An accelerator for female Palestinian entrepreneurs to help them develop their businesses.
A platform that brings together Israeli and Palestinian teachers in Jerusalem for professional development workshops.
A destigmatizing sexual education program for both Israeli and Palestinian teenage girls.
These are just some of the project ideas that Seeds and Educators brought to SEEDesign, our design thinking workshop that took place in Haifa on October 3-4. The workshop was created to help these leaders shape rough ideas into practical action plans. This year, SEEDesign was led by Nitzan Waisberg, a design thinking expert at Tel Aviv University.
But what is design thinking, exactly? It’s a solution-based method to solving problems focused on three principles: empathy, ideation, and experimentation. Here’s a quick synopsis of what we taught in SEEDesign.
EMPATHIZE WITH YOUR AUDIENCE
Design thinking is called a “human-centered” process, and so the first step to solving a problem or developing a product is to walk in the shoes of the people you’re trying to help. That means not just understanding their needs, but also their physical environment, how they use products and services, how they experience things, what their lives look like, and what motivates them. In this way, you ask questions and observe in order to set aside your own assumptions of what would be best for someone else. This should be familiar to anyone who has gone through dialogue at Camp.
Ashraf Ghandour, our Alumni Engagement Manager who helped organize SEEDesign, spoke of an Israeli Seed who came to the workshop with a project idea that would expose Jewish Israelis to Palestinian culture in Tel Aviv. The other participants helped her work through not just what the most effective version of this exposure would look like, but more importantly how it would be received by Israelis and what social and political sensitivities she needed to take into account. If she hadn’t considered these nuances, her end product simply wouldn’t resonate with its intended audience.
DEFINE THE PROBLEM
After gathering your data and observations as described above, the next step is to ask yourself, “What is it, really, that I’m trying to solve?” You may find yourself thinking something very different from when you began, or find that you never formally thought about what the problem itself was in the first place.
The best way to define the problem, according to Nitzan, is to create a human-centric statement. For example, instead of setting a goal to “Increase mental health coverage among trauma survivors by 15 percent,” design thinking suggests a framing such as, “Trauma survivors need access to affordable mental health care so that they can thrive, grow, and develop resilience.”
Doing so will make it easier to ask questions that lead to ideas for solutions. With this example, the problem statement lends itself to consider challenges such as how to encourage trauma survivors to seek out help or ways to make mental health care more easily accessible to trauma survivors.
We saw this process in action at SEEDesign, too. One participant was a Palestinian Seed in university who is struggling with whether or not to defy his parents’ wishes for him to study medicine and instead pursue a discipline he was passionate about. In discussing his predicament with the group, he realized he needed to ask himself why his parents disapproved of his choice. Was it because of family tradition? Was it that they considered what he was studying to be lesser than other fields?
Eventually, he concluded that his parents were worried he would not be able to achieve success, independence, or financial stability through his chosen field of study. With this in mind, he was able to ideate with the group ways to show his parents opportunities for success beyond traditionally acceptable professions.
WORK WITH A GROUP TO IDEATE SOLUTIONS
A big part of all these examples, and of design thinking in general, is people working together with peers from across disciplines and experiences to share ideas. Nitzan refers to this as “multidisciplinary collaboration.” The purpose of SEEDesign is exactly that—to provide a space where participants could bring up challenges they’re running into and receive input from the rest of the group.
One Israeli Seed wondered, “How can I incorporate learning from other projects in the Seeds community within my own work?” For her, the most helpful part of the program was getting to hear from others in the group and helping to build on their ideas and initiatives.
Another Israeli Seed wanted to develop a women’s empowerment coalition out of her former Scouts group members. So she and the other participants brainstormed ways to get them involved, eventually coming up with the idea to contact the Scouts’ parents.
Sometimes, even just working with one other person to generate ideas is enough to make a big difference. Ashraf told us one of the most exciting moments of the program was seeing experienced Seeds acting as mentors for younger ones they had never even met before.
“We had a Palestinian Seed from ’94 and a Palestinian Seed from 2015,” he said. “The dynamics between them were wonderful—the more experienced Seed put her project aside, realizing the importance of mentoring the younger Seed and helping him [figure out] his project … It was teaching through modeling in its best version.”
At the end of SEEDesign, participants shared how excited they were to apply design thinking moving forward. A Palestinian Seed told us, “The program provided insight not only on the specific project I am currently working on, but generally in my daily life,” while an Israeli said, “It amazes me how we can use this method for anything in life.”
Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that SEEDesign’s emphasis on community, asking difficult questions, and working together to tackle challenges resonated with participants. Those are, after all, what Seeds of Peace is all about.