This past June, local community members gathered at Willamina High School to participate in an interactive training event. The group was lead by Kurt Neville, a CTE teacher at Willamina High School. Organized by Willamina Together, the purpose of the event was to teach participants how to utilize the principles of design thinking to creatively address everyday problems. During the event, Willamina community members also received some great insight into what Innovate Willamina and Willamina Together are doing for the school and community.

At the school, participants went over the five step process of Design Thinking: empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing.

The event was split into two different days. The first day’s focus was around how to solve everyday problems more effectively. Using the Design Thinking outline, the participants went through the steps to solve common problems that they faced in their day-to-day lives, such as the challenges that one may experience in the morning. In the end, they came to productive conclusions on how those problems surface and what they can do to fix them.

On the second day, the community members explored solutions on how to improve local community or school events by interviewing residents of Willamina. From these interviews, they received an inside look into what makes local events successful or worthwhile to them, and what doesn’t. Afterwards, the participants were able to form a consensus that, in order to create more successful events, there needs to be a stronger communication between the different groups that make up Willamina. By being able to share knowledge to each other and the public, each groups’ events will draw more involvement, and, as result, create a more connected community.

Lincoln Monroe, a participant from OnlineNW, spoke about his personal experience with the event. He says: “Design thinking is more about how to have the mindset to be able to make stuff and solve problems.” The goal of Willamina Together’s Design Thinking event was to bring forth a new way of problem solving that they aim to apply to their everyday life, as well as their community and schools.

“The idea is that this is a way to solve any sort of problem,” said Monroe. The message of the first and second day together, was that complications and setbacks happen all the time, whether they are big, or very small. With this in mind, a productive way of thinking is important and necessary to find solutions to those problems.

Willamina is becoming more involved and connected to all of the action being taken within the town, the school, and beyond. This influence is spreading outside Willamina and this connection is strengthening the community one step at a time.