What is UX for Good?
UX for Good is a wildly ambitious effort to design systemic solutions for some of the most vexing social challenges. Top user experience designers convene to tackle problems that matter in the only event of its kind. Assisting the designers are philanthropic change makers and some of the most interesting, creative thinkers we know.
In our 2013 event, user experience designers from around the world will gather in Vancouver, Canada. Selected from some of the world's most important tech companies and hottest boutique firms, these twelve UX masters will put their heads together not to build a better online shopping cart, but to take on a fundamental problem in education: how to embed social and emotional learning into children's school experience.
Our partner in this event is the Vancouver-based Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. The center draws its inspiration from a question His Holiness asked in a visit to Vancouver: "How can we educate the hearts of children?" Taking its mission from this question, the Center will also host its 2013 Heart-Mind Conference in conjunction with UX for Good on May 9-12.
Over these four days, the UX designers will fan out across Vancouver, learning everything they can about the region's public schools and diverse communities. They'll also gain insight into the latest scientific discoveries about social and emotional learning. Finally, they'll sequester themselves for a day to design interventions that will benefit the children of British Columbia and the rest of the world.
Now in our third year, UX for Good has staged events in Chicago (2011) and New Orleans (2012), tackling challenges ranging from urban violence to the music economy. Last year's event, in partnership with The GRAMMY Foundation, MusiCares, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative, was the 2013 Interaction Awards People's Choice Award winner.
We Can Do Better
Jason Ulaszek, UX for Good
UX designers still don't know how powerful they are. Since we launched UX for Good in 2011, I have had the privilege to work alongside some of the most talented designers in the country. Even they didn't fully understand the value that they bring to every challenge, including some of the world's most intractable social problems. We don't appreciate our unique ability to actively listen, empathize, connect disparate ideas, and visualize holistic solutions.
I'm exceedingly proud of the designers we've convened for the 2013 event. As in years past, they include some of the most respected figured in our industry. An exciting addition this year will be several designers from around the globe -- appropriate for our first event outside the United States. As they tackle the challenge assigned to them by the Dalai Lama Center, we believe this will be an important step in showing the industry and the world that UX can help solve the most meaningful problems.
Setting Up Teams to Break
Andrew Benedict-Nelson, Insight Labs
The heart and the head. Emotion and logic. Body and mind. Setting up dichotomies keeps getting us humans in trouble - and we keep doing it anyway.
UX for Good is no exception. This year our designers will be divided into two teams. Each will investigate a different aspect of "teaching the heart." Yet they will be united by a common question: How can we embed the social and emotional learning of children and youth in the education system of British Columbia (Canada)?
Team One will seek ways to embed the "teaching of the heart" into interactions that take place between children and adults. Since they'll be working within the local school system, relationships between students and teachers will be an important consideration. However, they can also draw upon the many different kinds of interactions that kids have with administrators, coaches, paraprofessionals, and other adults they may encounter in school. The pattern of these interactions may be informed by systemic factors like education policies and school curricula. But the main focus should always be on the actual exchanges that take place between adults and children.
Team Two will investigate what the school system could do to embed social and emotional learning into the relationships between student and student, child and child. Of course, the number of possible ways for two children to relate to each other is as great as it is for human beings at any age. Nevertheless, the designers should pay careful attention to these different kinds of relationships and the contexts in which they occur, thinking the ways in which "teaching the heart" could fit in. The scale of the solutions devised by the designers could be one-on-one, or it could involve every student in British Columbia (and beyond).
At the end of the event, the two teams will present their findings. Then two will become one again, as the Insight Labs team synthesizes all the ideas into a concrete set of recommendations for the Dalai Lama Center, the British Columbian school system, and anyone else willing to open their hearts and minds.
Why teach the heart?
Chris Kelly, Dalai Lama Center
We don't have to make the case for the importance of children's heart-mind learning. It makes its own case in the everyday stories of young peoples' thoughts and actions among themselves and the adults in their lives. To the extent that a child and young person knows she belongs and is cared for, is significant within herself and moved to act compassionately and responsibly towards others - that young person becomes a powerful, positive new force within her community and society.
Knowing the truth of this is not enough. Having that truth galvanize the players in an all-surrounding system of learning and growth compels and enables our young people to see these capacities within themselves and extend them to others. We've all heard "It takes a village to raise a child." We understand, implicitly, what that means. Now it's time to be that village; to know precisely what this means in terms of common purpose, shared knowledge and concerted action and effect on all our parts.
Everything is ready for this. There are profound cases of success where solid beginnings have been made. The time for enabling a generation of primary agents of peace within themselves, their families and friendships, communities and world is right now, right in front of us, in our hands as it is in our own hearts.
Another Set of Hearts and Minds
Jeff Leitner, Insight Labs
The world's most challenging problems require us to bring all sorts of different brains to the table. That's the premise of Insight Labs, the philanthropic think tank I help run. It was also an important principle that led Jason Ulaszek and me to found UX for Good in 2011. Insight Labs has returned as a partner in UX for Good each year since, so that we can see first-hand what happens when finely tuned technical expertise is leveraged in unexpected ways.
But something particularly special happens when those experts are user experience designers. Absorbing the perspectives of many different types of users is a core part of the UX skill set. So when UX designers sit down to collaborate on a problem, the number of minds represented is far greater than the number of people in the room. Multiply that effect by their knack for hacking systems in unexpected ways, and you unleash solutions that are exponentially more powerful than what any of us might come up with alone. We can't wait to see how these big brains tackle the challenge of "teaching the heart."
The 2013 Team
Design Research Director,
Manifest Digital (Chicago)
UX Director, Obama
for America (Chicago)
Designer and Researcher,
Lead Product Designer,
Sr. Experience Design Lead,
Microsoft Bing (Seattle)
Head of Design,
Dachis Group (London)
Designer and Educator
Interaction Design Director,
Manifest Digital (Chicago)
Sr. UX Designer,
CNN Digital (Atlanta)
Context Partners (Portland)
Visual Systems Team Lead,
Microsoft Bing (Seattle)
Manifest Digital (Chicago)
The 2013 Partners
The 2013 Instigators
UX for Good
Dalai Lama Center