Last Thursday and Friday, our AC4D class participated in a design boot camp. The two days provided a quick way to experience the design process from start to finish. We focused on this year’s theme of education and explored three phases–Ethnography, Synthesis, Prototype–which we’ll drill into with much more depth as the year progresses.
Chuck, Eli, and I teamed up to research college students who work while going to school. We had about 90 minutes to conduct interviews and gather as much data as we could during the ethnography phase. The three of us went to the University of Texas and Austin Community College campuses to talk with students. In total, I think we interviewed about 14 people. Not statistically significant by any means. On top of that, our results were probably more skewed because the semester hadn’t started yet. We came back with lots of notes and photos but weren’t very confident we’d have much to go on.
However, as we processed our research and started to synthesize it, we discovered some surprising insights we didn’t notice in the moment as we were speaking with students. (And we also developed a whole new list of questions we wished we could have explored!)
Ultimately, the storyboards and sketches we prototyped by the end of boot camp on Friday wasn’t anything we could have anticipated on Thursday morning. I’m not saying it’s an idea we’d actually be able to produce and sell–or that there weren’t other ideas we toyed with–but the process did help us identify some new insights and opportunities.
And more importantly, the boot camp reminded me that it doesn’t really matter where you start. The important thing is to start. Somewhere. And to be open to where the messy, iterative process will lead.
Jon lifted up these two values during AC4D orientation yesterday. He was talking about how ideas are fleeting, but if we want to actually solve wicked problems, we need to make stuff. And in order to create something, it must be written down. Documented. Artifacts–which can take the form of sketches, notes, prototypes, models, videos, photos, and more–become points for communication and clarification. They externalize ideas and enable collaboration.
At one point, Jon said, “Have an idea? Make it. Show it. Create it. Draw it.”
And if I’m honest, that’s kind of scary. I’m no stranger to sketching on a dry erase board as I process an idea, but my scribbles usually consist of boxes and arrows. The thought of drawing people (especially while standing in front of other people!), intimidates me.
So after class wrapped up for the day, a small group started talking about our fear of stick figures. Jon gathered us at the dry erase board and gave us some tips for drawing people and hands, since we’ll be doing that a lot in the months ahead. And then an assignment: Draw hands and people. An hour a day. And see how much easier it gets over time. Here’s a snapshot from last night’s efforts:
Even with only a couple hours under my belt, I’m already feeling more confident. At the moment, I’m much better at hands than people (and at palms than knuckles), but I’m excited to keep practicing and discover how this skill will enable me to communicate ideas more effectively.
I love how this group looks at a piano and doesn’t just see keys, strings, and pedals. They imagine new sounds. New ways of playing the instrument. And they work together to create something new and cool.
Because I’ve been accepted into the year-long design program at the Austin Center for Design (AC4D). Here’s a description of what I’ll be studying:
We offer a one year program—held at nights and on weekends in Austin, Texas—that emphasizes creative problem solving in the context of social issues, like poverty and nutrition. You’ll learn about human behavior, technology, and novel approaches to business strategy. The program is ideal for designers, business professionals and technologists with several years of experience doing professional work, or for more established professionals looking to change the trajectory of their careers.
That means I’ll be moving to Austin, Texas, in the end of August. In addition to the AC4D coursework and designing business/service/product ideas to address “wicked problems,” I will be working part time remotely for sparkhouse and am excited to be able to apply what I’m learning to the sparkhouse projects I’ll stilloversee.
And even more importantly, I have the support of my incredible husband, Brent. We’ll be doing the long-distance marriage thing for 9 months. I’m not looking forward to that part, but I am unbelievably grateful for his encouragement and wouldn’t be able to do the program without him. (The optimist in me also likes to point out that at least we’ll be able to video chat and visit each other between quarters, unlike the college semester I spent studying abroad in Vienna, Austria.)
So there’s my big news.
The application is done. I’ve been accepted in the program. And now I’m working out logistics like housing, travel, and transition plans for my sparkhouse work.
Adam Walker Cleaveland, pastor/blogger/thinker, is currently running a series on (Re)Imagining Christianity. He posed two questions and asked a number of people to write guests posts with their responses:
What is one belief, practice or element of Christianity that must die so that Christianity can move forward and truly impact the world in the next 100 years?
What is one belief, practice or element of Christianity that we must hold onto and live out more fully so that Christianity can move forward and truly impact the world in the next 100 years?
I think we face a similar case of nostalgia in the church. The state of the typical American church is a little unsatisfying, so we long for “the good days.” When denominations were growing and thriving. When people were biblically literate. When youth ministry and worship didn’t need to compete with sports practices. When families worshipped together, and kids dressed up and sat quietly in the pews during worship. When… When… When…
It makes me wonder, When? When did church actually look like that?
I have a suspicion that those days never really existed. Or if they did exist, they weren’t as perfect as people imagine.
A few years ago, I read Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz and really enjoyed it. (In particular, I was struck by the “confessional booth” Miller and several Christian friends set up on a very secular college campus. But instead of asking people to confess their sins, the group confessed and asked forgiveness for the ways Christians have misrepresented Jesus.)
Then two years ago, I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, which came out of Miller’s experience trying to turn Blue Like Jazz into a movie. I really appreciated how A Million Miles challenged me to think about the story I tell with my life–and how to live a more compelling narrative. (Which explains how I gave away a couple copies of the book before I even finished reading it myself!)
So back to Blue Like Jazz… As they were making the Blue Like Jazz movie, funding ran out. And then a Kickstarter project saved the film, which has been screening at ministry events and college campuses across the country before it hits theaters April 13.
And now it’s coming to the Twin Cities. (Well, technically, St. Paul.)
So if you’re looking for something to do on Friday, March 16, head over to one of the two screenings at Macalester College. Donald Miller and Steve Taylor (the film’s director) will roll in on the Blue Like Jazz bus an hour ahead of the screenings to hang out with people before the movie begins. The events are free but do require an RSVP, which you can do here:
Facebook and Twitter streams reflected people responses and sadness over the death of Davy Jones on Wednesday. While I recognize that a 66-year-old music icon’s passing reminds us (especially children of the ’60s) of our mortality, I struggle with the amount of attention it’s getting.
Because when I woke up this morning, I heard this report from Syria on NPR:
After pummeling the Baba Amr neighborhood with tanks and rockets for nearly a month, the Syrian government pledged yesterday to, quote, “cleanse the area.” And that’s what appeared to be happening today. Activists say soldiers are going house to house, arresting all males over the age of 14. This morning, activists say soldiers lined up 10 men and shot them, execution style.
14-year-olds are reportedly being rounded up in an effort to quell the rebellion. Those boys would be high school freshman in the United States.
Right now, I’m at the Princeton Youth Forum in Santa Barbara, which features some really smart people who are leading thinkers in youth ministry and beyond. Last night, I gave a presentation on how design and design thinking methods can help youth ministers address the challenges (big and small) we face in our ministries. It’s drawn from the practices we use to create sparkhouse resources, as well as my experiences in ministry.
I’m posting a growing bibliography from my talk at http://princetonforum.tumblr.com/. Some other forum attendees will also be posted highlights and sources from the lectures and electives they go to, so we’ll crowdsource a more complete bibliography from the event. And if you have other references you’d like to add, just let me know!
I’ve been honored to write for Immerse, a youth ministry journal that offers a great mix of theologically deep, thought-provoking, and practical articles by some great thinkers and leaders in the youth ministry world today.
When I was at the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta back in November, I sat down with Aaron Mitchum for an interview about my article, “Imagination, Tinkering and Theology: Youth as Theologians” (Jul/Aug 2011). The interview was just posted to their site last week, and you can hear it here.
And then check out the Jan/Feb 2012 issue to see my next article, “Encountering the Messy Midrash.” And then subscribe–or give a subscription to your favorite pastor or youth minister. Because it’s a great publication.
I found this TED Talk on “Atheism 2.0″ fascinating. Alain de Botton makes an argument for atheists to borrow some of what he considers the best aspects of religion so atheists aren’t cut off from community, morality, culture, etc. He even brings up the positive aspects of institutionalized religion (which is especially interesting in contrast to the viral spoken word YouTube video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus“).
Worth checking it out. And then I’d love to hear what you think.