Amira A. Pettus
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New Internationalist Inception Workshop


New Internationalist Inception

Before my team and I began working with New Internationalist (NI) on their digital magazine I led a 1 week inception workshop to understand their context and pinpoint their needs. NI brought our team in because they wanted to increase and expand their readership base online.

Our challenge that week was to distill what their goals as an organization were for this project, identify areas our team could help, determine their priorities, and create a foundation for us to begin collaborating.

Location & Duration : Oxford, England for 1 week


Getting Started on the same page

Expanding a magazine's readership base and subscriptions in time when paid journalism is struggling was tall ask. We knew that simply putting a "new skin" on NI's site was not going to solve their problem. So our team began by understanding the nuts and bolts of NI's organization and making sure that there was a consensus from everyone involved about the objectives of the work. We also learned what the hope and fears members of the cooperatives had. Everyone wanted what was best for the magazine but they were in different camps about how they would get there.


Day 1 Learning about NI & Their Goals

1   We ran an activity  to understand the ethos and objectives for the organization, the team, and for the collaborative project.

2  Our team facilitated an excercise to identify the members of the cooperative's Hopes and Fears for the project.

3   In the last activity of the day we focused on identifying tentative personas from NI's percieved readership group's characteristics  


One of the first issues we uncovered right away that week was that because NI is an internationally read magazine on issues that affected people worldwide they were unsure who really was their target audience.

My team and I learned that NI had done some some previous ad hoc "user research" to gather potential reader types. The data was pooled from the members of the cooperative who had all taken various approaches to learn about their users from interviews, anecdotes from gatherings, and through email correspondents. From this data we determined who are NI's target readers were and hypothesized their goals.  


Day 2 Mapping the Reader's journey

1  We began the day by going over our personas and identified their target reader's goals in New Internationalist digital and physical magazine.

2  Afterwards we guided NI members through mapping the user journeys of target readers and identified pain points. 


Day 3 Determining NI's Priorities

1  After identifying and categorizing reader's pain points, we worked with stakeholders to prioritize them in order to determine which to tackle first. These categories covered areas like searching for content, viewing content, purchasing, creating, and supporting a movement.  


2  At the end of Day 3, we facilitated a collaborative sketching exercise with the goal of understanding how stakeholders imagined the final state of their digital space. It was also to bubble up the expectations that each co-op member had and to determine if their visions were aligned.    


It was critical for NI that we not only think about their reader's experience, but also their own internal editorial process. 

We uncovered that NI had two very different, disjointed editorial and publishing processes for the content the utilized on in their physical magazine and the content they made for the web.


Day 4 Understanding NI's Editorial process,creating initial epics, & the agile Method

1  Interviewed editors to understand their  process and how they utilized their current CMS

2  Defined measurements for success with  stakeholders


3  As a product team we created initial high level epics and stories for our development team based on a combination of the priorities defined, basic user goals for NI's CMS and the site, and pre development setup.  

4  The last activity of the day was an agile coaching activity called "The Lego Game", where we used lego's to role play the agile development process between client and team. The goal of this exercise is to not only demonstrate our processes and why we do them, but also to show clients what to expect during the engagement. 


The last day of the inception workshop focused on setting up logistics, making sure that NI knew how we were beginning the project, what we needed from them, and collaborate on the best way to moved forward together. 

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Day 5 Setting up a Delivery plan & logistics

1  We collaborated on a Communication Plan for the engagement. This included identifying point people on both sides, as well the cadence for our biweekly showcases and the expectations for them. 

2  Worked with team to created and validate a Phase 1 and Phase 2 delivery Plan.


3  We reviewed and discussed an initial story backlog with the NI coop members so that they knew what areas we were tackling first and what were the estimated timelines. 

4   At the end of the workshop we prepared and presented a summary showcase of the week's workshops and their outcomes with the entire New Internationalist cooperative. 



After the Inception

1  I created and delivered a research and prototyping plan as a part of Phase 1. The goal of plan was to understand and validate our assumptions of New Internationalist's reader base, as well determine the usability of their current site. 

2  I began research phase by working with NI members to identify a diverse cross section of readers so that I could schedule interviewees. In parallel I created interview scripts, and  then started conducting interviews.