Day 3, Part 1: Prototype-Aganza

We got started by play-testing the gamified prototypes that teams created over dinner the night before. Play-testing is crucial because the way you would play a game isn’t necessarily the way other humans will. Leyla shared that she first designs with herself in mind, how would she play the game, and then tries to create a universal design.

One team’s game started from the assumption that most people don’t like going to work on Monday mornings –  those employees should probably check out UnSchool! Sadness for people’s 9-5 drudgery aside, the team’s intervention asked employees to create engagement ideas that would inspire them. Fellows got into the game, and everything was going swimmingly until it was time to vote for the ‘best’ idea – everyone just voted for their team’s ideas! Leyla called it an “immediate design fail,” pointing out when you design a game like this you have to have a rule like “you can’t vote for yourself, or you have to vote for someone else – because humans will always vote for themselves.”

Another team created a game to help people clean their houses - with a motivator being that your ex-partner is coming to your house for a party in one minute. Four fellows gamely rushed to clean up paper confetti strewn across the floor that represented a ‘mess’ - until the designers started removing participants from the game to add pressure! We learned that next time, we’ll create pressure by adding another rule using our words, instead of physically moving people through space - consent is key when designing behavior change experiments!

Day 3, Part 2: The Future is Already Here

Next, we had a fast-paced session from strategic futurist, gatherer, and mom ,Nancy Giordino, who distilled decades of experiential design for the group (she may speak faster than Leyla!).

Nancy’s company #playbig helps visionaries “play bigger”, and was inspired by the quote “Your playing small does not serve the world.” Instead of containing ourselves, Nancy challenged us to reach for the stars with an attitude of “humble audacity” - the winning combination for true leaders of the future.

“We’re only 1% into the technological digital shift – it’s like seeing a mountain and not knowing how big it really is.” The next 20 years are going to challenge what it means to be human, and Nancy gave a run-down of some truly amazing people, organizations, and companies that are working on fundamentally shifting the playing field of the world in various ways.

Wondering who the movers and shakers are? Then you should definitely check out People You Need To Know (PYNK)! As Nancy pointed out, “This work is not solo. You have to have friends! Amazing people like Leyla!”

Nancy encouraged us to stay curious and connected as we live through a future of exponential, constant disruption that will challenge most of our assumptions about how the world works. She’s excited to see whether we change our success metrics from “terrible” ones like GDP to a more relationship-driven, circular economy-promoting measurements. “We can serve people or stalk people with these technologies - especially AI!”

She left us with a few questions for consideration. Will ethicists be involved in developing the artificial intelligences of the future? Will inclusion be incorporated? “The choices we make are not agnostic,” so without diverse decision-makers, you end up with catastrophic failures like Siri’s original response to sexual assault questions. More recently, Elon Musk’s OpenAI is going to use Reddit forums to teach AI language -- even though some Reddit feeds contain some terrifying attitudes towards women and minorities. Quoting William Gibson, “the future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.”

Fellows broke into groups of 3 (triangles again!) and brainstormed “RIFF”s - a list of what Relieves Me, Inspires Me, Frustrates Me, Frightens Me?

Day 3, Part 3: Inclusion & Equity for Civic Change

After another plant-powered super-spread, fellows got laser-focused on equity and access with design luminary Antoinette Carroll, Founder & CEO of the Creative Reaction Lab. She started by having fellows complete a 60-second challenge, answering the prompt: “I will make ______ better by _______.” She asked fellows, “What are you doing to build the world that you want to create? How do we make it a better world for others and not just ourselves?”

Creative Reaction Lab works to “co-create solutions with Black and Latinx populations to design healthy and racially equitable communities,” and their flagship program is Design to Better [our City]. They also just released an Artwork for Equity campaign, offering free postcard designs that anyone can download and use to contact government officials and business leaders about racial justice.

Antoinette lives in St. Louis Missouri, where the racial segregation and income inequality in St. Louis is so extreme that the BBC did a mini-documentary on the “Delmar Divide,” a street where boarded-up houses face gated mansions. She shared about her experience and intervention in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown Jr in St. Louis’ Ferguson neighborhood in 2014, which was followed by historic Black Lives Matters protests. “This was the day that people in power had to remember they had forgotten about others below,” she told us. Two weeks after Brown was shot to death, Antoinette’s organization hosted a 24-hour design challenge for youth that resulted in ideas that are still implemented, like Cards Against Brutality, which is integrated into high-school curriculums as a teaching tool.

Antoinette touched on cultural truths like “The Talk” – explained here by Reading Rainbow’s Levar Burton – when African-American parents explain to their kids how to act to try and avoid being shot by police officers in everyday situations. She also encouraged everyone to see the new film 13th, a documentary about how the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery actually led to a mass incarceration epidemic.

Six Tips for Engaging the Community for Social Justice, from Antoinette

Tip 1: you have your craft, talent, and expertise. Determine your mission.

Tip 2: Don’t live in a fishbowl

Tip 3: Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate (don’t be afraid of skills unknown}

Tip 4: Think participatory. Create for engagement.

Tip 5: Always consider the impact of diversity: craft, identities, thought, etc. Dissent encouraged.

Tip 6: Use your expertise to build and disrupt power. Share it.

Leyla and Antoinette had a momentary mind-meld over the phrase “don’t dictate - curate” (a Leyla original that Antoinette will be using moving forward!). Designers shine brightest when co-designing and collaborating for change - we love C words too!

Then we broke into groups to do some “Hierarchical Word Mapping”, exploring a few light concepts like Poverty, Gun Violence, Sexism, and Racism.

Fellows got deep discussing the intersections of culture, privilege, and power. The only man in the sexism group discussed how anti-feminism makes him protective of his mother, aunt, sister – the women that raised him. The gun violence group had a fellow from Singapore in it, who said “I totally couldn’t relate to the conversation. We don’t even have gum in Singapore, never mind guns!”

Day 3, Part 4: Time for a Magic School Bus Field Trip!

For a special treat, Leyla took us on a Ms. Frizzle-esque adventure in @Gillibus’ Yellow School Bus - a dream come true for some fellows. We got time to meet in small groups with our mentors while we rocked out to tunes on the way to San Mateo. Our final stop was @KITCHENTOWN, a food startup incubator and commercial kitchen! Co-founder Dan gave us a tour of the myriad entrepreneurial ventures he hosts in his space, and our favorite waste-food chef Phil from ReGrained worked some superstar magic creating a delicious salad out of UnSchool’s vegetable trimmings while we sampled his beer waste protein bars. We all built our own delicious Thai rice wraps, paired with delicious sauces and juices Dan generously shared with the group. Finally, it was time to head back to San Francisco, buzzing with excitement, and ready to hit the East Bay tomorrow (after getting some rest)!