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The people who attended the SXSW conference earlier this year met up in April for a Design Thinking Workshop.

 This blog is written by one of 15 individuals attending the South By Southwest Conference in Austin with the intention to bring back ideas and to reimagine Richland County.

It’s been just over a month since our return from SXSW, and we’re keeping very busy as we start the process of weeding down hundreds of ideas into a few big-impact projects for downtown Mansfield.

Chelsie Thompson

Chelsie Thompson

Together with our panel of advisors, we jumped in and got down to business this week with a Design Thinking workshop.

I should note here that I don’t consider myself a designer of any sort, but I do love to solve problems, and as it turns out, problem-solving and designing go hand in hand.

Led by Idea Works’ talented Heather Tsavaris, the Design Thinking workshop explored the creative strategies that designers use to develop successful products and solutions. We learned the design thinking framework, which is, in a very small nutshell:

  1. Empathize with your audience: Those whom you hope to impact. Get their feedback and understand what matters to them.

  2. Define the issues facing your audience. What are their needs? What is their point of view?

  3. Brainstorm a wide range of ideas to address the issues (anything goes).

  4. Prototype your ideas. This is your rough draft.

  5. Test your ideas. Get feedback from your audience to determine what worked and what didn’t.

Despite a rainy day and only four hours, we were able to rock and roll through the entire process, from conducting interviews throughout downtown to presenting our prototypes (largely constructed of play-doh, craft pom-poms, and glow sticks) to gracious guinea pigs who gave us feedback.

It was an energetic and innovative group, but one thing in particular stood out to me as a favorite aspect of the design thinking process: It is a problem-solving technique that focuses on the solution rather than the problem.

Focusing on the problem perpetuates a negative mindset, and therefore automatically limits us in the solutions that we will see as available; conversely, focusing on the end result that we want to achieve allows us to see past the negative perception associated with the current problem.

From there, it’s much easier to identify the opportunities that will help us achieve that solution. Here, I must include a shout-out to my fellow SXSW-er Jennifer Kime, because her most recent blog touches on the effects that happen when we zero in on the negative. If you haven’t read it, you should, and you can find it at this link.

You might have heard that we’re having a Public Forum at the Renaissance on May 31 to discuss the #SXSW419 project and get feedback from the community. I challenge you to not only attend, but to explore the solutions with us so together we can solve the problems.

Stay tuned and continue to follow #SXSW419 and read other blogs at richlandsource.com/rising_from_rust/sxsw.

This Solutions Journalism story is brought to you in part by the generous support of our Newsroom Partners: Spherion, Visiting Nurses Association, PR Machine Works, Nanogate/Jay Systems, DRM Productions, OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, Richland Bank, Mechanics Bank, Area Agency on Aging, and many others. To learn more about Solutions Journalism at Richland Source click the "About Solutions Journalism."

South by Southwest Conference Blogger

Executive Director of the Renaissance Performing Arts Association, which presents and produces over 55 performances yearly at the historic theatre. She believes the arts and arts education are necessary drivers for personal, economic and social growth.

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