MDes Talks: Volunteering at DTIA Conference

Volunteering in events always gets me closer to the event organisers, their process and their activities. Being a volunteer and a participant at the same time enables me to participate in a different way and gain access to the organisers and speakers.

While being busy with my everyday student life in PolyU, I was also ready for any volunteering opportunities that could enrich my study experience in Hong Kong. I quickly found that DTIA – a platform on Design Thinking – was recruiting volunteers. The event itself was relevant to my study. My major responsibility was on participants’ support and communication. It might sound straightforward until I got to work with the organising team and understood how complicated the event planning processes were.

What is Design Thinking in Action (DTIA)?

DTIA is an annual conference “bringing best design thinkers from around the world for an entertaining, eye-opening and interactive experience”. The agenda and contents for this year’s conference were hand-picked by curators and content team on “Design Thinking in Business”, System Level Design Thinking (Policy, Government and Education), “Designing Your Life”, and “Emergent Design Thinking Applications”.

MDes Talk: Volunteering at DTIA Conference
DTIA in PolyU

IBM Workshop

As I volunteered as a workshop leader, I had the opportunity to visit multi-national technology companies such as IBM and Google. What impressed me was how their offices were designed and organised with their staff in mind, making them feel comfortable and relaxed.

MDes Talk: Volunteering at DTIA Conference
Google Office – Cafeteria

It was only a one-day workshop at IBM. This workshop was an introduction to the basics of the design thinking process, led by Stephen Wong, CEO of Asia Miles. He unpacked the design thinking process step by step before we were divided into five teams to work on our topic and persona (a target user). The teams were formed by a mix of students and professionals. After defining the project brief and going through brainstorming, each team came up with a design solution that addressed the persona’s problem.

MDes Talk: Volunteering at DTIA ConferenceIBM Workshop – People Work on Their Solution

Take our team as an example. We were tasked with a persona who is female, pre-married, cohabitating with her boyfriend. She needed a cost/ time effective way to enhance their relationship because relationship played a key role in her life. Based on what we identified, we proposed a solution which was a couple chair having many cool functions to help our persona to enhance the relationship in different ways.

MDes Talk: Volunteering at DTIA ConferenceIBM Workshop – Solution of our team: A Couple Chair

Volunteering at Industry or Business Events

MDes Talk: Volunteering at DTIA ConferenceBrainstorming Time

This kind of volunteering experience has put us in a position to network with professionals working in the industry – this is the most important thing I gained among other things.

Through working with the team at DTIA, I had the occasion to talk to executives of Asia Miles and even the CEO. I valued the opportunity to meet executives and industry leaders in person and be able to discuss issues around a shared interest with them.

Similarly, working in teams with other professionals in the workshop offered us another opportunity to build network with people in different industries. As DTIA was an invitation-only meeting held once a year, to discuss critical trends and challenges in the field across multiple dimension, it attracted many corporate executives to participate in the immersive programmes on design thinking. They came to find solutions or insights to bring back to their organisation or identify the potential for organisation growth.

Interestingly, to facilitate networking and better interactions, DTIA addressed participants by name and not by their title, unlike other business events. The host wanted to emphasise the point that “everyone’s opinion is important” in the event, and even more so in design thinking process.

As a result, students got to team up with experienced managers, and yet our views were being considered as important as them and everyone had a place to contribute.

Through this volunteering experience, I have built important network outside schools. With continued effort to nurture these relationships, I believe this will open doors to my future after graduating from PolyU!

People sometimes do not actually understand voluntary work when they equate volunteers to cheap labour. Volunteering gives us the opportunity to learn and gain many things through the process, and to turn an unpaid work into our personal assets.

Image credits. Header image: Design Thinking in Action - Asia. List and content images: Pei Tzu Chu.

Posted by Pei Tzu Chu - Being passionate about life, never stop exploring. Graduated in International Business from National Taipei University of Business, Taiwan. Appreciating how design changes the world and bringing surprise to life. A current Master's student in International Desing & Business Management (MDes).

MDes Talks is a series of Student Blogs contributed by students in different specialisms under the Master of Design Scheme. It is set out to share students’ first-hand experience in the d-school pedagogy, their projects, takeaways, and student life in general.