What are Action Collabs

Workshops that spark innovation and transformational change in education.


Action Collabs help groups discover innovative fixes to practical problems and create real value for educators and learners. ISKME’s Action Collab framework is a collaborative approach to problem-solving that combines human-centered design thinking concepts with improvisation techniques to unlock a group’s creativity and capacity for innovation.

Action Collabs help groups:

  •    Develop fresh perspectives to reframe familiar challenges.

  •    Identify unexpected solution possibilities that open up new directions.

  •    Spark strategic thinking that reveals new partnerships and relationships.

Action Collabs consist of four core stages that can be adapted to take place in half-day, multi-day, or over several months:

  • Identify Opportunity: groups use empathy based listening and observing tools, and immersion activities to gain inspiration and insight from users.

  • Design: No solution is out of bounds as groups stretch their imagination to answer a focusing “How might we?” question drawing from their deeper understanding of user experience.

  • Prototype: Groups select a specific solution idea and show how it might work by creating physical prototypes, role-play scenarios, and user narratives.

  • Impact: In order to create impact, groups share their solutions with users to get meaningful feedback.

Action Collabs can be modified and tailored to meet the needs of any group charged with developing new solutions or strategies focused on creating tangible improvement in people’s experiences.

ISKME offers a range of Action Collab workshops that vary in audience, length, and focus:

  •  Action Collab: Customized to a group's specific Design Challenge (1 - 2 days, with follow-up support)

  •  Mini Action Collab: Learn and experience the framework of an Action Collab (1/2 day)

  •  Action Collab for Kids or Young Adults: Focused on a group of younger learners' Design Challenge (1 day)

  •  Embedded Action Collab:  Inserted into a larger event to catalyze action around ideas generated (1/2 day - 2 days)

  •  Action Collab Facilitator Training: Develops capacity for designing and leading Action Collabs (2 days)


ISKME has worked with a number of diverse organizations using Action Collabs to move the needle on pressing challenges and begin to take positive action.  Participants have used Action Collabs to:

  • Curriculum redesign

  • Rethink parent engagement in schools

  • Transform professional development for educators

  • Explore solutions for new models for restructuring teaching and learning services

  • Imagine and explore new revenue models

The Action Collab Framework creates a safe space for open and collaborative thinking and provocation, in which participants give each other permission to experiment with ideas and explore possibilities.

"I'd never seen myself as someone who 'makes' things, and for the first time, I saw myself conceptualizing and making a solution. It was really eye-opening." Action Collab Participant

"It was that transformation of creating order out of chaos that struck me as one of the more useful practices and techniques that could be applied to day to day level of an institution, even a smaller level such as a department. In a sense, it is about letting people talk, vent, and having confidence that no matter how varied their background, there are things we share as educators, and it is very likely that we will come to some broader consensus." Action Collab Participant


ISKME works with individuals and groups to develop their capacity for designing and leading Action Collabs in their own organization.  

Public Training: ISKME offers two-day training sessions open to the public, in which participants experience an Action Collab and then look under the hood to explore the rationale of each step in the process.  Participants discuss the goals for each Action Collab module, learn the activities that support those goals and the improvisation techniques that enhance the group’s collaboration.  Time is dedicated for participants to practice giving process instructions and facilitate activities with rich de-brief and reflection on learning.


“I learned how provocation is the land where innovation lives and how critical it is to get a group there. This includes the power of improv to bring about the innovation and provocation mind-set.”  Action Collab training participant.

“I loved all of the PRACTICE!  It is always the most uncomfortable and the MOST rewarding. I felt the facilitation was authentic and did not feel at all scripted or wrote.The work of revising the Design Challenge was very helpful and critical to a good Action Collab.” Action Collab training participant


Organizations that ould benefit from custom trainings include those that have a particular goal for their training, such as: a team charged with leading redesign efforts or new business development; or creating a multi-year initiative targeting innovation and transformation.  often benefit from custom training workshops. ISKME can design a series of Action Collab sessions and trainings so that participants learn how to design and lead their own Action Collabs. A series of sessions could include experiencing an Action Collab focused on a current design challenge, then participating in a two-day training to dissect and learn the AC process, then co-facilitation with the client organization to provide first-hand experience and feedback, followed by online support.

To bring a customized Action Collab to your organization, please contact us at info@iskme.org

Action Collab Design Team
Lisa Petrides, ISKME
Megan Simmons, ISKME
Jonah Houston, IDEO
Chris Miller, LifePlays