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July 29, 2016

Inside the Lab: Prototyping and Storytelling

How do we create a safe space through art? How do we engage more men and boys in sexual violence prevention? ArtWorks Cincinnati and Women Helping Women sought answers at Studio C -- a partnership between United Way of Greater Cincinnati and Design Impact -- a 12-week project incubator for helping local nonprofits and community organizations dive deeper into problems in search of new, creative solutions. 

ArtWorks and Women Helping Women were two of six groups recently completing the first semester of 2016 Studio C, now in its third year.

Studio C employs design thinking to put the people the organization is trying to help at the center of the solutions. We went “inside the lab” to witness Studio C participants during the final phases of the design thinking process -- prototyping and storytelling.

Geoff Zoeckler, a Design Impact co-facilitator, stresses the importance of prototyping in problem solving.

“Prototyping allows you to test your idea and gives you valuable feedback from the user. You have a user touchpoint that is inefficient, and you want to solve that. When prototyping, you must ask: What are we assuming? What are we measuring? And are there any trends? The feedback you receive will help form your solution.”

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After sessions of finding and defining the problems they wanted to solve, conducting interviews to gain insights and generate ideas, the next step was to prototype and create a physical representation of the idea.

Zoeckler challenged the participants to prototype in a way he had never done previously.

“I’m giving each of you $5 to go to the dollar store. You have 45 minutes to purchase what you need, come back and make a prototype of your idea. Go!”

ArtWorks came back with various types of candy, glue and poster board. Knowing they wanted to use art to create a safe space using accessible materials. What’s more accessible than candy?

“Candy speaks to everyone," said Megan Rahill, ArtRX manager, ArtWorks. "The different kinds of candy represent different emotions. While art is hard to access for some people, this makes it more accessible.”

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One participant agreed.

“I love this because it engages all the sensory elements.”

Women Helping Women created placemats with emotional prompts to encourage family conversations and normalize showing emotion for fathers to their kids. The idea was to have a father-son night at Skyline Chili with the questions on the placemat at the table.

Following the prototyping session, the groups had three weeks to go out and test their ideas with users before returning for a storytelling session, using the insights to tell the story of a more fully-formed idea.

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Before their final presentation, a member of the ArtWorks team passed out paper beads to each person in the room. The beads were created during a community engagement session as part of their research.

“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present” was repeated multiple times throughout the presentation. The beads served as a tangible badge of lived experience.

The goal? To engage the community -- youth and their parents -- in conversations around mental health.

The idea? To create a beautiful and meaningful art installation of a community collection of darkness and light.

"Going through Studio C was a really incredible process," said Marie Krulewitch-Browne, director of ArtRX, ArtWorks. "It's a really strong program and I would highly recommend this process for any organization at the beginning of embarking on a new project or program or looking for ways to improve current systems and projects."

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Women Helping Women wanted to create healthy messages for men and boys to prevent violence.

The goal? To engage more men and boys in prevention, and to get to a place where people feel comfortable enough to step in to prevent violence, even in the little moments.

The idea? Host a father-son night at Skyline Chili with prompts for personal and emotional conversations, and a social marketing campaign with a focus group of men to reveal something vulnerable and emotional on video and encourage others to do so as well.

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Studio C is taking applications for the Fall 2016 session. Interested in participating? Click here to register, or contact Mike Baker at 513-762-7208 or mike.baker@uwgc.org for more information.