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Design Thinking in Action: Sacramento Public Library

Customer-Centered Design for Workforce Development


I've been using customer-centered design processes with clients for over a year now, so I was really excited to see that the Department of Labor is not only embracing design-thinking, it is sponsoring a national challenge to get workforce development programs throughout the country to start using design principles in their work. 

Design Thinking is all about tapping into customer experiences, developing empathy for their point of view and how they feel as they are accessing our services. It's also about trying things out to see what does and doesn't work, placing small bets and creating "good enough" options that allow you to test and learn and keep on iterating to improve on what you're creating. 

As part of the DOL-initiative, local workforce areas are invited to participate in a free online course that will take teams through the design-thinking process. The program begins August 20 and lasts 7 weeks. I've taken a previous version of the course and you'll find tons of case studies, tools, resources, etc. to help you go through a real-life design project. 

You should also check out DOL's Customer-Centered Design Thinking Project page for more information on how to participate. 

One of the design challenges that DOL is putting out for local areas to address is on working with out-of-school youth. In the June Design Thinking workshops I ran for the Philadelphia Youth Network, we talked a lot about how having students go through design-thinking training can be a powerful way to engage them in their learning AND connect them to area businesses, as the video below about a project in CA with in-school youth demonstrates. 


In this program, young people formed teams with business leaders to learn more about design thinking and to have the young people design solutions to some of the challenges the businesses were facing. What an incredible opportunity to strengthen connections with business while also engaging young people in learning some powerful and important skills!

Over the next several months I'll be posting more resources and supports for implementing design thinking in a workforce context. As we look to full implementation of WIOA, this process offers us a powerful way to begin bringing more innovation into our work!


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