IDEO, Jamie Oliver, Enterprising Schools, Institute for Large Scale Innovation, WSUP, Unilever, Oxfam, Nokia, Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford, Queensland Government, X Prize Foundation, and The Grameen Creative Lab
OpenIDEO.com is a Web-based platform for innovation where creative thinkers worldwide can design better, together. Anyone who wants to participate can.
OpenIDEO is just beginning to deliver on its huge potential for amazing ideas and social impact. Designed as a service, it is intuitively executed online and is impressive in its ability to make the creative process open source and open to all. Great to see ‘one of the greats’ giving back in such a significant way.
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
Our team observed that online collaboration and consumer activism were trending up—more than 2 billion people worldwide now engage in Web-based interactions—and sought a means to harness that tremendous human resource to do social good.
We knew from experience that quantitative research can complement human-centered design when employed at the right times in the process. The ideation & evaluation phases of a project can benefit from feedback from the community, particularly when designers are tackling big problems with small budgets— often the case with social innovation projects.
One big challenge for the team was figuring out how to get the public to participate without offering monetary incentives. Designers would address this by communicating the nonprofit nature of the site and conveying to participants that instead of cash they would gain inspiration, knowledge, and recognition as part of a larger collaboration to solve some of the toughest problems faced by modern society.
The team considered more than 100 different ways of engaging people in projects, but no single platform met all of their needs. In order to be successful, the platform needed to:
•Allow a broader range of people to participate
•Enable and encourage collaboration;
•Attract talent worldwide;
•Be engaging and rewarding
•Offer challenges around a range of issues to keep community engagement;
•Cater to the nonprofit world by being a low-cost solution
•Provide feedback in order to solve diverse problems.
OpenIDEO.com was developed to achieve all of this in one website.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
Network innovation software companies had started to threaten the design and innovation consulting industry, and the design team began looking at what might disrupt the status quo. The team did intensive research and competitive analyses to explore market opportunities and experiment with social media and collaborative problem-solving.
For example, the team set up a Facebook page called Big Conversations, Small Talk on which it asked a wide audience of social media users questions about pressing global issues. This simple problem-solving forum presented fans with questions like “How can we help Iceland get out of its economic meltdown?” and “What are you loyal to and why?” The page was extremely well received (over 11,100 fans and counting) and provided insight into what types of issues engaged the community in a positive way.
The research and experiments helped the design team imagine what an open platform might look like. They developed a vision for how the design-thinking process might work online with a networked community of contributors. They saw two key points of differentiation: creating an inclusive process in which people from different backgrounds (not just designers) would take part, and enabling collaboration among people through building on one another’s ideas.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
Rapid prototyping revealed that some parts of the in-person design process did not translate to an online environment. For example, the team tried a Synthesis module, but it proved too complex to be done in a distributed manner. More prototyping and gathering feedback (from varied stakeholders, from designers to the companies that hire them) led to a search for the right software-development partner. The team chose LargeBlue of London, which had helped with the plug-in for the previously mentioned Facebook project. LargeBlue’s collaborative nature and design process fit with the team’s style, and their expertise in social media would prove invaluable.
After the platform was built, the design team launched an alpha program internally to design a logo. The insights gained during this internal launch were instrumental to the final product: The team learned about how to galvanize the network; iterated the platform with new features, design and usability tweaks; and enlisted a writer help with the written communications.
OpenIDEO.com launched in August 2010. The site continues to evolve. The team maintains an open dialogue with users and responds to their needs and those of the design challenges’ sponsors by adding new features regularly.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
In its first six months online, OpenIDEO.com far exceeded the team’s expectations in every way.
A Diverse, Passionate Community
With 14,000+ users in 181 countries around the world, OpenIDEO.com has established a diverse community of creative thinkers who are both dedicated to effecting social change and willing to devote their time, energy and ideas to a good cause.
To date, OpenIDEO.com has hosted seven public challenges and powered one dedicated channel. In several cases, the design team matched nonprofit organizations with corporate sponsors to help make the challenge a reality.
Each challenge addressed a very different social issue that tested the platform’s agility and robustness.
The OpenIDEO.com software will serve as an engine for innovation in multiple contexts in the coming months, including: providing a tool to supplement design research on designers’ client projects; powering internal innovation channels at large corporations looking to transform their organizational structure, and serving as a platform to inform and support users of The Human-Centered Design Toolkit (a free resource for NGOs).
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
The platform, created by a design firm, seeks only solutions for social good. It works like this: Designers post a problem, typically sponsored by a nonprofit group, which moves through three phrases of development—inspiration, conception and evaluation—toward a solution. Site users provide feedback every step of the way, receiving points for their contributions. (Like in any good brainstorming session, both quality and quantity are valued.) At the end of the process, a final design is chosen. This design may be produced by whoever chooses to do so: all concepts are generated under a Creative Commons license and are thus shareable, remix-able and reusable. Everybody wins.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?