Public Policy Committee: Design Thinking Workshop Digest (January 2021)

by | February 10, 2021 | GPNP, Past Events | 2 comments

In late January, the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership Public Policy Committee met virtually to explore Western Pennsylvania’s nonprofit sphere’s most pressing priorities. Outgoing Chair Harris Ferris joins us Vice Chair, now headed by its new Chair, Laurie Levine, the committee is balancing the continuation of its work while exploring new means to collaborate and effectuate policy change.

With the new year and new incoming Chair, the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership was tasked with redefining its priorities for the year. The Public Policy Committee, a dedicated subset of the broader GPNP and advocacy vessel of The Forbes Funds, is charged with involving and convening its engaged nonprofit partners in identifying a common policy agenda that reflects the needs of the nonprofit and human services sectors throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.

Meeting Objective

The objective of this meeting was to bring together dedicated nonprofit stakeholders with the goal of identifying organizations that are engaged and elaborating on the respective policy priorities of each organization.

Key agenda items included introductions, centering the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Social Determinants of Health, as well as identifying key audiences and shared values across GPNP partners. These items were executed using Miro, an online whiteboarding platform that supports collaborative work and creative design. While there was a bit of a technological learning curve at first, participants stayed the course and contributed in meaningful ways!


In the meeting, we got to hear more about what is important to our GPNP Policy Committee Stakeholders. Themes included capturing the attention of elected officials, miscellaneous issue-area coalitions, institutions, nonprofit community leaders, press, marginalized communities whose voice we are working to amplify, and more.

Several strong values identified across participants included these values which are integral to the work of GPNP and The Forbes Funds as organizations, and we are grateful to have such alignment with our nonprofit partners. Our top shared values, with #4 and #5 tied with #3 per voting:

  1. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  2. Human-Centered
  3. Sustainability
  4. Integrity
  5. Evidence-based
Group Values

The group also voted on exactly who our Committee’s target audience is to boil down who we need to focus on specifically–to amplify our collective voice–because if we focus on everybody we’re not going to be able to focus messaging to effectuate policy change. The top 3 target audiences identified:

  1. Legislators and Elected Officials
  2. Community Leaders & Partners: those in a position to push the agenda forward, including coalitions like EJPP, RCPA, trade groups and associations, foundations, and so on
  3. Nonprofit Clients & Marginalized Voices: residents of our communities and those receiving services (e.g. homeless, elderly, youth, LGBT & marginalized voices)

Want to learn more about the benefits of strategic affiliations? Get The Forbes Funds Strategic Affiliation Toolkit here. In addition, you can read about collaborative brainstorming using design thinking to foster lasting impact.

GPNP Audience Group brainstorm

After gathering feedback, we recognize that there were varying levels of comfortability and convenience with utilizing an active platform like Miro. In future GPNP meetings, we will be pivoting to a hybrid approach where attendees can share insights in meaningful ways while also maximizing what they get out of the meeting. We will always have facilitators on standby to support with technical difficulties, and ultimately want the process to reflect the needs and wants of the participants.

Additionally, here are some resources that provide the basics on using Miro.

Getting Started with Miro

Collaborating on a Miro board

You can also reach out to Hannah Locop, GPNP Program Manager here to schedule a one-on-one session to take a deep dive on using Miro.


The intention of this meeting was to provide a space where partners can find common ground, share resources, and establish a united front for advocating for the sector at large. Turnout for this initial meeting was substantial, and several southwestern PA counties were represented across attendees. As GPNP leadership prepares for the next meeting, we are paying special attention to the following:

Pennsylvania State Budget advocacy – with the help of our strategic communications & policy consultant Arthur Pang, we will be doing a deeper dive into the policy issues impacting nonprofits.

Creative Thinking – facilitation of another workshop with breakout groups to discuss the 4 W’s of Policy: Who you are, where you are from, what the issue is that you are focusing on, and what your ask is of elected officials.

Next Steps for the GPNP Public Policy Committee – What other actions can and should GPNP be taking? Who is missing from the table?

As we near a year in this new virtual era, having resources and committed partners makes all the difference to advancing the GPNP Public Policy Agenda. That said, our work is far from over. Be sure to join us for our next meeting so we can co-create a better region together!

  1. Ali Jaffar

    Thanks for joining us, all, for a great human-centered workshop. I appreciate your thoughts, inputs, & ideas–and look forward to seeing how this truly participatory design process can support the amplification of the collective action and expertise of the Greater Pittsburgh region.

    I am hopeful that the GPNP Public Policy Committee continues to provide a safe space for community leaders of resilient nonprofits. These exercises are designed and informed through all of your inputs and feedback and are regularly and thoughtfully iterated upon. The benefits of continuing with a hybrid approach inclusive of these human-centered design workshops are to encourage creativity, critical thinking, rapport-building, allowing alternative perspectives, and the generation of ideas towards tangible agenda and action.

  2. Thanks to everyone for engaging with us virtually so we can develop our actionable agenda!

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