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This past Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a segment on IDEO founder David Kelley. This global design firm, with famous clients including Steve Jobs, pioneered the use of “design thinking” to make products more responsive and intuitive for users. By beginning from a position of empathy for the user, design thinkers better define obstacles and needs, prototype, test, and retest. This process is not linear‒like a traditional design, prototype, and production process‒but iterative.
While watching this segment, it became clear that Kelley’s focus on empathy as the starting point to approaching any design problem resonates for those of us in the non profit sector. IDEO itself is branching off into humanitarian efforts, suggesting that the connection between design thinking and the sector is a logical progression. In my capacity as Action Research Coordinator, I am always interested in making the ways we work here at Framework, and in the sector more generally, more collaborative, transparent, and efficient. But how do we make innovation and re-evaluation a priority in a sector that often has limited resources? Can the empathy that inspires innovative thinkers like Kelley also be the starting point when testing and recommending new tools and processes to the non profit community? If empathy is a catalyst for innovation, than the non profit sector has a unique capacity.