Circular Design Challenge- Plastic Waste Ideation Night at Prime Produce, NYC

As I walked into the wondrous first floor where tables built with milk crates and wooden panels filled half the room, I imagined that tonight would be an amazing night.

It was the second time we were meeting on the topic of Circular Design challenge focusing on reducing little plastic waste.

The participants slowly filled the room and took their spots in the room.

Chris described how recycle can be sexy:


Another idea from Team 1- recycle library


Team 2 had several ideas including giving people incentives to recycle:


Team 3 had an interesting idea about creating a sealing system that doesn’t require use of plastic at all.


Team 4 had an idea that was inspired by orange peel.


Each group came up with very different ideas from an orange peel inspired package design to sex education inspired recycle education system. We are looking forward to building upon these ideas at the Make-a-thon on the week of July 10th!

Lee Kim, Design Thinker and NYC OpenIDEO community member



Hack Your Waste: New Ways to Reduce Food Waste

On September 15, 2016, NYC OpenIDEO chapter hosted a Hack Your Waste Event in collaboration with DFA NYU. This was last event of the many hosted by other chapters for Hack Your Waste. The session was hosted at the MakerSpace  in NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

While the group was smaller than what we expected based on registration, the energy was high and we had a great session. The participants were from diverse backgrounds: some new comers and some old timers, but all passionate design thinkers. There were cookies and pretzels for everyone, and those that were not eaten were given to NYU students -- Now that is zero waste! :-)

After an introduction to the challenge and a highlight of the main insights from the research phase, participants were divided in 3 teams to brainstorm.

 Brainstorming ideas in small groups

Brainstorming ideas in small groups

The teams came up with several ideas and finally built a prototype on the one they thought was the best. The top idea from each team were:

  • Gather, a new model of grocery store

  • Preservation Kitchen imagined how to preserve food already in the food chain

  • Eden was a system to optimize the lifecycle of (food) waste



Each prototype was vivid and a great example of the power of “show rather than tell”: Gather was shown as a role play, Preservation Kitchen was shown as a story and Eden was mix of a physical concept and story. The three are shown in the images below in the same order.

 Preservation Kitchen and Eden

Preservation Kitchen and Eden

Gather  was  invited to the refinement phase of the Food Waste Challenge!

It is worth noting that even a small gathering has the power to come up with the best of ideas.

Rodney Lobo, Master Student in Industrial Engineering at NYU, Member of Design for America of NYU, design thinker enthusiast, tinkerer and food waste passionate. He is working on several social innovation projects including one aiming to alleviate hunger among college students.

End of life challenge Top Ideas


Congratulations to our NYC OpenIDEO members who participated to the end of life challenge for their amazing energy during ideation and refinement. A particular thought for Lee Kim, one of our members, who took the lead of the effort over the summer!

Connecting Lives, one of the idea developed by the NYC OpenIDEO team, and Gardening Connection, an idea developed by Bettina Fliegel, a long time OpenIDEO member and an NYC OpenIDEO chapter regular, were mentioned on the OpenIDEO blog:

"Additional Highlights

In addition to our 10 top ideas, we’re highlighting Connecting Lives, Gardening Connection and When I Die, I Wanna be… for their incredible effort during our Refinement phase. These three teams have been active collaborators and done a remarkable job incorporating community feedback to develop their ideas in a human-centered way. We hope to see them continue to develop beyond the End of Life Challenge." (

Co-creation and Feedback Session with Mt Sinai Palliative Nurses on July 15, 2016

Thursday we had the great privilege to be invited to the Mt Sinai Palliative Care Unit for a feedback session with Nurses and other Caregivers from the Palliative Care Unit. Design thinking is at its core human-centered and receiving feedback was crucial for the NYC OpenIDEO members as we work to refine and iterate several of our ideas selected in the Refinement phase of the OpenIDEO End of Life Challenge.  

The first thing you notice is just how caring and dedicated these people are.  You would think in a place where loss is almost a daily occurrence that the atmosphere and individuals would be a little more somber or reserved.  It is just the opposite.  There was such an openness and joy they brought with them and shared with us we were all truly touched.  For them, making sure people live, create & grow until it’s their time to leave this earth is their calling.  

The Nurses took personal time out of their long busy day to give feedback on 4 different ideas.  Below we share some of our main learnings.  

The Emotional Clock prototype was the first to be presented.


We learned that Nurses may not be willing to be so vulnerable with a patient and that the sharing of emotions needs to be done with great care:  “The process is unique and intuitive, not universal and it’s difficult to capture what is appropriate at a given time. Sometimes what you need silence and just a hand to hold.”

We learned that they had two major therapeutic “tools”, sharing emotions with each other and time on their own.  One thing that stood out was that when patients die outside their shift, there is a hole due to lack of closure that lingers and currently nurses do not have tools to really address this loss.  

Then Bettina presented a journey map for her Gardening Connection.   


This idea provide patients in Home Hospice to participate in gardening activities through a partnership with an urban community garden. Connecting to nature and new people can enhance one’s experience in multiple ways as they approach end of life. It can also become a place of remembrance. Nurses were particularly excited about how the concept catered to many individuals of different physical abilities.   Those who can’t travel to garden can still grow seedlings at home and skype in to watch their plantings.

Nurses  explained how this program could help shape the culture by redefining what it means to be at the end of life and what it is to be a sick person:Being at the end of life does not mean you stop living.  “You can continue to create and define your own identity until the day you pass.”  It may even ‘Help people accept dying’ as a change of life, not just a winding down of it.”  

Next to Present was Tender Memento


Tender Momento is a concept where hospitals partner with film students and local community partners to capture special moments of patients, family and care givers interacting in a social rather than a clinical setting.  It would give caregivers a way to form individual memories of patients outside of their job description.  Community partners provide items for a social setting such as Ice Cream Tuesdays.  This would be filmed and memorialized for family and caregivers to share in remembrance.  

We also learned that some parts of this idea are already in use. “Art therapy is used and memorialized for both families and caregivers.  There are also structured remembrance ceremonies once a week, once a month and every 6 months for those who have passed.  Families do return for remembrance ceremonies.  

Memorial Wall of Patient Artwork


Our Co-creators loved the idea of seeing family members interacting with patients.  Often times they are so busy taking the video or photos they are not a part of it.”  They also thought it may be too emotional to see video of those who died and they would need a way to opt out.  May be better suited to family and other caregivers.   

Our last presentation was Rainbow/SuperPal App.  This app is designed to help Caregivers connect patients with similar interests that are either physically or mentally isolated from each other.  The response we got was a moving story about two boys who were undergoing treatment that forced them into isolation.  What they did was become pen pals with their nurses being the couriers.  

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 10.13.35 PM.png


The other aspect of this App would be a platform to allow community partnerships to form that nurses can tap into to better meet their patient’s needs or wishes.  Such as a local book store providing materials to set up a reading group of the latest release of a favorite author.  

We are ever so grateful to these wonderfully amazing people for taking time out of an incredibly long day to share their knowledge and insights with us.  And they blew us away with their thoughtfulness and kindness by thanking us for thinking of them and recognizing how important their contributions are.   

Make sure to check the updates on the different ideas and to give feedback to the teams. Thursday we will meet again to keep iterating and prototyping!

Tiger Buchman, Member of the NYC OpenIDEO Chapter

Prototyping Pop-Up Session at NYC OpenIDEO Chapter (June 23rd, 2016)

I got to our pop-up prototyping session scheduled to be held at a mid-town office space a little early to help set up the session for the evening. A pile comprised of Barbie dolls, fabrics, magic markers, sticky pads, and every item imaginable you would find in a kindergarten crafts bin filled a long conference table.

The evening of pop-up prototyping session was about to begin.

For the next 90 minutes, NYC Open Ideo chapter members and friends created a series of innovative prototypes addressing end-of-life experience for patients and caretakers.


Death is such an unsettling topic. So how might we re-imagine the end-of-ones' life and create a positive and delightful experience for all who are involved in the process? With this challenge in mind, Lee Kim (Pop-up session facilitator) and about twenty designer thinkers of the OpenIDEO NYC chapter worked hard to create with the following prototypes: The Emotional Clock, Rainbow Reward Program, Super Hero Kit, Caroling Digital Platform and the Mood Master.

The Emotional Clock prototype created by group members Thao-Nguyen Le  and Kaiyi. The wearable prototype was crafted from pipe cleaners and paper plates. The clock is divided into six segments that list emotions: joy, sadness, disgust, anger, fear and ask me. The emotional clock has two dials; the longer dial indicates the user’s primary feeling whereas the shorter hand reflects their secondary emotion. The user would modify the dial to indicate how they are feeling at the moment. Since the users’ (patient and caretakers) emotions are publicly displayed, it lends itself to conversations about how they are all feeling thus building connectedness.

Team members -Jocelyn and others - formed The Rainbow Reward Program that is geared toward pediatric patients. It praises the bravery of children who are going through harsh medical treatments. As a celebratory prize, the caretaker provides a piece the rainbow when a child successfully complete their treatment. When a patient collects seven pieces, they can request a wish that will be administered by a caretakers. By providing an environment for caretakers and pediatric patients to participate in the Rainbow Reward Program we are building relationship between both parties and create a community where people can share their feelings.

The Superhero Kit, like the Emotional Clock, is a wearable device. It will be provided by caretakers to pediatric patients to engage in fun and creative activities. The prototype was fashioned by the following group members: Carson, Luti, Rolando, and Lorain. When a patient is exhibiting sign of distress, the caretaker surprises them by sporting a superhero cape kit. The Superhero Kit contains two capes and art supplies. The capes can be adorned, drawn or written on. The caretaker wears the capes and prompts the child to express what they are feeling visually on the cape. The young patient also has a cape of their own and the caretaker taker now can also express their feelings.

Sing me a song starts from the time a patient is admitted to the hospice unit. When a patient is admitted, caretakers ask what his/her favorite songs are. The data is collected then housed in the Caroling Digital Platform. Through the element of surprise, the caretakers band together and sing a song for the patient (based on the data of his/her favorite tune). This group of design thinkers utilized music as a device that bridges gaps, conjures memories and evoke positive emotions.

 The Mood Master is a program constructed by team members-Asha , Davendra , Ding , Stan, and Page- to help medical practitioners to recharge emotionally through power of community. The participants embellish a pin board with a colored post-its to represent their mood. Vulnerability Director assesses the mood-board and determines the morale of staff and reports the findings to the Mood Master. Once a week, a Mood Master is appointed to facilitate conversation among staff so they could share their feelings. Collectively, the Mood Master and medical staff come to solutions to their challenges.

Overall, OpenIDEO NYC chapter prototyping pop-up session's core ideas were inspired by: a palliative hospice nurse who has been in nursing for 9 years, the director of Pediatric Palliative care at a children's hospital in NYC and a pediatrician who works with teens at Juvenile Justice Center.

We intend to put these ideas into testing and create solutions that will shift the paradigm of the end-of-life experience as sad and unwelcoming time to a delightful and rejuvenating experience for all.  

By Lorain Hamilton, Graphic and Illustration


Let’s Ideate! NYC OpenIDEO community ideates for the End-of-Life Challenge

June 13, 2016

How do we even talk about Death, and more specifically re-imagine the end of life experience?

Death and the journey towards the end of life are often categorized and regarded very differently in various cultures, countries, and continents around the world. In effect, discussing it seems often at times too taboo or constraining for fear of ending one’s life is something many of us try to avoid. Yet, many of our lives’ most important marking moments are centered around the passing of a loved one. So how might we re-design the end-of-life experiences for ourselves and our loved ones?

Storytelling  session:

Last month, the NYC OpenIDEO Chapter encouraged its members to dive into exploring the the end of life journey by sharing stories. Lots of interesting, sensitive, and striking thoughts were generated. Karla Rohstein, a Columbia Faculty member (from the Columbia Death Lab) gave a stimulating talk about end of life rituals (e.g. burial) and particularly highlighted the negative repercussions on our environment. Not only do burials take up space, but even rituals of cremation have terrible environmental effects on our planets. She encouraged the members to think further of ways to re-invent customs in commemorating one’s death. (Find the previous blog post below!)

In turn, a breakout of smaller groups encouraged a more personal exchange of experiences and discussions. Some individuals lent themselves to tears, some were outraged by the normalizing of such sensitive conversation, and others observed in silence, while taking it all in.

We posted our member’s thoughts:

Ideation Jam

With the previous conversations as basis for people to start talking and building upon all the rich insights shared by OpenIDEO community members on the platform, we dove right into ideation. The members split into three different groups of five based on interest. The opportunity areas from OpenIDEO were great triggers to generate ideas.

Each group started by thinking of personas- who are the specific users) and stakeholders we are designing for?

Using their own knowledge and experience, as well research posts from OpenIDEO, each group chose to focus on different and  unique characters; for example, a young boy, in his mid 20s, studying abroad, away from his family, has just discovered that he has cancer. Another group chose to focus on a nurse, in her 30’s, mother of two who was working with children with terminal diseases.

Once they had defined the personas, we invited the teams to engage in a more in-depth analysis of what the personas do, think, feel, and hear in order to develop an Empathy Map.

In building onto our previous example, let’s think of this young boy’s pain points? What are his challenges? His gains? His losses? How can we best empathize with him to best design targeted solutions for him?

The empathy map (by highlighting the pain points and needs of each of our personas), allowed teams to define a specific and focused problem statement (or Point of View in d-School’s lingo). Writing the problem statement was one of the most difficult part of the conversation but an essential one to start a lively and fruitful brainstorming.

Once all those essential elements were decided on, the groups tackled the core of the ideation phase! From conservative more obvious thoughts to risky wild ideas, conversation and exchanges between members were non-stop!

Innovative ideas were eventually posted on the platform! Please read more about them here:

One of the groups decided to focus on the caretakers, in particular the nurses, realizing that they were key actors in the end-of-life experience. They focused in particular on nurses who they realized were emotionally and physically burdened in their work. They thought of how to better support them so that they had more energy to support patients and their families and friends:

Here is another one about a robot/mentor system that guides terminally ill patients in finding comfort and dealing with their sickness:

We were impressed by the energy and passion at the Greenhouse. Groups kept talking and discussing their ideas after they all shared their ideas, and the official end of the session. Many discussed the possibility of exploring their ideas further. And in fact it happened.

An extra-ideation session took place last Sunday and a prototyping event is taking place on June 23rd - all thanks to one of our amazing attendee Lee Kim, a seasoned Design Thinker and transportation engineer who joined our group for the first time on June 13.We are excited to hear  and see what prototypes will emerge from the prototyping session. Stay tuned as we shared more in-depth development of the 3 group ideas!

NYC OpenIDEO Chapter


Hello OpenIDEO!

We had the pleasure of seeing members of the OpenIDEO staff from San Francisco! Lots of interesting challenges and initiatives to come! Stay tuned everyone!

NYC OpenIDEO Chapter: End-of-Life Storytelling Event- May 18, 2016

It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens.  - Woody Allen

Spoken like a true New Yorker, Woody Allen has touched upon a common theme when it comes to talking about death - we don’t like to do it. On May 18th at the NYU Greenhouse Spaces the NYC OpenIDEO chapter invited 20 chapter members to talk about death. Our Chapter organized a ‘storytelling’ event around the “End-of-Life” openIDEO challenge where we held in-depth discussions on all aspects of death.  In order to guide our discussion we looked to two local NYC organizations that are doing work in the field of Death:

First we invited, the Death Lab of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation to give an introductory talk on the challenges surrounding death in New York City. Karla Rothstein, Director of the Death Lab,  highlighted the logistical considerations to consider with death, such as space for burials in a crowded city and environmental considerations with cremations,  how can we balance these logistical concerns with emotional and behavioural aspects of losing a loved one. For example, how do we decide if the emotional desire to have a burial in New York city outweighs the environmental and economic costs associated?

We broke out into smaller groups of 4-5 to engage in more intimate discussion. We chose to use the model of the “Death Café as an inspiration to structure the storytelling event. The idea of a Death Café comes from the work of Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz . Today, Death Cafés are held in over 29 countries; they invite participants to have free-flowing conversation around the topic of death.  

During our break out conversations, we urged members to utilize  human-centered design theorems such as  empathy and to be broad in their discussions to gain insight and inspiration. In instances where it might be too difficult to talk about death we urged the use of analogous examples - perhaps the loss of a childhood toy, or an immigration visa, could be an analogous experience of grief. We also provided question prompts to all groups as to spark conversation.  

Discussions resulted in great insights. Three big themes throughout:

The physical spaces ‘death’ inhabits: The issue of space and ‘memorials’ was discussed at length in several groups: without memorializing and mourning a death, one cannot move forward and get past it. One group talked about visiting places linked to death such as cemeteries, war museums, and memorials. We discussed how we felt and the impact it caused to each person. We also talked about how people who live around these places have to learn to deal with it every day.

Cultural differences related to death: One conversation led to a comparison of rituals in India to those in the US. A member described personal experience in India where there was often no grave or “place to visit” (because of cremation practices).This led us to a discussion about cultural differences as well as personal preferences in burial and cremation.

When does ‘end-of-life’ start? This question was posed in light of the Death Lab’s presentation which focused on the “post-death” experience. How do we determine when our “end” begins? Is it a certain age or is it when the doctor says that  you are in terminal state? When you have to go to be placed in someone else’s care (such as a nursing home)? This also led to issues of conversations in families and how often and early conversations arise in most households.  

This meetup brought about lots of interesting elements, all closely related to death. In turn, facing people directly to a subject that is often unspoken of publicly, created an instant bond amongst individuals allowing them to exchange some poignant back and forth. We felt this meetup was extremely successful in the way that it was extremely relatable and very personal. Lots of inspiration emerged, and our members have expressed enthusiastic interest in the follow-up ideation meetup.

Check out these 2 entries on OpenIDEO!