Engaging end users

Mar 22, 2008, 12:38 PM, Posted by Paul Tarini

I was a judge in the Grand Prize round for the Ruckus Nation competition.  And I have to say, the selection process they used felt a lot different than the selection process we use.  One of the reasons was that we were looking to select just one winner, instead of a slate of 10-15 as usually happens with RWJF national programs.  This meant that as we ruled some entrants out, the remaining ideas got additional focus.  When we were down to the final two, we had covered a lot of ground and were able to have a conversation that easily moved between granular operational issues, e.g., “Would this thing break if you threw it?,” and values positions, e.g., “This one cuts the link to the screen and gets kids outside.”

But I think the biggest influence was the addition of youth to the judging panel.  Three pretty fearless kids, aged 11-15, poised and articulate, kept us grounded with their frank observations.  It reminded me that keeping end users in mind when designing a program is a good starting point, but that engaging them in more aspects of programming—from planning to selection—can make for a richer, more authentic program.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.