I’m just back from SXSW where I did a session on Tech Wellness with Aliza Sherman.  We are working on a book together called  The Happy,Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout.   A blog post on that is coming!

I did make time to attend different sessions and walk through the exhibit hall, but one of the most exciting things I saw was the “Gamestorm: Take on the Refugee Crisis” organized by colleague Brian Reich for  USA for UNHCR, the agency that helps and protects refugees and people displaced by violence, conflict and persecution.   And given what is happening in the world today, that job is hard work. It requires innovation and creativity from many people.   And the agency is using an innovation platform  and design thinking to find solutions.


At SXSW, Brian  hosted the purpose lounge where you could play with a set of cards to brainstorm and contribute ideas to address the refugee crisis.    The yellow and gray cards listed potential actors and actions and you could pick three of them to generate ideas or think in different ways.  The next step was to fill out an impact card that included prompts such as “By 2030 the world should …” or “Progress means …”    There were also cards that you could fill out to identify resources that you or your company could contribute.

Using cards and games to generate creative solutions is not a brand new new idea.   For example, creativity expert Roger Von Oech has the “Creative Whack Pack” and  “Innovation Whack Pack.”  Author Michael Michalko created the “Think Pack” to accompany his book on creativity techniques, Thinker Toys.   In my own practice as a trainer,  I have created several card games to teach social media and communication strategy.    But I have not seen a card game linked to design thinking and a social problem.

I spoke with Brian briefly and he told me that their goal was to get the most innovative minds to start thinking about the refugee crisis differently.  There were lots of creative, unique and fun ideas were generated.  He shared some of the favorites in a follow up email:

By providing more wearables, the Washington Post can create more ability for refugees to access relevant & educational content based on location, interests, etc. (thanks, @AllieB!)

I hope McDonald’s uses more Support Groups to engage with employees & their families to assist in the refugee crisis. (thanks, @Anthony_Lazzaro!)

My definition of a good solution would be when LinkedIn uses airplanes in order to connect start ups & small businesses to successful refugee entrepreneurs. (thanks, @retronautilus!)

Brian mentioned that they view this as a research process and hope set up a database of ideas that people could draw from as they further develop solutions.   If you want to contribute ideas or resources, check their online innovation platform – Project Hive.

How is your nonprofit using innovation or creativity techniques to generate ideas for your organization’s programs?


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