A mentoring platform powered by empathy

Project Overview

Project Information

Scout is a mentoring app that connects older and younger adults by empowering them to share their skills and knowledge with one another. Scout connects older and young adults based in common interests,then guides them from online chats to in person skill sharing. Overtime, this platform promotes empathy by building confidence and community. 

Scout is the product of a semester long studio project sponsored by Microsoft. Our challenge was to design an intervention which would promote empathy between two groups which are normally disconnected from each other. This technology would help challenge assumptions, and resolve conflicts. We were challenged to create something that could connect individuals but also at scale could create larger social change. 


CMU MDes Fall IxD Studio 2
Part of the 2019 Microsoft Expo

Josh LeFevre, Anukriti Kedia, Ema Karavdic

Design Research, UX Design, User Testing.

16 weeks 

Defining Our Research Scope

Our original research question focused on using empathy to bridge the gap between different stakeholders in the food system and to address challenges of food literacy. However as as we began researching intergenerational differences in food literacy, we observed that changing social structures resulted in fewer opportunities for older adults to share their knowledge about food.


Focusing the Journey

Early research showed that social isolation posed a significant barrier to food literacy. This isolation affected both older and younger adults, particularly those experiencing significant life transitions. Furthermore, we learned that generational stereotypes and lack of age inclusive community spaces prevent intergenerational friendships from forming. As our research evolved, we shifted our focus away from food and towards creating resilient, intergenerational communities through empathy.

"Studies show that isolation and loneliness are as bad for health as obesity or smoking.”

-AARP Foundation Survey


Our Mission Statement

How can we create an ecosystem of resilient and connected communities by leveraging commonalities between generations to foster inter-generational connection through repeated empathetic experiences?

Exploratory Research

Expert Interviews
  • 4 experts on aging
  • 3 experts on food
  • 1 expert on empathy


Grocery Stores Observations
  • 1 farmer’s market
  • 3 convenience stores
  • 10 large grocery stores
  • 9 locations


User Interviews
  • 6 senior adults
  • 2 millennials

Secondary Research
  • Food literacy
  • Empathy
  • Social isolation
  • Intergenerational gaps

But if we have gone from empathy in blood ties to empathy in religious associational ties to empathy based on national identification, is it really a big stretch to imagine the new technologies allowing us to connect our empathy to the human race? 

Jeremy Rifkin, Author of Empathic Civlization

Design Principles

What emerged from the research are these 6 design principles. Between our conversation with Jonathan and our reading Jeremy Rifkin’s empathic civilizations, we also found that empathy necessitates deep connection between individuals. Therefore, Empathy at scale requires new channels of communication to be effective.

Create an ecosystem for empathy

To occur routinely among all generations 

Foster intergenerational support

To leverage points of transitions to create sustained habitual change

Build a sense of community

For connection and acknowledgement of universal needs

Leverage intergenerational commonalities

To foster quality social interactions

Utilize food rituals as connective conduits

To share knowledge and stories

Being mindful of individual needs

To effectively motivate changes in routines and perceptions

Ecosystem for Empathy

As designers we recognize that we cannot create empathy… but we can create an ecosystem that enables opportunities for empathy to occur. From our findings emerged four phases of empathy upon which to build and promote community. It begins with the understanding of self, Which is grown through sustained conversations and face to face interactions and finally established through repeated connections. .


Empathy is understanding another individual but it begins with an understanding of self.
It is created through sustained conversations and
face-to-face interactions between people.

Generative Research Methods

We utilized the following generative research methods to better understand the routines, needs and challenges of older and younger adults. The insights from our studies inspired intriguing concepts for products to bring both generations together.

Senior Centre Observation

What are the routines and needs of the older adults?

Generative Workshop

What are the perceptions about the other and what are the commonalities?

Competitive Analysis

What are the current patterns in the solution space?

Online Survey

What are some existing perceptions of self and aging with statistical significance?

Generative Workshop

We conducted a workshop where we invited the two different generations to reflect on their own perceptions and to imagine an age-inclusive future. Our group consisted of four older and 4 younger adults.


Self Perception Exercise

We chose to use Max-Neefs 9 core values to help frame the activity for them. We observed that particularly older adults had a trouble with aspire to. They thought they should have already achieved their goals


Identifying needs and challenges

Here we paired up the participants, with one from each generation as a part of the pairing. They created a shared list of need and challenges.

Next they mapped needs that came from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and perception of 1) their own needs and challenges; then 2) the perceived needs and challenges of the opposite generations needs and had them compare with each other. Then we paired up the participants, with one from each generation as a part of the pairing. They created a shared list of need and challenges.


Constructing a shared future

Building on that both physically and psychologically, we asked them design a product service that meets needs in a shared future. Even though we gave them options, they all created or referenced physical spaces where both generations can come together.


Competitive Analysis

We looked for current organizations, institutions, products, and other solutions which focus on this intergenerational/community solution space to bring people together. Based on what we found we mapped the concepts based on whether it was an individual or group centered intervention, and place or non-place based one. 

The patterns we found is that most products tend to be non-place based and then the rest of patterns tend to be concrete physical organizations that ranged from festivals to learning spaces. 

Solution Patterns


Community centers


Learning spaces
Interest spaces




Physical and Digital
Assistive products




An Intergenerational Future


I like the idea of being in a multi-generational neighborhood with local services and parks. I also like the idea of living in [multi-generational built environment]. Now, if we could put them both together in a walkable neighborhood, I'd become one happy lady! 

– participant

So, what does this mean?

Envisioning a preferable future

After our previous presentation, we took a step back to dream of the preferable future that we wish to envision. Our dream was centred around an intergenerational community, which lives, learns, works and socializes together.

We based our long term visions for the future in 2039, 20 years from today and 11 years from the IPCC 2050 goal of net zero carbon emissions. We learned thhe elderly population will rise to 17% in 2050 compared to the current 8.5%.  

These trends reveal the importance of creating interventions. Within each of the contexts we imagined what a preferable futures would look like. These interventions should be scalable andt be able to foster  intergenerational collaboration.



2019    Youth centric perception    --------of education.

2039   Lifelong learning
--------- supported in educational  -------- institutions


Expectation to leave the workplace at 65

Flexible mindset which values skills over age


Culture of social exclusion and siloed interactions

Lower social isolation


We live near each other but do not know each other

Intergenerational communal living is adopted

How is this future realized?

Based on these visions, we asked ourself the question of what is the first step we can take now, to make some these visions a reality. We story boarded different interventions within each of these contexts to take us forward on our journey of evaluative testing.

mento storyboard 2
mentor storyboard 3-01
intergen-storyboard 3
intergen storyboard 3
intergen storyboard 1



An older adult is looking for opportunities for self development. They find a mentoring platform and define interests through onboarding. They are matched with volunteering, mentoring and learning options. They participate in the activity they are matched to and earn credits which can be used for another experience.



A neighborhood restaurant host intergenerational dining event which is integrated with open table where users discover discounts after matching with someone of a different age and similar interests. Also available is a communal table set up to promote intergenerational conversation. Conversation cards help to kick off more meaningful and genuine conversations. After the dinner, they can share their experience on the digital platform


The sabbatical

A middle aged woman begin work at a new company. All teams and projects require different generations to operate. The company also hose intergenerations workshops and parties After 4-5 years she qualifies for one of the company benefits, a sabbatical. She can choose to be paired with a more junior or senior employee and has 6-12 months paid from work to come up with an idea that may benefit the industry. At the end of this time the team presents the idea to the company.



A college student signs up for grocery store cooking class on platform and attends with a friend. The teacher is an older adult who is sharing traditional recipes. The students find ingredients in grocery store with the help of the platform which shows ingredient location. Ingredients bought for the cooking class are discounted. They cook under supervision of the teacher. The teacher and students share a meal and have enough to take home. Later in the week the students can continue learning from experts on platform.

An Intergenerational Future

Selected Works

ScoutProject type


futuriumProject type

© Corine Britto 2020
User Experience Designer

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