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10/08/2014 at 3:49 PM
An Adaptable Process Can Bridge Any Distance
by Tameka Ramsey, ATO Producer

Those of you that have been following along these past months know that Kathleen Chromicz, the mom powering Villages Innovate, is an intrepid traveler. Since our work with her began she's visited no fewer than 5 countries as well as both coasts of the United States, evangelizing the organization's efforts and learning as much as she can. Kim Chromicz, another key Villages Innovate stakeholder, lives in Afghanistan. Like all long-distance relationships, ours has not been without challenges.

ATO is building a digital product for Villages Innovate that will allow Kathleen to further amplify the voice of the organization, create meaningful partnerships, and disseminate her service learning model to schools and villages all over the world. 

It's been both rewarding and challenging to facilitate ATO's signature highly collaborative process with a client who not only lives halfway around the world in a developing country but is also rarely in one place for longer than 2 weeks at a time.

Here are 5 key lessons from our long-distance experience:
  1. Stretch the boundaries of flexibility. How do you schedule a design review when your stakeholders are in the U.S., Zimbabwe and Afghanistan? Get creative. Determine what really needs to be discussed in person and what can be accomplished separately, over email or using another form of communication like Basecamp.
  2. Align on project management and communications tools. Skype? Google Hangouts? Basecamp? There are many project management tools out there and they all have their plusses and minuses. Coming to a clear agreement on which tool will be used to communicate important information early on has helped us bridge the time and distance between us.
  3. Never take a sound process for granted. We knew our collaborative design process would enable us to create a world-class digital product for Villages Innovate. And we were pleasantly surprised that our probing questions and defined processes have helped Villages Innovate to identify gaps in their nonprofit infrastructure, to define their business goals and, ultimately, to refine their business model. 
  4. The words client and partner should be synonymous. Kathleen has an indomitable spirit. We made a pact to push through our challenges together. This is the type of client-agency partnership that elevates a product. Kathleen meets her deadlines, and when she can't she communicates with us so we can make the necessary adjustments to our shared calendar. So our efforts, while not always perfect, are always perfectly aligned.
  5. Always look for the Adjacent Possible. On every project that comes into the ATO studio, we challenge ourselves to continuously explore ideas adjacent to ones that are already out there, looking at the areas in-between and beyond. Villages Innovate was no exception. There are many solutions to international development out there and we pushed ourselves to think beyond the usual suspects.

Meet the Moms

& Their Projects
Kathleen Chromicz

Villages Innovate Kathleen is a teacher committed to Service Learning concerning global issues. She is a mother to two grown men who she regularly video conferences with just so they can keep up with her.

Adjacent To One

Digital Commuter Strategy Our big idea is to use digital technology to improve and streamline the end-to-end experience of New York City's public transportation system. We're on the hunt for a mom who is as passionate as we are about innovation in public transportation. 

Past Moms

Science Matters, Ameeta Mukherjee

Ameeta is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, and worked as an engineer and scientist in Silicon Valley for over 15 years. She lives in California with her husband and two young boys.