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Engage the Community in Daring Projects


One of the best parts about DFA is that we tackle local, social challenges! We are all about making a real impact by working on issues that are critical and interesting for our community. How can we scope projects that are daring, feasible, and applicable?

Output : 2-3 project that is Daring, Feasible, and Applicable and ready for a team (or teams!) to take on.

Effective ways to engage the community in daring projects:

  1. Download the DFA scoping wheel and review the Daring, Feasible, Applicable questions.
    • A daring challenge is one that would affect users’ day-to-day lives in significant ways. Solving these challenges could mean fighting hospital infections, preventing environmental degradation, or increasing access to learning in an underserved community.
    • A feasible challenge has two major traits: it is clearly a need for your local community and your studio has access to expertise about the problem. Pre-scoped challenges (listed under step 3) often possess both of these traits.
    • An applicable challenge is one that is pervasive beyond the local community. choosing such challenges would allow your team to set an exemplary solution for a nation-wide problem.
  2. Determine how many projects to scope.
    • Check the studio vision and timeline you set for your studio to decide how many projects will be feasible for your studio.
  3. Review some pre-scoped challenges as a starting point.
    • These challenges readily fulfill the daring, feasibility and applicability requirements of the wheel. Drawn from problem statements given to DFA by our partners, these challenges often require immediate attention and already involve interested community members.
    • There are many places to turn to for pre-scoped problem statements, start from DFA National’s Pre-Scoped folder.
    • Check for feasibility by identifying local partners and mentors to work with on this challenge
  4. For new challenges, make sure you find a Daring, Feasible, Applicable challenge.
    • If the pre-scoped challenges aren’t your jam, or your community has voiced strong concerns about an issue you are passionate about, you should narrow down from a broad topic like “homelessness” and then get to subcategories of opportunities using research and slap stats. Here is an example of how DFA National scoped specific HCWs from a broad topic of Down Syndrome when we planned Leadership Studio 2015.
    • Using the scoping chart, narrow down your project domain to find the ‘right’ problem or opportunity within that challenge area.
    • Note: The problem statement shouldn’t limit you to only one solution! A good problem lets you brainstorm various designs that tackle the issue from different angles.
    • Just like you would for a pre-scoped challenge, submit a list of problem topics that your studio will consider.
    • Submit initial HCW and 2-3 slap stats, community partners, and mentors for each topic.
  5. Work with local mentors to define & refine your own topic.
    • DFA teams partner with local community organizations or individuals to solve a problem faced by local and/or underserved communities. Check “Reach out to Community Partners” for tips on reaching out to partners and building a sustainable relationship with them.
  6. Review and finalize the project scope with mentor & partners & your studio before handing it off to teams.
    • Do your stakeholders agree that the challenge is Daring, Feasible, and Applicable? Ask for their feedback to find out. Make sure that the iterations haven’t thrown you off from your track.
    • Make sure your each challenge has initial HCWs, 2-3 slap stats, community partners, and mentors.  
    • Share your list of suggestions with your studio and meet up for discussion.
    • Be receptive to feedback and flexible with your preliminary ideas.
    • Make any adjustment to your scope as needed.

Network Best Practices

Scope your projects following the DFA Scoping Wheel

Meeting the criteria outlined in the DFA Scoping Wheel by Daring, Feasible, and Applicable ensures that the challenge will have a positive social impact on your local community. Download the scoping wheel here

Find pre-scoped challenges as a starting point

DFA National Pre-Scoped 

Many corporations are interested in working with the DFA network through a sponsored project. Although applications to be involved in sponsored projects are open late spring, other teams are free to tackle this pre-scoped challenge on their own if the topic is of interest to them! DFA sponsored projects are challenges hosted by DFA National that pair up a selected number of teams from interested studios with a sponsoring company around a particular challenge. For example, in Fall 2013, Driver Independence for Older Adults was a sponsored project with Fiat Chrysler Automotive. Check out this challenge packet on Dementia! Check out this folder to download some pre-scoped topics for your projects.


Examples include OpenIDEO, the Gates Foundation, Diabetes Mine that come with pre-set challenge statements like “How might we design an accessible election experience for everyone?” or “Come up with an idea that improves life of those living with diabetes.” Remember to make sure all competitions are applicable to your local community. DFA RPI tackled a prompt from Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute to guide them to make their design in fundamentally better ways. See more on their website!