Session: Design Thinking for Social Work: A Method for Generating New Ideas, Scientific Exploration and Surprising Innovations (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

171 Design Thinking for Social Work: A Method for Generating New Ideas, Scientific Exploration and Surprising Innovations

Friday, January 17, 2020: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Monument, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement (RD&M)
Lisa Mercer, MFA, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Aakanksha Sinha, PhD, Seattle University, Rachael Dietkus, MSW, University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign and Judith Havlicek, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
As a profession whose mission is to promote individual well-being and address larger structural problems, social workers are increasingly in need of new tools for confronting societal problems that defy ordinary solutions (Dotolo, Lindhurst, Kemp, & Engleberg, 2018). From decentralized safety nets that contribute to deepening cross-state inequalities (Bruch, Meyers, & Gornick, 2018) to unprecedented environmental challenges that pose destabilizing threats to people's health, well-being, and assets, the next generation of social work practices call for more assertive, forward-thinking, comprehensive, innovative, and sustainable solutions (Kemp & Palinkas, 2015). To respond to growing needs, the goal of this roundtable is to introduce design thinking for social work. Defined as a process of problem-solving that activates quick iterations in learning, teaching, research, and engagement with communities and organizations, design thinking (also called human-centered design) is uniquely situated in multiple methods of discovery (Brown & Wyatt, 2010). These methods typically unfold through three phases: inspiration or learning to understand needs; ideation or reflecting on what is learned; and implementation or bringing a solution to life. While this approach may yield bold ideas, scientific exploration, and surprising innovations , it has largely emerged outside of social work.

To introduce design thinking to social work research and practice, this roundtable seeks to accomplish the following. First, the presenters will discuss methods for engaging in processes that focus on empathy building, co-production of knowledge, and empowerment. We argue that these methods help social workers to span the continuum of individual-level interventions with those aimed at larger structural change. Second, a design research process that offers an iterative approach to identifying, contextualizing and activating solutions for complex social issues will be discussed. Last, to ground ideas in research and practice, the above concepts and processes will be illustrated through the lens of Operation Compass, a non-profit developed through design thinking to provide a sustainable response to the vexing problem of human trafficking.

To accomplish these goals, the roundtable brings together an array of researchers from across the country using design thinking in research and teaching. In doing so, our intention is to bring diverse perspectives to bear on complex problems that are central to social work. After completing this roundtable, participants will be able to describe the stages of design thinking and human-centered design: problem identification, defining the problem through research methods, ideation, prototyping, and analyzing program / service development. Roundtable participants will also have access to various human-centered tools that can be used to gather, analyze, and disseminate data to various stakeholders (e.g., journey mapping, stakeholder mapping, personas and storytelling) and help to generate new ways forms of engagement and sustainability.

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