For Hannah Rudin’s thesis, Teambuilding America: A Declaration of Interdependence, the experience designer and researcher set out to tackle the issue of political polarization in America. Hannah prompts, “Imagine trying to work on a team to solve problems while believing that members of your team are an active threat to your organization. Also, they believe the same about you. Our government bodies are teams attempting to solve problems at national, state, and local levels—it is no wonder that nothing is getting done.”
Over the course of Hannah’s thesis research—which included interviewing experts and subjects across the country, running co-creation workshops, speaking with local organizations, and exploring secondary sources—three necessary strategies for reversing polarization emerged: (1) get people who would not normally meet each other into the same room, (2) have them accomplish something together, and (3) identify a shared vision for the future of United States.
Union is an app that connects users with people with differing political views, and facilitates their interaction through a fifteen-minute video call. Hannah created Union to fill the gap between the in-person events and the social media threads that certain organizations were devising in order to create conversations across political differences. The primary goal of the experience is not necessarily having a transformative conversation, but rather a positive interaction with someone you might not otherwise meet.
Unboxing America seeks to eliminate family political tensions by both strengthening relationships and fostering awareness of varying political beliefs. To do this, it provides single-issue unboxing kits that guide families through interactive lessons and structured conversations around specific issues. The initial target audiences for Unboxing America are families divided within liberal politics, addressing popular issues that Gen Z cares about and their parents don’t really understand. Future versions will expand to address other ideological issues and demographics, as well as respond to current events.
Co-Creating the American Future
Hannah hosted two co-creation workshops during which she facilitated discussions about participants’ frustrations with and hopes for America. This was followed by personal, paired, and group ideation around the future, and the significance of having a shared vision. Participants then created their own future American flag as an artifact to consider the what values would be needed for their ideal America to exist.
After hosting the first two workshops, Hannah shared the footage and outcomes with Make America Dinner Again. “I was so excited when they asked me if they could share it with their entire facilitator network, across the country,” Hannah shared. “When more people across the country start asking and answering these questions, we can start imagining what this shared future might be.”
Based on the insights from the co-creation workshop, Hannah launched a movement called Reply Forward, which seeks to shift the political conversation in America toward the future and invite more voices to join. “Reply Forward is a movement because it needs to live on beyond this one experience in Washington Square Park. These questions need to be asked many more times,” Hannah says.
thrum — from the heart
thrum is a personal mindfulness device designed with elected officials in mind, but targeted towards work environments more broadly. thrum enhances self-awareness by displaying the user’s heartbeat as a gently pulsing light and occupying their hands in a mindful gesture. This pulse-light acts at the intrapersonal relationship level, seeking to strengthen one’s relationship with their own body and help humans better recognize their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. “The root of polarization is relationships, and healing can begin within each of us,” Hannah says.
To learn more about Hannah Rudin’s work, take a look at her projects in more detail on hannahrudin.me.