Event report

August 27, 2020

How FabCafe runs a successful designathon online – the Save Our Seas Mini Jam

How can we design a workshop to encourage fresh innovation online? Here are the five most important workshop design tips that made this half-day designathon a success.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been said that many online activities in work, school and entertainment have jumped 5 years or more into the future. Almost overnight, Zoom has become a household name and online collaboration tools are empowering team members to work together from anywhere with a WiFi connection.

However, with video chat-lag communication dissonance and other challenges unique to the virtual world,
how can we design a workshop to encourage innovation online?

 

In a Designathon (or “Jam”), participants work in small teams to extract the essence of a problem and discover seeds of potential solutions through design thinking methodology and rapid prototyping.

For an example, check out the FabCafe’s World Industrial Design Day mini jam here 👉

FabCafe has been organizing SDGs-related workshops, mostly designations, as a community development activity since 2014. Until COVID-19, most of our community development activities were held offline, so we are also facing the real challenge of the shift from offline to online.

On July 23rd, Ocean Day in Japan, FabCafe hosted the Save Our Seas Mini Jam, where 24 workshop participants and 6 facilitators from 10 different countries connected via Zoom and the online whiteboard tool, Miro, to tackle Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life below water.

Here are the five most important workshop design points that made this mini jam a success:

Since the opening of the first FabCafe in Tokyo in 2012, FabCafes around the world have aimed to be a place where anybody can become empowered to answer the FabCafe question, “What do you Fab?” With this spirit, providing an opportunity to gather up-and-coming as well as seasoned changemakers from varying levels of society online was a no-brainer! However, how do we design for participants who are using Zoom or Miro for the first time? 

We first considered the first-time users’ perspectives by simulating what they would be seeing on the Miro board on their screen from the beginning to the end of the workshop. This user-experience journey asked the key question: What is the visual information being provided on the Miro board when the participants zoom 100% out? How about when the participants zoom all the way in?


100% Zoomed out view: The Miro board follows a simple top to down, left to right flow. All the team’s work is on the same board, on different levels.

Zoomed in view: several visual cues are present: a micro-time flag to show how long this sprint should last, a moving yellow submarine which carries the team’s shared challenge and signals where on the board the team is working. We can see what’s up ahead- a 10 minute coffee break!

On the technical side, the organizing team was always asking themselves: how can we spend as little time as possible having participants deal with the tech side so they can focus on the workshop?

Once we narrowed down the essential Miro functions that we needed participants to know in order to do the workshop, we included a simple and friendly Miro tips section at the top of the board. We also realized it may be tough for some first-time users to get used to having Miro and Zoom at the same time, so we also included a recommended screen setup for first time users to be able to expect where they should look and when throughout the workshop. Having the introduction presentation, the timeline, team member structure, and the workspace all on Miro meant we did not need to use any slide sharing applications.

Designing an online workshop framework from zero raises a lot of questions: which elements are necessary and which are distracting? What workshop order is easiest for participants to understand? When starting from a blank slate, it’s important to design well before committing to the Miro board itself. Starting with a paper prototype of the Miro board was a fun and easy way to build upon the foundational framework through multiple quick reiterations.

Introduction section of Miro board, ver. 1.0

Messy but effective! Full SOS Mini Jam Miro board, ver. 1.0

After determining the overall design and flow using paper on an oversize board, we created the first draft of the Miro board itself. Our next step was to do a “fresh eyes” run through with outside members for an unbiased perspective on what was working well and where on the Miro board participants might become lost or confused.

While it’s easy to get caught up thinking about the “how”, having a plan for gathering and priming the people who joined the workshop was an essential step to ensure a productive workshop.

FabCafe has been leading workshops based on tackling SDG challenges in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Kyoto for more than 3 years. From these long-time built global communities, for the SOS Mini Jam, we could gather architects, designers, engineers, writers, marine conservation NGO members, university students who focus on ocean studies, and business professionals from 10 different countries. The diversity in nationality and professional background was a significant highlight for many participants.

It was very exciting to discuss global issues with attendees across the globe, which brought wide perspectives and various opinions from team members in diverse stages of life and careers. – Kevin, SOS Mini Jam participant.

Before the workshop, a survey asked all participants what Life Under Water theme they were interested to work on, their professional background, and their professional or personal relationship with the theme. These details helped FabCafe organizers curate individual workshop team’s structure to ensure each member was working on the topic they have passion in with a diverse team.

Each team was equipped with a facilitator who had undergone a Train the Trainers workshop. Facilitators kicked off the Train the Trainers workshop by sharing their trends and research homework on SDG #14 Life Under Water. Facilitators then completed a Team Canvas to align their goals and roles before entering the innovation process. Finally, using the latest Miro board draft, facilitators went through each design sprint while sharing and learning facilitation tips and tricks documented in their Facilitator’s Cheat Sheet. 

Our group facilitator was amazing. He played good music and was very inclusive. I loved the flow, the speed, the timers, and working in the breakout group. I loved using MIRO. I loved looking at the flow of the day / schedule at the beginning. – Aya, SOS Mini Jam participant

SOS Mini Jam Organizing team in front of FabCafe Tokyo

SOS Mini Jam Organizing team in front of FabCafe Tokyo

In an offline workshop, it is relatively easy to customize a designathon location which can cater to both a creative-work atmosphere as well as a friendly-community building atmosphere. However, simulating this kind of atmosphere online can be quite the challenge as facilitators cannot control the physical environment of the participants. At the SOS mini Jam, we tried to bridge this gap by utilizing playful and colorful visuals and a “soundscape strategy” to create a fun and collaboration-friendly atmosphere.

Color schemes and playful design with theme-relevant icons can signal the attitude or feeling of the “room”.

The soundscape strategy: When the small teams went into Zoom breakout rooms, facilitators encouraged all mics to be unmuted so everyone could hear eachother’s laughter and other human response communication sound-cues that are typical for an in-person discussion. Enforcing a “mics on” policy encouraged participants to freely ask questions and discuss ideas.

The official Save Our Seas Mini Jam playlist, by Rio Kudo.

While participants were brainstorming independently, facilitators broke the silence by playing background music to maintain a sense of togetherness. During the breaks, the technical director played upbeat music from a SOS mini jam playlist for the whole group to signal the start and end of the breaks. These small but intentional sound interventions created another opportunity to try to bring the essence of an offline workshop to the online platform.

In the 4.5 hour SOS Mini Jam, there were two breaks where all participants paused their work and, from their small team-only break out rooms, were automatically brought back into the main Zoom with all workshop members 

Enforcing a simultaneous break sessions for all workshop members was helpful from many perspectives. First, the simultaneous “forced” break guarantees that all members have an opportunity to step away from their computers and rest their eyes and minds. For facilitators, doing the brake together means there is pressure on facilitators to maintain their time management carefully in order to aim to finish the sprints in a timely manner. Furthermore, having it at the same time allows Facilitators and participants both have a chance to check in with one another and explore the work of other teams on the shared Miro board.

Just like in an offline workshop, sometimes teams can make their greatest breakthroughs during breaks, when they have a chance to rest their mind and refresh their perspectives through casual talk with other workshop members. Strategizing a shared break time on the online platform could encourage similar opportunities.

The final sprint of the Save Our Seas Mini Jam involved drawing a concept sketch of solution ideas to the challenges and uploading them to the Miro board. These concept sketches and other output materials of the workshop can be found on the Save Our Seas AWRD page here 👉

Do you have a passion for solving social challenges to improve lives? Do you want to leverage your skills and ideas in a diverse and high-energy setting to identify and attack issues in sustainability and inequality? 

This year, FabCafe will be hosting Global Goals Jam online in Tokyo, Kyoto + Fukuoka and Hong Kong! Join us this year, where local innovators, entrepreneurs, and creatives will join teams around the world in designing actionable interventions toward achieving the Global Goals.

The event pages for this 2-day designathon can be found below!

Global Goals Jam Tokyo 2020 Event page👉

Global Goals Jam Fukuoka + Kyoto 2020 Event page👉

(COMING SOON!)
Global Goals Jam Hong Kong 2020 Event page👉

Author

  • Kelsie Stewart

    FabCafe CCO

    Born in the United States, graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology (2009) and a Masters of Arts in Religion (2015). Kelsie has been in the specialty coffee world as a barista and espresso trainer since 2008 and was introduced to FabCafe as an espresso trainer through coffee friends shortly after FabCafe’s opening in 2012. She joined Loftwork and FabCafe in 2017.

    Kelsie oversees the FabCafe Global network. In FabCafes across Asia, Europe and America, Kelsie strategizes and aligns Fab synergies to empower everyone to take the initiative to make and share their ideas with local and global communities. Kelsie is also the Tokyo organizer for the Global Goals Jam (GGJ), a two-day designathon and community which aims to create short term solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals. Kelsie has organized sustainability and design thinking workshops in Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

    Born in the United States, graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology (2009) and a Masters of Arts in Religion (2015). Kelsie has been in the specialty coffee world as a barista and espresso trainer since 2008 and was introduced to FabCafe as an espresso trainer through coffee friends shortly after FabCafe’s opening in 2012. She joined Loftwork and FabCafe in 2017.

    Kelsie oversees the FabCafe Global network. In FabCafes across Asia, Europe and America, Kelsie strategizes and aligns Fab synergies to empower everyone to take the initiative to make and share their ideas with local and global communities. Kelsie is also the Tokyo organizer for the Global Goals Jam (GGJ), a two-day designathon and community which aims to create short term solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals. Kelsie has organized sustainability and design thinking workshops in Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

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