STAR Community Project

Design Research
Zoom, Mural, Keynote
Project Type
Design Research

Client: Opportunity @ Work

Role: Communications and Engagement Designer/Design Researcher

What is the STAR community?

The STAR community under the organization, Opportunity @ Work (O@W), is a group of talented individuals Skilled Through Alternative Routes rather than a bachelor's degree. These individuals seek alternative means to attaining career advancement without the need of a degree. There is an emphasis put on the importance of transferable skills that the STAR community has built through years of personal growth.


How might we understand what a Digital STAR community could and should be in a STAR-led way while catalyzing the existing networks already present?

Project Objective

The objective of the project was to explore how our team could allow what community means to STARs, and how that definition informs what STARs seek to find within a digital community that is meant for them. This involved finding STARs, identity existing communities, and understanding what social, emotional, and/or professional needs communities could serve to STARs. Furthermore, one crucial aspect of this project was to understand how Opportunity @ Work could enabling this STAR led community.


We adopted a double diamond design process, involving 4 stages; Discovery, Prototyping, Co-design, and Validation stages. The first two stages of Discovery and Prototyping were integrated into a Digital Community Fellowship, while the last two stages were integrated into a Community Meetup Validation phase.

Fellowship Phase

Through partnership and guidance with O@W, a paid fellowship and funding opportunity to support STARs in designing and developing a meaningful digital community that acts as a home for STARs was established. This fellow ship took place in a two week span, encompassing the Discovery stage and Prototyping stage. The core goals were to develop a community value proposition led by STARs and design a portfolio of community programming prototypes to inform this community’s design and implementation. Then, fellows could chose a community prototype to build out as the STARs community’s minimum viable product. This was done through a combination of workshops with asynchronous group work in between sessions. We addressed the following questions: What we are building? Why we are building? How are we building? Overall engagement consisted of 15 fellows and 28 advisors, whom were STARs that could provide input and feedback on the community across a series of touchpoints, depending on their time and availability.

Validation Phase

This phase was the continued engagement with the STARs Community Design cohort to synthesize, refine, and converge on a community canvas and pathway forward. This stage took place in the pa of 3 weeks. The core goals were to validate a value proposition and core concept for the STARs digital community, vet a set of community management strategies, and inform an initial governance approach. This essentially built the foundation of assurance that the digital community insights were in line with STAR values and desires. This was done through a combination of two facilitated co-creation meet-ups to further refine the community canvas, co-facilitated by STARs, to vet the community canvas and a wider community survey to evaluate the value proposition, community management strategies, and governance preferences. Overall engagement consisted of 9 fellows and 18 advisors.


Why: Understand why the digital community will create value for STARs.

The biggest impact the community could have on STARs is a mindset change from deficit to worthiness. It could provide an opportunity for change in employer mind sets, building trust and access between STARs and employers by creating a common middle ground to change corporate assumptions towards those without a degree. There is also room for career developments, where increased diversity in skills and expertise through life-long learning in the workplace could build career confidence and advancement.

What: What type of programming do STARS want?

STARs desired a digital community where mentorship was possible, allowing STARs to connect with people with similar experiences at distinct stages and learn how they were able to reach their goals. Additionally, centralized resources on mental health, wellbeing, and other topics were seen as essential to help prevent information from being lost if otherwise dispersed across several platforms. STARs also discussed that job boards curated and vetted by STARs can account for unique needs and work styles, including an emphasis on project-based work, part time work, and remote opportunities. Finally, STARs can benefit from tools designed to help them advocate for their interests and navigate existing power structures.

How: Identify ways in which STARs can take ownership of their community

STARs value being involved and kept at the center of decisions. Community-centered design principles should continue to be modeled to ensure receptivity to the voices of STARs. Additionally, the digital community should provide a safe space that values diversity of its members. The voices of marginalized members should be valued and centered such as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and people living with disabilities. The digital community should meet people where they are. It should also provide equitable access informed by potential barriers different types of STARs may encounter, ranging from rural versus urban internet access to language used to describe the community.


Through our process we advised these next steps. Continued engagement means that ideas floated include Notion, Google(Groups), or continuing with Slack since that's where many of the community members already are. We also advised to continue with interim process updates to maintain transparency with STARs about how the community is developing. For example, monthly updates during the nascent period would go a long way towards trust building. Many STARs saw a representative advisory board as a viable pathway towards equitable process, preferring board representation over direct participation in decision-making. Finally, consider content to maintain the community but also to create inbound funnels into the community, e.g.through social media sharing, etc.

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