Friday, January 10, 2014

The value of local professional events

Susan and I take the opportunity to attend lots of local events of relevance to the work we do. We are fortunate to be based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where many such events are held. Years ago, both of us contributed to the start of these local events by being on the founding committee for BayCHI, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of SIGCHI (the ACM Special Interest Group in Computer-Human Interaction). I had the privilege of serving as BayCHI's first program chair, responsible (for 12 years) for BayCHI's monthly speaker series most often held at Xerox PARC. Susan programmed events for the local chapter of the Human Factors Society.

Today, the BayCHI monthly speaker series is still going strong, but it has been joined by many others. Programs that one or both of us attend include those focused on the quantified self, lean UX, online community management, enterprise UX, design strategy and research, homeless innovation, healthcare redesign, social media, interaction design, entrepreneurship, mobile UX, health technology, creativity, service design, patient engagement, and leveraging technology for social impact.

We particularly like the programs in which we can participate. We've both led such programs, including my interview of Jon Kolko and Don Norman at the Academy of Art University (see photo above), and Susan's hosting the Stanford's crash course in design thinking in Sydney (see photo at left). And we enjoy participating in design jams -- often two day workshops in which multidisciplinary teams identify and design potential solutions to real-world wicked problems. I've participated in six design jams, one of which focused on healthy food access and preparation problems experienced in a poor and rough neighborhood of San Francisco, one of which addressed how Goodwill might repurpose textiles they collect that are currently going to waste, and one focused on redesigning the business model for Fair Trade USA. We both participated in a design jam focused on easing the challenges student immigrants face when navigating the U.S. legal system, and Susan participated on the winning team in a design jam focused on helping corporations and city management embrace the new peer-to-peer economy.

All these events help keep us fresh and current. We embrace them as an important extension of our worklife, and we encourage others to do the same. If you don't live in an area with lots of these kinds of events, consider making your contribution to the growth of the peer-to-peer economy by organizing one or more. You'll be glad you did.


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