Design Thinking for the End of the World: Conference Talk Proposal

I just finished a proposal for a talk titled "Design Thinking for the End of the World" submitted to the 2020 Colorado Emergency Management Conference.

Design Thinking for the End of the World: Conference Talk Proposal


I thoroughly enjoy delivering and creating conference presentations. Like many of you I assume, whenever I submit a proposal I write an abstract that captures whatever I can see dimly based upon my thinking at the moment relative to the conference theme. With the end only slightly in sight, writing the presentation itself is always a fun and challenging learning experience that takes my own thinking to the next level.

The proposal I just wrote titled Design Thinking for the End of the World is for the 2020 Colorado Emergency Management Conference to be held in February. The theme for the conference is "One Colorado: Preparing for Colorado Challenges," which to me evokes problem-solving, resilience, mitigation, disaster preparedness, and policy. Having been more theoretically focused in the past, I wanted to share something a little closer to practice. Drawing from recent and past reading around language and design, I thought up (prior to the submission, but further unpacked by the arrival of the opportunity) an interesting take on "problem framing" heavily centered on language with potential for interactive visualization.

It will be interesting to see exactly where this talk ends up. Both the brief description for the conference materials and the detailed description for the committee are provided below. I think this talk has the makings of a great workshop in the future.

Brief Description

This presentation brings together storytelling, design thinking, and complexity as it discusses approaching the difficult challenges facing Colorado’s emergency management community. Focused on problem framing, storytelling is explored as a key step in engaging with complex issues while the audience is invited to think about the stories they are currently telling about problems and consider how they might begin to craft different ones.

Detailed Description

Design Thinking for the End of the World is an energetic intersection of design thinking, complexity, and narrative focused on the creation of localized solutions to complex challenges by placing innovative problem-solving methods in the right hands. The presentation opens by defining design and revealing its generally unrecognized pervasiveness throughout emergency management. Moving on, complex systems theory is used to characterize the environment facing the Colorado emergency management community. The just-introduced complex environment is then presented as the space emergency managers design in. A few key heuristics are then provided to help accessibly communicate to the audience what it means to design in a complex environment. Next, the presentation turns to design frames introduced as the stories emergency managers tell about the problems they are trying to solve. Frames, processes for purposefully creating them with others, and their implications are discussed in detail and form a central focal point of this presentation. After discussing frames, the presentation explores what features designs for complex environments should have according to the literature, with a focus on evaluation, adaptation, and context.