The Betterific Blog

Connecting consumers with brands to crowdsource and innovate on product ideas.

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Re imagining Gala Fundraising efforts

Partnering with Deloitte’s Pixel division, we worked with a Diabetes non-profit to dream up ways to rethink Gala Fundraising.

Gala fundraisers are always the same – you throw on a suit (or a tux if you’re fancy), eat fancy chicken by the bay, and participate in a silent auction.  How can we bring some innovation to this experience?  We crowdsourced ideas among Betterific’s design thinking community and sourced over 80 unique ideas in under a week.

Betterific’s crowdsourcing was one part of the overall research. Deloitte also interviewed employees of the non-profit, current donors and potential donors, and Diabetes patients.  They built personas to build empathy to set the stage of possibilities.  With that backdrop we hosted the fundraising gala innovation challenge on Betterific.

The biggest take-away was that fundraisers should be more experiential. Beyond the diabetes patient at the gala, how can we really bring both the non-profit, the cause and the patient stories to life?  Some suggested giving donors the experience of a diabetes patient – with apps or blood sugar check-ins.  Pop up shops, partnerships with startups, and education based events were also very popular.  The concept of owning the No-Sugar movement also intrigued the non-profit.

We hosted a brainstorming session with the non-profit to dig deep into the specific ideas, the themes and build on the concepts.  That is where the magic happens!  Using the Betterific community’s ideas as the lift-off point.

Congratulations to Lawrence Phipps, who won the challenge!  The Runners up prizes went to Lizabeth Barclay, Nuria Rovira Costas, Cheryl Noll, and Edward Drakhlis.  Their ideas are below!

Top idea:

the gala organizer partnered with an innovative manufacture of glucose monitoring devices (such as Verily, Dexcom, OneTouch or even Apple) to design an event experience that exposes all attendees to what it’s like to continuously monitor their blood sugar levels? For example, attendees could be tested before and after dinner. Or test results could be printed on their photobooth pictures.

Runner Ups:

at the gala participants were given a buzzer (like the ones you get when waiting for a table),or have them download a gala app. participants would be buzzed in order to understand aspects of diabetes…time to eat, time to test, etc. This would drive home the impact on the individual during a day.

the philanthropy had an app that donors could download for updates on the impact of gifts (research funding, patients seen, etc.)

before the Gala, there was a health challenge just for young people (under 25 or 30), focused on ideas for helping diabetes patients having a better life. A part of donors’ fundraising would be for developing that idea, and some donors would be chosen, in a draw, for being part of the jury. Similar to Ashoka Health challenge:

At the gala, not only financial commitment but time commitment would be sought? With the time commitment, the donor would call or email or post on social media the benefits of donating to this charity? Even a time commitment of 15 minutes per month could help others in their circle of influence to donate

A virtual-reality booth was set up at the gala to experience some of the symptoms of diabetes? Ie. high sugar, low sugar, retinopathy (eye problems)

Partnerships with large sports organizations (the way that Breast Cancer Awareness partners with the NFL) would promote awareness to a large audience at regular intervals over extended periods of the year. Under Armour owns the fitness tracking app My Fitness Pal and already has a sponsorship relationship with multiple sports organizations. Developing a relationship with Under Armour could allow the non-profit access to both the users of their fitness app, as well as sports fans. These would be perfect platforms for raising awareness and spreading the organization’s mission, long term.

non-profits engaged donors with more transparency and allowed them choose exactly how their donation was used? With a registry/wish-list style directory donors can choose what they want to contribute to the organization. There could be a list of what is needed to accomplish the non-profit’s mission like lab equipment, new research facility, drug manufacturing, and even general administration if someone doesn’t want to choose. This can get as granular as needed so people feel like they contributed something meaningful and know exactly what it was. Those people should be acknowledged in some way depending on what they contributed.

Money could be loaned at 0%!interest if donors would prefer? The non-profit could either use those funds instead of borrowing money from the bank, therefore saving the interest that would be paid or if not needed, put in a CD and collect the interest?

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How a (crowdsourced) idea becomes a product

Sterilite launches crowdsourced product

Sterilite, the industry leading manufacturer of plastic storage containers, launched their first ever crowdsourced product idea to the marketplace.  

Their “fresh scent” line of products includes a ventilating compartment to keep clothes smelling fresh during storage. The idea, to keep clothes smelling good while being stored, was generated by Keonte Smith in a Betterific innovation challenge.

For the crowdsourcing community this is a huge breakthrough.  No doubt you’ve heard of other crowdsourcing campaigns, like the 1995 campaign to choose M&M’s new color.  But that campaign, and other ideation campaigns like it, didn’t require any creative problem solving.  It’s more of a marketing play.  

We’re going to explore they whys and the hows.  Why did Rich Ahern, VP of marketing and product development, from Sterilite pursue a crowdsourcing path to product development? What was the process from idea>concept>validation>testing>launch.  How did he turn this idea into a reality?  

Why crowdsource?

Sterilite is the industry leader in a mature vertical.  New products come out a couple times a year and retailers are constantly looking to Sterilite for their next big thing.  For Rich and his team, one of the biggest challenges is coming up with brand new ideas. To gather new ideas, his team traditionally holds brainstorms, listens to end users and talks with cross functional teams.  And they are relatively successfully at that process. But Rich and his team wanted to go out to the crowd, to generate new ideas within a group of qualified ideators outside the four walls of Sterilite.  Because sometimes the ideas get stale in your own organization.


The Innovation Challenge – how and why it was constructed

The Betterific team and Rich worked on an innovation challenge that would lead to brand new ideas, to fill the pipeline of unique concepts to drive an exciting assortment of possibilities at retail.

Rich chose from the outset to keep the innovation challenge wide open, focusing on the product category, with no constraints except for a focus on analog solutions.  This was an interesting decision from the outset, as most of Betterific’s clients give a rigid set of guidelines to try and direct Betterific’s design thinking member base.  It ended up being a great move on Rich’s part.  Primarily because he and his team were open-minded and willing to look at any idea that was unique and had mass-market potential.  

The innovation challenge that was posed to the Betterific audience was:  “My storage bins would be better if…How would you make the plastic storage and organization bins in your home more useful? Think about all the possible storage places and spaces in your home while considering function, aesthetic, and ease of use.”  The incentive was $400 for the top idea.  It lasted 1.5 weeks. 146 ideas were generated.

Lots of great ideas were submitted.  The idea that led to the breakthrough was simple and ingenius:

Keonte Smith: “Wouldn’t it be better if there was a pocket inside to allow scented sheets to help keep clothing items smelling fresh.”

Evaluating and Prioritizing ideas

Sterilite’s main criteria for evaluating the ideas was, is the function easy to understand and desirable enough for the end-user to stand out in the crowd.  In hindsight, it would’ve been good to bake the criteria in the innovation challenge.  And moving forward, Betterific now tries to include that in all its innovation challenges.  

They brought together marketing and product development to evaluate the ideas. Each member of the cross functional team was invited onto the Betterific platform to vote for and comment on their favorite ideas.  That team has a deep knowledge of manufacturing capabilities, so they were able to evaluate ideas based on feasibility, as well as customer need and uniqueness. The group of about 12 then discussed those subset of ideas, in detail, during a few meetings.

The fresh-scented idea was unique and immediately generated that “A-ha” moment.  The cross-functional team selected around 10 ideas to get tested, but this was the fan favorite.  From Betterific’s experience, this is rare. Ideas don’t usually live in a vacuum – but rather require massaging, refinement and the bringing together of disparate ideas to create concepts.  In this case the idea was pretty self explanatory and stood on its own.  

Their designers then sketched out the selected ideas, which allowed them to dig deeper in their evaluation meetings.  They used these meetings to brainstorm around how to make the ideas, or adjacent ideas, a reality.  

An interesting insight Rich shared is that after the first round of selection, they try not to weigh in on whether an idea will work or not. They let the market and retailers decide.  Even in their product executive committee, which is comprised of the senior leadership, they are pretty lenient with which ideas should be tested and reserve judgement until people outside the company have given feedback.  

Hats off to Sterilite for that approach.  It is an extremely user-centric approach – to begin with crowdsourcing and then reserve judgement until the retailers and end-users interact with the product is a great testament to why this was a successful project.  That approach reflects a design-thinking methodology.


Testing, validating and Roll Out

Sterilite does not have a formal relationship with its end users, as it distributes its product exclusively to retailers who then sell it to the end-user.  But over the years it has created a powerful end-user community to test and validate concepts.  This batch of sketched up ideas was placed in the community, where they have clear benchmarks from previous tests.  The fresh-scented idea scored well and continued on to retailers.

When Rich and his team met with retailers, they showed a number of sketched out concepts, from the Betterific community and internal brainstorms.  When presenting the concepts, they included data from their testing and their expert opinions.  The Betterific community was used as a data point in the positive – the fact that it was crowdsourced was certainly a positive but the product had to be strong on its own.  

This idea was chosen by all of their top retailers to be rolled out!

All in all, the product took about 1.5 years, from idea-concept-selection-manufacturing-store shelves.  

Betterific is a platform to connect brainstormers and ideators with brands to help co-create new products. To join the community, To sponsor an innovation challenge:

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Bringing Design Thinking into the classroom to prepare the next generation for the challenges of the future

Paul Kim, is a teacher at Colorado Academy and Co-Director of the Redi Lab, and is best known for using the design thinking process to teach History.  He is our design thinking guest blogger.

Paul is an innovator in the education space, who is not afraid to change things up and find new ways to connect with students.  Below, Paul lays the case for using design thinking in school.  In doing so, he offers a glimpse into the how and why.  How can you bring design thinking into your daily life and why it’s so critical.

Paul is forward thinking – explaining that with AI on the horizon our students need to excel at thinking critically, analysing situtations and offering value where computers cannot.  Read below for his insights and for hope about the future of education!  (He also has a Tedx talk on the subject!)

Differentiation by Design

by Paul Kim

When educators discuss differentiation, they are usually referring to how a lesson might be designed to meet the diverse learning needs of students within a classroom. But exponential change and acceleration over the past decade may reflect the need for a new focus in the discussion of differentiation in schools. Given the shifting capacities of both artificial intelligence and human intelligence, perhaps educators should be discussing differentiation in the context of teaching students how to act less like the “machines” – the software and algorithms – that have become so ubiquitous in modern life.


Events like the 2016 defeat of Go grandmaster Lee Sedol by Google’s computer program AlphaGo and the ongoing evolution of Amazon’s Alexa as well as Apple’s Siri suggest that the work of educators should be recalibrated to help students grow the characteristics that distinguish them most from machines. Making our classrooms into spaces where students are encouraged to be curious, empathetic, discerning, and creative would do this.


During the first 20 years of my career, I assigned an essay on 1st day of school and I did the things that most teachers do with homework, projects, and tests while emphasizing critical thinking skills. I honestly think that I can say that important things were being learned in my classroom but at the same time I knew that I could create an even better learning experience for my students.


So five years ago, I decided to use design thinking to overhaul my world history curriculum and transform it into a course called Global Perspectives in the 21st Century. As a part of this process, I taught my students how to use design thinking as a tool in their studies. My hope was to create more open-ended, personalized lessons to help students develop adaptable minds and a sense of agency – to help students think about big ideas.

Changes I have made in my classroom by using design thinking include:


— the elimination of tests

— a pass – fail grading policy during the 1st trimester to encourage metacognition

— mind mapping to explore historical questions that cannot be simply Google searched

— disassembling and reassembling bicycles to learn process and logic

— programming Lego robots to grow familiar with computational thinking

— writing and performing spoken word poetry to inspire creativity

— projects to redesign cities using insights from different perspectives


In general, the goal through all of this has been to engage students in deeper learning as they study the world. In specific terms, I believe that the use of design thinking in classrooms can lead to student outcomes such as these:

empathize students will: ask better questions • gain insight into different points of view • be less impulsive •

be more observant • learn to deconstruct ideas – issues • understand the logic within curriculum • move beyond the obvious in their thinking • learn to listen more effectively

define students will: purposefully evaluate & synthesize ideas – information • organize ideas – information logically & creatively • practice saliency determination • identify root problems, issues, & causes • better understand nuance • recognize patterns & context • become persistent in thought processes


ideate students will: become more creative & innovative thinkers by using imagination as a generative tool • learn the value of failure while learning to work fast under pressure • understand the relationship between questions & analysis • grow as visual thinkers • practice collaboration • have fun


prototype students will: understand that there is more than one way to complete a task • develop a wider range of their academic skills • grow as strategic thinkers • think in abstractions & metaphors • become smart risk takers • make & break stuff • write better • become more resilient


test students will: learn how to better use feedback • present ideas – information with more purpose • experience the realities of collaboration & honest assessment • evaluate ideas – information with a more critical sensibility • strive for more comprehensive understandings • become more self-aware



To track progress in my efforts as a part of the design thinking process, I have consistently asked students for feedback in different forms. The following are quotations from some of that student feedback:


“I feel more creative…. I am challenging and analyzing what I’m being told more.”


“[This class helps me] develop the mindset not only as a student but as a person to not be satisfied with the obvious and to stretch for further connections.”


“It is very engaging and requires a healthy amount of knowledge and risk taking.”


“I am learning to think for myself. We learn to not just go to Google for the answers but to look other places.”


“It really screws me up in other classes where there are black and white answers.”


We live in an amazing world at an amazing time. The past decade in particular has been unique in its exponential impact as witnessed by the rise of the iPhone, Facebook, and IBM’s Watson (for more on the impact of 2007 click here). Design thinking itself has had a role in this, as most Silicon Valley technology firms use the process to innovate in their work. Given the demonstrated value of design thinking in improving the learning capacities of technology, it is no surprise that design thinking is also being used to strengthen schools across the country. I hope that my own story as a teacher who has found design thinking to be a positive, disruptive force multiplier in the classroom contributes to the spread of a design thinking ethos in our education system.