Uscreates workshop on sustainable business in London

Responsible Business Week

Thanks to Richard, I became aware of this year’s Responsible Business Week in London and managed to get a free (how amazing) ticket to a workshop called ‘Social Impact for Business: Thoughts, tools and techniques‘ led by Uscreates.

Uscreates are a group of positive social impact experts, with a big focus on integrating sustainability and social impact measures in a business context in order to come up with win-win situations in which both, social and economic value is created.

The workshop was about introducing tools and techniques that they use with clients. Interestingly those tools are very service-designish, and therefore very similar to what I am practicing at my Master’s course. In general this means that those techniques are based on the design process and methodologies such as iteration, prototyping, creating personas and making insights from user research.

It was a fun workshop since Uscreates would not only talk about how they do it, they actually made us use their tools and quickly run through a case study. They provided templates for sketching out personas, shared their user research methods, prepared lots of materials for prototyping – and on top of that: the workshop included a yummy breakfast :)

Tools for prototyping at the Uscreates workshop. (Source: Author's own)

Tools for prototyping at the Uscreates workshop. (Source: Author’s own)

A few of the templates that they provided were quite new to me. I particularly liked the sheet where sustainability and business issues are compared next to each other in order to come up with ideas where both perspectives overlap and could create shared value. It is really a very basic template but I imagine it can be very powerful, especially if it is used at the very beginning of a project or research.

Uscreates Workshop: Sustainability and Business Win-Win Sheet. (Source: Author's own, sheet-design: uscreates.com)

Uscreates Workshop: Sustainability and Business Win-Win Sheet. (Source: Author’s own, sheet-design: uscreates.com)

I also liked the lateral thinking sheet. It is a very good addition to run after brainstorming and picking an idea or solution. One box even asks you to think how you would pitch the idea to Alan Sugar – a good reminder to keep the idea viable from a business perspective, Alan does not like Schmusers for sure.

Uscreates Workshop: Lateral thinking template (Source: Author's own, sheet-design: uscreates.com)

Uscreates Workshop: Lateral thinking template (Source: Author’s own, sheet-design: uscreates.com)

For the workshop, our team picked the case study of a large electronics manufacturer and hardware retailer. We analysed the social and environmental issues such as e-waste, worker’s rights, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and problems resulting from excessive use of these gadgets by consumers. We then decided to pick the later problem, stating that youngsters in particular, face enormous health issues from a lifestyle in which computers, tablets and mobiles are constantly used, even replacing physical activities. Our brainstorming and quick refinement of ideas led us to building a rapid prototype of a plug-in tool that could be used to power and charge existing devices through physical, sporty activities. The idea surely is not entirely new and one might want to think about how this could be made much cooler with gamification and such, but that wasn’t the aim of the exercise.

Our humble prototype: A charger powered by physical activity for mobile devices.

Our humble prototype: A charger powered by physical activity for mobile devices. (Source: Author’s own)

For me it was a good learning experience – each time I go through the design process and apply design thinking techniques helps me to refine my understanding of it. Even a short time span of one or two hours can be used for producing some visual results. Additionally the lateral thinking and the business-sustainability-win-win-sheet were great new tools to work with.

 


References

OpenIDEO (2011) The Rules of Brainstorming. [online] OpenIDEO: Field Notes. Available at http://www.openideo.com/fieldnotes/openideo-team-notes/seven- tips-on-better-brainstorming (Accessed 22 April 2013)

Porter, M.E. and Kramer, M.R. (2011), “Creating Shared Value”, available at: http://hbr.org/2011/01/the-big-idea-creating-shared-value (accessed 22 April 2013).

Websites

http://www.uscreates.com/ Uscreates – Empowering society