5. February 2021

Design Thinking - An Exciting Method for Developing Support Strategies

At the end of last year, the project consortium was busy implementing so-called co-design workshops together with its partner organisations that went through and piloted the online training for educational professionals in autumn. The aim is to jointly develop strategies for action in the area of tension between "digitalisation and people with mild intellectual disabilities".

Design thinking is a method that was created by Tim Brown from the design and innovation consulting agency IDEO in California at the beginning of the 1990s. The methodology consists of an intuitive and iterative process and is based on precise observation and a high degree of user-centricity. It thus corresponds closely to the way designers work and owes its name to them. Nevertheless, design thinking is also a very fruitful and creative approach for developing new ideas and solutions in many other areas.

So what is Design Thinking?

Design thinking aims to create new ideas or innovations by adopting different perspectives and positions to look at a specific problem. The focus is always on the users and their needs. The key to success is a creative and open mindset, according to which anything is possible.

The design thinking process classically consists of the following 6 phases:

  1. Understanding
  2. Observing
  3. Defining a point of view
  4. Generating ideas
  5. Developing a prototype
  6. Testing

You can get a comprehensive insight into the methodology of Design Thinking here:
https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/what-is-design-thinking-and-why-is-it-so-popular

Design Thinking in the AMEDY project

One of the aims of the AMEDY project is to develop a Support Strategy Paper that provides support strategies, recommendations and tips for educational professionals in dealing with intellectually disabled young people with digital media.
The project consortium wants to develop these support strategies not only for the professionals, but together with them. They are the experts in their field and for their target group and therefore know their needs best.

Realisation of the Design Thinking method in Germany

In the context of a digital workshop in December, the Digital Opportunities Foundation, together with its cooperation partners, the Martinsclub Bremen e.V., took two hours of time to address the following question:

What strategies are there to accompany people with mild intellectual disabilities in the use of digital media in order to minimise the risks of use and increase opportunities for use?

In order to make this abstract question a little more concrete, ideas and solutions were developed on the basis of various personas, i.e. prototypical cases of young people who encounter various challenges and risks when using digital media (for example, Clara, who wants to be popular, so she accepts all friend requests on Facebook, sends revealing pictures and has also already fallen victim to hate speech). Since the personas and their problems were to be grasped from different perspectives and angles, the participants took on different roles (that of the parents, that of the educational specialist and that of the young people themselves) and considered in a big brainstorming session what different approaches there could be to solving their problems.

It was impressive how many creative ideas and approaches were brought together in such a short time. Because each participant wore a different "hat", all perspectives were considered.

Where do we go from here?

In the next step, these ideas will be collected, structured and condensed into action strategies and recommendations by our Belgian project partners UCLL. The Support Strategy Paper will be published on the project website at the end of the project and made available to all institutions free of charge.