UX research, Rwanda, and nta kibazo

When our team of researchers and designers arrived in Kigali, Rwanda four years ago, we arrived in a place that was entirely new to us.

Researchers and designers often aim to improve something unfamiliar to them. As the four of us soon found out, we also needed to remodel our research tools.

For background on the Rwanda we arrived in and the project we worked on, check out the companion to this post: The World Cup, Rwanda, and User Experience Research.

Without a schedule…

Our research plan did not include the schedule you might expect, with slots and breaks and participants all in a row. Instead of making sure we were on the appropriate calendars, our staff in Rwanda responded to our requests with “Let’s wait.” Continue reading

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Meetings vs getting stuff done: 3 months since IA Summit 2014

It’s summer! (Here in the northern hemisphere, at least.) Saturday was the first official day, but the weather’s seemed like it for quite some time.

A highlight in my summer is that we’re subscribed to a CSA—which means that, once a week, we get a mystery box of amazing produce. So far, we’ve received strawberries, radishes, greens, spring onions, and more. Our meal palates and palettes are very, very happy for it.

Things that happened

These last two weeks, the team has been focusing on each of our assignments. Getting the website closer, refining details that contribute to big ideas, and the like. Here are some specific things that have happened: Continue reading

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The World Cup, Rwanda, and UX Research

IASummit-illustrations-RwandaFour years ago in 2010, just as it is now, a World Cup was happening. From here in the US to across the pond in Belgium to an eight hour flight south of there in Rwanda, people gathered around TV sets and radios, excitedly following passes and kicks and fouls and goals.

I know this not because I was one of the watchers, but because I kept seeing the watchers. Much different from my 2006 World Cup experience, I didn’t see them much in the US. Instead, I saw them in Rwanda.

Along with another researcher and two other designers, plus some other folks in our organization, I visited Rwanda for twelve days in 2010. We were there to find out whether or not our users—Rwandan teacher trainers—could use the thing we were building—a website to help them get English-language resources.

Our team was part of a bigger project, the Rwanda Education Commons. REC aimed to help with a lot of problems, but the website I worked on focused on a big one.

How the program came to be

IASummit-illustrations-BooksIn 2009, a new language policy took effect in Rwanda. It said that all schools in Rwanda would be taught in English. Whatever subject a teacher was teaching (well, other than languages), it would be taught in English.

Teaching algebra? Do it in English.
Teaching ethics? Do it in English.
Teaching French history? Do it in English.

Before this declaration, the official language of schools was French. In 2010 and today, privileged Rwandans tend to be at least bilingual. Most speak Kinyarwanda, the indigenous language, which is related to Swahili. For their second language, most Rwandans will speak either French or English, and many have varying familiarity with the third. Continue reading

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Building the IA Summit team: 10 weeks since IA Summit 2014

These past two weeks I’ve very much enjoyed a visit to Iowa to visit my alma mater and to Illinois (near St. Louis) to visit my family.

Along the way, I also got to see Des Moines (in just two hours) with a most excellent tour guide: Scott Kubie. You may recognize his name from either of his IA Summit presentations about telling your job search story and making concept diagrams. Through a series of unfortunate situations, I didn’t see much of Des Moines while living in Grinnell, IA, and I was really happy to finally sample its awesomeness. So, big thanks to Scott!

Things that happened list

Meanwhile, things chugged along in IA Summit land. Continue reading

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Chairs or co-chairs: Two months since 2014 IA Summit

Wow, have these two months flown by! Just 11 more to go until 2015 IA Summit—it is nice that we have that extra month thrown in this year. You can bet we’re using it well.

Meanwhile, I’m on my way via a rather quiet DCA to Iowa and Illinois for a little Midwestern sojourn.

Some things that happened

This update’s list is shorter, but each one is more focused and significant:

  • Two more chair meetings, including further thoughtful discussion of curation;
  • Progress on the website, including strategizing and brainstorming and coding;
  • Initial planning for our site visit to Minneapolis, likely happening in the early fall;
  • A formal decision that we are indeed co-chairs (more below); and
  • Jessie said “Farewell!” as she heads off to a European adventure. That’s the great thing about us focusing on groundwork (including the awesome project timeline lead by Jessie) for the last two months—it’s helping us work as an interdependent team.

Chairs or co-chairs?

In the past, IA Summit had two people planning the big picture. They were the chair and the co-chair. The “chair” was the person official in charge of planning that year’s Summit experience, and “co-chair” was the person helping the chair. The co-chair would then become the chair for the next Summit. But, that hand-off process wasn’t the model for Denver, New Orleans, Baltimore, San Diego, or, now, Minneapolis. Continue reading

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Six weeks since IA Summit 2014 (with a note about “hire”)

Ok, well, it’s a little over six weeks since IA Summit 2014, but planning for IA Summit 2015 continues. (You can find my first three 2015 behind the scenes posts here.)

While I was in Ireland on vacation, I was almost entirely not replying to email. In one exception, I sent Jessie and Mike a “hello from Ireland!” email. In a second, I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut, what can I say? Regardless, the three of us agree that taking real vacations (including from volunteer work) is important, and I’m so thankful that we do. Refreshed minds are the best minds.

Things that happened

In any case, here are some things that happened on the IA Summit team the last two weeks: Continue reading

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One month since IA Summit 2014

It’s been two more weeks since my last IA Summit 2015 behind-the-scenes summary. These two weeks have been no less busy for the 2015 IA Summit team, with more focus on key areas. We have:

  • Met two more times (just the chairs) and talked about curation, volunteer org chart (or maybe org ecosystem), and vision.
  • Interviewed some folks interested in volunteering.
  • “Hired” one official core volunteer—Rachel Von Hendrix—as our Director of Sponsorship! This is a key role that we’re intentionally setting up early. Sponsors enable us to provide many of the most beloved parts of the IA Summit.
  • Talked to a bunch of people who’ve been involved in IAS over the years, to get their perspectives to add to our own; and, of course…
  • Emailed and created and edited even more Google Docs.

What’s next? Well, I’m headed off to Ireland for a family vacation, and we’re using it as an excuse to take a brief hold on weekly chair meetings. Productivity is only sustainable if you take a break every once in a while, after all!

We’ll be getting back together in the second week of May to pick things back up and check in on what’s been happening over the last couple weeks.

PS: As always, feel free to sign up for updates or an interest in sponsoring or volunteering at IA Summit 2015.

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