Design Concepts helps raise the barn again



For the second year, Design Concepts donated its facilitation services to the IIT Institute of Design BarnRaise event in Chicago.

The event, held on October 12-14, focused on improving access to quality healthcare. Designed to be a cross-pollination of design thinking with societal challenge, the event was attended by healthcare practitioners, designers, healthcare administrators, and graduate students.

Amy Lee, senior design researcher, and Leah Ujda, design researcher, led a two-day workshop with the Smart Chicago Collaborative, a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology. Its goal is to increase access to the Internet, improve skills for using it, and develop meaningful products from data that measurably contribute to the quality of life Chicago residents and visitors. The organization is a startup founded by the City of Chicago, the MacArthur Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust.

Smart Chicago is working on a three-year strategy to have a meaningful impact in health. This may include improving access to healthcare information online, reducing the number of hospital visits with data and education, or creating a patient portal for medical providers and diagnostic tools for preventative care.

Lee and Ujda worked with the team to evaluate the different types of community partners and what has worked in the past to help determine a model for future growth. They also worked to define the partner experience in a way that can be used to recruit new partners. They came out of the event with recommendations on ways to improve the program to provide greater value for area clinics.

In reality, the team had one and a half days to do their work, which was like taking all the typical ambiguities of a project and putting it on fast forward, Lee said.

“The Smart Chicago partners were excited,” she said. “There were some opportunities for a new direction and taking some action that will have a meaningful impact.”

The organization will continue the work started at BarnRaise on its own. For Design Concepts, it’s a great reinforcement of the powerful impact for positive change that design research and strategy can have in addressing the wicked problems of our society.