Free to Be: Design Thinking Workshop

Prioritising thinking through concepts that could have real world impacts for women and girls.


The ‘Free to be Design Thinking’ workshop welcomed participants from all sectors of the community. All were different, with different jobs, ages, experiences, and most importantly, with diverse experiences and different (possibly conflicting) perceptions of the same city. This difference was exactly why we were all together, and why the Design Thinking methods are so critical: design thinking methods help individuals to articulate and discuss their experiences and perceptions.

Nicole Kalms

At the end of the workshop participants outlined a series of well-thought out proposals for how the information and momentum built through the Free to Be (pilot) mapping project could impact Melbourne: through proposing policy recommendations, physical and tangible interventions, digital or virtual ideas, or even experiences and events aimed to progress women and girls experiences in cities.

Most importantly, the ‘impact ideas’ developed throughout the day were created together by all the participants in the workshop. This means, instead of the XYX Lab (as architects and designers) proposing our designer-ly ideas or talking about what we think would work for women and girls in cities, the Lab instead relied upon the experts in room: on each and every participant’s own lived experiences of the city – both personal and professional. We built upon each other’s differences by using the creative and hands on approaches that the designers in the XYX Lab use everyday to navigate complex problems. Through deploying them in the workshop, we helped each participant to articulate their own ideas.

We asked everyone to be generous – and they were. It made no difference whether or not participants could draw, or if in the course of their normal working life they were unable to see themselves as creative. The Free to Be Design thinking workshop prioritised thinking through concepts that could have real world impacts. In small groups these were then discussed, refined, and finally built so that we moved beyond great thoughts towards actionable ideas for how to make Melbourne – our world’s most liveable city – a little more inclusive and liveable for everyone.

Since the workshops, participants have looked at implementing the ideas suggested and have started having different conversations with friends and colleagues. One participant in particular mentioned, “Within local government I have considered the design of urban spaces and included this learning into our guidelines for undertaking Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design assessments.”

For more information about FREE TO BE, and to learn about our partners CrowdSpot and Plan International Australia, please visit: