I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun working on a weekend. This happened when I had the good fortune to be a participant in the UX For Good’s UXXU 2011 design challenge about a week ago. I got to spend two days with some really smart folks trying to help solve some very serious social problems. It was time well spent.
My challenge team got to partner with the Adler School of Professional Psychology to develop a plan to better engage their students, faculty, and city with their mission of advocating a community-based approach to addressing mental health issues. For two days we delved into the challenges the Adler School faces and brainstormed on short- and long-term solutions.
Did we solve the problems? No. But did we expect to? Not really. To be honest, these are some fairly complex social problems that are way beyond the ability of 100 or so dedicated people to resolve in 48 hours. There have been critics of what we did, but they totally missed the point. Instead of rebutting I’ll let Cia Romano’s thoughts make the case.
So what did we accomplish? I think we showed the five non-profits that short exercises in brainstorming can be extremely productive. We showed that tapping engaged and passionate people who may lack in-depth domain expertise but have a knack for quickly ferreting out the details of a situation can be a beneficial exercise. We showed that opening discussions about a problem to a wider audience can yield fresh ideas.
Is this approach how the social ills these groups are fighting will be solved? Probably not, at least not by itself. But can it be part of a larger recalibration of how we address problems that have been so seemingly intractable for so long? I certainly hope so. And that is success.
Note: UX for Good will in New Orleans next year. I can’t think of a better place to move this idea forward.