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Celebrating 10 Years at Bridgeable 2004–2014 10 Years of Bridgeable Insights and Impact

2004–2014 Ten pro bono projects from the past ten years

Celebrating 10 years of Bridgeable

As we write this, there is a flurry of activity at Bridgeable. There’s a team in a project room crunching data to refine communication materials, people packing up supplies for red-eye flights to Europe, and a printer noisily churning out materials for co-creation workshops at our studio. The atmosphere feels creative, dynamic, and energizing. What started in 2004 as an entrepreneurial endeavour with ambitions to design better products has blossomed into a global enterprise. We’ve “prototyped and iterated” our way from designing a single product (yes, there was an actual product called the Cooler Solution), to working on design and strategy projects with some of the world’s largest and most innovative companies. The impact we’ve made with our partners over the last decade is profound. There have been a lot of people involved in building Bridgeable into what it is today. We have been fortunate to work beside brave leaders who are the embodiment of human-centredness. Our client partners, collaborators, and teammates have all inspired us to do our best work and to improve with each and every project. And it is to those people that we dedicate this book: keep seeking to deeply understand people. Keep designing solutions that reach beyond the ordinary. Keep making a major impact on the world, and the people around you. We look forward to being inspired for decades to come, The Bridgeable Team

Design is a powerful tool in many contexts, but especially so when effecting social change.

Social problems are some of the thorniest out there. The issues are complex and multivariate. There are many diverse stakeholders with conflicting priorities and worldviews. And time and budget are almost always at a premium. That very complexity is what entices us at Bridgeable—our design toolkit is tailor-made for social problems. We love to apply systems thinking to problems that require a holistic approach. We specialize in using co-creation to balance many varied perspectives in building solutions. We prefer to test our ideas as quickly as possible by creating prototypes and seeing how well they work in the world. Perhaps most importantly, everyone at Bridgeable comes to work each morning because we want to improve people’s lives. Solving social problems lets us extend the reach of our work, and focus it on those who need it most. Our pro bono work focused on social change has always been a big part of what we do at Bridgeable. Through our pro bono work, we have tackled issues spanning healthcare, food security, and finance, using design to foster new solutions. As we approach our tenth anniversary as a company, we wanted to mark the occasion in some way. Eventually we settled on a collection of our past pro bono work to share with our colleagues, customers, and collaborators. These ten case studies represent our most notable social design work from the past ten years. We hope it’s just an entrée for all we might accomplish as Bridgeable enters its second decade.

Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

Overcoming Barriers to Saving Money Prosper Canada The Canadian government offers programs to assist low-income families with saving, such as the Canada Learning Bond (CLB), but these programs are widely underused. Prosper Canada wanted to understand how they could help low-income families save more for their children’s education. The interactive platform we developed demystifies the process of applying for a CLB, and helps bank employees communicate more effectively with families.

Learning together In a co-creation workshop, we brought together bank employees, low-income individuals, and other key stakeholders to talk about saving. The workshop revealed unknown blind spots, such as the multitude of barriers faced by low-income families, from their attitudes about their financial future to feelings about financial institutions. Realizing these misconceptions helped build a shared vision of successful engagement.

Making interaction easy One of the greatest challenges in getting low-income people to use a savings tool like an RESP is that they have to interact in a sustained way with bank employees—a relationship where trust and understanding is too often lacking. Our platform included an interactive tool that helps bank employees guide potential subscribers through the process of opening an RESP, using an illustrated process and relatable stories. This novel way of communicating financial information provided a framework for both banks and their customers to communicate on equal footing.


Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

It’s more than a touchpoint—it’s a network of processes and tools that come together to form a thriving ecosystem.

A Bridgeable Blueprint outlined all of the elements needed to implement and support the program, from window tags that boost program recognition to a presentation deck to share with partner community organizations.


The result? Steadily increasing adoption of the CLB by low-income families.

With the benefit of working prototypes of its online tools for both bank employees and low-income applicants, Prosper was able to have more meaningful conversations with banks about its concepts. These tangible tools showed­banks, rather than telling them, what Prosper imagines for the future. They catalyzed the formation of collaborative partnerships around the future of RESPs for low-income individuals.


Everything’s becoming more interconnected and complex.

The internet. Social media. New technologies. They’re all driving fundamental shifts in the nature of how organizations and people interact. At Bridgeable, we believe in creating a unified experience that engages people across a variety of touchpoints. People’s journeys are shaped by factors far beyond clearly defined front-line interactions. They’re shaped by factors such as beliefs, by the technology they use, by financial drivers, by friends and family, and by the websites they visit. These factors can be incredibly complex when working on social issues related to health, finances, education, and the environment which have multi-factorial causes. Through methods including ethnographic and design research, co-design, and crowdsourcing, we collaborate directly with the groups we are trying to help in order to understand their reality. We find that synthesizing the different elements of what makes up their experience helps organizations shift their perspective. This leads to delivering a more unified and valuable experience.

Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

Designing a Healthier Business FoodShare Toronto FoodShare is Canada’s largest food security organization. Their mission is to provide healthy food for all. One of FoodShare’s many programs is Field to Table Catering, a social enterprise whose profits support the larger organization. When the catering business wasn’t living up to its potential, we worked with them to rethink the business, redesign their service, and re-establish their brand.

Bridging different interests As a for-profit initiative serving paying customers, Field to Table was the subject of an identity crisis within FoodShare, its nonprofit parent. Our first step was to help the organization align around a common vision for the business. In co-creation sessions with multiple stakeholders, FoodShare arrived at a new understanding of the unique role Field to Table could play — and where it could and should stand apart from the larger brand.

Moving from great food to a great experience In research, we found that while customers loved Field to Table’s food, other elements of the service made them hesitant to trust the company with more business. A Bridgeable Experience Map, which showed what was happening for customers at every step, showed where there was room for improvement. Co-creation sessions with stakeholders, which included live prototyping, resulted in a Bridgeable Blueprint for better service across touchpoints.

Putting the right supports in place For a business to change how it delivers, employees must have the processes, training and tools to succeed. We worked with Field to Table on everything from establishing a new system for taking and changing orders, to empowering delivery personnel with clear checklists. In training and workshops, we engaged staff, incorporated their input, and ensured they were up-to-speed.


Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

A Bridgeable Experience Map aggregates massive amounts of insight into an at-a-glance view of the interactions affecting your customers.

A customer experience is the sum of its parts. Distilling everything we’d learned together, we created new branding and marketing materials for Field to Table Catering and a service offering to match.


Let’s Celebrate! field to table catering’s official launch

Redesigning a service business doubles sales within six months.

To communicate the proposition, we delivered a new logo, a new, easy-to-navigate website, new collateral, and recommendations on how to further engage the community. This accompanied important changes to the menu, a completely new ordering and delivery management system, and critical infrastructure such as internal order tracking. 17

Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

Helping Cancer Patients Make Decisions Therachoice Every day, thousands of prostate and breast cancer patients are asked to choose between therapies. Overwhelmed by emotions, they are presented with a massive amount of information, including options that have similar clinical outcomes but different side effects. Not surprisingly, it can be difficult for doctors and patients to have a productive conversation. Therachoice transforms that conversation. A shared decision-making tool for those with breast and prostate cancer, it’s an online application that helps them clearly think through what’s best for them.

Navigating a complicated journey Based on our research with cancer patients, a Bridgeable Experience Map highlighted key drivers when it comes to cancer treatment decision-making, as well as roadblocks along the way. It was clear that, for patients to successfully navigate treatment choice, they needed to do two things at once: process their emotional reaction to their diagnosis and determine a rational course of action.

Building self-awareness In our research, we saw how often a patient’s goals and values were lost among a tidal wave of information, including clinical data, disease mechanisms, and side effects. Therachoice uses a dynamic interface to let patients rank and prioritize their treatment goals, helping them reflect on what’s most important to them. As a result, they’re better equipped for an engaged conversation with their specialist.

Resonating with patients and doctors Therachoice presents information in ways that patients understand and that physicians immediately recognize as credible and rigorous. With our expertise in risk communication and communicating complexity, the message is unambiguous, regardless of how “health literate” the patient is. The smallest details of presentation were considered, such as using “20 out of 100” instead of “20%”. As a result, Therachoice meaningfully captures the qualitative reality and the quantitative context surrounding a patient’s options.


Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

An innovative technology solution helps patients navigate their emotional reaction to their diagnosis and determine a rational course of action.


Therachoice is part of a three-arm feasibility study with the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.


Complexity doesn’t move people, clarity does.

We live in an era of information overload: a constant stream of facts, numbers, big data, correlations, and tweets that make it difficult to distinguish signal from noise. In the rising tide of data, it’s becoming increasingly important to communicate complexity in order to inspire people and to propagate new ideas. At Bridgeable, we believe that effective communication requires combining human insights with deep expertise in communication design. Making information easy to internalize, recall, and retain is critical to ensuring that social change is successful. If information were enough, then we would not be faced with so many societal challenges. By prototyping and iterating the design of communications with the people who will be using them, we increase their resonance and value. The end result is more than text with a beautiful graphic. It’s uniquely engaging experiences that improve learning and prompt people to action.

Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

Food Sustainability Bridgeable For many people, sustainable behaviour change is a difficult transition to make. While the environment ranks as one of the most important issues for Canadians (second only to health-care), Canada’s track record paints an entirely different image. Worldwide, Canada consumes the largest amount of energy on a per capita basis, and is the second largest producer of greenhouse gases after the United States. For many social scientists this incongruity is unsurprising—it’s not uncommon for people to claim what they do to be at odds with how they actually behave.

Experience suggests that education and information on environmental issues—from social media campaigns to government programs—do not necessarily foster true behaviour change. Awareness alone is not enough. Engagement is key. Bridgeable’s challenge is to develop useful strategies to help designers and consumers bridge the gap between intention and action. Our mandate is to understand how to motivate real and meaningful behaviour change in the consumer market. The publication’s objectives were to communicate key insights into consumer decision criteria vis-à-vis food selection, and to report design principles that foster sustainable behaviour change. One of the key design principles that emerged from the research was the importance of total family participation in selecting sustainable food choices. It was uncovered that children often have a strong influence on what foods are consumed within a household.


Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

Key DesiGn PrinCiPles for HelPinG ConsuMers to MaKe More sustainaBle fooD CHoiCes:

Seek participation from the whole family, especially children. Children often have a strong influence on what foods are consumed within a household, whether that be specific food items and aversions, or the desire for parents to only serve the “healthiest” and “safest” items. • • •


Products, services and other offerings should be child-friendly but also appeal to the rest of the family. Communicating health benefits to parents could stimulate more sustainable behaviours. Products and services should encourage positive interactions and quality time between parents and their children—if only in short bursts. Where older children/teens are involved, there is an opportunity for education on sustainable food approaches and issues. Provide context and explanation for why certain foods and behaviours are healthier or more socially/ecologically responsible. Find ways to include children in meal preparation, transforming cooking into “quality together time”.

Honour history, tradition, and routine. Appeal to familiar family norms and trusted habits so that behaviour change can be more easily accepted and integrated. Skepticism and mistrust are often fostered by a lack of familiarity and understanding. •

Utilize narrative and storytelling to impart a sense of continuity and history. Include familiar stories, conversations, and relatable characters. Recognize people’s existing traditions, benchmarks, and emphasize their value not only in cultural terms, but in sustainable significance as well. Communicate “newness” as a natural evolution of the status quo. Approach new products and designs with an evolutionary mindset and not that of revolutionary re-invention. Investigate and introduce clever resourcesaving products and strategies that are already popular in other regions.


Target consumers who are at or about to encounter transition points in their lives. Transition points are where people are most likely to embrace change, especially more profound changes of behaviours, attitudes, and lifestyle. Targeting services, products and messaging to people in their late teens and early adulthood may prove especially successful. •

Associate sustainable behaviours with typical coming-of-age activities such as renting a first solo apartment or the purchase of a first home, adjusting to a new job, marriage/cohabitation, and more.

Make healthy, sustainable choices both accessible and appealing to the majority of people. Sustainability as an upper class status projection will alienate some middle and lower class consumers. Mass consumers will reject offerings that they deem to be too exclusive, expensive, or unachievable. Employ an inclusive approach where “good design” is targeted and priced to be within reach of the majority of people. •

Design for Change: eating sustainably

Sustainable choices should offer value and become a desirable way of life for the middle class. “Good design” will therefore be genuine, desirable, and functional for the consumer. Sustainable offerings should not be portrayed as “bourgeois” or aspirational luxury items reserved for the elite. Products and services should be desirable without appearing too unattainable. Moderate price premiums are acceptable when the health, taste, or ethical value of the product or service is communicated. Consumers will appreciate value offered along the dimensions of health, taste, and localism. Cooler solutions inc.



insights for sustainable food Choices

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”

-George Bernard Shaw

SOCiAL inteRACtiOnS And the PLeASuRe Of fOOd Food fuels our bodies; it is integral to our physical survival but we also experience food in profoundly social ways. Mealtime is an occasion for people to come together, to prepare, to share and to consume food. Food acts as an offering—when we provide food to our family and friends, we are extending a message of hospitality and generosity. When research participants enjoyed food preparation and eating, they often experienced these processes as social and communal, filled with feelings of pride. “I think for us it’s a good relationship builder to be able to cook together.” -Sam

Whole foods are foods that are in their raw material state. They are processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed. Therefore, these foods require preparation and cooking versus pre-prepared foods or take-out foods. 12 Photo by Mike Loveless 12


But not everyone experiences food in this way. Families with busy lifestyles and singles living on their own often eat food in isolation. For many study participants, this isolation transforms eating from a social event into a more functional practice. In social isolation, preparing and eating food is often less enjoyable. Thomas, for example, is a single man who never cooks for himself; he either eats out or he brings take out and pre-made dinners home. Although his roommate occasionally cooks for him, he only cooks once or twice a year for a charity event, where he prepares his “famous jambalaya”, drawing from his collection of spices and herbs. Similarly, Marta, who lives with her elderly mother, contends that the reason she does not cook much is that she does not have a family. Jolene however does have a family, though she still eats separately from her kids and husband. They operate on very individual schedules. Participants who were more disconnected from whole foods and their preparation generally placed a greater emphasis on food purchase and assembly over cooking. In contrast, Sam states that cooking together with his partner Melissa is an enjoyable experience that is good for his relationship. While they do not cook every night, the time they spend batch cooking on the weekend is a social experience and important to their relationship. Cooler solutions inc. 13

My Bean Purple Bean Growing Activity Book Drawing




Fun facts

This book belongs to My bean plant’s name is My Bean by Cooler Solutions Inc. is licensed under Creative Commons

As part of Bridgeable’s work in sustainability, our team discovered the 3 Es of communicating complexity to kids: education, empowerment, and entertainment.

The My Bean: Purple Bean Growing Activity Book delivers on all three of these elements, providing a hands-on and educational learning experience that allows children to engage with the natural growth process. Supplemented with “cool facts”, a broad array of age-specific, school curriculum-supporting activities, and the inclusion of purple bean seeds, cardboard pot, and fiber growth pellets, kids have everything they need to learn about the wonders of plants first-hand.


Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

Communicating the Complexity of the Human Experience


Healthcare issues are complex, nuanced, and difficult to convey effectively. Bridgeable created two documentary films to provide nuanced insight, build empathy, and inspire action.

MisFit looks at the lives of people living with obesity through a unique lens by unpacking the perspectives of people with obesity and experts in the field of bariatrics. MisFit is inspirational, moving, and ultimately aims to provide a positive view towards overcoming physical and perceptual barriers in a world currently designed with others in mind.

View MisFit at 28

MisConnect MisConnect investigates the stories of four individuals who have each suffered a heart attack. Each experienced the symptoms, but for different reasons, delayed in seeking help. By understanding why they delayed and the messages they have to share, we begin to change our own perceptions about our heart health. More importantly, we begin to take action in helping others do the same. View MisConnect at 29

From talking about human-centricity, to actually becoming a human-centred organization. The sophistication of the problems we currently face is outpacing the ability of our systems to handle that sophistication. When it comes to designing for complex systemic challenges, often the most critical people required to solve the problem aren’t even considered in the process. People are more likely to cross a bridge when they helped to build it. This is particularly true with social challenges where many different stakeholders are involved in delivering a solution. We gather individuals from across organizations, and bring them together with external stakeholders and end users to co-create valuable ideas. Our designers prototype ideas on the spot. In the process, participants break down assumptions, gain a clearer sense of hidden barriers, and generate a clear picture of practical solutions that can move everyone forward. In the process, they also begin to understand how to put people at the centre of what they do.

Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

Making Microfinance Work Rise Asset Development Rise Asset Development is a microfinance organization that provides funding and mentorship to entrepreneurs who have experienced mental illness and addiction (MI&A). But after two years, only a handful of people had taken advantage of the program. We worked with Rise to understand the mindset of those they served, rethink their service offering, and re-market their program.

Engaging a community in co-creation Research with potential clients revealed the truth of Rise’s reputation in the mental health community­—and the barriers that were keeping prospects from applying. Entrepreneurs from the MI&A community felt looked down on, and they didn’t like the idea of being “mentored” by “finance-types” with much less practical experience than they had. Co-creation sessions were used to engage the community in reimagining the program. Along the way, skeptical prospects became loyal advocates.

Removing hurdles The Rise team was considering new rules, such as requiring applicants to give proof that they had been mentally ill, potentially stigmatizing applicants. We worked with Rise to revamp their governance structure with input from members of the MI&A community. New systems were designed that balanced fiscal responsibility with respect for each applicant’s abilities and experience.

Shifting the dynamic With input from the MI&A community, Rise moved to a peer mentorship model, and away from a focus on MBA-trained mentors. Now, business owners who had struggled with mental health and addiction could share insights, experience and advice with each other. Rise still gave support in the area of financial management—but its clients didn’t feel belittled any more. They felt supported.


Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

All new marketing materials focused strategically on two channels: the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH) and banks within target areas. Rise communications shifted from speaking the language of the “corporate� world to speaking the language of their clients, with respect and sensitivity. The complex world of microfinance became simple.


As a result, the value of financing provided by Rise has grown by more than 400% and the program has expanded to two new markets.

It started with designing products that improved people’s lives.

Bridgeable started as an industrial design company called Cooler Solutions, with a mission to connect consumer needs, preferences, and values to the products we designed. Since then, our work has shifted to broader experiences. Throughout, we have kept a steadfast commitment to two core tenets: human-centricity, and creating shared value for our clients and the people they serve. Those two principles are very much in evidence in our early product-design projects, and they remain as much a focus today as they were when we first started.

Light Footprint Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

Inspiring Efficient Energy Usage  Bridgeable conducted a study into people’s values and perceptions around green technology. When asked “What is green to you?”, people provided insight into how they consider technology in the context of the environment. The key insight is that people feel there is a disconnect between technology and nature. Through Bridgeable’s unique process of research translation, we developed the Biosync thermostat to address this contextual disconnect. The Biosync directly connects a person’s actions with environmental impact, creating context. Based on an efficiency algorithm, the Biosync monitors how a person adjusts and maintains the temperature in their home in comparison to outside temperatures. It then translates this efficiency into natural imagery. Taking advantage of biophilia (or a person natural tendency to want to connect with nature), the Biosync translates efficient-energy usage into lush nature imagery. When energy usage is poor, the natural imagery is affected. Plants begin to die and the sky darkens with fog inspiring the person to make more efficient choices. The Biosync thermostat is the result of a study around what people consider “green”. The Biosync garnered an honorable mention in the Core 77 Greener Gadget competition in 2010.


Energy Efficiency : Motivating Change

Energy Efficiency : Motivating Change



Biosync - Motivational Thermostat / Cooler Solutions Inc. / Jan 200


Motivational Thermostat concept

Heavy Footprint

Light Footprint

“The biophilia hypothesis Heavysuggests Footprint that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. According to Harvard Professor E.O. Wilson, biophilia is our ‘innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes.’”


Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

Biophilic Compost In many homes and offices, organic waste is dumped into the garbage along with other trash items so that we can avoid its nasty odors. Of course, this is not a very efficient use of what might be an otherwise valuable compost medium. Throwing organic waste into the trash fills up our landfills unnecessarily and in many cities such as Toronto, this waste must be trucked over significant distances. The environmental cost of transportation, along with he production of methane gasses associated with decomposing organic materials further compounds this messy problem. While there exist many organic waste diversion programs and products targeted to household use, few solutions have been specifically developed for office and commercial environments. Bridgeable therefore developed the Biophilic Compost System to address waste diversion in offices. Based on the concept of Biophilia—the instinctive bond between humans and other living systems—the Biophilic Compost System encourages people to separate their trash at the point of disposal, while also rewarding them for their efforts. The unit includes large bins for trash, organic matter, and recyclables.


Instead of sending organic waste to the landfill, the system uses the bokashi process to anaerobically compost the material on-site. The process is fast, odorless, and produces a small volume of very concentrated compost material and fluid. Finished compost may be spread in the accompanying planter or in the facility’s surrounding gardens to feed healthier plants. Users reap the end benefit of enjoying a work environment that incorporates plants and nature in a holistic, tangible way. Bridgeable’s Biophilic Compost System was featured in several major newspapers including the Financial Post and was listed on the OG’s Top 10 Eco-Friendly Office Supplies.


Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

Canadian Socially Responsible Design Exhibit Socially responsible design, whether focused on the individual or wider society, moves beyond economic and consumerist considerations to embrace ethical, emotional, and humanitarian values.


Socially responsible design, whether focused on the individual or wider society, moves beyond economic and consumerist considerations to embrace ethical, emotional, and humanitarian values. Together with Canadian design luminaries David Green and Dianne Croteau, Bridgeable formed The Canadian Council for Socially Responsible Design, a group whose mission is to promote socially responsible design work from seasoned professionals and newly graduated students alike. In 2009, the council launched a curated exhibit to promote socially responsible design. Featured in the US and International departure lounges of Toronto’s Pearson Airport, the exhibit included a wide selection of products, services, and project prototypes addressed a mix of ethical and environmental issues relevant to both the developed and developing world. 43

Celebrating 10 Years of Bridgeable

Dignity Toilet Many of us are lucky enough not to recognize the basic comforts of everyday life. Yet, the comforts hidden from our view tend to play the largest role in our quality of life. For instance, how often do you consider your toilet? It’s a stationary, mundane, and generally consistent tool in our homes. But beyond the toilet lies the greater unseen: a massive infrastructure of plumbing and filtration that deals with our waste in order to ensure safe water, land, and health that define our standard of living. Truly, a community’s sanitation systems is one of the most important factors in our daily lives. The Dignity Toilet is a storage and disposal system that addresses health, dignity, and compliance. In many locations around the globe, waste storage and disposal can become a great health concern, often causing infection and disease. During times of disaster or at any time the displacement of people occurs, food and shelter do not complete basic needs. The Dignity Toilet provides storage of solid waste for four people for 7-10 days. The storage vessel is then removed from its seating dock and taken to a controlled area where it is manually augured into the soil. When its contents are released, it is mixed with the soil for natural decomposition. Bridgeable’s Dignity Toilet design won the Humanitarian International Design Organization Award in 2007. In the years since its invention, this toilet has been featured in international media, part of a traveling global exhibit on water quality and included as a case study in the textbook Marketing of High-Technology Products and Innovations: Pearson New International Edition (2013).



Thank you to everyone who contributed to making Bridgeable what it is today.

1179 King St. West, Suite 101 Toronto, Ontario M6K 3C5

Celebrating 10 Years at Bridgeable  

10 Years of Insights and Impact

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