“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
The moment Brandon Schauer’s email came through announcing the formation of AdaptivePath.org, the synapses in my brain started firing. (I was at home with a two-month-old baby so the fact that I recognized sophisticated brain activity was a good sign I could still make coherent thoughts.) As I poured over the details of the email, I knew this wasn’t a project or program like the many I had worked on in the days before we became part of Capital One, this was bigger. In his words: “[AdaptivePath.org] intensifies and re-invests what we love about who we are and what we can do in the world.” I dusted off my laptop and started writing an email pleading my case to lead the venture. When I came to Adaptive Path three years ago, I left a 14-year career in nonprofits. During this time, I was lucky enough to have designed my role in almost every institution I was employed. I worked in very chaotic environments that required careful attention to detail, constant multitasking, and the ability to keep an upbeat attitude while operating in a very nebulous space. In short, I had been preparing to lead AdaptivePath.org my whole professional life. I knew I had to be involved, I knew I could make it great, I knew I was ready for this challenge; what I didn’t know was what AdaptivePath.org was going to be. I came back early from maternity leave ready to lead the charge–still not clear on the direction, but knowing in my gut it was the right thing for me to be doing; for myself, for our designers, for our community.
In the last four months, I’ve gained more clarity about what’s possible through the DotOrg. It’s the place where design meets community; where designers can come together from all types of disciplines, companies, and countries to learn and grow together through our events, on our website, and our engagements. It’s a place where socially responsible organizations can access the design methods and tools we know can have the greatest impact on experiences. Since August, we have hosted an Experience Mapping Workshop for nonprofits and an Open House Reception to meet the organizations already in the trenches like iSeeed.org. We have begun partnering with organizations like The Harris Foundation to help them evolve the experience of their RockIt! program as well as setting the stage for future work with organizations like Glide Memorial Church.
Throughout this process, there have been many poignant moments that illustrate the importance of the existence of the DotOrg, but none more so than the workshop we did with the mothers in WANDA. WANDA is an organization that teaches financial literacy to single mothers and in turn, helps them save for an asset-based goal with a 2:1 matching savings program. We conducted a workshop in October and for the first time, I stood in front of a group of non-designers to explain what the purpose of AdaptivePath.org was and how we hoped to help WANDA. In that moment, I realized how immediate the impact of the work we were about to do would be. We weren’t going to have to go through a lengthy process of approvals to get the work done, we were literally going to talk to these women and take their opinions directly to the director and board of the organization to make what they need a reality. This work wasn’t going to increase revenue or make a profit, it was going to help this organization change lives in a more powerful way.
The team of designers running the workshop felt the importance of the work as the women shared their stories of financial insecurity, health problems, domestic violence issues, and homelessness. The team told me they felt invigorated after the workshop and excited to roll up their sleeves and get the job done so that this already-established mission could have an even greater impact. After using our design tools to help articulate what they needed from the program, we discovered what these women really yearned for was a tool that could help them strengthen the community they were already creating within the program.
As we move into 2016, I am excited to create more opportunities where designers can escape the confines of the day-to-day and get an opportunity to think differently, work differently, and try new things. I look forward to connecting with more organizations where I know design can have the most direct impact. I look forward to the days, weeks, months ahead, and especially, meeting more of you and working together to make the difference we know design can have.
For more details on what we’ve been doing these past four months, check out our 2015 Annual Report.