Our First Innovation Offsite

Blog Home | by Alessandra Mosenifar | from the office


One of our 2014 annual goals is to create environments and processes that foster innovation within our organization. A few Fridays ago, we held our first innovation offsite, centered around the topic of reinventing charity: ball.

We had two goals entering the offsite: 1. create a safe space to brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas and 2. practice the design thinking process with our team. At charity: water we believe that everyone is creative, but sometimes people need an extra nudge to remember. Our offsite was an exercise in just that: sharing tools and exercises to help fuel creative minds.


We kicked off the workshop by sharing our “homework.” Earlier in the week, we asked people to think of the last time they participated in an activity that made them feel like they were truly part of a community. It was important to have everyone read their homework out loud — this ensured that the shy people and the extraverts all had an equal chance to speak.

Aside from a warm-up exercise, the homework had a practical use. One of the biggest complaints we get about charity: ball is that it’s become so massive, it no longer feels intimate. We want to bring that feeling back, and this gave us a chance to discover the components necessary for building communities. We saw the common themes right away: food was a huge community-builder, shared experiences, teamwork and accomplishing goals together.


The rest of the workshop was broken up into different sections: brainstorming, individual ideation, sharing and synthesis. Each part was supported by a variety of activities, and lots of post-its, to help stimulate creativity. We first went for quantity (a shotgun blast of ideas) and then for quality (by refining on our favorites).


Our highlights:

  • Rapid ideation session and the 500 post-its that came from it
  • Trying something new and using a different part of our brains
  • Breadth of crazy and amazing ideas
  • Adding new tools to our toolkits
  • Having representatives from every dept (finance, water programs, growth team, tech and creative)


We had so much fun taking a break from our regular tasks to work with colleagues that we typically wouldn’t be working with, and we can’t wait to continue sharing our learnings with you throughout the year!

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