top of page
Towards the Community-Based Technology Solutions for the Aging Societies
A joint project of Japan NPO Center and Caravan Studios

This collaborative project was originally designed as in-person workshops with community experts in Japan to learn about Caravan Studios’ community-centered design methodology.  With the onset of the global pandemic, in-person and collective activities turned into online and distributed individual work.

This site captures our work together, the methodology we followed, and an opportunity for the greater community to contribute their thoughts on the prototypes participants designed.

We are so grateful to our participants for engaging in this process, especially during this time of isolation and uncertainty. This project was funded by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.

hand drawn map of japan

Illustration by

Nozomi Ichikawa

Map of Japan and the location of participants
Online workshops

This shift to online work created new opportunities for Japanese participants to convene from distant geographies, both rural and urban.

Through a combination of individual work and collective exploration, participants followed the Caravan Studios’ methodology to design low-fi prototypes that address problems experienced by aging populations in Japan. Practitioners from regional nonprofit support centers, social service organizations, government, research, and technologists working in community development participated in these online workshops.

participants zoomshot
Landscape Map

Participants were invited to explore the issues, connections, and resources available to aging populations in Japan. This exercise allowed individual participants to research their community of focus and identify information relevant to local problems. Participants convened online to share their maps and receive feedback from their peers and the facilitators. Their research focused on the following regions: Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido; Ibaraki-ken; Myoko-shi, Niigata; Kurobe-shi, Toyama; Setagaya-ku, Tokyo; Senri New Town, Osaka; Kobe-shi, Hyogo; Hantagawa area, Naha-shi, and Okinawa.


With their research and landscape maps in mind, participants focused on particular problems the community faces to generate structured design questions that encourage creativity and innovative ideas.  During this phase, participants developed a number of ideas that respond to their design questions, and then convened to share their work with all of the participants. These ideas informed the beginning of their low-fi prototypes.


Participants considered more deeply their audience for this project by developing brief user personas, a composite of characteristics and behaviors of their primary user. They also imagined how a user might learn about a new technology tool and how it might fit into their life.






Chayama jpg

A matching app for elderly people to ask their supporters to do their shopping on behalf

Tele Mediciine jpg

Elderly app for online hospital appointments, consultations, and  prescriptions delivered in one place.

community message board jpg

Resident participative community information sharing app.

GOJO jpg

App to help increase residents’ self-governing power and social participation in local community.

Multicultural Message Board jpg

Mutual support community App for the elderly with foreign roots.

AI Chairperson jpg

App that supports the tedious work of the residents’ association throughout the year.

Seventy's Inc. jpg

An App that introduces jobs that only people in their 70s can do.

Magonote jpg

App that allows grandchildren to share stories of their grandparents, leading to community participation.

Low-fi prototypes

Using their research, feedback from other participants and organizers, and user needs and experiences, each participant designed a low-fi prototype: a sketch of a mobile app with basic functionality that addresses the problem they selected to address. During this phase, participants engaged in online activities that encouraged opportunities for feedback from their peers, thus strengthening their ideas and designs. These low-fi prototypes were not designed by technologists; participants were drawing from their expertise of the community and their research to imagine new ways of addressing persistent problems. 

Their low-fi prototypes covered issues of isolation, mobility, shopping refugees, dementia, health, and accessibility to hospitals and healthcare.

A key part of this community-centered design methodology is inviting the greater community to share their opinions, lived experiences, and feedback on early designs. If you are part of this community, or work with or study aging populations in Japan, please invite your colleagues and your community to this site to provide feedback. You can click each prototype to access a feedback form that will be shared with the project team. Thank you for your ideas!

Guide Book

Do you want to explore how community-centered design might improve your projects? Download the guidebook participants used to lead their individual and collective work. Please let us know if you have any questions about this project. We look forward to hearing from you!

We'd love to hear from you

Website(Japanese  English

  • Twitter
  • Facebook is a division of TechSoup. We make things to increase the public good.

Copyright © 2022 TechSoup. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.

bottom of page