Meg VanDeusen December 7, 2016

Share this:


design process

Earlier this year, Feedback Labs hosted Unpack Impact for the first Decolonizing Design LabStorm, where they presented a recipe for a user-centered design process. Jess Rimington and Joanna Levitt Cea of Unpack Impact spent the past few months categorizing these ingredients into actionable, quantifiable steps. By instituting feedback from the first last LabStorm, Unpack Impact has created a tool that will enable anyone to innovate from a decolonized mindset.

Why? Because innovation cannot afford to keep doing business as usual. The current baseline for co-creation stops at the brainstorming level. But, Rimington and Levitt Cea determine participatory decision making – stepping back from traditional power structures and frequently testing assumptions – will subvert the traditional reliance on expert opinion. That, is true co-creation. Innovative outcomes 1) align with the needs of the system they operate within and 2) activate a variety of stakeholders as problem solvers. To operationalize this process, Unpack Impact suggests employing 5 key elements:

  1. Share Power
  2. Prioritize Relationships
  3. Leverage Heterogeneity
  4. Legitimize all ways of knowing
  5. Prototype early and often

They haven’t stopped there. Since each step could be interpreted differently, Levitt Cea and Rimington are prototyping a tool to enable users to measure their design against a fully decolonized mindset. The proposed rating system intentionally breaks-down each element into 5 possible outcomes. By answering a series of questions, users can discover where they are successfully decolonizing the work-flow, and where they need to focus on creating more innovative practices.

Acting on their own principles, Levitt Cea and Rimington brought this prototyped version of the tool to a LabStorm for feedback from our member organizations. Our members emphasized the need to determine who should be using this tool, and at what point in the process. To answer that question, the LabStorm examined both the what and the how of feedback.

The what revolves around the tool itself: Are each five elements similarly important, or is there one super principle? Should survey results from stakeholder groups be considered equally?

The how is what will help users get to the end goal: Will individuals self-report accurately? How do you inspire people to think past the end of a single process and to the overall outcomes? What examples illustrate overcoming organizational constraints to successfully co-create?

We look forward to learning from Unpack Impact as they continue developing this important tool. Given the current political climate in the United States, a standard for investigating our design processes and assessing how well we are actually co-creating change in our communities is more useful than ever, in many respects.


Joanna Levitt Cea and Jess Rimington are visiting scholars at Stanford University’s Global Projects Center. Rimington is Managing Director at /The Rules; she is the Founder and former Executive Director of One World Youth Project. Cea is Special Funds Director at IDEX Foundation; she previously served as Executive Director of International Accountability Project. Follow their progress at http://www.unpackimpact.org/ and check back here for future LabStorms on this project.


LabStorms are collaborative brainstorm sessions designed to help an organization wrestle with a challenge related to feedback loops, with the goal of providing actionable suggestions. LabStorms are facilitated by FBL members and friends who have a prototype, project idea, or ongoing experiment on which they would like feedback. Here, we provide report-outs from LabStorms. If you would like to participate in an upcoming LabStorm (either in person or by videoconference), please drop Sarah at note at sarah@feedbacklabs.org.

Leave a Reply