In May, the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media hosted the Media Innovation Workshop. Over the course of two intensive days, 20 select participants from a variety of media organizations gathered in Chapel Hill to learn and practice the fundamentals of human-centered design.
Under the leadership of UNC professor and interim Reese News Lab director Steven King, and with the assistance of coaches John Clark (PILOT/NAB), Laura Cochran (Conde Nast), Dean Haddock (StoryCorps), Chloe Negron (General Assembly), Sara Peach (UNC), Matt Sheehan (University of Florida), and Lisa Villamil (UNC), the participants engaged in a variety of exercises designed to utilize design thinking practices to spur innovation in their own newsrooms.
The program of events included educational sessions, structured idea generation, design and prototyping practice, and hands-on problem solving. As an introduction to the design thinking process, the teams were given the task of using LEGO blocks to build a laptop stand for their coach. The teams were purposefully given minimal instruction in order to prepare them to understand the importance of the principals that the workshop instruction would cover. As a primary challenge, each team was given a fictional scenario with a problem to solve. These scenarios included ways to increase business for local merchants, and how to address homelessness within the community, among others. The workshop concluded with a Shark Tank inspired pitch session where the groups got a chance to present their ideas to a group of “investors.” Giving them a chance to put into practice their newly acquired knowledge and skills to convince the panel that their ideas were desirable, feasible, and viable and therefore worthy of a fictional award of funding.
Also providing assistance for the workshop were UNC Media Innovation Fellows Camila Godoy, Wesley Hitson, and Edgar Walker, who advised the groups and lent their experience gained in completing similar exercises during hackathons and their work with the Reese News Lab. Building upon what was learned during the workshop, the student fellows have been working on-site with ABC11 WTVD, WRAL-TV, and The Pilot over the summer to guide them through the process of developing solutions to real-world issues that they are facing.
The feedback that we have received has been extremely positive. An overwhelming majority of our survey respondents rated the workshop either “Very Good” or “Excellent,” and when asked about the content that was presented, all of the respondents found it helpful. One of the participants, Andrew Olsen, had this to say “I came away from the few days totally energized and ready to apply the knowledge within our company. Thanks for putting the sessions together. It was great. Thank you.” As we reflect on this workshop and enter into the planning stages of our next workshop planned for Spring 2017 at UNC, we are excited about the opportunities to bring even greater benefits to our partners in local media.
I came away from the few days totally energized and ready to apply the knowledge within our company. Thanks for putting the sessions together. – ANDREW OLSEN