanding things that are working and not working when it comes to addressing community and population health. We also asked the community to brainstorm “Big Ideas” that would respond to their needs.
Members of the community voting on “Big Ideas” that they had each generated
At the end of week 2, we continued using Design Thinking with a 7-person co-creation workshop. During this stage of our project, we had concepts that we wanted to test out with this smaller group of Durham’s finest woman in health & child care management, social work & education.
Participants co-creating a future state scenario of how a user will experience this new platform and ultimately measure collective impact for a specific health priority.
Design Thinking increases trust
At the beginning of our trip, one community member told us, “If it’s about us, but not with us, it’s not for us.”
Design Thinking helped realize that quote. It helped us work with Durham to truly understand, empathize and respond to each individual and community needs. This process helped us build trust, develop meaningful and relevant outcomes, and foster close relationships.
Design Thinking transforms ways of working
One piece of feedback after our final presentation was about how we inspired a new way of working. We activated leaders to “cut through the red tape and move towards true collaboration” through Design Thinking. We also heard that the Steering Committee at the Partnership for a Healthy Durham already used Design Thinking activities during a meeting last week!
Design Thinking as another mechanism for continuing what they have been doing
As a Designer who has followed this methodology for the past 9 years, it was encouraging and reaffirming to see this process actually work. The thing is, Design Thinking isn’t anything new. People, if given the opportunity to be at the table, will come. In Durham, people have been working together in pockets. There are hundreds of non-profits. Pilots come and go. People move from job to job and gain more and more knowledge in the new initiatives they join. There have been success stories of cross-sector, cross-organization collaboration, as seen in the Project Access. There have been unsuccessful stories to be learned from, too.
The people and community are compassionate, motivated and dedicated to a healthier Durham. They are committed to making a collective impact and fostering a culture of health. They have been doing this for years. Design Thinking has given them another point of view and mechanism to continue doing what they have been doing for years. Design Thinking helped them realize the art of what is possible.
***It would be remiss not to mention the input and support we received from the IBM RTP Design Studio on this project. Our thanks to Steve Kim, Tricia Garrett, Clay Braxton, Brian Burnette, Kristine Berry, Sean Farres (read his blog post), Eric Morrow, and Kevin Carr. From their leadership and facilitation of the design thinking workshop, to their creativity and dedication as they assisted us prepare for our final presentation, we so appreciate their willingness to help our team and the Durham community.