6 Essential Skills for Design & Social Innovation

Students and job seekers frequently ask me about the skills that they need to succeed at Foossa, the community-centered design and strategy consultancy that I cofounded, or in a related career path. I came up with this list as a starting point for anyone interested in using design as a tool for social innovation.

1. Write Well

Being a strong writer goes a long way. Clear writing signals that you can think clearly and communicate effectively.

Craft compelling stories. Appeal to the heart and to the head. Be persuasive. Be concise. Be memorable. 

2. Prototype 

Prototyping could mean making something out of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners to coding the minimum viable version of an app. You don’t necessary need high tech prototyping skills, but you do have a bias toward action.

You learn by doing. You learn by making. You prototype to learn. You can think visually and sketch out maps, diagrams, and charts to help inform your thinking. Your sketches could be doodles on Post-Its rather than museum-worthy masterpieces, although strong drawing skills are certainly a plus.

3. Code Switch

You speak the language of business. You speak the language of your clients and of your customers. You speak the language of social innovation. You understand how to define a theory of change.

You know how to reinterpret a creative brief to get down to the essence of what the needs really are.

You can get by in the language of designers and technologists enough to be able to collaborate with them effectively and to manage multi-disciplinary teams. You understand the basics of visual language, from hierarchy to typography. Bonus points if you can code in a programming language.

4. Make Stuff Happen

You know how to manage projects from inspiration to implementation. You break down difficult and complex tasks into manageable steps. You find the courage to put stuff out in the world to see what happens. You iterate until you get it right. Then you iterate some more.

You make community happen. Bring people together and get them involved in collaboration and co-creation. This could mean hosting an event, facilitating  a meeting/workshop, or community-managing an online discussion forum. 

5. Give and Receive Feedback

You know how to conduct a design critique. Help your teammates improve by giving critical insights and new perspectives into their work. You can give and get feedback without making it personal.

You make it about the creative brief and shared goals rather than just your personal opinions and preferences.

You learn how to filter the feedback that you get into “advice to implement” and “advice to take with a grain of salt.”

6. Document, Document, Document

My professors really drove this point home in my masters program. Make sure you document your work, whether it is through blogging, journaling, photos, videos, or a combination of the above. You will need it one day in the future, whether it is for a portfolio or for another project. Pictures, or it didn’t really happen.

This list is a work in progress. What skills would you add? Let me know in the comments.

P.S. If you are considering grad school to help you acquire some of theses skills, check out the MFA Design for Social Innovation program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I teach there. 

Building Networks for Good

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Earlier this month, I had the privilege of presenting a workshop on Building Networks for Good at the CAPS2015 Conference in Brussels, Belgium. The slide on the screen features the work of Sextant.Works, an Awesome Foundation grantee.

What happens when people come together to take collective action without needing traditional organisational and institutional structures? What tools and strategies do we need for these “Networks for Good” to thrive? In this workshop, designer, storyteller, and community-builder Lee-Sean Huang (Purpose) will explore these questions by drawing from his own experiences building international networks like UX for Good, The Awesome Foundation, and Wisdom Hackers.

Become a Disrupter by Design

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Think of the best conference you can imagine. Combine it with a vacation where you meet a random group of wonderful, whip-smart, people that you embark on a series of unforgettable adventures with. Top off all that awesomeness with the fact that you’ll be cerebrally stimulated and learning game changing skills for active participation and purpose. That’s what our fellowship programs are. Join us in NYC! I hope to see you there.

Learn More and APPLY NOW!

APPLICATIONS FOR OUR JUNE PROGRAM CLOSE APRIL 15th 2015.

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12 Fellows. 7-Day Intensive Program.
Sunday 14th – Saturday 20th June 2015 in NYC
By Application Only

Extensive Experiences In Disruptive Design and Social Innovation. Amazing Mentors. Curated Networks. Mind-changing Activations.

Real World Projects and Challenges. Clients. Change. Sustainability. Design. Social Innovation.

 

Transformative Storytelling class – May 11

BSC Class: Transformative Storytelling – Using Narrative to Communicate, Inspire, and Activate Your Community

Join Be Social Change on Monday, May 11th from 7PM to 9PM for Transformative Storytelling – Using Narrative to Communicate, Inspire, and Activate Your Community with Lee-Sean Huang, Cofounder and Creative Director of FoossaRegister now using coupon code LeeSean25 to get 25% off.

Storytelling is more than a marketing tool. It’s a management tool.

In this class, we uncover the narrative structures and strategies used by social change practitioners and entrepreneurs for building community and inspiring action. This is a workshop for makers and social entrepreneurs who want to strengthen their skills in storytelling to transform themselves, their teams, and their broader communities.  Storytelling is a powerful tool for building a shared identity, for facilitating mutual understanding, and for facilitating collective action.

We will draw upon successful storytelling methodologies and strategies from the fields of social activism, marketing, and the arts. We will examine and decode examples of successful (and not so successful) storytelling. This class will get “hands on” with activities and exercises that will encourage participants to practice their new storytelling skills.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

  • Why storytelling is important for social change
  • What are the essential elements and structures of a good story
  • How to find and craft compelling stories
  • How to adapt and refine your storytelling
  • What are some of the possible applications of storytelling
  • How to integrate one’s personal and professional stories
  • How to use stories to stand out in a crowd
  • How to imbue stories with values and emotion

WHO THIS CLASS IS FOR

  • Professionals, entrepreneurs, creatives, and communications strategists/marketers ready to focus on company and brand storytelling
  • Professionals who have an idea for a project, organization or business that will drive change
  • Professionals who already use storytelling in their work looking to find ways to systematize and refine their approach
  • Professionals curious about how storytelling can enrich their work.

Learn more and register on Eventbrite>>

Social Good Guides

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The Social Good Guides have launched! These free guides (donations welcome) were created for ‎startups‬, social enterprises, ‎non-profits‬ and anyone in the ‪‎social impact‬ community. I authored the introduction to strategy guide.

Check out all of the guides here >>

Strategy