In mid-December, the 25 alumni participating in the Design Thinking for YES Workshop gathered one final time to celebrate and reflect on their accomplishments. The Closing Ceremony was the concluding session of a nine-week long workshop, which involved structured sessions, homework assignments, online discussions, cafe style informal sessions, small working groups, and one-on-one mentoring sessions with facilitators.
The workshop was facilitated by an international team of design thinking experts, who imparted their wisdom and experience to the participants. Most importantly, the facilitators guided the participants to think critically about their own role in development work and how they can restructure their thinking to ensure that when they design a project they keep the community and people at the center, an essential takeaway from the workshop.
"All the sessions are highly impactful. I love the aspect of 'shutting up' and listening. This means that we don't have all the ideas and to be able to help anyone, whether individuals or a community, we must listen to their perspective and ideas concerning the problem and its possible solutions." - Design Thinking for YES Participant
In order to keep the community/people at the core of a project, the facilitators introduced the Innovators’ Compass, a conceptual design thinking framework. This compass became the foundation of the design thinking workshop, and ultimately was the tool that participants used to think about their own community project. The framework asks questions such as: who are the people involved, what is happening in the community, and why is it happening? This shift in mindset led participants to think in terms of the community's own desires and wishes — it required observations and analysis, and ultimately prototyping, that is implementing small experiments to test out ideas and see what works and what doesn't work before fully implementing a complete program.
Essential to the idea of the Innovators’ Compass is the underlying idea that development work should be done with and by communities, not to or for communities. Participants learned about increasing the community's power, dignity, and ability to continue to do development work, even beyond the program completion.
The participants will continue to use the Innovators’ Compass framework to push their projects forward in their own communities, working closely alongside their fellow community members. Participants designed their own Innovators’ Compass on Miro boards, a virtual collaborative whiteboard that allowed workshop participants to work together to brainstorm with digital sticky notes. Below is an example of one YES alumni's Miro board outlining their project.
During the Closing Ceremony, several participants presented on their major takeaways from the workshop, and described their plans and progress in developing a community project using design thinking concepts. The Closing Ceremony audience included members of the Youth Programs team at the United States Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), and alumni were delighted to hear directly from ECA's YES team about the importance of alumni programming and receive words of encouragement.
Congratulations to the 25 YES alumni who completed the Design Thinking for YES Workshop!
"Thank you so much! I’m incredibly grateful to be part of this family and I didn’t expect it to be this cool and exciting since it was all online but it was absolutely amazing." - Design Thinking for YES Participant
"The session that I think was the most impactful was the one in which we had to describe pictures. It really opened my eyes how hard it could be to know the whole story of a community and a broader picture of its life." - Design Thinking for YES Participant