It was my pleasure to create large scale visual notes at the 2011 Making Sparks event for the Sprout Fund. The event is designed to stimulate thinking and discussion to prepare people to apply for grants to develop projects “That engage children ages birth to 8 through the creative use of technology and media.” The theme for this round of Making Sparks: creativity.
First a series of speakers composed of experts and former grant recipients gave presentations about what makes for successful projects. Here are my visual notes from this part:
And here are close ups of the visual notes for a few of the featured speakers.
Sarah Tambucci talked about the natural creativity of young children and how we hammer the creativity out of them as they get older. She pointed to several of her efforts to encourage the continued creativity of young people as they get older.
Drew Davidson, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center talked about the power of STEAM education—science, techology, engineering, ART, and math. This adds a crucial letter “A” for art to the popular formulation of STEM education. He also talked about the importance of building the field of technology and media education field through various means, including a new project he is involved in called workingexamples.org
Dave English and Don Orkoskey are the awesome artists behind Schmutz Company. Among other things, they teach teachers how to do stop motion animation projects. They said their Spark grant helped them partner with organizations like the Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh JCC, and the Children’s museum to reach more people in the region.
Dr Alice Wilder, who was head of R&D and producer of Blue’s Clues, has gone on to create a series of successful projects to help children learn and grow. These projects include Think It Ink It Publishing and Speakaboos, Which are both geared toward developing literacy for children. She shared her insights into creating projects with a strong educational core that make the most of their media and are ripe for brand extension into other media. We got to chat a bit during break and she critiqued my drawing of Blue from Blue’s Clues. Great meeting you Alice!
Dave Edwards of Art Energy Design brings together art, engineering, and exploration to help children learn about mechanical concepts through building and exploring with the help of a grant from the Sprout Fund.
After the presenters gave their talks, the audience split up into groups to come up with ideas for projects to pitch to judges.
Here are the visual notes of the pitches and the feedback each proposal got.
The Sprout Fund staff closed by encouraging people to submit formal proposals for Super Spark grants within the month. Audience members were encouraged to be in touch with Sprout early and often as they prepare their proposals to get advice on creating winning pitches.
Thanks again to the Sprout Fund for tapping me to visually synthesize the ideas bouncing around the event. And now I can say I have played at Carnegie Hall (Carnegie Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh, that is, not the one in NYC).
Big fish: met Gregg Behr, director of the Grable Foundation. The Grable Foundation is a major supporter of innovation to support early childhood development in the Pittsburgh region.
Up and coming: Nina Barbuto, founder of Assemble Pittsburgh. Nina is a young architect who has founded a community space in Garfield/Friendship called Assemble “… a place where one can engage their intrigue through hands on activities about art and technology.” Assemble is right around the corner from where I live, so I will be over there often.
I created several pages of SketchNotes during John Thackara‘s talk at Carnegie Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh where he talked about appropriate use of design and technology.
What is the BEST way for designers to positively address problems? For example, he discussed how designers can contribute to make a difference in the UK regarding care for an every increasing number of adults living with dementia. Giving care to people with dementia falls overwhelmingly to friends and family and is likely to stay that way. Historically, the government approach has been to pour money into brain research and assistive technology. The problem is that brain research will not result in cures for people with dementia anytime soon, and assistive technology, it turns out, is at the bottom of the list of what caregivers say they need. It turns out that caregivers say that what would hugely help them is an additional half day off per month from their caregiving duties.
Thackara said that designers can help with complex problems, like helping caregivers of dementia sufferers, by helping connect supply to demand. They can do this by partnering with people who are in the field and through using visualization, touch point analysis, and service design to help the right people come together to create better systems. For example, helping volunteers connect with caregivers to give them a half day off a month could be a huge improvement on the current system, and designers could help communicate this message, or design a system that facilitates this volunteering.
Even though we face daunting challenges, Thackara described a kind of urban acupuncture where small actions in the right areas can greatly enhance a whole city.
“Two questions drive John Thackara. â€œWe know what new technology can do, but what is it for? And,â€ he asks, â€œhow do we want to live?â€ Author of the thought-provoking 2006 book â€œIn the Bubble,â€ and founder of the Doors of Perception festivals, which celebrate innovation in social and environmental sustainability worldwide, he has long pursued design for sustainability, social impact, social innovation, place and mobility. In 2008 he served as commissioner of City Eco Lab, the centerpiece of the St. Etienne Design Biennale Internationale in the French Alps.”
Chris Lehmann talked about education 2.0, combining the best of wisdom from years past with the innovation enabled by technology. These are the visual notes I created as he spoke, with audio. The video service plays a brief commercial first…it’ll be over in 30 seconds and then you get the good stuff.
I am thrilled and delighted be involved in the 2011 Maryland Society for Educational Technology conference on April 12 in Baltimore. I will be creating large scale visual notes of Chris Lehmann’s Keynote. Chris is the principal of the Science Leadership Academy high school in Philadelphia. Chris and his team have created an amazing learning community at SLA, so I am eager to hear more about how that learning community is nurtured.
I will also lead three mini workshops on using visual thinking for planning educational technology projects later that afternoon, so if you are at the conference and want to get a quick hit of visual thinking practice come to a session. We will be drawing pictures but no drawing experience is required!
Authors David J. Neff and Randal C. Moss explained that In order to successfully innovate from the inside, nonprofits need to:
A) Create awareness among their staff that they are looking for innovative new ideas from all and any of them.
B) Create a structure for ideas to be submitted, considered, selected, prototyped, and realized.
C) Have the right people in the right roles with the right skill sets to manage the innovation process.
The authors suggest a five step process.
1. Go for maximum quantity of people submitting ideas. Checking for quality comes later.
2. The criteria for judging ideas is key, more important than the people judging them.
3. For an idea to make the cut, it needs to make business sense—that is a case needs to be made that it will be a good use of the organizations funds.
4. One an idea is selected, it should be prototyped for a maximum of $20,000 in a maximum of 18 months.
5. Then launch it, assess it, see what works, what doesn’t and if indicated keep developing it.
They acknowledged that change is not easy for organizations, that implementing a new approach to innovation can be a bumpy road. They suggest that older staffers connect with younger more digitally savvy staffers to learn from them and to teach them. In particular, they need to help younger staffers understand the business side of running a successful nonprofit.
I have worked for several nonprofits in my career, and I know that I would have loved it if there was a concrete process for submitting, judging and building on ideas from the rank and file employees. I appreciate what David and Randal are doing with this book. If you want to help your nonprofit survive, thrive, and innovate in the digital age, check out their book, or reach out to them via their website.
And if you want to help people think better and communicate better at your next conference or meeting, be in touch! I’d love to help by doing large scale visual notes that capture the big ideas at your event.
This panel was geared toward nonprofits who are learning how to work with individuals who support their cause but do not work for them. These free agents are different from volunteers in that they are ready to throw themselves into supporting the cause in many ways, and in this networked age, they can have tremendous impact.
After a one year hiatus, I returned to Austin for the South By Southwest Interactive festival. This was my third time, and one of my best. Here is my roughly chronological recap.
On the plane to Austin I sat next to Phil Zimmerman, the creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) and startup veteran and current CEO of Debix Bo Holland, the identity protection company. Both fascinating guys. I learned a ton about how identity theft happens from Bo Holland, as well as getting a primer in how the startup funding process works.
(visual notes part 1 for book talk:” The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age.”)
(visual notes part 2 for book talk:” The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age.”)
Later in the day, I swung by the Indy Hall compound and lifted a few glasses with some of Philadelphia’s most awesome geeks.
The next day I did the same thing for Beth Kanter’s panel “A Global Conversation: Free Agents and Nonprofits in a Networked World” where she emceed a conversation between in person panelists, the twittersphere, and live video participants in Beirut. Bonus star power: Craig “Craig’s List” Newmark chimed in from the audience during Q&A.
(Visual notes part 1: Free Agents and Nonprofits in a Networked World)
(Visual notes part 2: Free Agents and Nonprofits in a Networked World)
Right after that panel, I scooted over to an Interactive Telecommunications Program alumni and current student meetup where I got to reconnect with grad school friends and meet some new people from the ITP family. Also attending, super-mensch and ITP professor, Clay Shirky.
After the ITP gathering I drove to the outskirts of Austin for an eclectic gathering called the Monks of Invention which turned out to involve barbecue, hot tubbing, and renaissance italian inspired architecture. Oh, and a bunch of pleasant and smart InterTube hackers.
My last day I had a great lunch with my friend Christina Arnold where we chatted about some projects her nonprofit PreventHumanTrafficking.org is working on.
I am now back in Pittsburgh, regrouping before heading to Washington DC tomorrow, Friday March 18, to do graphic recording (large scale visual notes) for another panel with Beth Kanter and friends at the Nonprofit Technology Conference. The topic for this one: I’ve Found My Free Agent, Now What?
I had a great time in Austin. For me above all, SXSW Interactive is a fantastic place to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. Thanks to everyone who made this years festival a great one.
Bonus: Note—I forgot to add a few lines about the OgilvyNotes project. Ogilvy Mather is an International advertising, marketing and public relations agency which did a partnership with some other folks who do what I do: large scale visual notes of real time conversations. They created visual notes of scads of panels and talks at SXSW. They did it right, with big sheets of foamboard, multiple visual notes artists, and glossy color printouts of the notes that they gave to conference attendees. And being Ogilvy, they know how to get media coverage, which they did in spades. Among the artists were my friends Heather Willems and Nora Herting of ImageThink. Nice work folks! I was happy that Ogilvy included one of the pieces of visual notes that I created—this one.