Prototyping Back at Stanford

gov poster image

We spent our fall quarter out in the field testing prototypes for the Governance Collaboratory in Kenya, South Africa, and Jamaica.  These prototypes allowed us to test the value of design thinking for a range of governance challenges with a diverse set of local actors — technologists, civil society leaders, designers, and government officials.  We learned a tremendous amount and received a very positive feedback from our local partners.  Most encouraging, almost all of our workshop participants have begun to use the tools of human centered design in their work.

Since we are conceiving the Governance Collaboratory as a Stanford-based program, prototypes at home are essential for exploring the models we are likely to employ.  This spring quarter is dedicated to two, more in depth prototypes on campus.  The first is a class which we’ve called Rebooting Government with Design Thinking.  The course will help us understand how we can leverage Stanford’s diverse and talented graduate students to contribute to our work at the Collaboratory.  As with our other prototypes, the course will help us continue to understand how to integrate design thinking with existing tools for governance innovation for different types of problems.

Like all courses, Rebooting Government with Design Thinking is experiential and project based.  Students will focus their efforts on concrete design challenges with two unique partners: Simeon Koroma, a ground breaking civil society activist from Sierra Leone, and the City Manager of East Palo Alto.  By working with government reformers on the inside and a civil society activist on the outside, the course explores the challenges of fostering innovations in governance from both sides of the formal institutional divide.  Students are also examining governance from a theoretical and empirical perspective, enabling them to see how design thinking complements the analytical and policy approaches already being employed.  Also like all courses, ours is taught by a multi-disciplinary teaching team.  Jeremy and I are joined by Liz Ogbu, an architect-trained designer, social innovator, and expert on sustainability and spatial innovation in challenged urban environments globally.

The course is small with just sixteen students and four design teams.  We were thrilled at the response we received from the student body, with over 70 applicants for our 16 spots.  With such an exceptional pool of Stanford graduate students to draw from, we’ve assembled a phenomenal group of students.  Disciplines represented include political science, applied physics, business, human computer interaction, journalism, international policy studies, law, and management science and engineering.  Beyond their disciplinary expertise, our students bring a wealth of professional experience from organizations such as IDEO, the White House, Peace Corps, the mayor’s offices of Los Angeles and New York, USAID, Teach for America, the Israeli Central Intelligence Agency, Apple, and of course, their own startups.

Included in the quarter’s assignments are blog posts which the teams will write at key points in each project lifecycle.  These posts will both help our students crystallize their learnings as well as enable us to share our experience with those following our work from the students’ perspective.  We’ve set up a separate blog for these posts here.