MoVe: Moment of Visible Empathy

When a Designer Uncovers THE Motivating Insight

Something magical happens when a designer realizes that a design solution is not about a new "shiny object," but about the person for whom we are designing. The best solutions stem from deep insights that motivate a designer to solve for a user's needs. We call that a MoVe - a Moment of Visible Empathy. At the MoVe, the designer and the user are working together, deeply together, to do something profoundly powerful. When insights transform into inspiration, a MoVe has happened.

The growing number of talks captured and shared below are called MoVe Talks. In each case, the speaker is sharing a story or an example of something that caused a MoVe...or that could spark a MoVe. We hope that such MoVe stories cause a real contagion of design thinking and solution seeking!

Currently, you will find MoVe Talks from a number of MVIFI Hosts events: A Night of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact; fuse16; fuse15; and Design Thinking Summit 12.

A Night of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact

How Might We Design A Better World?

On October 20, 2016 we took a deep dive exploration into what the future demands of us as innovators, thinkers, educators and those who wish to design a better world. Mount Vernon curated six trailblazers from several industries who shared their inspirations and provocations for what the world demands of modern day mavericks. As a stand out school, Mount Vernon continues to set the conditions for strategic leadership so that we all can better pioneer tomorrow.

Be challenged and provoked by the MoVe Talks assembled below, shared by our maverick speakers at A Night of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact.


Tod Martin: The New Normal

What do we do when the rate of change in the world becomes exponential? Tod Martin, of Unboundary, encourages us to "Stop acting normal." In exploring the New Normal, Martin reminds us that the difficulty isn't with the new ideas; it's with escaping the old ideas. In this compelling talk about leadership in our age, Martin prods us to be more active participants in what's possible in the world...to be "re-imagineers." And he poses two critical questions that we should strive to answer in schools and our other organizations. (Filmed at A Night of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact, October 20, 2016.)


Kaleb Rashad: Love, Disruption, and Badass Work

Kaleb Rashad, Principal at High Tech High in San Diego, is a passionate educator and thought leader who commands the stage in a way that is fitting for his schools “unofficial” mission statement: “Be EXCELLENT to each other and do BADASS work.”

Kaleb shares his thoughts and resources to help us with both affective and cognitive thinking, and tells stories about how today’s world challenges are just the thing to fuel the design of student learning experiences that “amplify." As a school leader, Kaleb has his teachers’ backs and encourages them to follow their passions in the classroom first because he has seen the enormous benefit to learning and learning culture as a result. The culture that Kaleb cultivates by design is the backbone of a school that launches rockets on first week of classes and studies human heart disease using fruit flies as few examples. We are ALL in with Kaleb! (Filmed at A Night of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact, October 20, 2016.)


Glenn Whitman: Mind, Brain, and Education Science

Glenn Whitman, Executive Director of the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland, challenges and supports educational leaders to be students and studiers of the brain.

Over a number of years, the CTTL identified mind, brain and education science as the next critical frontier for teacher training to help educators develop expertise in the organ of learning. Through partnerships and original research, the CTTL equips teachers and school leaders to serve as research-practitioners who more deeply understand how the brain works, learns, changes and thrives. Dispelling neuro-myths and cautioning against neuro-marketing, Whitman encourages us all to explore and engage the frontier of mind, brain and education science. (Filmed at A Night of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact, October 20, 2016.)


Joyelle Harris: Real-World Seeking, Exploring and Inspiring

Joyelle Harris, Director of the Engineering for Social Innovation Center at Georgia Tech, shares her energy and enthusiasm for learning in a talk focused on the three design drivers in the Mount Vernon Manifesto.

Harris explores a number of intriguing issues in learning by riffing on these provocations: 1) How might we make school more reflective of real life? 2) How might we encourage learners to be seekers and explorers? 3) How might we inspire the broader world with the work we undertake? From the prediction that Gen Z learners will have, on average, 15 jobs in 7 careers during life, to the encouragement to choose carefully what, how and where we compete, Harris spurs us to consider a number of innovations craved in schooling design. (Filmed at A Night of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact, October 20, 2016.)


Kawai Lai: Comfortable in Discomfort

Kawai Lai serves as the Vice President for Innovative Initiatives at the National Association of Independent Schools. In a talk inspired by strong memories of her mother, Lai shares how we must all get comfortable with discomfort.

More specifically, Lai digs into three particular forms of discomfort -- ambiguity, failure and change. In an age where the largest taxi company in the world owns no cars and the biggest "hotel" business owns no real estate, how do we understand the endless opportunities possible in the uncertain world? How do we embrace failure as the most productive way to grow our brains? How do we challenge the status quo to be change makers? According to Lai, the answers live in the need to rethink the paths to success. (Filmed at A Night of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact, October 20, 2016.)


Grant Lichtman: Tension Between What We Have and What We Need

Grant Lichtman leads as an educational transformation consultant. He is a chief provocateur. In this closing talk from a Night of Inquiry, Innovation and Impact, Lichtman shares a powerful message about trajectory for change.

Given the drivers and enablers for change that exist in the world, mutations to various industries and organizations occur at an ever accelerating rate. What do you believe is inevitable 20 years from now in the world of education? How are schools plotting a trajectory for change that will enable them to intersect or, better yet, get ahead of the acceleration of innovation? According to Lichtman, there is an enormous gap between where even the best schools are and where they need to be in terms of purposefully plotting their trajectories for transformation. He encourages schools not to continue making relatively minor tweaks to their "hardware and software," but to create entirely new "operating systems" that promote and forward deeper learning. (Filmed at A Night of Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact, October 20, 2016.)

Fuse 17

Designing a Better World

Fuse17 continued the ambitious trajectories launched at fuse15 and fuse16 - moonshots to teach people-centered problem solving while primarily making a huge difference for Atlanta social innovators and the communities they serve. In these MoVe talks from fuse17, we hear from three pioneers leading Atlanta nonprofits in the Plywood People network, we learn from six design thinkers at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, and we are treated to one incredible poet!


Mike Young: Illuminate

"I never knew, I never knew until you told me...that though I assumed you were a star, you are a universe...I never knew that all we know is relative until the gravitational wave crashed and we all saw those strings stretch a little further..."

Through clever coffee metaphors, Mike Young, a spoken word poet from Athens, Georgia relates how empathy plays into his life and work as a poet.  With any kind of collaborative effort, whether it's with clients or students, we need to begin with empathy, a "translation of souls."  Before we as professionals can add our expertise and professional eye, empathy must be an essential entry point into the relationship, expanding our observations and suspending our assumptions. (Filmed at fuse17, June 14, 2017)

Skyler Tiffin: 2 Million Minutes

Why school? Skyler Tiffin, an Innovation Diploma member at Mount Vernon, challenges us to rethink the purpose of school. With her provocative questioning and case study examples of how school could be different, Skyler implores educators to rethink school schedules, grading practices and curriculum to more closely mirror the real world. Skyler’s poignant claim that “we’re not defined by a number but instead by the problems we solve” serves as a reminder that learners of all ages have the desire to create impact now and it is up to us to make room for the next generation’s solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Why can’t school be a place where we solve real problems now? Why wait? When learning has a purpose, all learners can do great things - and what if that were school? (Filmed at fuse17, June 14, 2017.)


Trey Boden: A People-Centered Mission to a Better World

At the center of Design Thinking is the empathetic designer: a designer who chooses to design by suspending judgement, by stepping into another's world all while maintaining a hope that the world could be made a better place.

In this MoVe Talk, Trey Boden shares stories of Mount Vernon students and staff leveraging empathy to design a better world.

Trey Boden is the Creative Director at Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation and Mount Vernon Presbyterian School.  (Filmed at fuse17, June 14, 2017)


Bo Adams: Design Thinking Stories

While it may sound obvious, the key to problem solving is honing one's skills in problem finding. A great solution is only great if it addresses the actual problem. In this talk, Bo Adams, Executive Director of MVIFI, shares a few of his favorite design thinking stories to illustrate the power of identifying the right problems. (Filmed at fuse17, June 14, 2017)


Lauren Glass: Beds4Kids and Throw

"If I were to die right now, what would anybody say that I've done?" This is the question that Lauren Glass began asking herself when she finished school. An incredibly passionate and devout woman, with an infectiously positive personality and an unceasing desire to make the world better for others, Lauren tells the story of how she started both Beds4Kids and THROW, without a sense of the qualifications needed to run a non-profit or be a social entrepreneur. Instead, with the willingness to try, and a commitment to learning along the way, she continues to find ways to "Give a Bed. Give a Dream." (Filmed at fuse17, June 14, 2017)


Rosalyn Merrick: Students are Change Makers Now

Who will bring change and make our world better? Rosalyn Merrick, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, shows us that students are more than capable of impacting the world. From design briefs where students partnered with government organizations to international companies, she spotlights examples where moving students out of classrooms and into boardrooms have helped them become change makers. Rosalyn’s MoVe talk challenges us to be bold, courageous, think outside of the box, and challenge the assumptions that limit students from designing a better world. (Filmed at fuse17, June 14, 2017)


Terence Lester: Love Beyond Walls

“If you had excess, what would you do with it?”

Terence Lester walked from Atlanta to DC to bring attention to poverty. Along the way, he captured the stories of those who live without - without shelter, technology, rest, those who are (as Terence words it) ‘experiencing isolation on the streets.’

Upon returning to Atlanta Terence asks the question, “what do we do with the excess. What are we doing as a country where there are vacant buildings - and people with no place to stay”. Together with Love Beyond Walls and the generosity of others, Terence was able to begin Mobile Stay - a mobile shelter, made from a donated RV, for those who live on the streets.

The stories Terence collected are the basis of his documentary, Voiceless, which will be showcased at the Center for Civil and Human Rights and used to promote the idea of repurposing our excess to help those ‘experiencing isolation on the streets’ a place to rest, feel safe, and bridge the gap between those with and those without. (Filmed at fuse17, June 14, 2017)


Nicole Martin: Authentic Learning Adventures

Nicole Martin, Chief Integration Officer at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, challenges all learners, adults and children alike, to get outside and start adventuring as seekers and explorers as a means to deep learning experiences.

Nicole shares experiences from her own life, where she realizes that the most impactful childhood and adult learning experiences occurred outside the four walls of the classroom. Nicole showcases real-world learning experiences through expeditions to a community park, shopping in spice markets in Grenada, chasing sea turtles in the Bahamas and hiking a 14er in Colorado. She encourages educators to build regular expeditions for learners to help them learn to navigate an unknown world, encountering deep learning experiences along the way. (Filmed at fuse17, June 14, 2017)

Jim Tiffin: How Will You Make a Difference?

If making a difference means giving someone opportunities to make an impact, how does that manifest itself in an educational context?  Jim Tiffin, Nucleus Member of MVIFI, offers ideas for exploring the new possibilities that arise for educators when they consider how to build up their students' "universe-dinging muscles." (Filmed at fuse17, June 14, 2017)

Hannah McTier: GA Farmers Market Association

Georgia Farmers Market Association (GFMA) supports farmers for a healthier Georgia and strives to influence state policies related to nutrition and health. Hannah Mctier describes how public policy, economics and family situations - especially for minority populations - can negatively affect the availability of fresh food and ultimately our community health profile. GFMA wants to change that by making fresh locally source food as affordable and accessible as other subsidized options that may not support the local farmers and communities. (Filmed at fuse17, June 14, 2017)


Innovating Out

At fuse16, MVIFI partnered with four, Atlanta nonprofits connected through Plywood People. On Wednesday, June 15, 2016, leaders from each of the impact-making organizations shared a MoVe Talk to inspire the design thinkers gathered at fuse16. Additionally, in a second set of talks, four Mount Vernon design thinkers provided insights to help advance participants' design know-how.


Okorie Johnson: Epiphany and Design Thinking Our Lives

Encountering failure is often the reality of those who pursue their dreams. Fear and depression could be obstacles, but they also could be catalysts for new songs formed deep in our identities. Okorie Johnson is a storyteller and cellist known as Ok Cello. In his live performance and MoVe Talk, he tells his story of how seven notes changed everything for him. And how we all might approach the design and improvisation of our lives. (Filmed at MVIFI fuse16, June 15, 2016.)


Shelley Clifford: Deepening Learning by Making Thinking Visible

Have you ever considered how much we take thinking for granted? As Shelley Clifford, Head of Lower School at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, explains, “There is nothing simple about thinking. It is a very complex idea.” Clifford encourages us all to be more precise about the complexities of thinking, and she equips us with a few tools to make our thinking visible. “What if we showed what thinking looked like?”  (Filmed at MVIFI fuse16, June 15, 2016.)


James Campbell: Inspire Students To Make an Impact

Do we limit the impact of learners because of our lack of confidence or knowledge? Our world would look different if we choose to enter into the unknown rooted in a growth mindset. James Campbell tells stories of his students and peers stepping into a maker mindset. (Filmed at MVIFI fuse16, June 15, 2016.)


Meghan Cureton: Why Wait? Solving Real Problems Now

Do we underestimate the ability of students to make an impact? The demands of the next generation of leaders are challenging the way we educate students. It is causing many educators to look to their community for opportunities to partner in making local and global impact. Meghan Cureton, Director of Innovation Diploma at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, leads a community of students doing real-world problem solving. In this MoVe talk from fuse16, Meghan challenges attendees to consider a world where school creates change-makers now. (Filmed at MVIFI fuse16, June 15, 2016.)


Terence Lester: Love Beyond Walls at fuse16

What do you do when life gets tough? What do you do when you face an impossible situation? Have you ever pushed your own comfort zone to deeply understand the plight, doubt, and fears of someone in need? Terence Lester, Executive Director of Love Beyond Walls, shares his compelling story and his future vision to impact the most impoverished communities in South Fulton county in Atlanta, Georgia. (Filmed at MVIFI fuse16, June 15, 2016.)


Kitti Murray: Refuge Coffee at fuse16

(Filmed at MVIFI fuse16, June 15, 2016.)


John Jarrett: Wilderness Works at fuse16

(Filmed at MVIFI fuse16, June 15, 2016.)


Julie Anne McKevitt: Paint Love at fuse16

(Filmed at MVIFI fuse16, June 15, 2016.)


Dream. Make. Launch.

In 2015, MVIFI embarked on its most ambitious trajectory for fuse (yet!) – to serve Atlanta by partnering with nonprofits to make a difference for our city. We collaborated with nine nonprofits in the GCN network, and conference participants learned design thinking while doing something awesome for others.

Experience the fuse15 MoVe Talks from our nonprofit partners and our design-thinking leaders.


Anya Smith: Thinking Like a Designer

The world is malleable and everything in the made world is designed. Mount Vernon Innovation Diploma leader Anya Smith inspires our sense of agency and creative confidence, and she provides her recipe for success in taking on and tackling problems to make a positive difference. And she challenges us all to consider one of her big questions: “What if school created designers?" (Filmed at MVIFI fuse15, June 3, 2015. Featured on mvifi.org on January 1, 2016.)


Chip Houston: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Design Thinking

"Design thinking - human-centered problem solving - is messy." Mount Vernon Head of Middle School Chip Houston provides a case study about learning-environment, space design to frame four strong pieces of advice about actual practice as a design thinker. (Filmed at MVIFI fuse15, June 3, 2015. Featured on mvifi.org on February 3, 2016.)


Holly Chesser: Good at Design Thinking? Thank an English Teacher

"Whether it's convergent thinking, whether it's divergent thinking, the central thing we need to be embodying is empathy." In this powerful talk, Chesser explains how the study of literature can deeply help us to understand others and ourselves. She uses To Kill a Mockingbird, Johari's Window and a moving quote from Rumi to weave together a compelling message at the heart of design thinking - being willing to analyze our own hearts. (Filmed at MVIFI fuse15, June 3, 2015. Featured on mvifi.org on April 11, 2016.)


T.J. Edwards: From Project to Purpose

Describing himself as a "recovering engineer" compelled by design thinking, T.J. Edwards shares the story of how his students created a 3D-printed, prosthetic hand for Alex - a user they matched with via eNable. By getting to know a person's needs, we can transform mere projects into purposes...and we can make school more about this work. "These problems that are worth solving are everywhere. And there's no sense in us as teachers, as educators, inventing problems to be solved in our classrooms because there's millions of them right at our fingertips if you just talk to somebody." (Filmed at MVIFI fuse15, June 3, 2015. Featured on mvifi.org on April 18, 2016.)


Dawn Johnson and Carol Hunter: Every Person Matters

“Every person matters.” Beginning with these words, in a beautifully woven talk, Johnson and Hunter share their collaborative vision for a creative partnership among their two organizations - the Frazer Center and Truly Living Well. They inspire possibility by detailing how cultivating the soil can grow not just food but also dignity and crucial relationships. “Working with people with disabilities helps our community grow abilities. Urban agriculture is a tool we can use to build an inclusive community that provides jobs and relationships for people with disabilities. This is very important to us...because we all matter.” (Filmed at MVIFI fuse15, June 3, 2015.)


Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim and Cliff Albright: I Am Love

The message of "I am love," truly lived, can make a wonderful difference in the lives of students and learners. "I am love" can help support youth on the path to college and a brighter future. Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim of Future Foundation and Cliff Albright of Communities in Schools of Atlanta gave their "I am love" MoVe Talk at fuse15, the design thinking immersion experience hosted by the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation. This talk inspired the audience as they began to imagine ways that these two organizations - Future Foundation and CIS of Atl - could collaborate in new ways. (Filmed at MVIFI fuse15, June 3, 2015.)


Lucy Hall-Gainer and Nancy Flake Johnson: Helping people thrive, not just survive.

Mary Hall Freedom House spreads hope, love and miracles to "help women and women with children break the cycle of poverty, homelessness, mental health disorders, and addiction." As Lucy Hall-Gainer explains, "We help to put [people] back together again." Urban League of Greater Atlanta is a civil rights organization working to economically empower people. Nancy Flake-Johnson says, "We help people connect with their passion and purpose." At fuse15, these two organizations partnered to further synergize their efforts and impact. (Filmed at MVIFI fuse15, June 3, 2015.)


Steven Libman, Sharon Story, Dan Mathews: Building Confidence and Capabilities

Building a collaboration between Atlanta Ballet and Camp Twin Lakes, three leaders in two nonprofits describe the intersections of their organizational missions. From "the magic of dance" to "finding your inner super hero," both organizations believe deeply in and spread messages of "building confidence and capabilities" in remarkable ways. Fuse15 allowed designers to imagine new ways to weave together the inspiring work done for the arts and those children with disabilities. (Filmed at MVIFI fuse15, June 3, 2015.)

Design Thinking Summit 12

Embarking on a Journey of Human-Centered Design

After launching the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation, MVIFI hosted its first event - the Design Thinking Summit 12. During this one-day event, Mount Vernon gathered others interested in design thinking to explore the possibilities of embarking on more human-centered design as a means of education and designing a better world. Not only was a workshop used to prototype outdoor classrooms, but several shared talks. At the time, the talks were known as I.C.E. Talks. They would evolve to be known as MoVe Talks.


Brett Jacobsen: DT Summit 12


Leonard Medlock: DT Summit 12

Leonard Medlock describes how high stakes testing contributes to a “high achievers fallacy”. In this vulnerable talk, Leonard tells his own story from scoring “above proficient” on an early childhood ITBS test to feelings of doubt and fear despite prestigious learning and career stops at Duke University, IBM, and Stanford. Leonard relates his experiences with early fear of failure, living through extraordinary circumstances, finding a safe place to overcome fear of failure, and feeling driven to purpose to the DEEP design thinking process - discovery, empathy, experiment, produce. Proposes “what if we could preempt hard life lessons with fun, relevant, authentic, school lessons a-la design thinking?”, he leaves the audience with suggestions on how design thinking can help break the cycle of a “high achievers fallacy.” (Filmed at Design Thinking Summit, March 2012.)