A Social Issue Workshop with Cause Consulting, Youth Design & John Barros

by Kayla Mottola

Cause Consulting members with Youth Designers

Boston’s Chief of Economic Development joined Youth Design and Cause Consulting for our annual social issue workshop led by our team and long-term partner Youth Design. As part of Youth Design each year, students participate in Youth Designers Take Action—an annual poster design competition and series of social issue related workshops. Since 2010 the annual design competition has helped integrate social issues into the program, with students choosing a topic important to them and designing a poster that inspires action. The day was filled with insights and inspiration that left a lasting impact on all of us involved.

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Youth Designers Take Action Day 2014 began on the steps of the ICA overlooking the Boston Harbor. We laid out the competition guidelines and coached the Youth Designers in small groups on their social issues, target audiences and how to conduct research. In these smaller groups, the Cause Consulting team was able to discuss best practices when developing insights and messages that make for inspiring calls-to-action.

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Mark Feldman leading a small break out group

After a tour of the ICA, the students reconvened as a group in District Hall where the workshop continued. Here, they were asked to participate in an exercise and assume the role of consultants for the Chief of Economic Development in Boston, John Barros. To their surprise, Barros himself joined us later to see what the students brainstormed and discuss his role in the city.

During the afternoon workshop, the Youth Designer’s task was to convince business leaders that Boston’s youth are valued employees in the creative economy. We facilitated a conversation around employment issues and the barriers youth face when finding jobs. Then, using a predetermined target audience of Boston-based advertising and design firm executives, we brainstormed strategic ways to reach them with our message. After understanding the issue and audience, we asked the students to draw insights that would lead to an inspiring call-to-action. The students were extremely engaged and generated three main messages that they ultimately want executives to know about them:

1. Take advantage of our passion while it’s burning

2. We know a lot about the young community; we bring value with our fresh perspectives

3. Coach us, give us a change, we are teachable

Their messaging went one step further as the students began drawing designs on white boards around the room. One of their visual concepts was a handshake between a business leader and teen with the call-to-action “Take Our Hand.” Another was a reversed classroom where a young adult stood in front of a group of business leaders in suits as their teacher.

With a room filled with drawings and ideas on the wall, it was the perfect time for our client, John Barros, to arrive. Barros walked in and the students enthusiastically led him through their insights and messaging ideas. Barros was blown away not only by the students, but with the relevancy of his work to their ideas. After providing the students with background on himself and his mission for the city of Boston, Barros gave a motivational speech to the students about taking advantage of their opportunity with youth design and leaving them with a powerful message—“allow yourself to excel.”

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John Barros speaking at Youth Designers Take Action Day

After much brainstorming, hard work and inspiration—the day ended with John Barros making a commitment to create a design internship at City Hall for the Creative Economy that would only be open to Youth Design students. In addition to the job and the motivated students, there is no doubt that the day-long workshop generated powerful social issue designs and gave designers valuable skills that will extend far beyond Youth Design.

For more on John Barros at Youth Designers Take Action Day read our blog John Barros Inspires Youth Design, Creates Internship Opportunity

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Youth Design is a leading Boston based nonprofit organization that is focused on addressing critical socioeconomic needs of urban youth by teaching them highly marketable design skills, providing access to unparalleled professional mentors, and supporting them along the path toward higher education. Since 2003, Youth Design has been helping to shape the next generation of diverse design professionals through aggressive educational and workforce development initiatives set in the context of design while promoting diversity in the creative economy.

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