Design Thinking for Evaluation and Community Building

When the Museum of Design Atlanta moved to the city’s Midtown Arts Corridor four years ago, we pressed the re-start button. Though MODA was an established arts organization with 20+ years of history, the more prominent location gave the museum an opportunity to serve new and expanded communities. Board and staff responded to the challenge by re-evaluating and re-writing the museum’s mission and vision (2012) and putting a comprehensive strategic plan in place (2013). Since that time, the MODA staff has been working hard to bring exhibitions and programs in line with the museum’s definition of design as being at the intersection of creativity and functionality and with the idea expressed in our vision statement that design is a creative force that solve problems and make the world a better place. IMG_2342 It’s logical, then, that we would use design thinking as a means of solving some of the most challenging problems we face in this period of re-inventing and re-buidling the museum. And, we are lucky to have an amazing educational partner in the Mt. Vernon Presbyterian School and its Institute for Innovation. Mt. Vernon is a global leader in bringing design thinking into the classroom in order to empower students to become innovative problem solvers. And, they do much the same for MODA. Over the past years, as we have developed the design thinking programs we present both inside and outside the museum, and as we have worked to build a museum that is responsive, relevant, and resilient, Mt. Vernon’s staff has been an invaluable resource, especially Bo Adams, Mt. Vernon’s Chief Learning and Innovation Officer, who joined the MODA board in 2014. So, when Mt. Vernon asked if MODA might be wiling to be a “guinea pig” as they trained a team of faculty and students for Fuse 15, an annual design thinking workshop that attracts attendees from around the country, our response was an enthusiastic “yes!” Working closely with Mt. Vernon’s team, we identified two challenges that MODA currently faces: 1) how to evaluate exhibitions and programs in a creative way that produces thoughtful responses that provide meaningful data 2) how to build a strong community of designers, design thinkers, members, families, donors, and other interested groups and individuals around MODA IMG_2344 The process began on Friday, March 19, when MODA staff sat down with faculty and students from Mt. Vernon and began to work on these challenges by working through Mt. Vernon’s four-step DEEP design thinking process, by discovering challenges, by building empathy around them, by experimenting with possible solutions, and by prototyping those solutions that seem to best answer the challenge. Great ideas emerged from the hours that MODA spent at Mt. Vernon, but there’s still more exploration to be done. In mid-April, the Mt. Vernon team will join forces with MODA once again to refine ideas and discover real and innovative solutions. Stay tuned ! IMG_2339

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