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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Dana Mitroff Silvers

Building the Empathetic Museum with Human-Centered Design: Dana Mitroff Silvers

Dana Mitroff Silvers is a web strategy and implementation consultant and workshop facilitator with experience launching digital products in museums, nonprofits, and educational organizations. A theme in her current work is how mission-driven organizations can integrate principles of human-centered design into their practice.

Dana has been in a dialog with others in the museum community about creating The Empathetic Museum. She wrote an article about 'Empathy as the starting point for innovation'. In this dialog we talked about her  article and insights on empathy and bringing human-centered design to museums.


She writes, "One of the core principles of design thinking is its focus on human values at every stage of the process. And empathy for the people for whom you’re designing is fundamental to this process... There have been several recent discussions about empathy in museum practice, ranging from Regan Forrest’s writings about empathy in the context of interpretation on the Interactivate blog to Gretchen Jenning’s write-up about The Empathetic Museum at AAM to Suse Cairns’s post on the Museum Geek blog, On the paradoxes of empathy.

I’m thrilled that empathy seems to be an emerging meme among my museum peers. The current discussions touch on the application of empathy at all levels of museums, from institutional policy to interpretive practices. One aspect of empathy that I think is missing in these discussions is how it is used and applied in the context of the design thinking process."

Sub Conference: Human-Centered-Design




 Building the Empathetic Museum with Human-Centered Design: Dana Mitroff Silvers & Edwin Rutsch





Article: Empathy as the starting point for innovation
By Dana Mitroff Silvers

"One of the core principles of design thinking is its focus on human values at every stage of the process. And empathy for the people for whom you’re designing is fundamental to this process. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an “Empathetic Listening Booth” at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market in Berkeley, CA, where I live. Living in Berkeley, I’m used to seeing all sorts of  interesting things at the local farmer’s market, but this one really caught my eye with its use of the term “empathy.""


Talk: From Empathy to Innovation: Design Thinking for Nonprofits
Nonprofit Technology Conference, Minneapolis, MN
"There has been a lot of buzz about design thinking as a methodology for solving complex challenges by understanding users' needs and developing deep insights to meet those needs. With roots in the engineering sector, design thinking has been around for more than 30 years and has been adopted by many nonprofits as a process for innovation and collaboration. This interactive session introduces attendees to this human-centered, prototype-driven process. Participants experience first-hand the complete Design Thinking cycle--empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test--through a lightning fast, hands-on interactive challenge. The presenters then encourage everyone to look for ways to apply Design Thinking to their current projects, and introduce resources for implementing Design Thinking in any organization."

Workshop 2012 - Design Thinking for Museums: From Empathy to Innovation
Museum Computer Network Conference, Seattle, WA
"Design Thinking is a human-centered, prototype-driven process for innovation. In this half-day workshop, participants will experience firsthand the complete Design Thinking cycle through a hands-on, highly interactive session. Design thinking emphasizes learning by doing, and this workshop will be a rapid-fire, immersive, and fun journey through every stage of the process."



Project: Design Thinking for Visitor Engagement: Tackling One Museum’s Big Challenge through Human-centered Design
by Dana Mitroff Silvers, web strategy consultant and blogger

How might we engage visitors–without a museum?
"This paper, co-authored by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the teaching team of the course “Design Thinking Bootcamp” at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (, documents a partnership between SFMOMA and the in Fall 2012. For this partnership, a class of multidisciplinary graduate students took on a design challenge for SFMOMA and prototyped innovative, divergent solutions following the design thinking process. In this paper, we will share the stories of the students’ process and insights, provide examples of the prototypes they developed, and discuss the impact the project had on the museum’s approach to collaborative problem-solving..."