Tools For Practice Tuesday: Participatory Design via Mad*Pow

Last week I attended this informative webinar via Mad*Pow Design.  It was about the concept of “Participatory Design” and how it can help discover unmet needs.  Taken from the presentation here is the definition…

I found this a great tool to perhaps get your organization “unstuck”.  In mental health and non-profit spaces we often design programs with organizational leaders as the experts. Typically the closest thing we come to engaging participants in program design is having a focus group.  Sometimes we don’t even engage our own staff in the design of programs.

I found this diagram especially helpful. When starting a new program who the “experts”, “participants”, “researchers” and “designers” are fits in this spectrum. Think about the last program you developed and where it fit…

This sets the table for using a variety of strategies to walk through the design process.  The concept of going well beyond “the experts” pushing design can be powerful.  I can’t really do this process justice as it involves a lot of strategies. Those familiar with solution focused therapy, it reminds of activities to “externalize” or “name” the problem.

By designing programs and interfaces with Lego’s, collage, stickers, Post-It’s and even pipe cleaners; participants are able to walk through a concept. One is able to identify flaws and workflow problems. Most importantly discover things you didn’t discover in your basic concept. Learning about this process has a lot of value. This could assist your group or organization with design or even redesign of a program.

I would encourage to watch the rest of the WEBINAR FOUND HERE

Or view the slides..


Also stay tuned to “the experts” in design at Mad*Pow on…






An Open Letter to Congressman Jason Chaffetz

Dear Congressman Chaffetz,

You don’t know me but I am social worker in upstate New York. I am not in your constituency but I am concerned about your remarks on CNN today…


I appreciate that you then attempted to correct yourself but even that fell a little short in my book.

I have spent the last 14 years as a social worker, mostly serving youth and their families. I did work briefly with adults but I have served mostly people who relay on Medicaid, Medicare, and other safety nets like the ACA. People with multiple chronic conditions struggle with many questions about their finances, but I assure you what Iphone they choose is not one of them. That “self-reliance” as you call it is dependent on many factors.

Young people and their families struggle with choices every day…

Do they pay their copay or buy groceries?

Do they not hospitalize their child in an inpatient psychiatric unit because the nearest         one is 45 minutes away?

What do we need to cut so that we don’t become homeless?

I made $5 too many at my job so I lost my Medicaid benefits, what do I do?

How do I report my landlord who is doing shady things but also keep housing?

Not once; not one single time in my 14 years of serving the most vulnerable has someone had to choose between an IPhone and their healthcare. Your statement and even the “correction” is endemic of the GOP view on this population. That poverty comes with this fantastic menu of options. That those with multiple health conditions can just “pick and choose” where their money goes. By continuing to endorse idea’s like “High Risk Pools”, “Health Savings Accounts”, and Tax Breaks; you continue to ignore a huge segment of the population.

Healthcare costs that are often so astronomical, the price of their cell phone is the least of their worries. That basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter are a daily struggle. That finding transportation and childcare come with multiple barriers. That people have access to mental health care that helps them get out of bed to begin with.

I understand Obamacare is not perfect. My fear is what any GOP replacement means to those on the borders of the poverty level; too those with multiple and/or chronic health conditions. My hope is that you and others in the GOP listen to this segment of the population. Also understand that their choices are much more complex than how they are going to pay for their IPhone.