Fast 48

Over the weekend we took part in the Fast 48 design thinking boot camp hosted by the Taylor Center for Design Thinking and Social Innovation at Tulane University. 

Led by Professor Laura Murphy and an inter-disciplinary team of coaches from SISE (Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship) and Tulane graduate schools including the Schools of Architecture, Public Health the 48-hour workshop is designed as a crash course in Design Thinking methodology, tools and techniques.

The 26 participants were a mix of Tulane grad students and interested community members from other organizations and institutions in New Orleans including the Arts Council, Xavier University and others.

As the Community Partner for Fast48, PlayBuild presented the participants with a real-world challenge.

Since the beginning, our organization has been heavily reliant on volunteer man (and woman)-power. So we asked a couple of questions. How can we get better and more efficient at organizing our volunteer resources and tapping our volunteer network? Specifically, how can we implement a program to provide consistent volunteer support at Thalia Street and for our ongoing event and community partnerships?

Friday Night – Kick-off and Immersion

The Boot Camp kicked off on Friday night at F48 HQ in Flower Hall. The participants got a crash course in Design Thinking terminology and the steps of the Design Thinking process: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. Then “campers” were introduced to their clients with a short introduction to PlayBuild by co-founder, Charlotte Jones.

The group split into four teams and got into the mindset of the weekend by tapping into their own personal experience of volunteering.

Saturday Morning – PlayBuild Visit and Neighborhood Tour

On Saturday morning the group met bright and early for coffee and bagels at 2828 Thalia.

To give everyone a quick, but tangible immersion in PlayBuild the four teams rotated through three experiences: a neighborhood walking tour with specific points highlighted, a simulation of a typical volunteer experience loading out and loading in the Imagination Playground with some play-time built in for building with the Big Blue Blocks, and a simulation of the PlayBuild curriculum with Charlotte guiding the teams through a typical lesson with some of our small-scale building toys.


Back on Campus at F48 HQ the teams reflected on what they’d seen, heard and experienced. Many had the chance to speak to and informally interview our Central City neighbors, which surfaced some key observations and insights around community and neighborhood engagement that we would come back to over the course of the workshop.

Ongoing question & answers with PlayBuild co-founders and current volunteers surfaced another theme around the technology and tactics used for ongoing volunteer communication.

Saturday Afternoon – How Might We?

Over the course of the afternoon the teams spent time better honing on in PlayBuild’s problem statement with the walls, windows and whiteboards in F48 HQ quickly filling up with multi-colored post-its.

In the late afternoon we moved on to Ideation and Brainstorming with the mandate to the participants to be expansive in their thinking and push the limits to generate potential solutions.

At the wild and wacky end of the spectrum one team suggested that we zipline volunteers from the SuperDome to Thalia Street in a high profile stunt to raise awareness about our cause!

Sunday Afternoon Prototyping (aka PlayBuilding for Adults!)

Back at F48 HQ after a quick re-cap of Saturday, the teams chose their best idea to flesh out further and prototype.

After a quick lesson in storyboarding the teams got busy with Legos, play doh, pipe cleaners and glue guns to bring their ideas to life.

Coaches and the PlayBuild team role-played with the groups to test their solutions from different perspectives (community member, kids, parents, prospective volunteers) giving each team feedback and pushing them to iterate on their ideas.

The Solutions

At the end of the prototyping the groups presented their ideas in skits and creative role-plays.

Second Line Recruitment!

We loved the idea of a PB Second Line – getting our Thalia Street neighbors out of their houses and parading to the site for a special themed PB block party.

The group proposed designing cool tools to convey our message such as wooden block invitations, building kits, and door hangers that could identify neighborhood kids as part of the PlayBuild community.

Focused Effort on Local Universities

One proposal was that PlayBuild better map the local university resources to identify and recruit the right kinds of volunteers – from Education and Teaching students looking for hands-on experience to students with Marketing, Design or other specialized skill sets to support our efforts.

Mobilizing Parent Volunteers

The third team proposed that we get closer to parents – tapping our school partners to recruit parent volunteers through existing communication and activities such as PTA meetings and other events.

Building a Loyalty Program

A fourth team proposed that we create a tier-ed system for volunteer rewards based on the number of volunteer hours logged. As volunteers rack up the hours, they rise in the ranks from Central City Connectors to Super-Domers earning access to increasingly attractive benefits

Time Banking for Local Rewards

A fifth team proposed that we encourage neighborhood volunteer participation via time banking. Hours logged could be used as currency for locally owned businesses.

Re-Designing PlayBuild’s Website with a Clear Volunteer Message

A sixth idea focused on our website with a pointed recommendation that we re-design our site to more clearly highlight a call-to-action for volunteers.

It’s Tuesday, Now What? (Monday was for rest.)

F48 was an exhilarating and inspiring experience for us. Thanks to the coaches and participants. The weekend generated some great creative ideas and some very practical solutions along a spectrum of “quick-and-easy” to “slower burn” initiatives that we will need a lot more time and resources to pursue.

We plan to put some of these ideas into action in the next two weeks with some focused volunteer recruitment alongside our pop-up PlayBuild tent at Central City Festival on Saturday, November 7th.

We’re also happy to have recruited a handful of new volunteers to the PlayBuild fold!

We look forward to an ongoing collaboration with the Taylor Center and to continuing to apply the human-centered design practice as we grow and evolve PlayBuild to deliver on our mission and our work in the Central City community.