08/05/2013 12:07 pm ET Updated Oct 05, 2013

Thread: Connecting the World

As a designer, I know there are endless and difficult problems in our world, which means there are endless opportunities to make a positive impact. Sometimes it is hard knowing where to get started and how we can make a difference.

Since the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention was hosted on the OpenIDEO platform, it was as the name suggests - open to anyone. You don't have to be a designer, or have specific knowledge and experience in the challenge topic, to submit ideas and inspirations. It allows anyone interested in social good to actively participate in finding a solution through collaboration, innovation and design. This open platform helps participants go through the human-centered design process together by fostering contribution and collaborative dialog.

I've been part of a few OpenIDEO challenges in the past, but would say that the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention was the most demanding on many levels. The challenge asked how we might gather information to prevent mass atrocities and violence against civilians. I was really touched by the personal stories, interviews and videos provided and was shocked that so many incidents continue to go unreported or are reported too late.

One of the biggest hurdles in the challenge was coming to terms with the dramatic differences between our own circumstances and those we were tasked to help. Better understanding the implications of what life is really like for people in remote areas of the world, where safety is a daily concern, is particularly challenging for anyone living in the relative safety and comfort of the U.S. Developing a deep level of empathy is important when designing for others on any project, but it felt even more so for this challenge. It was also important to understand the needs of aid organizations and the people on the ground working to help. What I didn't realize during the challenge was how much my parents' stories inspired me unconsciously. They witnessed the Vietnam War and came to the U.S. as refugees, making many incredibly difficult decisions along the way. It's amazing how many people we know have their own relevant stories and experiences to share.

It took me some time to look at the many inspirations that were submitted to see what could be built upon as well as any opportunities that hadn't been explored prior to developing my own concept. Ultimately I felt connecting the dots within the current infrastructure was more important than developing something completely new. There are many great organizations I saw doing important work, and if they could somehow connect, it could benefit everyone. I looked to organizations such as Digital Green, World Bicycle Relief, United Nation's hunchworks, MIT Media's lab work with low-cost digital communication, Adaptive Path's iWitness tool, and Invisible Children to see how we could leverage what tools were already available.

At the end of the day, we are all part of the same human race. We now live in time where rapidly changing technology has allowed us to connect more than ever. Hopefully this means it will be easier to bring crucial information to light and develop the appropriate tools in response. It's been an honor to be part of this challenge because of how much support and momentum has continued from the sponsors, USAid and Humanity United. They have shown their interest in taking the final concepts further, and I hope to continue refining the concept and collaborating with them. I am very excited to see where all of the concepts will go. I look forward to being part of future OpenIDEO challenges as well as other social impact opportunities.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, Humanity United and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in recognition of the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention. To see all the other posts in the series, click here. For more information about The Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention, click here