NGOs & Nonprofits, Social media & networking

Digital “deprivation” challenge

Next week I’m participating in a workshop being hosted by the Smith Family which will be utilising design thinking methodology to explore “transformational thinking around how the organisation can best leverage new foundation technologies and systems to help reduce the digital divide.”

In the lead-up to the event, the team at the Smith Family have asked if we could participate in what they call a “digital deprivation challenge”:

To improve our understanding of how we can better support our students and their families we need to first understand what it is like to be one of our students or at least a part of their family. So here is your challenge should you choose to accept… and we strongly encourage you to do so!

During a weekend between now and the workshop we would like you to experience what it is like to be electronically disconnected. This means no electronic devices or screens for a whole weekend – and documenting your experience.

What we are asking you to do is to turn off your smart phone and put it in a top drawer till the weekend is over. Close your laptop and leave it in the office over the weekend. When you get home go and switch off your WiFi and leave it off till Monday morning. Kick your tablet under the bed and leave it there.

Sounds tough hey! Well we think this challenge will help put you in the mindset of what it is like to live disconnected in a world where everything and everyone is connected. It will give you a small insight into what it is like for our students and their families, and more importantly what they are missing out on because of their circumstances. Hopefully you will then be in a much better position to be creative for our Design Thinking session.

Ostensibly the challenge aims to engender a sense of empathy with the people we aim to serve within the context of the workshop. While I think all involved recognise that this is far from a true test, it will be interesting to journal the approach and see how it plays out. Kudos to the Smith Family for trying something a bit different by having this as part of proceedings.

Part of the reason I’m posting here is that I won’t be online this weekend, and thus if you call, SMS, tweet, or FB mention me, I won’t know about it ;) Some might suggest that’s bliss! But I’m sure it’s going to throw up all manner of challenges given how much my patterns of behaviour have changed over the past few years to be so digitally-centric.

No Google Maps, no quick check-ins when trying to co-ordinate to meet with someone, no quickly searching for an answer to that nagging question, no train times, no safety net if I’m out on a mountain-bike trail (or even just trying to get in or out of an unfamiliar location).

I’m looking forward to hearing from others in the workshop about their experience…