Starting a Design Skillshare Group


Yesterday nine of us had a call as part of an effort to build more structure for cross-brigade knowledge sharing. Using Laura Biediger’s taxonomy of Brigade topics, we focused on the category of “Design” and spent 1.5 hours sharing some knowledge and discussing how we want to improve communication between our groups. As this Design group gets off the ground, we’ll also be trying to start skillshare groups for other issue categories. We thought that discourse was a natural place to share the knowledge coming out of these groups, so I’m going to catalogue some of our learnings in this thread. If you are working on design in your brigade and have experiences/tools/research to share we’d love to hear about it and hope you’ll join us at an upcoming hangout (date is being decided here:

Some major questions and themes that came up from talking to each other were:

  • There is a lot of interest in Civic User Testing as a core function of brigades or auxiliary program. How can we scale CUT models across the network taking into account local contexts?
  • Brigades are getting more interested in research, scoping, problem-finding, needs-assessment, in addition to solution building. This seems to be a common theme. How can we support this type of work in brigades better?
  • User Testing / UX Research for civictech might look a lot different from general tech. Example from Chicago where they realized that they should do digital skills training alongside testing to better serve their community. How can we define and communicate what makes design/research different for civictech than general tech?
  • “Design is a verb that everyone participates in”

First we talked about the current state of design in our groups/cities:

  • Tom and Fritz led a great session at congress about UX Research
  • West L.A. is doing a new project with someone who works for the city and some of their designer brigade members organized a design sprint to help. They adapted the sprint model to run over a couple of weeks.
  • Orlando started an ethnographic research project to define a problem before building a solution. It’s their first project that isn’t a “solution” and they would like to do more “problem discovery” projects.
  • Similarly, Cleveland and/or Chicago (it was unclear, anyone know?) did a “scope-a-thon” event about laying out the challenges related to an issue.
  • Durham is using user-centered design to understand school lunch debt, and also wants to do more activities to understand problems “away from computers”
  • Maine is doing a project about sidewalk snow clearance that is mostly user research interviews at this stage. They had the option to fork a project like adopt-a-hydrant but with multiple existing volunteer programs with low participation, they felt that doing problem-finding research was more important
  • Asheville did a card-sorting activity that a brigade member who teaches UX shared with them
  • Someone is reading a book called “Lean Impact” by Anne Mei Chang about how businesses can fall in love with problems instead of solutions.
  • Tom shared the CUT model from Oakland, and the “needfinding tours” they’ve been doing

Next we talked about what the future might look like for design in brigades

  • A participant who is a city employee wished she could consult with designers from her local brigade on city projects but didn’t have a formal way to do so
  • A participant found out about a series of listservs for local neighborhoods that could be used to recruit civic user testers.
  • Several participants expressed interest in the CUT group model (civic user testing) but had questions about implementing it in their brigade (will it strain our limited resources? should it be it’s own thing? would it look different in a small place/brigade than a big one?)
  • Several participants wanted to learn more about applying design for accesibility in their projects (there was a useful talk from congress about accessibility)
  • Someone suggested we start a dropbox with design templates, tools, and other resources to share amongst ourselves. There was some discussion about how we might best share stuff like this.
  • L.A. has been working on homelessness project for the city, but not as the provider of a solution, rather as facilitators of the initial research (i.e. brigade runs a design session that helps the city find a vendor) Greenville has been thinking about doing the same thing.
  • The subject of “rogue UX testing came up”, the idea that brigades could test things without their creators knowledge/permission to advocate for improvements. Tom mentioned that CFA has a account that brigades could use for this

Finally, we closed out the call by brainstorming what to call these knowledge skillshare groups we are trying to create. Here were some initial ideas. We still don’t know so help us think of more!

Design Club

Design Squad

Civic Design Society

Civic Designer Memes for UX Oriented Teens

Learning Community

Community Advice Teams (CATs!)

Skillshare Teams

____ with friends

____ Crew

___ Zone

Designy Bunch

Team for User Experience and Empathetic Design Orientation (TUXEDO)

If you were in this call and can help edit this thread and hyperlink to relevant subjects, that would be very helpful! The idea is to keep building this body of knowledge that we gain from our group activity and make it available here on discourse initially as a resource. As such, if you have any suggestions about how to better organize this information, let us know! Hope to see you at the next call, tell the designery people in your brigade about this project!

December 19, 2018 Meeting Agena