How might we create a participatory conference experience that betters the community its hosted in?

2014 Co-Chair and Creator

BarnRaise introduces a new two-and-a-half day conference model that networks creative hubs in a city to rally around one social problem. Entering its 3rd consecutive year, the success of this model has led to the creation of new events across the country and internationally, including the most recent event hosted by Adaptive Path. The methodology is also being written about in a new book coming out by Christine Miller within a chapter about operationalizing design anthropology.

At the end of our event, participants were able to return to their organizations with practical research and ideation methods to frame problems and drive organizational growth while keeping the end-user in mind.

This event came about with a team of 5 graduate students who decided to challenge the traditional conference model to make a more engaging and impactful experience. As a co-chair, I helped build our partnering organizations and speakers, rally internal support teams, create messaging and vision, and ensure event success to the best of my ability. Creating this new experience was a great opportunity, and was really fufilling to see all of our hard work come together and frankly, to continue on for future years! We were humbled that our event was so successful that it has inspired participants at BarnRaise to create other similarly-minded events, such as VergeNYC. In addition to the three cities that are raising their own barns this year and next with partners like Adaptive Path, the Institute of Design has also hosted several iterations of the event.

The BarnRaise Core Team

Many of the student volunteers who made the first event possible

During its inaugural year in 2014, participants focused on urban safety in an open source world. For two-and-a-half days, design firms throughout the city hosted and lead teams to work on problems in this arena that real organizations throughout our city face. Design firms like gravitytank, Greater Good Studio, Moment, Acquity Group, and Conifer joined and partnered with with organizations such as United Way, Friends of the Park, Metropolitan Tenants Organization, University of Chicago, and Gensler. In addition, we were honored to host speakers such as Charles Adler, co-founder of Kickstarter, Komal Kirtikar, head of customer safety for Lyft, and many others to inspire attendees. Participants spent two days building prototypes that were displayed at a public exhibit on Wednesday, October 15 within Motorola Mobility in the Merchandise Mart. 


2015 Partner Design Firm Representative

In 2015, I returned as a representative of Moment, a partnering design firm collaborating with the Chicago Women’s Health Center to lead a group of 12-15 participants through the design process to come up with ideas on how to improve services to patients. As part of this effort, I worked with a colleague, Caroline Brown to build an agenda and consider the full participant experience, including touchpoints to use during the experience and take home after. From that analysis, I built a take-home booklet outlining some of the methods we touched upon during the process so that these practices could be replicated within participants’ workplaces.