Annie Lin is our current volunteer Challenge Community Champion. You'll see her popping up across the Healthy Ageing Challenge with handy tips and words of encouragement – and posting community updates here like a true champion!
Sharing ideas (photo by Annie Lin).
Earlier this week, I organized an
OpenSTORM with six friends at my apartment in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was one of the most mentally stimulating two-hour periods I've experienced in a while, and we came out from it with a wide array of insights and ideas for the
Healthy Ageing Challenge. Below is what we did during the OpenSTORM (step by step), and some of the ideas that emerged from the brainstorming session. At the end of this blog post I also include some learnings and suggestions for future OpenSTORMS. I definitely encourage everyone to organize an OpenSTORM — it's an easy, fun, and social way to get creative ideation juices flowing!
Hard at work (photo by Annie Lin).
Discussing ideas (photo by Annie Lin).
Pensive (photo by Annie Lin).
Wall of brilliance (photo by Annie Lin).
1. Introducing OpenIDEO and the Healthy Ageing Challenge
I talked very briefly about the mission and approach of OpenIDEO, and what the Healthy Ageing Challenge is all about, since participants had varying levels of familiarity with the platform.
2. Warming up
To get participants into a collaborative, talkative mood, I asked them to reflect on two things and share their thoughts with the group: "S
hare one story about an inspiring elder in your life," and "How d
o you think diversity plays into aging? H
ow might the aging experience differ for different kinds of people?" This sparked some interesting discussions. I summarized the themes I heard from the discussions, and we were on our way to brainstorming!
3. Brainstorming Ideas
I posted four questions around my living room to get participants thinking about different aspects of aging. I took these from OpenIDEO's Brainstorm in a Box toolkit for the Healthy Ageing Challenge (a super useful resource). The four questions were:
- How might we help people kickstart their efforts to live more actively (physically and mentally)?
- How can we encourage people to connect across generations, geographies and experiences?
- How do we support people in their 50s,60s and 70s to plan ahead for their 80s, 90s and 100s?
- What environments, spaces or living arrangements might we create or alter, to enable aging adults to thrive with their own diverse needs in mind?
After explaining these questions, the group grabbed some colorful post-it's and went around the room generating and posting ideas/solutions (programs, events, services, resources, etc.) addressing each question. This was a solo activity — everyone tried to come up with as many ideas as possible by themselves
(I told them crazy ideas are encouraged)
After about 10 minutes of this, we stopped and collectively went through the posted ideas for each of the four questions, with the author of each idea explaining what they mean as necessary. The discussions inspired group members to think of brand new ideas beyond what was already posted.
4. Making ideas concrete
In alignment with OpenIDEO's focus on prototyping (see my earlier blog post), I then asked the OpenSTORM participants to each pick two ideas — they could be ideas that someone had posted on the wall or brand new ideas that came to them after all the discussions. For each idea, they had to (1) explain how it would work concretely, (2) draw a picture representing the idea, and (3) give the idea a name (so, if they're proposing a cafe where old people can socialize, they also had to come up with a name for the cafe). The whole point here was to make each idea as visual and concrete as possible. After about 10–15 minutes of this, each participant shared his/her two ideas with the whole group, and everyone provided feedback or questions. I was definitely impressed by the group's creative solutions and the sketches they drew!
5. Getting people to upload their ideas onto OpenIDEO.
Yes, this was definitely the most difficult part! After two hours of brainstorming (after full workdays), people were tired and needed to go home. One diligent person stayed behind and uploaded one of his two prototyped ideas on the spot. Others uploaded their ideas at home (with a good amount of nudging and reminding), and some haven't yet gotten around to uploading.
EXAMPLES OF IDEAS GENERATED DURING SESSION
Sketching and presenting (photo by Annie Lin).
More than 65 original ideas were generated during the session. Below are a few of them.
- Well Brewed Cafe - "An accessible cafe for seniors to sip teas/ brews, chat, and share in cultural events. The space is a thriving center for programming, classes, and social meet ups!"
- Etsy Broker - "Volunteers at a farmer's market set up a booth where they take pictures of crafts, do mini oral histories, post the results on Etsy and pass on the proceeds to elderly craftspeople."
- Reddit for Elders - a Reddit/AMA-like platform where elders draw upon their knowledge and expertise to answer questions posed by others.
- Elderly-focused Airbnb - platform pairing up younger travelers or study-abroad students with elderly hosts.
- "Pretend To Be Old" Day / "Everyone Be Retired" Day - a national holiday encouraging empathy and cross-generational interactions, where younger folks experience what it's like to be old for a day.
LEARNINGS / SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE OpenSTORMS
Thinking time (photo by Annie Lin).
- Take advantage of the resources that OpenIDEO already provided. OpenIDEO has created a variety of documents to help people organize successful OpenSTORMs. These include: an overview of how OpenSTORMs generally work, tips on better brainstorming, and the Brainstorm in a Box toolkit for the Healthy Ageing Challenge.
- Curate the session participants. I intentionally invited only people who I know would be interested in rigorous brainstorming. I also aimed for diversity — in terms of gender, ethnicity, industry, prior familiarity with OpenIDEO, etc. — in order to make sure multiple perspectives are represented. I think this made the session much more lively and interesting.
- Provide snacks. I had chips, salsa, pizza, candy, juice, and beer ready. I think they were crucial in keeping the energy going, especially since the brainstorming session happened at night, after people had already had a full workday.
- Keep the session to no more than two hours. My OpenSTORM went on for a bit over two hours, and energy was definitely running a bit lower near the end. If possible, try to keep the brainstorming session to under two hours!
- Don't put the "upload to OpenIDEO" part at the end of the session. I thought I'd be able to get people to upload their ideas before leaving my apartment, but most people needed/wanted to head home after the rigorous two-hour mental exercises. I think one way to make sure people actually stick around to upload their ideas is to add another activity for after the uploads happen, so people feel like they can't quite leave yet because the session isn't yet over.
- Make sure to involve "old people" in the ideation process. As one session participant wisely pointed out, everyone who attended this OpenSTORM were fairly young. The voice of the end user — the elder — was missing from the room! It's important to include that voice as part of the ideation and design process to make sure the proposed solutions actually make sense for their potential users. This could happen by inviting elders to brainstorming sessions, actively seeking out their feedback on proposed ideas, etc.