NOTE: This is a full archive for the Project Community: You & The World (2013) please see the main site for the most up to date information.



Project Community is both a project, a community and a set of tools for using online communities and networks for enhancing the design process in any context.

  • It is a project, because we are using team projects as an action learning approach – we aren’t just going to talk about using communities and networks, we are going to USE them.
  • It is a community – as we will be learning together: a learning community.
  • It exposes you to a set of tools that you can use throughout your time at the University and beyond. By tools, we mean not only online technologies, but also frameworks for thinking about communities and networks, practices in working together and in tapping those networks.
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Valentina_A:

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Valentina_A:

At the beginning of Project Community you will most likely be a little bit confused. Don’t worry. That is natural because this course is as much an experience as it is a body of content, or curriculum. It is designed so that your participation generates your learning. We are here to help, but what you get out of it is, as they say, what you put into it.

At the end of Project Community, you will have new and/or enhanced online interaction technology skills, a strategic understanding of how communities and networks can support innovative design, real team experience and for some of you, some new insights into the role of design in doing good in the world in terms of the Millenium Development goals. We have chosen to situate our learning in the Non Governmental (NGO) world to give a little context and hopefully inspire some of you to consider applying your current and future design skills to making the world a better place!

Worried about “teamwork?” Don’t worry. After our first conversation is underway, we will set the scene for our team projects. You will be assigned to a team you will work with for the rest of this course to learn together and produce a multimedia report. However, you also have half of your grade related to individual work!

Millenium Development Goals

Millenium Development Goals

Scene setting

A large global NGO has identified the need to nurture more community owned innovation in support of Millenium Development goals. They realize that people in developing countries and in other places not only have needs, but they also all have ideas, diverse understandings of challenges and resources. By connecting those with needs and those with ideas into a more global innovation marketplace, the NGOs hypothesize that there can be more ground-up innovation to help reach these goals (these are the big targets that have been set globally to improve the lives of the poor).

They have commissioned a group, from around the world, of leading young thinkers at an innovative university (YOU) to “ground truth” their hypothesis. You will do this by doing a study of how these global online groups and networks are strategically supporting innovative design from the ideation through production and user/customer support phase for products and ideas that help communities reach their own development goals.

We think that this way of approaching design challenges, not only for products, but even for projects or policy, may be more inclusive, efficient and more grounded in people’s day to day reality.

The four segments they are exploring include:

  1. Idea Networks – How are product/project needs identified? How are innovative ideas generated using online tools and methods?
  2. Design work teams – how can online tools and methods support global, distributed design teams?
  3. Distributed funding and designer support networks – How can online networks support crowd funding and crowdsourcing?
  4. Marketing User/customer support networks (with clear links to building online → offline connections)- How can online communities and networks promote and support the innovative new products/projects towards these goals?

Each team will be responsible for a strategic review, giving advice to the NGO about how they might use these four segments in their work. What applies? What might not work? Why? Teams will research existing groups, networks and mechanisms in their specific field of expertise to understand their purpose, membership, technical architecture, social architecture and how they measure their own success.

The NGO requests that the team creates a multimedia report that can be shared globally with their constituency for feedback of no more than 5 minutes combined running/reading time. The report (via YouTube) should be in a format that they can present themselves in a webinar or can be viewed asynchronously. The presentation should be in clear, jargon free English as their constituency is global, many using English as a second language and most will not be familiar with many technological terms.

The intersection of technology and social processes has changed what it means to “be together.” We are no longer confined to an engineering team, a company, a market segment or country. We have the opportunity to tap into different groups of people using online tools and processes. While we initially recognized this as “online communities,” the ubiquity and diversity of technology and access has widened our possibilities. It is time to think about a more diverse ecosystem of interaction possibilities which embrace things such as group configurations, online + offline, short and long-term interactions, etc. We will consider the range of options that can be utilized in the ideation, design, testing, marketing and use of products.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by LEOL30:

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by LEOL30:

At IDE, we follow “The Four i’s of Innovation”

  • The first i is the itch; “a hunch” that there is something going on. This inclination can indicate the sublime starting point for change or innovation.
  • The second i is insight; the research framework on which to base the fundamentals of the innovation
  • The i for idea; the experimenting towards potential solutions (“what if”- approach)
  • The final i is for impact; the realization of the changes and innovations.

Competencies and overall learning goals

After successfully completing this course you will be able to:

  • Get practical experience working together in online communities
  • Understand the role of online communities and networks in the innovative design engineering process – the people (why is tapping beyond one’s self valuable?)
  • Understand and use technologies that enable online communities and networks – the media (i.e. blogging, YouTube, multi-media filming, Google Hangout, business and social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter)
  • Utilize online communities and networks in a project to serve an NGO in a strategic opportunity challenge – the practices (how to do it) To critically consider and discern what approaches will enhance a particular design challenge.

Learning approach/expectations

Each student will be expected to:

  • Actively participate in their project team.
  • Write at least 1 weekly post in their team blog on that week’s reflection or question.
  • Provide feedback to another peer on their blog post at least every other week.
  • Participate in class discussions, virtual field trips and other online activities.
  • Seek out and read/watch related content suggested by the teaching team and identified by the students themselves.
  • Create a final multimedia online presentation as a team on their team project.

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  • Nancy White { Ah, you figured it out! It was one giant simulation and game! (Actually, I think it would be fun to apply game principles to this... } – Dec 18, 5:43 AM
  • Nancy White { I'm nodding in total agreement with Marcelo. Our own fears can be the biggest barrier, but it was wonderful to see all of you stepping... } – Dec 18, 5:42 AM
  • Nancy White { Hi Anna I like how you traced your learnings... excellent. One question -- what advice do you have for next years Project Community students??? Thanks... } – Dec 18, 5:41 AM
  • Nancy White { I LOVED this line: "I believe that what we are looking for today in design or the creative process is to accept people’s own ability... } – Dec 18, 5:39 AM
  • Nancy White { I had to smile when you wrote "produce something better than we did." If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?... } – Dec 18, 5:31 AM
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