SDXD Takes on the San Diego City Website

SDXD put on a fantastic event last weekend in partnership with the San Diego Mayor's Office. Members were asked to put their UX expertise to work for the good of the city by helping design content for the Sandiego.gov website. 

See the full story in the San Diego Tribune.

News coverage on ABC 10 and Fox 5.

Group members Michael Novido, Sergio Leon, Tori Adele Signorelli and Erica Fontana work to understand the priorities of their persona at the SDXD civic design workshop. "Towed Joe" is an active, downtown resident who cares about city transportation and recreation. — Jennifer Van Grove

Group members Michael Novido, Sergio Leon, Tori Adele Signorelli and Erica Fontana work to understand the priorities of their persona at the SDXD civic design workshop. "Towed Joe" is an active, downtown resident who cares about city transportation and recreation. — Jennifer Van Grove

OpenIDEO San Diego Meetup Makes the Top 25 in the Higher Ed Challenge

The OpenIDEO San Diego Meetup is off to a great start. After three months, we're deep into the High Ed challenge and today we received some great news that our MOOCs to Mentorship idea has made the Top 25! Congratulations to the team!

moocs-to-mentorship-diagram.jpg

Yoga, Meditation and Your Brain

I was excited to find this great article in Psychology Today over the weekend. Having been surrounded by skeptics for years, this gives a clear overview of the benefits of yoga on the brain from a neuroscientist’s perspective. For anyone who's ever wondered, "what's the point?" of suffering through a sweaty, shaky warrior pose, here's your answer. It all boils down to changing our natural responses to stress. We may come pre-programmed to react in panic, but that doesn't mean we can't retrain our minds to respond differently. Our brains are capable of incredible things. Yogis have been on to this for centuries, now modern advances in brain science support these ancient claims. We have the capacity to work past the natural fight-or-flight response and train ourselves to react differently through deep breathing and a focused awareness of the present moment. While struggling with a physical posture that causes physical discomfort or fear, we are creating opportunities to practice our reactions to stress outside of our yoga classes. The most exciting news? It doesn't take long to start to see results. 

In fact, I have a number of stories in which I have observed the results of regular yoga practice in my work and personal life. One particular moment stands out that I'd like to share. 

Toward the end of my time in Italy, I found myself working in an environment that caused me stress. There were many contributing factors; communicating in a second language, close physical proximity to co-workers, unwanted physical contact, aggressive language...etc. As a fairly reserved introvert, any one of these could make me want to run screaming for the hills. So as you might imagine, the combination was almost unbearable. It was here in this place that found the true purpose of my 15-year yoga practice. At this same time, I was deep in the middle of a consistent daily practice of the "dreaded" forearm plank, a posture that requires such stillness and concentration it can make even the most seasoned yogi squirm. It was in this posture I retrained my brain to respond to this very uncomfortable work situation. After a few months of this controlled plank practice, I arrived to work one day to find my boss in rare form. He had a habit of sitting much too close for my personal comfort and barking orders for hours on end into my ear as I acted as his "design hands". This day was worse than usual. It was on this day the most amazing thing happened. As I felt the urge to literally stand up and quit my job and run away, my rational "plank" brain took over. Just like in my yoga classes I began to consciously observe...my mental state, my body...like an out-of-body experience. I found my calm place in the stress. I began to breath very deeply and steadily through the discomfort and I was relieved of my feelings of anxiety. My whole body and mind changed in those few moments, so much so that it was contagious. After several minutes I noticed that my bosses breathing was in sync with mine. His tone and pace changed with my own and we were able to continue the work in a much calmer state. That's how powerful this practice is. It changes you. It changes the world around you. 

It's not magic. It's science and it's amazing.

 

 

OpenIDEO Announces winners of the Healthy Lives Challenge

This summer I've had the pleasure of acting as a Community Mentor on the OpenIDEO Healthy Lives Challenge. The challenge, sponsored by NBC Universo, NBC Universal and Telemundo, aimed to develop solutions through the use of current technology that would help people lead healthier lives. 

The five winners were announced yesterday on the OpenIDEO Blog. Winning ideas include apps and wearables that promote healthy eating and exercise choices, as well as a television program with crowd sourced content. 

Click here to read more on the winning ideas!

I'd like to give special mention to Catarina Rivera and her "Healthy You TV" Idea, for whom I had the great pleasure of mentoring through the final phases. Her win is well-deserved!

There were many strong, user-centered concepts developed during this challenge. Congratulations to the winners and all contributors!

OpenIDEO and CO-OP Financial Services Announce Top Ideas for THINK Prize 15

My work on the OpenIDEO forum was recently awarded the THINK Prize 15 by the Co-op of Credit Unions.  "My Money and Me" is a  Grassroots Youth Campaign to Initiate Change. It is a concept based on the Rock the Vote movement of the previous decade applied to the efforts of financial empowerment for those who need it most. In this case the campaigns aim is to connect existing financial educational programming and services with the current youth generation to break down money stigmas and build an empowered, financially educated generation that will pass on financial confidence to future generations.

Follow these links to read more about the campaign and the THINK Prize 15

My Money & Me Impact Story

Co-op THINK Prize Announcement

Designs that Inspire: Northlich shakes up the world of PSAs

PSAs often attempt to appeal to our senses of fear and sadness, bombarding us with images of suffering animals, and stories of food poisoning and broken arms. While these can certainly get our attention they often leave us begging for a channel change. Northlich/ Cincinnati has changed the game with Scooter the Neutered Cat. This cool kitty is the spokesman for givethemten.org and organization dedicated to solving the problem of feline overpopulation. It's creative, funny and the message is spot on, an excellent combination for great design. Plus...did I mention it's funny? FUNNY...

Call for creative contributors: Be a part of a developing social impact project on OpenIdeo!

I'm currently participating in a social project on OpenIdeo  answering the question "How might we use the power of communities to financially empower those who need it most?"

During the research phase, I interviewed a local credit union, Chaco of Hamilton, OH as a bright spot in financial education. Two ideas surfaced from those conversations. One of those ideas was highlighted today as a featured contribution here on the OpenIdeo forum

The idea focuses on a grassroots movement that starts with the youth population to change the way we talk about money and financial education. We're still in early phases right now, so we're building the concept. Please contact me if you would like to brainstorm, or hold a brainstorming session at your school or community center. We would love to include high school and university students, but all input from anyone with some insight is welcome!

Click here to read the full project brief.

You can watch the video interviews with Chaco Credit Union here.

Facing Fear

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." –Nelson Mandela

Every so often someone tells me that I am brave for having moved to New York City at eighteen or to Italy by myself in my twenties. It's a comment that always feels like someone is handing me a shirt that is way too big for me. Partly because "brave" seems like such a big word, but mostly because it never felt that way at all, there were actually some moments that were pretty awkward and scary. The real challenge was finding a way to be okay with the uncomfortable parts and accepting them as part of the ride. Here I am now with 15 years and three major moves under my belt and I'm still working on that part. If we're really honest, I think most of us are. 

I like this talk by Astronaut Chris Hadfield because it's is a great reminder of that work (it also reminds me that Astronauts are super heroes). We all make choices in the face of fear. The challenge is to face it with a sense of serenity, to keep our mind out of fight-or-flight mode so we can make measured choices under stress. It's a lifelong exercise in mental strength that we all can achieve with practice.