"Design Forward" and Beyond


Sponsor: OpenIDEO

Role: Chapter Founder & Organizer, Workshop Facilitator

Sector: Social Impact Design & Leadership


Project Overview

What can a small group of passionate Design Thinkers do in a year? Anything they want. The experience of the Financial Empowerment Challenge and Higher Ed workshops acted as a ripple effect through the community. As the chapter tied in with other like-minded design organizations, the group became known in San Diego as the place to "learn about and practice Design Thinking." 

Chapter Journey

  • The year kicked off to a great start with the news that the Higher Ed challenge idea was selected in the Top 25 on OpenIDEO.com!

  • The series of Higher Ed workshops led to the establishment of the Open IDEO SD Leadership team. The team gathered together in February to solidify chapter goals for 2016.

  • March led to an opportunity to "adopt an idea" and spread the HCD love by contributing research, ideas and provocations to an existing idea for the OpenIDEO Water and Sanitation challenge.

  • In an effort to further the education mission, another chapter leader and I, participated in the Acumen HCD Facilitator course and held a free, all-day HCD workshop for the San Diego community.

  • We went local in April with a Map-a-thon night aimed at identifying and and mapping out local design challenges around San Diego.

  • At the request of the members, we turned our attention back to the global platform in May to contribute to the OpenIDEO End of Life Challenge research phase. We spent the evening re-thinking how we, as a culture, can make the end of life more comfortable, rewarding and "less of a bummer".

  • June took the chapter to a new level of engagement. In addition to hosting an HCD course and holding a meeting to solidify the chapter's local design challenge, member's designed a salon exhibit that engaged hundreds of people in a journey mapping exercise at Design Forward, a city-wide event aimed at putting San Diego on the map as an up-and-coming Design economy.

  • July and August brought us into the Research phase of a local design challenge aimed at improving transportation in San Diego. I had the pleasure of leading that workshop with a truly excellent co-facilitator! We led the group in an activity that ended in a field research plan.

  • As a little side project a few of us participated in a Food Waste Challenge event where we picnicked in the park and left no waste behind, sharing food with those in need.

  • We continued our field research in September when we jumped on the trolley and interviewed passengers on their transportation experiences. That data we collected helped inform our October and November workshops, where we honed in on some concepts to improve our local transportation system.


The launch of the San Diego Chapter fulfilled a need within the design community that had previously gone unmet. While there were many experimental elements to the events and activities, the group is proud to say we've become integrated into the design community as educators and advocates for Human-Centered Design in San Diego. Many members have moved on to work more closely with Design Forward as board members and community advocates. Our chapter's workshops and collaboration with Design Forward and the UCSD Design Lab has paved the way for infinite opportunities to educate, practice and apply Design Thinking in our city.