As the founder of a social impact experience company (www.authenticitys.com) creating 2-3 hour unforgettable times that make a city better I have given long thought to how best to design them.
I also work alongside NGOs, many of them already have the concept, yet for our group experiences we design something that is absolutely unique and transformative, because our mission is to get people to fall in love with being part of the solution to the challenges we face in cities, and hopefully go back to their home city and get involved in their local communities to continue being part of the causes they are passionate about. So what have we learnt in these past years to design experiences that have a social impact and transform people.
- Create a common environment and bring forth a shared consensual reality.
I could get philosophical with this point, but effectively we create reality through our perceptions of the world. Since everybody has a unique perception based only on their experiences and brain wiring, it is important to define a consensual reality that we are all a part of. Consensual realities can be formed by bringing forward the things that we know that we know. For example, we know that I am a female entrepreneur who is passionate about transformation in consciousness. Great. That could mean many things to many people, but if I state that’s who I am, there is a shared basis of that reality. So we invite participants of the experience to share a bit of what they understand themselves to be in the world. The commonality we then have in common is that we will all now live an experience through a city with the intention of learning, being curious and being participants of the answers to solutions. Normally, the facilitator of the experience will invite them to this common ground. And there it is, we have a consensual reality created and agreed upon.
2. Connect and explore around a shared purpose: Share stories (Build a common emotional ground)
Now we want to build common ground regarding emotions. Here the main question is Why are we here? What brought us here? And the facilitator of our experiences has a story to share. We build experiences were a person that for example has been homeless shares his story of how he or she ended up living in the streets, what happens there, and why our preconceived notions around a specific “reality” are not what they appear. This story is not really about Juan and his homelessness, but rather of humanity, and different aspects of it. Emotions are experiences by all of us, and we want to create a common emotional ground for our experience. And the facilitator of the experience will be creating a journey of emotions as we go through.
- People as co-creators and with a mission (Inspire people to act and be in movement)
When people participate in a “paid” experience, they want to get a product or a service and sit back and relax. However, an experience that seeks transformations makes participants co-creators and gives them to power to be part of the story and shift the story as well. That’s why even if our experiences are 2-3 hours everyone participating is given a mission, sometimes it’s more individual, at times is more a group mission, so that as co-creators of their moment they can be responsible as well of co-creating this experience with us in the format of dialogue. The facilitator then needs to be aware of all the queues and signals of co-creation. Do not expect only verbal participation, but rather even the most subtle movements and reactions are part of the co-creation of the moment, and to encourage people to be more a part of it, we need to highlight and flow the experience according to that feedback.
- Reflect and connect deeper (invite wisdom in)
Transformation occurs within. And it is not immediate. Many times in designing experiences we create such a hyper-flooded emotional ride that people feel exhausted towards the end. We don’t give experiences space and silence needed like a musical piece so that it can flow and we can listen. Sometimes you design these spaces beforehand, sometimes you bring them when needed…but in a culture already so addicted to adrenaline, transformative experiences don’t have to give all the time. Designing experiences with built-in reflection spaces and inviting wisdom in feels risky, but it is so worth your while to have it during the experience itself and not just at the end. Think music!
- Multi-perspective reality holistic systems view
Ok, that’s a lot of words. But basically what it is saying is that this experience is not happening in isolation. When designing experiences, you need to zoom-in and zoom-out especially when the setting of the experience is in a city, or in a space, where many of these interconnections can happen. Here is where master experience designers thrive, intertwining realities and creating experiences within experiences purposefully crafted in a way that sometimes you invite these other systems in a subtle or more obvious way, depending on the effects you want to have. You can also design windows, or just parts of that multi-perspective system to pierce in, for example, by using one sense.
This is a brief intro to keys for transformative experience design. What is your experience?
Elena Rodríguez Blanco