Institutional Change

Commit to Innovation

The purpose of this activity is to introduce your team to different methods for innovation. Innovation processes are all about a systematic process of research, analysis, idea generation, and prototyping. In the Playbook, the DIY Toolkit includes dozens of design thinking techniques and exercises that you can do with your team. This activity is based on a technique called “People Shadowing.”


2-3 hours

Group Size


Skill Level


Comfort Level



Flip Chart, Markers

Step 1

Before the meeting, send a link to the DIY Toolkit for participants to browse through tools and materials. Ask them to think about which techniques might be most useful.

Step 2

Give a brief overview of frameworks for innovation. The DIY Toolkit has a useful overview of the pillars of innovation and how this can used in the nonprofit workplace. Use this diagram to give a bird’s eye view of the innovation process. Also, give an overview of the facilitation tools available in the toolkit and the different purposes.

Ask your team what technique intrigued them the most or was most relevant to their work. Generate a list of the DIY Toolkit techniques that interest your team and will innovate your organization’s processes from within.

Step 3

The People Shadowing activity focuses on the need to get input and feedback from other people to gain empathy around a challenge or issue. Share the video with your team.

As the names suggests, People Shadowing means becoming someone’s shadow to gather information about their environment, as well as contextual details that can influence a person’s motivations and behavior.

Introducing a tool like People Shadowing is an example of how you can create change from within your organization, regardless of your role or position.

Step 4

Identify a target audience for one of your programs or campaigns that you want to improve or make more creative. This could be clients, supporters, colleagues, etc. Write the down the program or campaign on a flip chart page and ask the group to suggest target audiences that you could shadow. Once you have a list a few potential target audiences, ask your group to think about specific people you can shadow and what you want to learn.

You can use this framework from the toolkit to support your brainstorm. Write the topic areas (Like, Dislike, Habits, Activities, Objects, Space) on a flip chart page and have your team brainstorm specific questions or insights they’d like to learn.

Step 5

Once you have brainstormed target audiences and specific people as well as what you’d like to learn from shadowing, it is time to make specific assignments for each team member. Ask team members to get permission from the people they are following if they need to follow closely, though it is possible to observe from a distance.

Step 6

Determine how much time your team will need to carry out their shadowing assignment. They will need to use the worksheet to record their observations so they are recorded in a structured way. You may need to customize the worksheet boxes for your specific program.

Once everyone is comfortable with the assignment and clear on what information they need to observe and record on the worksheet, schedule a follow up meeting for everyone to share what they learned.

Step 7

At the follow up meeting, summarize the process you used for the first meeting and the assignment. Ask each team member to give a brief report about what they learned. Record key insights on a flip chart. Once everyone is finished presenting their report, lead a reflection with potential questions including:

  • What are some of the key themes and patterns across participants?
  • What does this mean for how we can innovate existing processes in our organization?
  • What is our action plan with any new ideas that came out of this?