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September 12, 2018

Design Thinking and Food

Epicenter Design Thinking Think Tank Event workshop

Epicenter Memphis + The Think Tank

In June, Laurel and I found ourselves presenting on food and design thinking in the amazing Cooper Young district of Memphis, Tennessee. We were asked to speak about using design thinking to increase opportunity and access to local food and to facilitate a workshop at Epicenter’s kick-off event–The Think Tank. This hands-on weekend was dedicated to finding creative solutions using design thinking to transform Memphis communities.

Why? How? Well, besides the fact that we love food and have a long history of branding restaurants all over the world, we’ve been using design thinking to tackle food access issues in our own community for the last five years.

Epicenter's Think Tank

A few weeks ago, we hosted Epicenter's first Think Tank: A weekend dedicated to finding solutions by thinking outside of the box. A special thank you goes to our partners at Launch Tennessee, our rockstar speakers, and everyone who showed up ready to work! Video by David Rosenberry https://www.roseberrypictures.com/

Posted by Epicenter Memphis on Friday, July 13, 2018

Can Design Thinking change the world?

We sure think so. Ideas lead to experiences… Experiences lead to learning… Learning leads to change… Change leads to transformation.

It’s messy. It’s hard. It requires collaboration. Which is why it’s so fulfilling.

Changing the world starts in our own backyards.

Our presentation at The Think Tank showed how we connected different ideas and put them into action in our community. Sharing our own experiences about launching the Martinsburg Farmers Market, helped set the stage for our workshop.

While facilitating community conversations with What’s Next West Virginia at home, we saw our neighbors energized and empowered around local food issues. We’re both passionate about food, inside and outside of our home, which made it easy for us to say yes to creating partnerships with organizations in our community excited about bringing opportunities to life.

So, what’s that look like?

Our short workshop was designed to let attendees get a taste of doing design thinking together.

We started by identifying positive things already happening in Memphis. We also dug deeper into the research and issues that surfaced while planning the session with Whitney Hardy of Epicenter. There are exciting things starting to take off in Memphis. Our goal was to look for the connections and gaps that could provide opportunities to build on the local food economy.

Food and design thinking workshop insights on white board

Even though we only had enough time to give attendees a small taste of the design thinking process, it was really awesome to see actionable ideas emerge and connect in our short session.

In the end, the community left our workshop with a few solid ideas–including one connecting chefs in need of commercial cooking space to vacant or underused kitchens in local schools.


Participants: Too often we focus on what’s not working, but by talking about what’s good–and seeing it all together on the wall–is powerful. Epicenter has a vital role to play as a facilitator, encourager, and organizer for entrepreneurship and community building.

“Memphis has new food entrepreneurs and food justice work happening every day. As the entrepreneurial hub in Memphis, we hosted a design thinking workshop that featured Laurel and James, who provided immense value by guiding local entrepreneurs in better understanding the needs of their potential customers and of our community as a whole.” – Whitney Hardy

H+W: Good food. Good drinks. Great culture. Amazing people. The all-women leadership team at Epicenter is just phenomenal. The Epicenter model was incredibly inspiring as we work towards similar new developments we want to pursue in our own community. I should use a really bad food joke like this is just a taste of what’s to come, but I’ll resist.

Needless to say, we can’t wait to go back and experience what comes out of our weekend in Memphis.

Learn more about Epicenter in Memphis Tennessee here.

Interested in hearing more about design thinking and how it intersects with your business? Let’s chat!

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