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Wild Formula Learning Network



A workshop to co-create an event that would launch WFLN in a new direction to realize the founder's vision for the organization.

Team project with Raina Russ, Tanvi Ranka, Xuning Guo


WFLN logo

The Wild Formula Learning Network (WFLN) is a community-led organization that partners with libraries and schools to collect books that would otherwise be discarded and delivers them to children who have limited access to books in Chicago.

I met Lisa, the founder, at a design thinking workshop and she asked me to advise her in how to shift her organization from giving books to kids to helping kids experience the magic of reading. After a few conversations, I invited her to partner with my Field Guide to Facilitation class at the Institute of Design and she gladly accepted. This meant we would develop and facilitate a workshop for WFLN. 


We unpacked what Lisa was wanting and arrived at two discrete challenge statements. These formed the foundation for our workshop. To narrow the scope for this exercise, we focused on how to create an event that would kick off this new direction for WFLN.

How might we encourage children to get lost in the magic of books?

How might we use storytelling to build close connections between children and others?




Our workshop was attended by 7 participants—Lisa with two from her team and 4 IIT students. As all engaging workshops should, we started with an climate setter to pump up the energy and get everyone comfortable with each other.


Once we had everyone engaged, we shared​

  • The agenda 

  • The purpose for the workshop

  • Encouraged ways to engage with one another

  • Each person's role in the workshop

  • The two distinct challenges


What Lisa wanted was deeply tied to colorful imaginations and vivid memories. For that reason, we led everyone through a deeply personal exercise that had them recalling moments in their life where books or stories came alive. We split the room in half and gave each group a slightly different question.

We asked them to sketch a meaningful memory and describe it with a template we provided. The exercise ended with each person sharing to the group the story they chose and why it was meaningful to them. 


We posted the memories on the wall and had each person stand in front of one. We then asked them to write ideas on post-its answering this question:




The point was to have the group capture key elements of each memory and consider how those elements might be transformed into events. We set up a timer and after one minute we instructed everyone to shift to the next memory. 


To capture a wider range of ideas, we ran a second round of ideation. This time, we asked each person to choose a book from the spread we provided and ideate what an event might look like if it were centered around the book they chose.


We gave each person sheets of paper that were folded into four squares. They put their ideas on the left side of the page. After 5 minutes, we asked them to swap sheets with their neighbor and sketch on the right side of the page a way to build upon the idea on the left. 

After another 5 minutes, we had each person share the refined ideas. 

What book reminds you of your childhood and why? 

What is a memory you have with people around storytelling?

How would you turn this into

an event?




We broke for recess with our provided snacks (juice boxes included!), but Lisa still had work to do. We had her go through all of the ideas and mark the ones that most resonated with her. Once she was finished with that, our team did a quick affinity map exercise and bucketed the selected ideas into two concepts. 

book flat icon green.jpg



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Lisa was ecstatic about both the experience and the end result of the workshop. I followed up with her a few days later to discuss how to move forward. She especially loved the Storytelling Safari idea and we worked together to carry out a pilot of the event. By the time schedules had aligned for the event, I had actually graduated and moved out of Chicago, but shortly after the workshop ended I introduced Lisa to a classmate of mine who was interested in the mission of WFLN and wanted to support Lisa. Together, the two of them launched the pilot of Storytelling Safari.


Ideation exercises were on the money

The two ideation exercises were very successful in bringing everyone into the appropriate state of mind for the whimsical, nostalgic direction Lisa wanted to bring WFLN in. They also led to great variety and quality of ideas that could be transformed into robust concepts. 


Bodystorming was the wrong activity

The Bodystorming exercise was misplaced. I felt Bodystorming wasn't an effective way to communicate a concept. As I observed, I often felt explanation was missing for what I was seeing. This is likely why Lisa gravitated to the Storytelling Safari concept, since she was on that team. She commented to me afterwards that she didn't quite understand the Imagination Trail concept, and I don't blame her. If we were to use Bodystorming, it should be to test how a concept feels, rather than to convey it to others. A storyboarded scenario with voiceover or a scenario using miniature models with voiceover would have been more effective as a final shareout. 


Final report forgot the client

Our team crafted a final report, but the document focused on the methods and activities we used, since the intended audience was the instructors of our workshop facilitation class. In hindsight, we should have created a final report for Lisa that catalogued all the ideas and described in detail the two developed event concepts. Such a report would have given our client a blueprint going forward and would have ensured that the work done in the workshop wouldn't be so easily forgotten.

5  4 E's

With two clear concepts, we moved into concept development. We again split the room in half. Using most of the 5 E framework, we worked with each group to imagine what a person would experience when entering the event (Enter), experiencing the event (Engage), exiting the event (Exit), and having a way to continue to engage with the experience afterwards (Extend). 


Now we had a clearer understanding of what each concept would look like as an event. Because these events would engage very different stakeholders (adults and children), we wanted to think through the challenges each stakeholder would encounter from their point of view. We created two activity sheets, one for adults and one for children. Each sheet had four boxes:

  • What is a challenge this stakeholder might encounter in this event?

  • What is an unconventional solution to this challenge?

  • Why might this solution fail?

  • How might we overcome this?

We did a quick round robin with these sheets.

Concept Development


To illustrate, we gave each group a set of materials and asked them to act out their concept. The ensuing hilarity was as creative as it was silly and it was a great way to encapsulate the work we had done together. Everyone left energized and excited for the possibilities and, most importantly, Lisa felt she had two solid concept she would run with. 

Final Shareout


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