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In the context of key social and environmental challenges facing societies, finding ways to make real and meaningful change happen in our communities can feel like a daunting prospect. Design thinking or Human-Centered Design is a creative approach that seeks to engage communities around problem solving in applied contexts. It is a way for people to get tangible by generating ideas, experimenting, and iterating to help others experience a vision of the future for your community and applying this in practice. To learn more about it you can watch the video about it here.

This evening, at Transition Galway and Galway’s Feminst Collective, we are hosting my colleague Anne Schiffer (Leeds Beckett University and Friends of the Earth) to run a free workshop on using Design Thinking for grassroots action. This workshop is open to anyone who is keen to learn how they apply a Design Thinking approach to the community work they do. No previous experience is necessary. Just an interest and passion in social and environmental change issues.

This interactive event centers on providing an overview of Design Thinking and how to apply it to activism and community work by concentrating on 5 key steps:

1. Empathy – developing an understanding the challenges and needs of your local community.

2. Defining what the common needs and challenges are.

3. Coming up with ideas of how and what can be done.

4. Prototype – create quick and tactile representations of your ideas.

5. Test & iterate – Getting feedback on proposed solutions and iterating until it meets their needs.

Dr Anne Schiffer is a senior lecturer in the School of Art, Architecture and Design at Leeds Beckett University. She holds a PhD from Queen’s University Belfast which critiques the role of designers in international development. Schiffer uses human-centred design research methods to uncover opportunities and conflicts in the context of grassroots action on environmental issues, including energy and more recently water transitions. She previously worked for Friends of the Earth Scotland where led the Scottish part of a European funded project on community-owned renewable energy ( She serves on the board of Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland.