Designing for Resilience and Compassionate Action


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At the inaugural Compassion and Technology Conference hosted by The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford, Fred Dillon, Director of Product Development, and Janxin Leu, Ph.D., Director of Product Innovation, presented HopeLab's innovative approach to product development.

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  • Good morning!  I’m Janxin Leu, head of product innovation at HopeLab, and presenting with me today is my colleague Fred Dillon, HopeLab’s head of product development.  We work for HopeLab, a nonprofit R&D organization that harnesses the power and appeal of technology to improve health and well-being.  HopeLab is a unit of the Omidyar Group—a network of philanthropic enterprises founded by Pam Omidyar and Pierre Omidyar, the founder and chairman of eBay.  Today Fred and I are going to share some of the theoretical underpinnings of our work, as well as a practical design approach that might be useful to you in our own projects.
  • Some of you may know, HopeLab’s earlier work to create tech products that help young people fight cancer and motivate kids to be more physically active.  Our work now focuses on resilience – specifically, the research and development of new social technologies to promote human resilience in both youth and adults.  We have a particular definition of resilience that guides our work: the ability to bounce back from adversity, both psychological and physical.
  • One of our key goals in cultivating resilience is to support more compassionate action in the world – toward ourselves and others – even in the face of challenging circumstances.  Building resilience is critical to creating a well world, where people live feeling safe and loved and are able to thrive.
  • We’re particularly interested in the potential for mobile tech to foster greater resilience and compassionate action given its increasingly ubiquitous role in our everyday lives.
  • As a research based organization, we first turned to science to understand how we might approach this work.  Scientific research indicates that there are three psychological experiences we can cultivate to bolster resilience.  They are a sense of purpose, a sense of connection, and a sense of control. These experiences not only improve our psychological well-being; they can also improve our physical health. At HopeLab, we’re exploring ways technology might help bolster these experiences in everyday life. Before Fred gives you an example of how we’re doing this, I’d like to take a few moments to define purpose, connection and control for you more concretely. As I share our definitions of these terms, you’ll see references to studies that have informed our thinking on these connections between psychological experiences and physical health. In the interest of time, I won’t go into detail on the research but we’d be happy to share this with you if in follow-up, if you’d like.
  • So the first is purpose. Purpose is a far-reaching, steady goal; something personally meaningful that also reaches out into the world.  Science tells us that a sense of purpose can affect not only our psychological well-being but also our gene expression.
  • Connection, in our definition, is a deep sense of belonging. In the absence of social connection, we grow lonely. And research shows that loneliness can be lethal. Authentic social connections can improve biological and psychological health outcomes.
  • By control, we refer to our belief in our power to affect our destinies. This experience of control is the engine of motivation.  Feeling empowered can help us heal. Boosting self-efficacy can change behavior, biology. With these definitions in mind, our question to the community of researchers and developers gathered here is: How might technology be designed to enhance purpose, connection and control in people’s everyday lives?  For inspiration, Fred will give you some insights into our own technology development processes at HopeLab.
  • In addition to scientific research, at HopeLab we incorporate innovative uses of technology and direct feedback from our customers in a development process that is highly iterative. Incorporating insights from customers as we develop products has been a critical aspect of our success.
  • Today I want to share with you a project we’re currently working on.  We’ve recently partnered with Dr. Marc Brackett and his team at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Dr. Brackett is actually here today. His center uses the power of emotions to create a more effective and compassionate society.  Marc and his team have developed a socio-emotional learning intervention for schools. It includes a tool called the Mood Meter which helps students and teachers identify and regulate their emotions using a color-coded graph.  As you can see, the Mood Meter is currently taught using a poster as a visual aid. Our project with Marc is to create a Mood Meter app that extends the use of the tool beyond the classroom, and also make it available to the general public. HopeLab’s role is to apply our user-centered design approach to help bring some of these ideas to life. High-quality design can create a delightful end-user experience that increases the likelihood that an intervention will stick.
  • I want to share with you one process that has been particularly helpful to us in this work.
  • One of our design practices at HopeLab reframes choices in the development process to increase our options and help us make more informed decisions.  This process is actually included as a case study in the book “Decisive,” by Stanford’s Chip Heath and his brother Dan. The Heath brothers point out that, in making decisions, people often frame their choices too narrowly.  In app development, people typically document the requirements of the project, then hire a single designer to begin work, narrowing the range of design approaches they will see before engaging users for feedback.
  • Instead of starting with functionality deliverables, our first step is to shrink the scope of work.  For our work on the Mood Meter, we started with the question, “How might the graph look and feel as a mobile app?”
  • Next, instead of hiring a single designer, we hired a number of designers and used the crowd-sourced platform 99 Designs to get a diversity of choices.  As a result, we received more than 60 concepts representing a range of options to consider. We whittled our options down to 7 concepts, as you see here.
  • So now the challenge is to decide. In this step, we actually open ourselves up to the possibility that, rather than selecting a single design, there may be aspects of each concept we can mash up to produce a more ideal direction.  But how do you actually decide what will work and what won’t?
  • Ask your users! We put these 7 design concepts in front of teachers, students and others representative of our potential users to hear from them what they like what they don’t like, which is easier than asking them to imagine what they might like or not. Ultimately we surveyed more than 140 people to inform our decision.
  • And here’s the concept we ultimately chose.
  • Over the last couple of months, we’ve begun working with the designer of this concept to build out the experience from the product he delivered in that initial small scope of work.
  • We’ve found this approach to be incredibly helpful in our projects. Here are a few of the key benefits: Generating a diversity of ideas early on, from multiple sources, expands your options Engaging users in the design decision-making process gives you early validation of the concept, increasing the likelihood that you’re headed in a direction that will be compelling and meet their needs. Don’t assume what users want.  The process also allows you to test relationships with potential designers on a small scale before engaging them for a larger, more expensive collaboration. In addition to these benefits, we’ve found that a design process like this can be an act of compassion in and of itself. You see here some of the users we’ve engaged in our design work over the years. Listening to their needs and aspirations and inviting them to contribute to possible solutions has been transformative not only for us and our products but for many of our users.
  • We hope these insights are useful to you.  We ourselves are in the midst of a number of exciting research and development projects with a variety of collaborators, and we’d be happy to share more about our work and the approaches we take during Q&A or in our Lunch Discussion. You can also engage with us on Twitter, Facebook or at our online community, Thank you!
  • Designing for Resilience and Compassionate Action

    1. 1. Designing for Resilience and Compassionate Action Fred Dillon, Director of Product Development Janxin Leu, Ph.D., Director of Product Innovation Compassion & Technology Conference December 6, 2013 / Stanford
    2. 2. Resilience noun. The ability to bounce back from adversity.
    3. 3. Resilience to support compassionate action
    4. 4. Resilience
    5. 5. Purpose Connection Control
    6. 6. Purpose A far-reaching steady goal; something personally meaningful and selftranscending. Frederickson et al. (2013). A functional genomic perspective on human well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110 (33), 13684-13689. Damon, W. (2008). The Path To Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life. New York, NY: Free Press.
    7. 7. Connection Authentic relationship with others, a sense of belonging, the opposite of loneliness. Cohen, S., & Janicki-Deverts, D. (2009). Can we improve our physical health by altering our social networks? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4, 375-378. Cacioppo, J. T., & Patrick, B. (2008). Loneliness: human nature and the need for social connection. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
    8. 8. Control Our belief in our power to affect our destinies, the engine of motivation. Cole et al. (2012). Interactivity and Reward-Related Neural Activation during a Serious Videogame. PLOS ONE, 7 e33909. Kato et al. (2008). A Video Game Improves Behavioral Outcomes in Adolescents and Young Adults With Cancer: A Randomized Trial. Pediatrics, 122, e305-e317. Schwarzer, R., & Jerusalem, M. (1995). Generalized Self-Efficacy scale. In J. Weinman, S. Wright, & M. Johnston (Eds.), Measures in health psychology: A user’s portfolio. Causal and control beliefs (pp. 35–37). Windsor, England: NFER-NELSON.
    9. 9. Our Model Research Great Results Innovation Customer Input
    10. 10. Sourcing design options
    11. 11. Sourcing design options 1 2 3 Shrink the scope of work Get lots of ideas Pick a favorite OR combine features As described in Decisive (2013), by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
    12. 12. Shrink the scope of work 1 STEP 1. Shrink the scope of work
    13. 13. 2 Gets Lots of ideas
    14. 14. 3 Pick a favorite OR combine features
    15. 15. Ask users!
    16. 16. Benefits • Diversity of ideas • Early validation by end users • Testing partnerships
    17. 17. Thank you Fred Dillon, Director of Product Development @FredDillon Janxin Leu, Ph.D. Director of Product Development @JLeuHope @HopeLab