On World AIDS Day, frog would like to thank all of the amazing partners we have had the privilege of working with in the global fight against HIV in places like South Africa and Zambia. It has been an incredible, and humbling, journey over the five years since we started working on Project Masiluleke and, more recently, on Project Mwana with the UNICEF innovation team. During that time we have been challenged and inspired by our partnerships with iTeach, Praekelt Foundation, PopTech, UNICEF, Johnson & Johnson, the mHealth Alliance, and The Well Project. We have seen first-hand how this horrible disease can bring out the best in people: compassion, determination, and innovation.
The boundaries between design and psychology are progressively blurring. With designers increasingly facing high stakes challenges and more psychologists jumping off the academic pedestal to get their hands dirty with real people in real contexts, the two disciplines are more intertwined than ever before.
About a decade ago, the job of the designer was making the path from A to B as easy and streamlined as possible. During this “usability” golden age, the main focus was to remove any type of cognitive friction along a predefined path to a predefined goal. Anyone interested in buying a book online, for example, only needed to know where they were in the process and what steps were necessary to ensure the right product was delivered to the right address. Other key elements of the experience, such as where the need for the book originated or how reading the book would enrich a person’s life, were given little to no consideration.
Today’s landscape is quite different. Designing highly usable products and services to help people buy books online is still significant but designers also have the chance to influence people’s lives and decisions on a much deeper level.
To celebrate the recent publication of the "Radical Openness" issue of Design Mind magazine, created in partnership with TED, frog welcomed two 2012 TEDGlobal speakers to the New York studio to share their work. On November 13, Ellen Jorgensen, the president and co-founder of community biology lab Genspace (pictured above), joined us for lunch and discussed how DIY biology is both a growing segment of the Maker movement and a compelling source for innovative new materials and fresh product and service ideas. On November 15, Catarina Mota, a TED Fellow and visiting scholar at New York University, shared her research into simple, DIY smart materials and announced a new initiative she is co-organizing to mobilize Makers to help develop humanitarian solutions. Both events were available via video- and phone-conferencing to frog studios around the world.
We live (and work) in a world that is saturated with design and innovation, and not just on the shelves of the Apple store. The language of design and innovation is increasingly standard business parlance. Many designers are justifiably concerned with this over-saturation, as design seems to be losing its distinct meaning as a catalyst for creativity, provocation, and change. In the process, designers are at risk of becoming just another flavor of consultant.
That is why we jumped at the opportunity to place a team of frog designers in an environment in which design has no meaning at all, a collaboration with the Girl Effect to improve the lives of adolescent girls.
This collaboration revealed a new purpose for design as an essential set of skills to help communities to solve their own problems—and the Collective Action Toolkit was born. What follows is the path we took from our collaboration to creating and releasing this toolkit, which is available to download for free from frog.
Today, frog is pleased to release the Collective Action Toolkit (CAT). The CAT is a package of resources and activities that enable groups of people anywhere to organize, build trust, and collaboratively create solutions for problems impacting their community.
frog developed the CAT to help groups of people create positive change in their communities. Inspired by frog's collaboration with Girl Effect and the Nike Foundation, the toolkit provides a dynamic framework that integrates knowledge and action to solve challenges. Designed to harness the benefits of group action and the power of open sharing, the activities in the toolkit draw on each participant’s strengths and perspectives as the group works to accomplish a common goal.
One of the questions I get asked most often is from engineers looking to break into design. It’s usually along the lines of:
“I’m working as an engineer at a company on really technical aspects of projects and I don’t feel creatively challenged. I’d like to get more involved on the front end design side working at a design and innovation firm like frog. What should I do?”
Making the transition from hardcore mechanical engineering specialist to design engineer generalist is a tough one, but it is doable if you are really dedicated to making it happen. Luck has a lot to do with it, but here are a few tips based on my personal experience and the experience of people I’ve worked with.
Polar explorer Ben Saunders took the stage the other evening at the TEDSalon in London to ask the question: "If everything is being done somewhere by someone and we can participate virtually, then why bother leaving the house?" A journalist had asked him that question weeks earlier. He discussed it in his talk through both his own experience of walking and skiing alone on ice for weeks at a time, as well as through the eyes of others who have ventured out answering what he termed "the call of the unfinished endeavor."
Saunders was one of ten speakers featured at the event, which took place November 7 at the Unicorn Theatre, supported by TED partners Intel and frog. The evening's theme was "Exploring Possibilities," and the 220 attendees heard stories of exploration in an eclectic set of fields: from Saunders' extreme geographies to the frontiers of science, from the writing of a new national constitution to the creation of new markets.
When more than 800 leaders from business, academia, civil society, and government convene at the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda in Dubai next week, the Global Agenda Council on Values, of which I am a member, hopes to serve as the glue between the more than 80 Councils that are addressing the most pressing issue of our time. By engendering a cross-Council dialogue, the Council on Values can act as a bridge between the public and private sector, between different industries, faiths, cultures, and generations - and different sets of values.
In light of the financial crisis, growing social divides in many countries, and deepening mistrust in business, a multi-stakeholder dialogue on values is more important than ever. In our hyper-connected world, the consequences of our actions are more transparent and dramatically amplified, and the gap between values and behavior is increasingly open to public scrutiny and subject to systemic effects. Consumers and citizens demand more transparent, collaborative and inclusive models of value creation that produce well-being, happiness, and meaning as much as profits. However, it appears that even well-articulated and broadly supported moral principles are difficult to translate into day-to-day decision-making and into the behaviours observed by suppliers, dealers, customers, and employees, with their varying and often conflicting value systems.
As technology disrupts established healthcare systems and the traditional patient-provider dynamic, frog introduces a prototype Connected Care Solution (CCS) that seamlessly connects doctors and patients and supportive communities. Based on a new patient-centered healthcare paradigm, CCS fosters a collaborative relationship between the patient, providers, and a social network to improve health outcomes and help achieve lifestyle goals. With a deep knowledge and expertise in the healthcare sector, frog designers, technologists, and strategists are exploring innovative and systemic solutions for the future of healthcare—today.
Happiness and well-being have entered the business mainstream as new indicators of economic progress. Bhutan pioneered the Gross National Happiness Index, the UN issued a Happiness Resolution, and the Harvard Business Review recently devoted a special report to the topic. A growing number of companies are looking into creating Big Data-enabled products/services that measure and enhance happiness/well-being, and a growing number of companies are beginning to leverage the potential of Quantified-Self-apps to improve workplace wellness (and productivity).