News-Press Causes Column

Cause & Effect-Design with the End in Mind

Cause & Effect-Design with the End in Mind

People close to you know your bad habits. Depending on how much they love and respect you they view them with varying levels of frustration and affection.

My colleagues at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation have front row seats to my bad habits and are professional and gracious enough to let many of them pass. But recently I have learned that they are all becoming fed up with my seeming inability to keep a healthy battery charge in any of my electronic devices.

I have been known to wander up and down the hallways of our offices in search of a phone, laptop, tablet keyboard or fit bit charger. My tools of the trade seem to always be hovering in the red low battery mode

I work with a great team and they have tried to share their tips for keeping batteries at full life. I have purchased charging cases and power sticks, placed USB cords by my bed, in the car and even in my bathroom- all to no avail. I can’t tell you how many innovative products I have purchased to try and solve this personal weakness, yet nothing has worked.

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend Imagine Solutions an annual thought leader forum, developed by the 501 c3 Searching for Solutions Institute headquartered in Naples. Each year the conference brings up to 50 world-class thought leaders to engage an audience of 500 private sector leaders on today’s most relevant issues including the arts, healthcare, business, technology and education.

I am always fascinated with the presentations and try to imagine how to apply what I learn to issues and opportunities facing Southwest Florida. The presenters are big thinkers forging new frontiers.

I could have never fathomed that one of them could hold the key to solving my device charging problem.

One of the technologies developed by a global manufacturer was a shiny reflective film with thousands of implications. It makes our cell phones screens brighter and has brought light to remote villages in Africa. The reflective nature of the film allows the smallest of light sources to be magnified, eliminating dangerous kerosene lamps within an enclosed space like a small village home and provides hours of opportunities for families to spend time together thanks to the illumination. The scientists went on to explain that it also enables villagers to maintain longer charges on their cellular phones that reduce the number of 2-day trips they make to larger cities to charge their phones.

The moment I heard that these citizens of the world would walk for days to charge their phone and then travel home I was struck with humility. My perspective changed.

Although I was amazed by the scope of the innovations at the conference, the human centered design process used to determine what needed to be created ultimately changed me. Much of what was presented at Imagine Solutions had the end beneficiary in mind from inception.

Coming up with new big ideas is exciting, but if we are not co-creators in the design process with those who ultimately benefit we can waste a great deal of brainpower and energy and not accomplish what we set out to change in the beginning.

We must guard that our innovating does not become self-serving. Business entrepreneurs have always understood that they must create products the market will buy. They engage in market research and focus groups to ensure they are on track.

In the world of social innovations we must include the neighborhoods, communities and citizens in the realization of opportunities and solution design.

As grant makers to idea creators in the nonprofit world, the Foundation is now asking our grantees about their human centered design practices. How are the people or issues you are serving involved in the design of the solutions or opportunities you are creating? In our own work we are bringing all our stakeholders in at the beginning of an idea or program rather than holding an event to tell them what we designed.

As far as my device-charging problem goes, I realized that it wasn’t access to the equipment I needed, as I had that in abundance all around me. I needed to plan and conserve with the same diligence as the villagers that traveled long distances. Sometimes its not a new solution to a problem we need- just a different way of looking at it.

For the record, I wrote this column on a fully charged laptop.

About the SWFL Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants. Want to be part? It all starts with a conversation. Please call (239) 274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

About the Author

Leave a Reply