Our third workshop, held at Civic Hall on Tuesday, February 21, explored best approaches to synthesizing research. By learning the importance of synthesis and creating user personas, participants had the opportunity to dig into the discovery phase of our big design challenge: “How might we use data & technology to improve the quality of life for seniors, youth & immigrants in NYC?”

We also heard from one of Microsoft’s Civic Fellows in Innovation, Ross Dakin, who explained how eligible teams and individuals can get free access to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and its suite of tools for hosting, computation, analysis, machine learning, computer vision, and translation.


Following a warmup exercise, participants dove into the lesson on synthesis. Facilitated by Scott Weiss & Allie Mahler of Community x Design, groups began to think about how to sift through information to extract the most important pieces of research. The workshop focused on four core lessons in synthesis:

  • Collecting Observations
  • Recognizing Patterns
  • Creating User Personas
  • Developing Insights


To collect observations, we asked participants to think about the stories they had heard, quotes they had jotted down, and surprises they had witnessed in their research.

In recognizing patterns, we pushed participants to cluster commonalities and group these observations into buckets, starting broadly with themes such as “family” and “transportation.”

By creating strong user personas, we motivated participants to consider the user within the context of their research and asked questions like “what does this user feel?” or “what does this user do?”. These questions sought to keep human-centered design at the core of the exercise. Participants were reminded that the most effective tech services begin with people in mind.

Lastly, participants thought about gleaning insights from the aforementioned observations, patterns, and personas. They began to reveal the “whys” or underlying needs of their research.

Following this workshop, participants and their teams had the opportunity to continue brainstorming, questioning, and synthesizing their research alongside mentors from appnovation, Bureau Blank, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, NYC Department of Education iZone, Queens Public Library, and other civic-minded tech organizations in NYC.


We will continue to open source all of the materials from our workshops on this blog, so make sure to check back for new materials and tools.

Join us at the next workshop on Tuesday, March 7! Register here.