Thinkers of the Future

The future is unknown.

Prior to AC4D, I spent a lot of time working with students of all ages, from pre-school through high school. My most recent role was at Eanes Elementary School in Austin where I taught 3rd Graders. I taught all subjects, but was lucky enough to have a supportive administration that trusted me to create my own projects for my students. It was in these projects that I saw my students come alive. We took on big, messy projects that allowed them to “figure it out” for themselves, and they simply oozed with enthusiasm, often wanting to skip recess to work.

When I asked myself the question, what’s a problem worth solving? I couldn’t let go of that special joy I feel when teaching. And I can’t let go of my fear that the school system is spoiling a young person’s chance for a bright future.

What I mean by this is, students are wildly unprepared to do just about anything upon graduation from high school and even college. But the problem is, we no longer know what we are preparing our students for. The future is unknown. The young people of today will be asked to solve problems in the future that we have yet to fathom. So how could a teacher possibly prepare her students for the unknown?

It’s clear that we no longer need to create students that can perform well on tests, and memorize facts. Really, we don’t even need to focus on preparing students for college.

We need to prepare students to be the thinkers our future will demand. We need to give them the skills and confidence to take on unknown challenges. And we must give them the courage to solve problems not only creatively, but earnestly and with reverence for the complexities of our world.

I propose a program for design thinking that gives students the opportunity to explore human centered design principles as it applies to complex problems. The problems will be both real and imagined, and students will learn skills such as sketching, ideation, prototyping, testing, and iterating. That’s right, it’s AC4D for young learners.  

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What I Learned

There are many schools in Austin that have taken on initiatives to incorporate social emotional learning (SEL), STEM, and design thinking. The importance of these skills is gaining traction, but teachers are so strapped with meeting state requirements, that doing a deep dive into the world of Design + Empathy is close to impossible. We need another way.

Schools could adopt the Design + Empathy program as part of their curriculum. It could be an after school program. Or it could a summer camp. After considering restrictions and running the numbers, I’ve decided that they best way to test a program like this is through a summer camp model offering a 1 week day camp.

The working name for this camp is Design Jrs.

Design Jrs Sketch 2-01

The age range the program will focus on is 9-13 year olds. This is the age in which students have enough cognitive ability to think outside of their own selves, work independently as well as on teams, and whose parents still need to find activities and camps for them during the summer break.

Most summer day camps in the Austin are a week long and range from $250-$350 a week. By running a quick calculation of costs, revenue model looks sustainable.

I’ve also learned that my customers for this model are not just the students, but that the parents are my key customer.

What’s Next

Moving forward there are many parts of this plan that need to be validated. Will parents pay for this program? Will they understand it’s value? Will students be excited to sign up?

The first step in testing this plan is to conduct customer interviews with parents to understand how they go about finding and selecting a summer camp for their child.

I’ve been around parents and students enough in the past to have a vague idea, that I believe looks something like this:

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If this decision making process is true, I’ll need to dive in more to developing a plan for helping Design Jrs. become a no-brainer camp decision.

Additionally, I plan to validate the enthusiasm of students. To do this, I’ll run short sessions in the classrooms of some of my past co-workers. The development of the curriculum will be an on-going process, but at this stage I’ll start by testing the concept and get feedback from students on the parts that excite and resonate most.

Other important steps forward include securing the location to host the camps out of. For this I plan to do some research and have conversations with schools that are already equipped with the types of space requirements this program will need.

Areas for Support

Have you yourself taught design thinking workshops or lessons? I would love to hear your approach and learn what resources or methods you found most valuable. Do you have ideas of possible locations? Do you know of similar programs in Austin I should be aware of? Do you know of any design organizations that would be interested in a partnership or contributing to this venture?

Money Mentor – Make Smarter Financial Decisions

Wells Fargo, the bank I have been fictionally working for has just acquired a new company with advanced analytic technology. Wells Fargo wants to integrate this new technology into it’s app in order to help its customers better understand their finances.

The goal is for the new technology to enable users to:

  1. Understand their spending habits
  2. Know how much money is reasonable spend each month
  3. Plan for the future
  4. Make smarter financial decisions

As a bonus, the new technology can link up with spending patterns a user exhibits and help detect fraud as well as point out anomalies in a users transactions.

To start, I knew the user would need to understand the benefit of the new additions and walk them through some of the changes.

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The first pop up did not communicate value, so the second iteration has gone a step further to point out the ways a user benefits.

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The next step was walking the user through some initial set up so the analytics could more accurately track things like income and bills. This way the system can keep track of how much money is coming in and out of the user’s accounts in order to make recommendations of how much is safe to spend each month.

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User testing proved that this first screen was confusing to people. So in the second iteration, we can have Wells Fargo’s new technology recognize the sums of money that are coming into a user’s account and suggest the large recurring sums as a paycheck. The user can also see other transactions of money being deposit into their accounts in order to select income themselves.

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Next, in order to give the user a quick snapshot of their finances, I’ve designed a simple graph that shows income compared to money that is being set aside for bills, and how much money is left over each month to spend as they please.

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However, when asked how their finances were, users just looked at their account balances to make a subjective assessment, the graph didn’t provide any added value.

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For the second iteration, I added a smiley face that could quickly show if the user’s financial state was good, bad, or in between. This calculation comes from both expert advice, national trends, and comparisons between the user and other users with a similar income.

Unfortunately people didn’t know how to read the graph. And the words “current state” seemed strange.

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For the third iteration, I laid out the graph so that users could visually compare each column more easily. Instead of the “current state” icon, the smiley face now tells the user how they are doing.

In order to understand some of the features on the interface, I thought it would be useful for first time users to get a tutorial with some bits of information.

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The smiley face acts at the Money Mentor, and users can also click on him to learn about the current state of their finances or get tips on how to improve certain areas. His advice is activated either when clicked on from the home screen at any time, or by an event, such a savings account being very low or high. The user is then walked through a tutorial that offers relevant information.

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The main screens graphically show a users money offer many ways to look at their money. The goals section is different. In this area users can plan out future purchases in a smart attainable way.

Artboard 3@72x-100This is the area I am working with the most in regard to navigation and also creating visual snapshots that are meaningful.

The additional capabilities of the new software integration is it’s ability to identify a user’s spending patterns, potentially spending patterns that a user is unaware of. The app gathers this information in two ways. The first is by using location services and connecting with Google Maps to trace and categorize spending at places or stores. Secondly the user will receive prompts to help identify the type of purchase made at certain locations. Prompts are the preferred option of categorization because if the user participates we know what specific item is getting purchased. This way we can illuminate for the user spending trends by saying, “hey you aren’t just doing a lot of shopping, but you are spending a lot of money on shoes.” Or even, “Hey do you realize how much money you spend on cigarettes?”
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There is still more work and user testing to be done in order to refine this new concept.

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“I’ll Just Click Everything.”

User Testing round 3!

Sometimes in the process of designing and redesigning, you fall into the blackhole of your own creation. It is at this point, when you are swimming around in the blackness, big fat flaws find their way to the surface of your design and you don’t even notice. This set of user testing was helpful in pulling me out of a design “blackhole” and pointing out a very obvious flaw.

Users were asked to complete several tasks using the wireframe flows I’ve been redesigning for the Wells Fargo app.

The tasks and the results from testing them out on real people were as follows:

1. View transactions on Checking Account, and view transactions on Credit Card Account

This was a very easy and straightforward task.

“Ok I see my transactions, now I’ll just click the back button to see my credit card account” – User 2

However, it did get me thinking that maybe they shouldn’t have to go back to the summary page to switch accounts. The Home Screens Version 4 is what I came up with to address this:

Credit Card Page-08

Credit Card Page-07

2. Dispute a transaction on the Billabong charge

One of the big things that bugs me about the Wells Fargo app as it exists, is the impossibility of disputing a transaction just as you see it in your list of transactions. Shouldn’t you be able to flag it right away? I added this feature in, and tested it out on users this week. This feature is tucked away under the details of the transaction, but everyone was easily able to find this feature by clicking the “+” sign to expand the transaction’s details. 

Credit Card Page-03

“Ok, I’ll just click this link for dispute, got it.” – User 4

3. Set up a recurring payment for your credit card account

This task pointed out the most glaring flaw in my original design. Not one person could find how to make a recurring payment on their credit card. Was the problem the way I phrased it? Perhaps. But largely the problem was that none of the users thought to use the swipe part behind the credit card “card” on the account page. 

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“I’ll just keep looking and I’ll just click everything”

Additionally, people were also not making a distinction between making a payment on a credit card and sending a payment.

“I am going back to look for recurring pay or a payment category” – User 1

“I am looking in the menu for something that looks like payments.. transfer or pay? Or maybe account services? No…” User 3

“I am not certain where I should set up reoccurring payments, maybe transfer or pay? No that’s not it.” – User 5

I’ve solved this problem in the redesign by making a button for “make a payment” on the credit card page.  I’ve I’ll test this out again next week and see if that doesn’t solve the problem without create new ones.

Credit Card Account – 28

Secondly, there was a problem with making a credit card payment recurring in general. As it exists, there are several steps in the process. Instead of making the user go down the rabbit hole of scheduling payment and then scheduling a recurring payment on their credit credit, I decided to give them just one option.

Credit Card Page-04

“I prefer apps that don’t have a lot of options” – User 1

Based on most of the people I have spoken with I am making the hypothesis that the majority of people pay their credit card bill monthly, since they are billed for it monthly. I am willing to be wrong about this, in which case I’ll make adjustments, but if this is true, why not just ask them directly if they want to pay monthly and take out the rabbit hole? Other transfers that aren’t tied to bills within the app will still have the option to be scheduled at the frequency the user chooses.

Here is the new way to complete this same task:

Credit Card Page-06

This little fix on the “make a payment” page really only solves the problem for setting up a recurring payment on a credit card and it doesn’t address the need to schedule other transactions.

If we take a look at the information architecture map, it’s clear that the “schedule and pay section” is huge. This functionality is essential for an app to be able to execute well, therefore it makes sense that this area is large.

WF Info Arch V4-01

Currently, all the “Transfer and Pay” options stem from this page:

Transfer and Pay – 10

The option to schedule payments and transfers becomes an option after the user creates the transfer or payment.

So we have pulled payment options into the places that make sense for a user, like the credit card account, and offered scheduling options that intuit the kind of payment they are making. (Is it a monthly bill? Yes. Want the payment to recur monthly?)

Additionally, the “transfer or pay” section stands alone, so the user knows exactly where to go when they need to complete other transactions that move money around.

The only piece that is currently lacking is how to clearly get to scheduled and recurring transactions, so that these bills and payments can be modified as needed.

It could be solved by adding a place for this right on the transfer or pay page. This location makes the most sense if the goal is to find scheduled payments without having to dig, but this section is still a work in progress.

Next week, my plan is to spend more time sorting out the kinks of this section by having users test out more tasks in this area. Additionally, I’m hoping to get more anecdotal feedback into how people actually use their banking apps to send, pay, and transfer money so that I can place items in the right spot.

Useful User Testing

Last week I fussed over the navigation structure for the Wells Fargo banking app, and had created a nifty tab bar at the bottom with all the major tasks related to a users accounts. I whittled down the menu and created “landing page” type sections that show all the functions of a menu item.


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I was able to run this new design by my classmates as well as try it out on some friendly coffee shop folks. One woman told me she was “awful with technology!” But I assured her, she wasn’t the problem. In fact, she taught me a lot.

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The problems were many. To start, that the nifty tab bar is very small and doesn’t clearly connect with the accounts on the same page. Aesthetically, it was ugly too, so for the current iteration it’s been eliminated.

This led me to add more options back into the menu. Unlike the last menu, this menu allows select header items to unfold and show what options lie there. The reason I chose to do this came from user testing as well.

I had my participants complete just 4 tasks:

  • Create a New Savings Account
  • Find a Wells Fargo Location
  • Ask Wells Fargo a question
  • Send money to a friend

With these tasks they had to jump around to different sections of the app. All of the participants used either the menu or the back button to help them navigate. When asked to locate a Wells Fargo two participants first thought to to go Account Services and another said, “maybe I go to customer support? Probably not though…” This last participant showed unwillingness to click on a menu item and be taken away to a different section of the app when she wasn’t sure was the right place.Artboard 1 copy

If a menu item can unfold, this would allow the user to see if what they are looking for is found in that section or not.

Now, this is how a user can move from the home page and have the option to go straight to the section landing page or to the desire function itself. (See below).

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The second main problem I saw was creating a new savings account. Participants were quick to go to Account Services, and the participants acted excited when they got it right (again, it felt like a guessing game to them). The section to create a new savings account is just one page and the user scrolls down the page filling it in. This scroll and fill concept seemed to be intuitive and easy to do for all participants. However, I noticed they weren’t paying much attention to all the sections, in an effort to just complete the task. I wondered if they would have acted differently had they sincerely wanted to create a new savings account. As it was, most people overlooked whether the text bar was optional or not, and I realized I need to make that more apparent. Additionally, naming the account and saying what it was for, felt redundant for most participants, and I agree.

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Lastly, the wireframes as a whole needed to be updated in appearance and appeal. A bank app should feel professional, I’ve made some refinements.

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Navigating a Banking App

After presenting my wireframes for the Wells Fargo banking app last week, I immediately realized how stunted my thinking was in redesigning the system. You can tell by a quick comparison of the Existing Info Architecture Map with the one I redesigned that, embarrassingly, not a lot had changed.

Map Comparison

The second version of the information architecture map came from some of the feedback my classmates offered, along with what I noticed while conducting user-testing.

The main pain points I focused on were navigation. My classmates pointed out that it was confusing, and there was too much going on. The menu housed far too much information and the tab bar at the bottom needlessly repeated the menu. However, one of the big takeaways from user-testing led me to believe that the menu drop-down panel is a valuable tool for users to help orient themselves when they want to jump between sections. Given these two pieces of feedback, I decided to keep the menu, but pair it down to only the separate “sections” of the app a user would want to visit.

Wells Fargo Information Architecture Map

The core functionality of transferring money and paying bills, is now found on a tab bar on the “home” page. The Account Summary functions as the home page, and all the users I tested with appreciated the ease of seeing their account balance right away upon login.

log in V2

I decided to keep the swipe option with each type of account since it allows a user to quickly perform functions directly related to that account. You’ll notice the tab bar also offers functions related directly to a users accounts, but these buttons will bring the user to a section with all the related functions.

Pay a bill flow

At the bottom of each subsequent page under the “Transfer and Pay” section, the user can jump back to the transfer and pay “home” section.

If a user were to navigate to a section user the drop down menu, they might choose to go to “security”, and it would have a very similar structure.

All the menu item sections are set up in this way. The “customer support” section is nice in that some of the parts link to and support each other. Like how “locations” and “make an appointment” are linked as illustrated below.

Customer Support Flow

The “contact” section under customer support allows the user to either call or chat with Wells Fargo. The “chat” portion could use some help with styling and I’ll be seeking some feedback on this part, but I wanted it to feel easy and personal, just like texting.

Chat Flow

Lastly, in regard to solving my navigation problem, I added an icon that looks like a little house at the top of the header bar. This is a feature I plan to test out with my next round of users. There needs to be a quick and easy way to navigate back to the Account Summary page, but not everyone seems to view the “Wells Fargo” heading as a clickable navigation option. If the new icon doesn’t translate this, perhaps we can build it back into the menu.

The next iteration will be driven heavily by the second round of user testing I’ll conduct this week. The plan is to have the users execute tasks within a section and between sections so that I can understand their thinking in regard to the flow of the navigation.

Service Design at a Hostel

Have you ever stayed in a hostel? It’s much more than just a place to sleep. It’s a home filled with brothers and sisters you’ve never met. Things can be messy, awkward, confusing, but also warm and comforting.
In Q2 Service Design, we’ve taken on a project with a local Austin hostel. Our task, as three ambitious but relatively inexperience design students, is to show our hostel client the value of service design. We plan to get to know the guests and staff, understand their motivations and the nuances of their experience at the hostel.

Two weeks in and we’ve already uncovered some surprising differences in the clientele and operations of this hostel in contrast to our own hostel experiences abroad. It’s not filled with only young adventure seeking booze hounds, but rather a much richer integration of complex individuals.

We can’t wait to learn more.

Preliminary Customer Journey Map
Preliminary Customer Journey Map

If Banking Apps Looked Out for their Users, It’d get a lot more Personal

I can’t stand banking stuff.

I confessed this to my classmate earlier this afternoon as we both worked and reworked wireframes for a banking app. I felt desperately uninspired.

“Banks rule the world!” He replied. Is that true?

What are banks even good for? They provide security. We don’t have to store all our cash under our mattresses. They give us credit to buy things we might not have the immediate funds for (yay, credit cards!). They also help us set money aside so we can save up for something, whether it be a new couch, college tuition, or retirement. But banks could do more to help us manage our money. The institution itself it not approachable, and it gives a lot of people an uneasy feeling dealing with a bank.

Wells Fargo just implemented a new paying system that other banks have adopted as well, called Zelle. It feels like a nod to Venmo, and the interface for the “Zelle” portion of the app is more lighthearted. I decided that I would recreate this flow, keeping some of Wells Fargo’s interactions, like the “contacts” piece which is simple and easy. The main part I eliminated was an enormous SEND/REQUEST screen that seemed unnecessary. Instead I put “Send” and “Request” at the top of the screen so the user could switch between the two, which is a bit more like how Venmo functions.

Notice how the top row of screens have a different feel from those in bottom row which are reflective of the “Send money with Zelle” function.

WF- Pay a Friend Flow

Here you’ll see how you can easily add someone by searching their name or phone number, which I thought was a nice way to easily store them as a contact in the app.Wells Fargo Request Money

Additionally, I added the confirmation page, which I am still reworking. Wells Fargo has a terrible system of sending you a text and an email telling you the transaction will happen in a couple of days.

Sending and receiving money is a very commonplace activity and prior to creating any wireframes, I had spent some time thinking of users and scenarios in which the app would be useful. People often send money to each other when they are sharing expenses, and expense sharing happens a lot when a group of friends are on a trip together.

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Setting up a travel plan should be easy. I moved the “Manage Travel” to it’s own tab under account services.

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Shouldn’t your bank pay attention to you? If you have a long trip planned, wouldn’t it be nice if you bank helped you prepare for it? With this in mind, I decided to create a way for a user to quickly make a Travel Savings Account and be able to calculate how much they will have saved by the time their trip rolls around.
Artboard 3-100 However, after giving this a bit more thought. I typically don’t let my bank know I am leaving for a trip until the week of my departure. That is hardly enough time to start saving for it. Knowing this, I still thought having a way for a user to easily create a Saving Account on the app could be useful for those with big purchases in mind.

So now, I continue to think about that person on the trip with their friends, making guesses as to how far his money will last and wondering if he can afford the upgrade or not. Banks can better support it’s users by helping them to budget for life’s expenses. A bank should feel like cash in your pocket – you know what’s there and no one is taking money out of your pocket without you knowing about it (ideally!).

As I think more about my next iteration on the Wells Fargo Banking app, I hope it feels a lot more like a friend looking out for you, than like an institution.


Banking Concept Maps

Bank Concept 3

When asked to do a redesign of a banking app, it’s important to start off with an understanding of banking as a whole. Why does this institution exist and how does it function?

From here, we can take a look at a banking app that is meant to provide value to the customers of a bank, and understand how the functionality offered to a customer fits into greater picture of banking.  In this case, I considered the Wells Fargo app. The app is relatively robust. It contains many ways to view and manage one’s money, but also a large amount of additional information about the bank and it’s services.

WF Info Arch
Wells Fargo Information Architecture Map

Considering that apps ideally make our life more simple, I thought the best place to start for a redesign would be to simplify navigation and highlight the aspects that the user would want to work with most, namely managing the money in one’s account. Additionally, I removed and consolidated some of the extra information so that it wouldn’t detract from the user’s ease of movement throughout the application.

WF Existing Info Arch
Redesigned Wells Fargo App Information Architecture

Wells Fargo does a great job of positioning a user’s accounts front and center upon login. I decided to build upon this existing frame by moving some functionality that relates specifically to an account within the account’s summary. This way, when a user wants to deposit a check, they are already positioned within the account they plan to deposit into. I did however, keep the general category of “check deposit” underneath the main navigation menu, since this is one of the more commonly used features of a banking app (this is the only reason I started using my bank’s app in the first place!) and it can still be accessed as a stand-alone feature. Other items in the navigation menu I discarded or consolidated into headings that are easier to understand and find the relevant information. For example, “push notifications” was previously located under the “Settings” tab, but I decided it would be easier to find this feature if it was located under a tab with the rest of the app’s features.

There is still work to be done in order to create an app that allows a user to have both an in depth understanding of their finances as they exist, and also a holistic perspective of how they can best manage their finances. With some more emphasis on managing one’s finances in the long term, I believe the Wells Fargo app can provide great value to a user that wants to understand how they can benefit from using a bank and put their money to work for them.


Why Design Thinking Ability is more than an Auxiliary Skill

The above video is a story simulating the beneficial outcomes of design thinking being taught in school. But the implications of increasing design literacy carries far more weight than just solving problems at an amusement park.

What if design thinking was a subject available to everyone? It would be taught in schools and treated as a discipline in it’s own right with it’s own set of skills – those of prototyping, creative thinking, ideation, inquiry, evaluation, and sketching. Everyone has the ability to learn these skills and the world would be better off with a more design literate population.

The ability to use design thinking to solve contemporary problems is incredibly important, because the types of problems design thinking works best for are the same ones the world suffers from the most. Disparity in education, poverty, and healthcare are examples of the complex, systemic problems we face and they are riddled with interwoven root causes.

The designer is perfectly positioned to solve for these types of problems, for she has been trained in the ability to think laterally and cut across patterns to develop solutions.

Each one of these systemic, or wicked, problems encompasses a unique situation, and must be approached artistically. The designer layers her knowledge of multiple subjects across the situation, blends in her intuition, and begins to define the problem as she solutions.

Let us not forget, these problems are human centric and necessitate input from the recipients living within the problem space. These large societal problems have no correct solution, but in order for a designer to devise a good solution, she must rely upon the experiences and knowledge of the situation’s human experts.

Additionally, the fact that these problems are human centric means that all proposed solutions will constantly need to be adapted to account for unexpectedness or change in human behavior. Solutions will require iteration and continual re-solving, so the designer will never run out of problems to solve for.

If we were to devise a world in which design ability was taught as a primary liberal art, then the master designer could more easily be assisted by the insights and experiences of a design literate populous. This would create stronger, more powerful solutions to the wicked problems that beset us all.

You are a Homeless Entreprenuer

Watch the presentation!

Homeless Entreprenuer [Recovered]-01
Homeless Entreprenuer [Recovered]-02 Homeless Entreprenuer [Recovered]-03Imagine for a moment that you find yourself in a pinch.

You have just graduated from AC4D and for months you’ve been working on the business you started in the program and it was going really well at first, you even took out a loan to jump start production on your idea, but things started to go downhill and suddenly lost all of your money. The bank has come to collect, you can’t make rent any longer so you’ve been swiftly relocated to the street.

You have a sticky relationship with your family. Your parents always wanted you to be a lawyer or a doctor or “somethings respectable”, but you had moved across the country to pursue design and you told them about this business you had started and how great and they doubted you, and you had failed, so they were right. And now you can’t bring yourself to go crawling back. How could you even afford the ticket home anyway?

In fact, you realize that you don’t actually know Austin all that well and you didn’t spend any time trying to make friends these past few months because you have been so immersed in your business that there is no one you can call.

All of your possessions of value were reposed including your cell phone since you can’t pay that bill either, so tonight you are lying beneath a tree in the park beside the new condo that’s being constructed trying to fall asleep, but actually just batting away mosquitos and clutching the $20 that represents the entire sum of money you have left.

So when the sun cracks through the pecan tree’s leaves the next morning you wake up sore and stiff decide to walk the 3 miles to the part of town you’ve seen homeless people gather, back when you used to drive by and avert your eyes from their presence underneath I35, seeking information.

When you get there you realize finding out how to get help is going to be extremely difficult. First of all these people smell bad and they are complaining and anyone that will actually talk to you just tells you a whole bunch of stuff that someone else said and you feel like your swimming in a big muggy soup of nondescript information that doesn’t actually inform your ability to make any decision about how to help yourself.

You read from Chris La Dantec how homeless persons experience restricted access to information and technology which keeps them excluded from not only society but their ability to find employment and securing housing. Now you are experiencing what he meant first hand.

Not only this, you haven’t eaten or slept well in almost 2 days.  The fact that you have to decide whether you should spend your $20 on a taco or buy a ticket to one of the social work offices someone mentioned — which let’s be honest, how can you trust what they said anyway?— is too taxing so that all you can do is sit down and cry into your shaking hands. You weep until you fall asleep in your despair on the side walk in a small piece of shade.

What you are experiencing now is the phenomenon that Dean Spears found in his studies that poverty causes stressful conditions that hinder cognitive function.

When you wake up you hear a voice say “Ugh that smell, these people! They have no self respect. And to think just lying there, not doing anything! How lazy.”

You sit up and look around and see a lady and her husband walking by and realize, they were talking about you. This lady is operating under the folk belief that poverty is the result of bad choices, and not the other way around as described by Dean Spears.


That’s unfair!

You do have self respect. You even started a business for pete’s sake! You are an entrepreneur, and an entrepreneur as defined by Martin and Osberg has an innate ability to sense and act on an opportunity.

So all you need to do it look for a suboptimal equilibrium…..

So you sit and you think and you have no ideas because you are so hungry your brain is quite literally not working.

But then, you happen to overhear a conversation between two homeless men. One of them mentions how they know about some work on the outside of town. This man says that he can’t get out there because he can’t figure out nor afford the three bus tickets it would take. He says that there are actually a group of foremen that need to clear land for several construction projects. The foremen are willing to pay anyone who shows up so long as they bring their own shovels and rakes for clearing the land.

This peaks your interest.

All of the people around you need money, yourself included, and none of them can afford to get the bus ticket, go to Home Depot, buy the rakes and shovels, find out where the job site is, get the bus ticket, switch buses, get the second bus ticket, and show up on time. They don’t know how much that would cost them so they can’t budget for it, which you read was very important aspect as noted by Le Dantec, so they are disinclined to even try, 

If only you could get them the tools and transportation….??

From reading Yunus you know that banks operate under the conventional wisdom that poor people are not entrepreneurial and they don’t give loans without collateral.

So you opt for plan B —You steal.

Sure stealing a car and some tools is probably not the greatest thing to do, but like Spears observed, your poverty is actually causing your bad behavior. And besides, you aren’t that worried about a criminal record ruining things for you given that you have very little going on that could be ruined.

With the car and the tools you start selling rides for a low cost and renting tools to the homeless to take them out to the job sight and it works really well. First of all you realize that not a lot of them had access to this information that there were jobs to be had at these land clearing sites. Secondly, getting there by bus or walking was almost prohibitively difficult due to it’s location. And third of all, no one wants to buy the tools and have to lug them around all the time, but renting them for a low cost was a very appealing option.

What you’ve done is something Prahalad describes as unlocking the purchasing power of the poor, by finding a way to sell to them that meets their unique needs and empowers them as consumers.

You used to think of yourself as an entrepreneur, but now you have embodied what Martin and Osberg call a social entrepreneur because you’ve identified an unjust equilibrium that causes exclusion and provided a solution for a segment of humanity that lacked the means to achieve transformative benefit on their own.

What’s next? Do you turn this business model of renting to the poor into a social business? Do you take on shareholders that are socially minded and care about your cause? Yunus would say you should. He would say you should find partners and dig in. Martin and Osberg would say you should push for scale.

You, however, are still thief. And any business you’d like to build now, whether social or not, will always be tainted and hindered by the crime you committed under poverty. So despite the fact that you are inspired, creative, and courageous your entrepreneurial spirit, innate or not, is not enough to lift you out of your circumstances.