Smart ideas flow as a group of teenagers chat busily. The team talks about the need for more sober drivers. They break down the social types they see on weekends (the “drinker with no plan”, the “sheep”, the “sober party people”). They throw around ideas for activities to address the issue.
“We should do something we would want to do,” says one.
“Yeah, so make sure we’re relevant to our audience. We could offer a prize because that always gets people into it,” adds another.
“But make sure the activity still makes them look cool.”
And next, a subtle breakthrough in thinking:
“Yeah, so it sticks to the norm of cool but changes the expectations of what that is.”
We’re at a conference for SADD or Students Against Dangerous Driving. With chapters in secondary schools around the country since the 1980s, SADD is a national institution. The aim for this year’s conference participants: learning a process of design thinking that empowers them to be change agents in their school community.
The students do so through a team challenge in which they design initiatives to take back to school to promote safe road use. The design thinking challenge, including supporting videos, was created by the NZ Transport Agency. Each video shows design thinking in action, as the Transport Agency’s education and advertising team discuss how they create national road safety campaigns.
Leigh Mitchell, Director of Customer Experience and Behaviour, says the Transport Agency and SADD share a common goal of keeping young people safe on the road.
“The main super-power that SADD brings to the party is peer-to-peer influencing, which is one of the most powerful ways of changing behaviour,” she says.
Design thinking boosts this capability. It’s about creating effective solutions to problems faced by real people. In educational settings, it gives students a practical pathway to respond to authentic contexts. The design thinking steps in use at the SADD conference are:
- Empathise (with a target audience, for example teen road users)
- Define (identifying a problem/obstacle faced by those teens when aiming for safe road use),
- Ideate (think up and assess potential solutions)
- Prototype (create and present an initiative or resource to use in schools that addresses the audience and the issue).
The next stage beyond this is for the students to take their ideas back to school and test them out with real people. Further refinements can follow.
Charlotte Dey from Otumoetai College is a national SADD student leader and says design thinking is a positive process.
“It’s interesting to see how the design process works,” she says. “You come up with these ideas and you’ve got to analyse every aspect of it to see that it works, to make sure it can actually be used in your communities and your schools.”
Design thinking in action
At conference, Charlotte’s team looks at the issue of speed. They’ve read through a Transport Agency dataset which shows drivers under 25 are over-represented in speed-related crashes. The team debates if their target audience is male or female or both.
“I think you don’t want to separate genders, both need help, but more data specific to each gender would be helpful,” says one member.
“Males and females have the same problems in the speed stats, but different causes,” says another.
“Do we have evidence of different causes?”
There’s more talk, some banter about residual plots and then Mason Potich, Bream Bay College, grabs a whiteboard marker and they record their thinking about what motivates young drivers, male and female.
“You’ve got to focus on who you’re targeting, so our target audience is people our age, which is probably the best thing about this being student-led. We can relate to what’s going on,” Mason says later.
Another team moves to the prototype stage. They settle on a game that helps players think about driving to the conditions. Equipment needed: two tarpaulins, dishwashing liquid, tennis balls, torches and water guns. The game will involve decision making, running around lots, and getting wet.
“The aim is to show you always need to adapt to different road conditions and that the shortest way is not always the safest,” says a team member.
A third team is responding to the topic of distracted drivers. They’ve focused on one type of distraction — road rage — which appears in their dataset about young drivers. Their idea is to share strategies for dealing with other drivers’ behaviour, so their generation is better-equipped to manage their reactions.
Team member Bailey says that in the ideation phase, they planned on creating an app.
“But an app would need funding. So, we’re using Instagram as an existing platform rather than starting with a fresh slate.”
Bailey and Piper run through a mock-up on a whiteboard. Images on the Instagram feed would highlight road use behaviours that make people angry. Each post includes a link to the SADD website where advice can be housed, and there’s scope for moderated comments to be posted.
Ecosystem of support
SADD National Manager Donna Govorko says the design thinking exercise focuses student enthusiasm for creating activities.
“It leads them through a step-by-step problem-solving approach which analyses the issues and encourages them to put thought into who they are targeting and the message they want to convey to get the desired outcome.”
Operations Manager Victoria Domigan says the team challenge has ongoing benefit, leading to ideas and activities created by students that are aligned with best practice, relevant to young people and focussed on current road safety issues.
“We also now have a cohort of students running SADD in their schools who have an in-depth understanding of the different factors that should be considered when planning road safety education in their schools, rather than just picking an activity to run because it sounds fun without giving thought to their audience or the specific road safety issues in their community.”
Victoria says the process puts the students in the driver’s seat and encourage them to collaborate with local road safety experts.
Indeed, conferences are just part of the support for SADD members. Most chapters have a support teacher, providing an ongoing connection between the school and SADD’s national support staff such as delivery leads Katherine Blake and Alex Drummond, who visit schools.
Police officers are also in the mix — with the Auckland conference attended by officers who specialise in working with schools or in the field of road safety.
Support at school: a teacher’s view
Rotorua Lakes High School SADD support teacher Jenny Hartigan says the design thinking process used at conference looks excellent.
“Thinking, designing and reflecting are integral processes for producing a quality product. We’ve used the SADD principles to design some of our road safety activities, but we certainly could do with more thinking, designing and reflecting to come up with effective activities in the future.”
Jenny says she helps organise student meetings and passes on information from SADD staff, but it is Rotorua Lakes students who take the lead on organising each term’s activities.
“They come up with some really creative ideas themselves. Plus, it’s teaching them leadership skills, responsibility, and how to manage themselves.
“I’m just there as to guide them. I’ve been doing this the last eight years. I enjoy it and I’ve built good relationships with the students who are in it. It’s a cause I feel strongly about, especially as far as teenagers are concerned.”
Conference a starting point for social action
Donna Govorko says the team challenges fit with SADD’s overall mission.
“SADD is about empowering young people and building young citizens, kids who care about their community. Being safe on the roads is a big component of their lives.”
Charlotte Dey says she is looking forward to running the newly designed activities in her school.
“I’ll see for myself how well they work, where we went wrong and what went well… and aim to make a positive impact back home.”
Anton Haines of De La Salle College says the team challenge has prompted more thinking from his team.
“You’ve got to think about what you’re aiming at, the people you’re aiming it to, if it’s interactive for our generation. We have to choose wisely.”
Banner: Rotorua Lakes High School student Emma Jackson gets stuck into discussions as her team designs a road safety campaign