Designing a (better) civic future

ByMichele Ide-Smith

Designing a (better) civic future

I was really excited to come across a recent post from Analisa Lono at Adaptive Path about a new course they are putting together with the University of San Francisco:

Our goal with this course is to provide the opportunity for students to gain exposure to concepts, methods, and professionals outside of their academic disciplines while getting first-hand experience creating a digital product for the purpose of serving their community.

Young Rewired State and Apps for Good are two inspiring UK initiatives that encourage young people to use digital technologies, to provide innovative and useful solutions to social problems. Young Rewired State, a spin off from Rewired State, follows a hack day format and is focused on developing coding skills. The founder, Emma Mulqueeny, also co-founded the Coding for Kids movement, to campaign for a more relevant ICT education that gives young people the ability to shape their digital future. Apps For Good is an initiative for young, unemployed people which focuses on developing entrepreneurial and creative skills. The participants also learn practical, iterative design techniques such as paper prototyping.


Participants in the London Design Jam

Photo from London Design Jam 4, by Joe Lanman

Design Jams are similar to hack days and usually take place over one or two days. They provide an opportunity for less experienced UX practitioners and students to work with mentors on solving actual design problems. Some of the design problems tackled have been civic issues, for example Design Jam Oxford tackled the perennial problem of how to improve the experience of commuting with digital technologies.

Similar to Design Jams and Charity Hack days, again with a practical design focus, Cooper Design recently ran a UX Bootcamp which enabled students to try their hand at designing mobile apps for the Red Cross.

There are two things that interest me about the new course in San Francisco:

  • Firstly that UX practitioners will mentor the students, similar to the Design Jam and UX Bootcamp events mentioned above. Adaptive Path are teaming up with Seabright Studios and Grey Area Foundation for the Arts to develop and run the course. And the course will be rooted in design practise. Having studied a Master’s degree in HCI, I feel strongly that HCI and Interaction Design courses should be equally taught by design practitioners and academics.
  • Secondly, the course is dedicated to exploring how great design can solve civic problems. Hopefully this means that there will be a new generation of designers who are inspired to use their skills for social good.

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