To the layperson, the words "design thinking" might not conjure much. If you're a designer, an engineer, or an architect, it might be the idea of iterating to build the proverbial better mousetrap (or a remote control that doesn't drive users crazy with superfluous buttons).
Team4Tech, a startup dedicated to bettering the world by sending volunteers to promote digital literacy and technology in developing countries and underresourced corners of the globe, makes sure all of its innovative participatory projects are deeply grounded in design thinking, taking the whole concept a step further.
Maria Posa, Team4Tech's program manager, is charged with shaping the design-thinking aspect of each volunteer project. "In a nutshell," she explains, "design thinking is a problem-solving framework or methodology of studying a given user, identifying a problem that user is facing, and then testing and iterating solutions until you have something that's fantastic."
Those solutions can include the eye-catching aesthetics that most people think of when they hear the word "design," but more often, the goal is to solve the user's problem and to fill a need. A well-known example of what design thinking can do in the context of international development is the Embrace Warmer - an inexpensive, portable warmer for premature babies that can do the job of incubators found in first-world hospitals.