The FastFWD accelerate program has finished and we have been able to step back and take the time to reflect on our experience. We chose to use the After Action Review method to structure our post-mortem meeting. This helped us to de-brief on what we expected to happen, what actually happened, what worked well, and what can be improved going forward.

Davis and Christa meeting with Legal Science Partners

Davis and Christa meeting with Legal Science Partners

Here are some of the points from our review...

What we expected to happen:

  • Our planning/framework would set-up design's role clearly, and allow Entrepreneurs to easily understand how design could be valuable to them during the FastFWD program
  • The design students, MBA students, and Entrepreneurs would all work closely together
  • The Entrepreneurs would want "free" design assistance
  • User research and user testing would be “top of mind” for the Entrepreneurs

What actually happened:

  • Initially we struggled to set clear expectations with the Entrepreneurs and the design students, and to communicate the role of design in FastFWD; however, in the end we got there whether everyone realized it or not
  • The design students and MBA students were disconnected and did not collaborate
  • Some Entrepreneurs were not interested in receiving design support, while others welcomed it
  • Entrepreneurs were less focused on design research/testing and more interested in getting graphic and product design assistance

What worked well:

  • We learned early on that a “one size fits all” approach didn’t work, so we re-calibrated to more personalized engagement

  • Inviting professional Designers/design firms (i.e. Think Brownstone, Andculture, Think Primed) to lead talks and workshops

  • Design students with a product design and/or graphic design skill set were able to meet the Entrepreneurs' desires, which helped to build trust and ultimately lead to doing more meaningful design research activities

What can be improved:

  • More integration of the design and business curriculums

  • Conduct a stronger assessment of the Entrepreneurs' design needs at the beginning of the program
  • Focus on match-making between the design students and the Entrepreneurs at the beginning of the program to align level of interest, Entrepreneur's design needs, and skill sets

From the After Action Review, we extracted what we felt were the most critical points for the next iteration and created a list of recommendations...

When it comes to recruiting design students, we recommend:

  • Identifying design students who have existing knowledge and interest in basic business concepts and social entrepreneurship

  • Finding enough design students to allow for a ratio of one design student to one Entrepreneur

  • Setting the relationship up as an internship or independent study structure versus a class project

When it comes to on-boarding Entrepreneurs and design students, we recommend:

  • Stronger assessment of Entrepreneurs’ design needs

  • Match-making at beginning between design students and Entrepreneurs–for level or interest, specific design needs, and Designer skill set

When it comes to the Entrepreneur–Student teams, we recommend:

  • Building a stronger relationship between the Entrepreneurs and their assigned business and design students

When it comes to framing the design output, we recommend:

  • Setting a clearly defined, tangible goal that is the same for every start-up company (i.e. the City pilot proposal document and presentation)

  • Emphasizing user research by assigning deliverables such as: personas developed from interviews, testing results from live usability testing sessions, etc.

When it comes to the design program structure, we recommend:

  • Integrating the design professionals (i.e. Think Brownstone, Andculture, Think Primed) beyond just a one-time talk/workshop

  • Assigning a dedicated City staff member to manage meaningful engagements with community members and other stakeholders relevant to the Entrepreneurs’ needs.

  • Build in presentation of design work throughout (either in slide format, or physically hung in the space) to demonstrate value and encourage interest from the Entrepreneurs who were initially more skeptical of design

When it comes to the physical workspace, we recommend:

  • Finding a physical space that allows each team to have a dedicated space where they can externalize/make visible their work (i.e. hang photos, graphics, research, etc. on the wall) for the duration of the program

Entrepreneurs getting to know each other

Entrepreneurs getting to know each other

Our role with University of the Arts and the involvement with the FastFWD project was a very valuable learning experience. We enjoyed working with all of the partners: GoodCompany, The City of Philadelphia, Wharton Social Impact Initiative, the Impact Hub, and of course, the FastFWD Entrepreneurs. For the University of the Arts, one fundamental learning was that the schedule and time commitment of the FastFWD program does not align well with the higher education school schedule. Because of this, the University of the Arts and EBEE will not be continuing in the same capacity with the FastFWD Fall 2014 cohort. We have passed our recommendations on to GoodCompany to implement and wish all the best to not only the first cohort of Entrepreneurs, but to all the Entrepreneurs who are tackling wicked social and civic challenges around the world! 

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