21NTC Session
Digital Inclusion

Design with empathy and agility to create equitable products


Often, innovation is less about creating new, shiny things and more about thorough analysis and reframing of the problem. This is especially critical when designing for underserved or low-income communities. In this session, GRID Alternatives and Blue State will discuss how we leveraged Design Thinking practices to create the “Access Clean CA”, a portal built on behalf of California Air Resources Board (CARB), which helps low-income Californians navigate a myriad of clean energy and transportation incentives with complex eligibility rules. 

Successful solutions required challenging our user’s assumptions and misconceptions about clean energy technology – and our own assumptions and misconceptions about the wants and needs of underserved audiences. Applying Design Thinking principles, we identified the right problems to solve by first conducting research to foster empathy with these communities, arriving at an understanding of the issues they face, and then ideating on impactful solutions.

Session Type

30 minute session

Learning Outcomes

  • Apply Design Thinking principles to empathize with and identify the needs of underserved users
  • Prototype and test to validate concepts
  • Use an iterative development approach to be agile in reacting to findings

Target Audience

People who are interested in designing and developing web products from an accessibility, diversity and inclusion perspective


AccessibilityDEIDigital InclusionPolicy


Terea Macomber

Director, Electric Vehicles

GRID Alternatives

Terea Macomber is GRID’s first Electric Vehicle Director as part of the new Clean Mobility team. She has her MBA from Mills College, and is an alum of Coro Northern California’s Fellowship in Public Affairs. She is committed to creating sustainable energy futures that challenge the current norms of our built environment. Terea has a passion for history and data, which she uses to further embed her work in equity and justice.

Joel Alcala

Product Director

Blue State

Joel helps organizations, brands, and government agencies define and prioritize project features and requirements based on their strategic goals. Working together with the technical and creative teams, Joel oversees the conception, implementation, and release of new sites and functionality. He has brought his broad technical and product expertise to the Computer History Museum, National Safety Council, GRID Alternatives, and OHCHR (the UN Human Rights Office), solving exceptionally daunting process and prioritization questions for clients.

Joel has more than five years of experience leading technology projects for nonprofits. Prior to joining Blue State, Joel was a senior manager of marketing technology at Smile Train, an international children’s charity, where he headed a cross-functional team of UX researchers, designers, and developers. There, he was responsible for all fundraising technology and the execution of major digital marketing campaigns. Prior to Smile Train, Joel served as a VP of marketing for Just2Trade, a stock brokerage, overseeing the release of a number of investment products and spearheading successful marketing initiatives.



March 25, 2021


12:15pm – 12:45pm