19 Mar

Shared Thinking, By Design

image of collective action toolkit

Cheryl Dine, a professional member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, shares her thoughts on Frogdesign’s case study of the Collective Action Toolkit.

Today, companies and designers are trying to find ways to bring their communities together to solve problems in unique ways. Understanding the wants and needs of your audience is critical when launching a new product or pitching an innovative idea. By bringing diverse communities in age and background together, they  can learn from each other and develop new ways to communicate and  hear each other.

The American Institute of Graphic Arts recently featured a case study on Frogdesign’s free Collective Action Toolkit (CAT). This toolkit  was designed to help leaders bring together groups to solve a shared problem and act on it. This toolkit was inspired by a previous project called Girl Effect. Girl Effect is an organization that  focuses on finding the potential of adolescent girls living in poverty.

In 2011 and 2012 Frogdesign collaborated on the Girl Effect.


Read more in an excerpt from the article.

Two key questions emerged from the project:

  • How might we translate the design process into something centered on skill development and knowledge-sharing for communities instead of concept generation for designers?
  • How might we make it a process in which the development and communication of ideas becomes a vehicle to teach inquiry, leadership and problem solving to anyone, from any culture?

The Collective Action Toolkit (CAT) was developed as a response to these questions. Drawing on frog’s social innovation work and expertise in collaborating on grassroots innovation within start-ups and large-scale organizations, the toolkit repurposes design as an essential set of skills to help community members solve problems.

A major challenge was that groups generally operate through conversation, without enough “making” to expose group members to hypothetical solutions. “Making things,” whether capturing the discussion in a visual format or translating the group’s ideas into stories to evaluate, forces groups to better align, describe and evolve solutions for their community. However, we couldn’t require users of the CAT to go out and purchase expensive materials, such as sticky notes, to capture their ideas. As a result, we had to go through multiple rounds of refinement for each activity so that each would work with only a pencil and a few pieces of paper.

Community leaders have contacted us to let us know that they plan to use the CAT to address community issues in the manner originally intended by our team—from potential use in UNICEF’s innovation labs in Uganda, Kosovo and Zimbabwe to its use in a nonprofit artists colony in Maine that wants to use toolkit activities to foster better remote collaboration. New use cases are also emerging—from using the toolkit as a model for how organizations can work more like start-ups (done at Startup Weekend Shanghai) to its use as a tool for encouraging better collaboration and communication for leaders within organizations (done at a local NGO in Nairobi).


Download and explore how you and  your community can help solve important issues in the world.


© 2016 Design Perspective Inc.
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