Solution

Create a framework for participants to empathize, deconstruct the problem, and provide solutions. Prototype and test those solutions. 

Role

Lead Designer and Facilitator

Challenge

How can Design Thinking techniques be applied to solving Veterans homelessness?

Background

The men and women who have served our country should not have their journey end in homelessness. In Washington, DC alone, there are more than 500 homeless Veterans on the streets at any single point in time. Organizations like Miriam’s Kitchen, our client for this design challenge, help to combat chronic homelessness in Washington, DC. They have introduced several innovations in this space including Coordinated Entrya “no wrong door” policy between service organizations like the Department of Veterans Affairs, Friendship Place, the DC Government, and others.

Through this design sprint, users experienced the design thinking process first-hand through their work on several real-world challenges around homeless Veterans. To do this, I completed a series of design methods to create a journey map and set of personas. Further, in this design sprint I led 60 people through a full day of breaking down different aspects of the challenge, such as empathizing with the homeless veteran, identifying a problem, generating ideas, selecting the best ideas, and then testing them.

Key Problem Areas and Personas

We consulted with Miriam’s Kitchen staff to identify key problem areas:

  1. Improving access to at-risk populations—helping them avoid homelessness (prevention vs cure)
  2. Raising awareness of homeless veterans to services
  3. Increasing the number of landlords who serve homeless veterans in Washington, DC
  4. Improving access to living wage jobs for homeless veterans

Each table was assigned a specific challenge on which to ideate around. Depending on your challenge area, you will be focusing on one of four perspectives, including a case manager, a homeless veteran, a landlord, and an employer.

Journey Map and Personas

Day-Long Design Thinking Workshop

During a day-long workshop, teams tackled the problem of Veterans homelessness using the journey map and personas above, during a series of three facilitated sessions that follows the Design Thinking process. Each facilitated session focused on a different Design Thinking element:

  • Session 1: Empathize and Define: You’ll learn to examine the challenge through different lenses and stakeholders. Empathizing and learning about their perspectives will help you discover unique problems you will be able to tackle.
  • Session 2: Deconstruct: For each of the four problems above, you’ll be presented with a problem statement and will explore the people surrounding these issues, as well at the political and social issues surrounding this problem.
  • Session 3: Ideate: Now that you’ve uncovered the true root problem and understand the issue much better, we’ll show you how to generate a wide range of solutions. We’ll walk you through creating fast, simple prototypes that make your solutions tangible in order to test how they work.

The diverse backgrounds and experiences of the people attending the design sprint allowed us to approach this big challenge from many angles, while we learned new strategies. 

Results

Insights and solutions were compiled into a final report and presented with next steps to Miriam's Kitchen. Miriam's Kitchen has since socialized findings and recommendations with its supporting agencies and providers, and we helped prioritized action items with evaluation criteria. Several participants of the workshops have since signed on to be skills-based volunteers to implement our findings.