Pro-Bono Workshop for Non-profit Organizations

How can we improve our service experience with workmen? Forty professionals from the non-profit sector occupied themselves with this question in a workshop put on by the HPI Academy and the HPI School of Design Thinking. For many professionals it was the first practical encounter with the innovation method. In the end, exhaustion was mixed with enthusiasm and the awareness that in the non-profit sector much can be accomplished with Design Thinking.

On a sunny Friday morning, on the third floor of the main HPI building, not only can more summer jackets be seen than usual but also more suitcases. Besides numerous participants from Berlin, several people have made the trip from Bremen, Munich, or Freiburg to experience a full day of Design Thinking with professional coaches. This event was made possible by the HPI Academy and the HPI School of Design Thinking with a special pro-bono workshop customized for experts working in the non-profit sector to introduce the methods of design thinking.

Karoline Schacht of Hamburg, a fishery expert at WWF Germany, is also attending. In her daily life, Karoline often deals with very different people from different backgrounds and sectors. She is looking for new ideas on how to bring together these various actors for common political projects and campaigns. But first of all the focus is on workmen.

Design Challenge for the day: Improving Relations with Tradespeople

Today’s challenge is how to improve the service experience with tradespeople. With this exemplary "design challenge" participants should immerse themselves in the world of Design Thinking for the first time in a practical way. It already becomes clear in the formulation of the challenge that the priority is on the design of human experience ― even more than the development of new products. Alexander Schmidt from Caritas, Germany, who is responsible for the developing the association and its organization, has already conducted creativity workshops himself. He expects from this day at HPI "some familiar things but also a lot of new things." The special incentive for him is "thinking about existing things in a completely new way."

In seven teams, the NGO experts think about the challenge of the day and the significance of the meeting between the workman and the customer. Transparency is one problem — as an amateur it is often difficult to estimate how long a repair can take or what it could cost. Customers also often have no clue as to who is actually responsible for a particular task — whether the property manager, tenant, maintenance staff, or themselves.  These kinds of negative experiences should be changed with the innovation solutions the team devises at the end of the day, after running through the cycle of the 6-step iterative design thinking process.

Seven Prototypes and a Lot of Inspiration for the Future

A consulting app is available that brings the workman into the customer’s living room in a live chat with the press of a button. Another concept is a meet and greet day at a common "playground" where families and workmen can have a relaxing and non-binding meeting. Other ideas take a similar direction. It’s all about building trust, overcoming knowledge gaps, and creating understanding.

Alexander Schmidt was inspired. "To be able to work productively in a team, it’s not essential that all members already know each other from the outset. It’s more important that they create something new together." Karoline Schacht also learned a lot. "In the NGO world there is a great need and a great potential for Design Thinking," the WWF expert said with conviction. "I think this method can be used for almost all problems, whether you want to change your own structures or to set up a project in a new way." But she’s sure that one day is not enough. She says goodbye and, as she rolls her suitcase toward the elevator, is already thinking about the challenges facing the European fisheries policies. Maybe this won’t be her last visit at HPI.