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Accelerate first introduced the ThinkTank Concept [TTC] in 2013 as a partnership with the City of Boston. The original format was successfully implemented four times as an interdisciplinary, city-wide initiative solving real-world challenges and jump starting civic innovation and entrepreneurship. This format brought together over 500 students, designers, innovators, community partners and city officials from more than 25 disciplines.
Students experienced a rigorous design thinking process led by facilitators from brand name companies such as Business Innovation Factory, IDEO, Continuum, Design Museum Boston, Essential Design and others. The techniques utilized open up their thinking and allow students to utilize these professionals as a resource later for future projects and ideas.
What Makes the ThinkTank Format Unique?
The ThinkTank format is highly participatory and promotes co-location. It is imperative to provide the space and informal setting in which participants can build bridges and experiment with being uncomfortable as they are confronted with assumptions, thinking styles and viewpoints potentially foreign to their own disciplines, experience and backgrounds.
Typically, as part of the day-to-day office routine, there are no natural connection points between an archaeologist and an innovation leader at a children’s hospital. The ThinkTank format thrives on these kind of collisions and encourages participants to celebrate them well beyond the one-day event.
Evolution of the ThinkTank Format
In 2018, we updated our ThinkTank format to convene both the academic community and industry leaders. Over 50 industry thought leaders across different disciplines, students and faculty from local universities, design thinkers, community partners, and city representatives came together for one day. The intent was to challenge assumptions, explore possibilities, co-create ideas and envision the “Future of Our Cities” with a focus on “Converging Generations” - The act of bringing multiple generations together to collaborate on ideas for creating future cities that are inclusive and accessible to all residents.
From designing infrastructure for autonomous vehicles to preparing for the impending rise of elderly city-dwellers, participants ideated on solutions to some of the most important societal challenges of our time.
Our participants ideated on the following opportunity spaces during the “Future of Our Cities - Converging Generations” ThinkTank:
Activating all generations to solve systemic challenges
Preserving the past for a sustainable future
Mobility for everyone
Turning residents into citizens
Play for all
Based off of conversations around the convergence of generations that emerged from our Future of Cities ThinkTank, the impact of the rapid rise of aging populations around the world was a consistent point of emphasis among participants. Thus, the Future of Aging became a natural topic for our second ThinkTank of 2018. We nearly doubled our turnout from the Future of Cities ThinkTank and assembled a rockstar group of speakers from organizations such as the AARP, MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs, General Electric, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Rendever amongst others.
In randomly organized groups, ThinkTank participants created solutions that ranged from mobile apps that could pair young people with older adults to exchange services (such as caretaking responsibilities needed by the older parties, and advisory consultation to the younger audience) to facilities that would bring together people from all generations to create new ideas, solve problems, share experiences and interact with one another socially. We even had one team go as far as to design a city from the ground up!
We have welcomed academic participants for both the original ThinkTank format and “Future of our Cities” ThinkTank format from institutions across the Boston area including students/faculty from Wentworth, MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Emerson, Boston College, Boston University, MassArt, Babson, and Roxbury Community College amongst many others.
Accelerate has also been fortunate to welcome leaders in the Boston area business community to our ThinkTank programs including Philips, Continuum, Business Innovation Factory, Workbar, Future in Sight, Sasaki, MassChallenge, Optum, Formlabs, Draper, Stantec, Autodesk, Bose, Boston Children’s Hospital, MassBio, Shell, MilliporeSigma, C Space and Roadrunner Moving and Storage to name a few.
In 2013 Accelerate partnered with the City of Boston to host a College ThinkTank, a one-day event bringing together 100 students across Boston to ideate around a civic challenge the City has. The students worked side by side with design/innovation firms and the community to produce relevant ideas.
Students are challenged to generate ideas that represent the community and shape Boston's neighborhoods. To date, nearly 300 students outside of Wentworth participated across the greater Boston area from colleges such as MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Emerson, Roxbury Community College, Boston College, Boston University, MassArt, Babson and many others. More than 25 disciplines ranging from mathematics, liberal arts, music, engineering, design, architecture, law and art were represented.