Who are we?

We are a group of creative problem solvers who look at the roots of wicked problems.  

 

What makes a problem “wicked”?

In 1973, design theorists Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber noted that many problems in society are incredibly complex and hard to completely understand.  They dubbed these issues “wicked problems” because of their ability to persist despite large numbers of people working on them at many different times from many different angles throughout history.  Wicked problems count among their ranks large-scale social ills such as poverty, hunger, racism, health inequities, and social exclusion.

 

What do we do?

We adapt a process called human centered design, also known as “design thinking”, to chip away at the roots of these problems.  There are two reasons why we chose this tool:

  • Design-thinking is uniquely suited to solving complex, difficult to define problems.  It is a process that combines empathy, out of the box thinking, and good old trial and error to get at the heart of issues that must be addressed in order to be fully understood.

  • We understand that social problems are just as political as they are technical.  No technological innovation alone can shift the balance of power in a society that produces inequities, inevitably leaving out some of its members from whatever prosperity it has to offer.  However, we believe that change is possible if more people are engaged in a specific kind of innovation--one that embrace giving folks on the front lines of wicked problems more control over their lives.

 

What’s our approach?

We practice design as co-creation.  Our emphasis is on understanding deeply not only the human experience at the heart of each manifestation of a wicked problem like poverty, but also the historic context and political landscape.  As the big picture emerges, we start thinking about how to change the underlying dynamics that create a given situation of deprivation.  This means creating space for those most affected by a social problem to take the lead in the innovation process and facilitating their access to the resources, relationships, and support they might need to see it through.  

“Creating this space” can involve a variety of activities.  It can involve teaching public institutions and nonprofits new, fun and effective ways of community engagement.  It can involve helping social impact entrepreneurs critically examine their business models to make sure they stay aligned with their mission.  It can involve connecting communities that have been fighting for change for decades with new resources and partnerships.  But whatever we do, we do it with a commitment to self reflection, accountability, and a critical awareness of our own role in the systems we hope to transform.

 

Want to learn more? 

Contact us! We look for opportunities to support and engage with a community of those working on transformative social change. 


CONTRIBUTORS

Brooke Staton

Julia Kramer

Pierce Gordon

Lauren Valdez