C-SED summer studio interns Suzanne Chou and Brianna Broderick presented the findings from their project at the MI-ACE Annual Conference in Traverse City. The conference is hosted by the Michigan Section of the American Water Works Association, which aims to promote education and knowledge about public health, safety, and sectors involving water.

The summer was spent engaging with stakeholders from drinking water utilities and other organizations around Michigan’s drinking water industry to gather insights, understand needs, and design and test tools that allow end users to collaborate toward effective strategies to tackle drinking water challenges. This process was done in partnership with Professor Lut Raskin and her team’s Blue Sky Initiative. The work from the summer studio resulted in the creation of 10 industry insights and 4 tools for professionals and researchers to follow for collaborative work that can positively impact the health and safety of all Michigan residents.

Suzanne and Brianna presented the benefits of using a design thinking lens to tackle the complex issues in Michigan’s drinking water industry through targeted, efficient, and creative ways, using their summer work and results as an example. They introduced the idea of design thinking as a way to explore a problem space early on to gather a wide variety of insights and walked through the Innovation Salon they helped facilitate through C-SED to kick off their summer studio project. The Innovation Salon was a one-day co-designed workshop at UM that brought together water utility professionals and university drinking water researchers across Michigan and Ohio. At the workshop, they facilitated various design thinking activities to find and innovate on shared needs and create a foundation for further collaboration between the participants. During the MI-ACE presentation, Suzanne and Brianna engaged the participants in a quick design thinking exercise to show participants how these tools can actually be used to leverage knowledge in a room quickly. They finished off by introducing the insights and tools that were created through the summer studio work and set up the tools after the presentation to receive feedback.

The opportunity to present their summer work back out to Michigan’s water professionals was a great way to maintain open communication between research and practice. More information about the Blue Sky Initiative and this studio project can be found here.