Structure in a nut-shell:
Class 1 / 1.25 – Intros, class overview, expectations of the class + questions
Class 2 / 2.01 – More in depth overview, future areas + design thinking workshop
Class 3 / 2.08 – Speakers in conversation #1
Class 4 / 2.15 – Speakers in conversation #2
Class 5 / 2.22 – Speakers in conversation #3
Class 6 / 3.01 – FAILFaire and lessons learned
Class 7 / 3.08 – Brainstorming final project ideas + data workshop
Class 8 / 3.22 – Final concept discussion and groups
Class 9 / 3.29 – Project R&D and check-ins + systems thinking workshop
Class 10 / 4.05 – Project check-ins + presentation on user research & communicating
Class 11 / 4.12 – Project prototyping check-ins + brainstorming/prototyping workshop
Class 12 / 4.19 – Project check-ins, play-testing + Presentation style workshop
Class 13 / 4.26 – Final presentations at ITP with guest critics
4.28 @ 1pm – Extra-curricular Event: Panel discussion on VR for Social Purposes
Class 14 / 5.03 – Final presentations at UNICEF HQ

Class 1 – Jan 25:

  • Introductions, class structure, overview of syllabus and assignments/projects.
  • Expectations for the class.
  • Presentation from UNICEF Innovation on future areas and challenges.
  • Time for discussion & questions.

Assignments for next class:

Class 2 – Feb 1:

  • Class opens with Fail stories presentations.
  • Presentation on personal projects, failures & lessons learned.
  • More in depth overview of UNICEF Innovation and design principles.
  • Design thinking workshop.

Assignments for next class:

Class 3 – Feb 8:

  • Class opens with Fail stories presentations.
  • Class discussion.
  • Panel of guests in conversation: Data Science: How to use data and data science to identify major issues in the world and create solutions to them? Gilad Lotan VP Head of Data Science at BuzzFeed, Dr. Amen Ra Mashariki Chief Analytics Officer at the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics & Manuel Garcia-Herranz lead research scientist at UNICEF Office of Innovation and Toby Wicks data strategist at UNICEF will join us.
  • Q&A.
  • Pick an envelope.

Assignments for next class:

Class 4 – Feb 15:

  • Class opens with Fail stories presentations.
  • Class discussion.
  • Panel of guests in conversation: Connecting disconnected communities through information and transportation: How can we leverage new service models for different use-cases? Alex Salz, Operations & Logistics Manager at Uber, Jay Bregman, CEO of Verifly and Allison Burtch, Speculative Hardware researcher at UNICEF will join us.
  • Q&A.

Assignments for next class:

Class 5 – Feb 22:

  • Class opens with Fail stories presentations.
  • Class discussion.
  • Panel of guests in conversation: Identity and Links to systems: What options do emerging technology like distributed ledgers provide us in a post-sovereign world? Grace Torrellas, Co-creator and Blockchain4Good Advocate,, David L. Yermack, Albert Fingerhut Professor of Finance and Business Transformation at New York University Stern School of Business and Chairman of the Finance Department and Sunita Grote, Innovation Fund Manager, UNICEF Innovation, will join us.
  • Q&A.

Assignments for next class:

  • Prepare to talk about your challenge assignment, your failures, successes and lessons learned. Sample questions: Restate your challenge, the way you interpreted it. What was the end result? What was the approach and the steps you took to get there? What were the things that worked? What were the largest challenges? What didn’t work/failed? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? We will discuss all of this in class. You can prepare a 5-7 minute presentation and then we will open to conversation around each project.
  • Post on blog documentation of your group challenge.
  • Readings: Facing global development’s fear of failure. Failed projects examples: Quowa, Playpump, OLPC and more OLPC. Things that were mentioned during the panel: 9needs, E-Estonia, Republic of Georgia

Class 6 – Mar 1:

  • A bit of a FAILFaire event of our own. Present your group challenge, lessons learned, things that worked, things that didn’t. Chris will join us via robot.

Assignments for next class:

  • Assignment 1. Pick and research a project that failed. Prepare a 3 minute ignite talk discussing the project. Post it on your blog.
  • Come up with a final project idea & post it on your blog. It could be a new project or an iteration of your challenge. One of the main goals of this project is to investigate an interesting approach, a possible collaboration or the development of a new concept useful to advance UNICEF’s mission in one of the critical areas discussed. This should be a group project given the limited amount of time we have and the collaborative nature of these projects.
  • Post online documentation of your group challenge & catch up on all outstanding blog posts.
  • Readings: Telefonica & UNICEF, David Cameron on blockchain and corruption

Class 7 – Mar 8:

  • Class opens with Fail stories presentations.
  • Hands-on workshop about working with data with Toby Wicks, Data Strategist at UNICEF.
  • Brainstorming final project ideas + organizing final groups.

Assignments for next class:

Class 8 – Mar 22:

  • Class opens with Fail stories presentations.
  • Class discussion.
  • Present your final concept ideas.
  • Open conversations around final projects and sorting groups.

Assignments for next class:

  • Assignment 1. Pick and research a project that failed. Prepare a 3 minute ignite talk discussing the project. Post it on your blog.
  • Start (or continue) researching your project idea and meet with your groups to discuss, document every step of the process on your blog. Things to focus on for next week are:
    1. What is the Big Problem (i.e. Affects 1 b. People)
    2. What is the specific problem (So this affects 1b people… where is a specific concrete starting point where you see the need most)
    3. What’s a link between that and the environment you’re living (i.e. “Something closer to home”)
    4. What types of 100B$ technology *might* be able to impact this (broad stroke – think crazy)
    5. 3-5 links of resources that you have researched that specifically speak to you about this problem

Class 9 – Mar 29: Systems

  • Class opens with Fail stories presentations.
  • Project check-ins on the research and development phase. Questions, problems, resources needed.
  • Systems Thinking workshop

Assignments for next class:

Class 10 – Apr 5: Design Research & Users

  • Class opens with Fail stories presentations.
  • Project check-ins.
  • Presentation by Panthea Lee from Reboot around conducting user interviews and collecting user feedback.

Assignments for next class:

  • Assignment 1. Pick and research a project that failed. Prepare a 3 minute ignite talk discussing the project. Post it on your blog.
  • This week you should focus your problem statement, pick a location and identify users/actors to interact with:
    1. Focus down your problem statement and anchor it to a physical location (remote is ok, but then you need to find a location close to you as well where that problem is also present and where you will conduct your research)
    2. Once you have a specific problem statement, refine a systems map, which will help you identify users (make it more concrete by anchoring it to the specific location)
    3. Identify a user or users (whom you can access) that you meet with in person. If the location is remote, again, identify a user in that space but then focus on the local user whom you can actually talk to.
    4. Build a research plan on how many users you would like to reach out to (I would encourage 3-5), what questions you would like to ask them and how you would want to engage with them.

    We will discuss solutions in class next week.

  • Reading: Design Research methodology by Reboot.

Class 11 – Apr 12: Brainstorm & Prototype

  • Class opens with Fail stories presentations.
  • Project check-ins and discussion around possible solutions.
  • Open workshop day for final project prototyping.

Assignments for next class:

  • Things you should have by now:
    1. Defined problem statement
    2. A system diagram within which your problem exists
    3. List of actors/users in that system and insights/data from them
  • Things to do for next week:
    1. Pick one solution/direction
    2. Re-do the brainstorming session in your group (lots of post its!)
    3. Collect valuable data-points or have a sense of where you’ll gather data to make a case for this (don’t need to have all the data but three strong data sources)
    4. Build an early prototype for user-testing next week based on questions you want answers to, in order to move forward
    5. Have a sense of the story for your presentation (doesn’t have to be complete, you will work more on this next week)
  • Readings: Presentation on Ideation & Prototyping, more resources on Prototyping.

Class 12 – Apr 19: Play-test

  • Project check-ins.
  • In-class playtesting
  • Quick tips on presentation techniques and storytelling. How to present your project to your audience and communicate your idea effectively.

Assignments for next class:

  • Continue working on your project and documenting your progress. Focus and iterate on:
    1. Solidifying your specific problem statement.
    2. User interviews and gathering needs and insights.
    3. Identifying a possible solution (based on need).
    4. If you have a solution in mind, start prototyping aspects of it to playtest and user for further engagement with potential users.
  • Prepare a first draft of an 8 minute presentation of your project, research process and progress so far. Here is a template of content to refer to, you might not have all of it by now, that’s ok. Ideally you will by the following week.
  • Readings: Quick tips about presentations by yours truly, and excerpts from Resonate by Nancy Duarte or any of Nancy’s books that you can find chapters of.

Class 13 – Apr 26: Present

  • Everyone will run through their final presentations at ITP in front of an audience of ITP faculty and friends in order to rehearse, gather feedback and make final changes before the final presentation day at UNICEF HQ.

Assignments for next class:

  • Continue working on your project and documenting your progress.
  • Compile a list of changes suggested and make your edits in preparation for final presentations. Prepare a final deck to go through with Chris and Benedetta on Monday and if you need help with the slide deck, Tanya will be around Friday before the VR event to help.
  • Put the finishing touches on your final presentations. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. If you want, take a look at the Takahashi method of presentations online.

Extra-curricular Event – April 28th, 1-3pm at ITP, VR for Good Event

Class 14 – May 3: Present

  • Final Presentations at UNICEF HQ.
  • Conclusions.


  • Wrap up your documentation for the class by 5/7.


  • Assignment 1: Failure stories & Analysis
    We will begin every class with informal mini presentations on failure stories. Everyone, at some point in the semester, will do a quick ignite-style talk about a project in the social space and how it fell short.
    What was the project?
    What was it attempting to do?
    What did it actually end up doing?
    What went wrong (identify up to 3 points of failure)?
    Cite any resources used
  • Failed projects examples: Quowa, Playpump, OLPC and more OLPC.

  • Assignment 2: Readings & Questions for Speaker Conversations
    Readings/Videos will be assigned to prepare for speakers series but you should also do some research on your own to familiarize yourself, know who our lovely guests are and what they do. Prepare questions for the speakers.
    Post your questions on your blog the weekend before the panel discussion and post any interesting article/resource you have discovered while doing your research. This is your chance to engage with some brilliant minds, take advantage of it!
  • Assignment 3: Group Challenges & FAILfaire Presentations (Midterm)
    The class will be divided in groups and you will be assigned a challenge to work on for the duration of 3 weeks. We will regroup right before the mid point in the semester to talk about such experience, what worked, what failed and draw some useful conclusions and lessons learned.
  • Assignment 4: Final Project & Presentations (Final)
    The final project could either expand on one of the previously assigned challenges OR could be a new opportunity for exploring a different approach to address one of the challenges presented by UNICEF. Over the remainder of the semester you will work in groups to develop an idea through whatever means best suit the project. Could be an early set of prototypes, renderings, a business plan, etc. and certainly a presentation to communicate your concept to your audience. You will be expected to document your progress throughout on your blog and discuss in class your milestones as well as any challenges and questions you might have.

Class Policies:

  • Research, research, research and… more research (in the form of reading, interviews, prototyping, user testing and asking questions!)
  • Do your work. This is a research and practical class so in order to get the most out of it you NEED to do your assignments and actively contribute to your group.
  • Come to class prepared to ask questions.
  • Be on time. If you are more than 10 min late it’s going to be an absence. Even 5 min late and you’ve missed the first presentation. If anything, be there 5 min before if possible to brew some coffee.
  • Don’t miss class. Two excused absences at most, if you miss more than 2 classes it will automatically equal an F as final grade. Even 2 missed classes will be highly disruptive.
  • This is a group-project based class and you are expected to work with others. Communicate openly and kindly with each other!
  • Lids down. Phone muted & stored. Period.


  • Participation, Attendance & Class Contributions 30%
  • Documentation 20%
  • Final Project & Assignments 50% (25% short assignments, 25% final project)