Could Design Thinking Help YOUR Camp?

If you attended this year's JCamp 180 Annual Conference and enjoyed the longer conference, increased networking time and breaks, the time outside of the hotel for dinner at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and the earlier date to enjoy the New England Foliage, you can thank the design thinking process our team undertook to rethink the conference experience.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a process of creative problem-solving. It provides a structured framework for empathetically defining challenges, creating and testing potential solutions, refining ideas, and developing workable solutions to newly defined problems.

In other words, design thinking helps you to define problems and develop creative solutions by setting aside preconceived ideas.

Why design thinking?

Honestly, we probably used design thinking for the conference because I am personally interested in the process. I've taken some courses on the topic and have tried to apply it to a handful of problems.

More generally, design thinking allows for nimbleness as huge, unexpected shifts happen in the world. Strategic Planning is still vitally important for helping organizations create a vision for where they want to be in the future and develop specific steps to reach that future vision. But design thinking can help organizations uncover problems and opportunities they would otherwise have never realized existed.

Using Design Thinking

For a look at how another Jewish organization uses design thinking, check out this article in eJewishPhilanthropy. Shara Peters, Head of School at Adat Ari El Day School talks about how they are embracing design thinking to help their students be open to deep, meaningful change themselves.

How can YOUR camp be open to deep meaningful change that allows it to be sustainable long-term in the face of whatever changes and challenges it faces in the future?

I hope this will be the first in an occasional series of posts on the topic of design thinking. And you can help! Please let us know how you've used design thinking at camp or in another context so we can share your experience with your peers. 

Written by Kevin Martone. Kevin is the Technology Program Manager with JCamp 180. His focus area is in applying technology (database management, communications) to support fundraising and outreach efforts. Kevin leads JTEC (JCamp 180 Training in Effective Communications) and co-leads Data2Donors, a program to help camps prioritize their database for improved Alumni outreach and fundraising.

Who we are: JCamp 180 is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF). Our goal is to significantly enhance the long-term effectiveness of nonprofit Jewish camps in North America. To meet this goal, we provide affiliated Jewish camps with consulting services, annual conferences, shared resources, professional development, and matching grant opportunities. Find more at