SECRET DINNER PARTIES: FUN & Food for social change 

Disurpt Design secret dinner party



Food is such a critical part of our lives, and a huge part of both our individual and collective ecological footprint (a third of all food produced is wasted and 20% of the worlds carbon emissions are produced from cows!). So we set about designing a unique experience framework that would allow us to share evocative culinary experiences while setting a place for knowledge exchange. 

We tested our concept across a series of secret pop-up dinner parties in New York City, hosted out of construction sites and soon-to-be-demolished parks. Our design team curates themed experiences that responded to the spaces, explored enhanced sensory design and incorporated a range of gamified activations that ignite diverse conversations, allowing our guests to experience change in action. 

Can food ignite social change? We think so.

Dinners have popped up in London, Brooklyn, Mexico City, Melbourne and Manhattan.  


How does the experience work? 

Guests arrive at the surprise location and when it comes time to be seated, they discover a sealed envelop on their plate that states, "by opening this envelope you agree to participate. Inside you will find 3 secret tasks you must complete over the course of the dinner..." The implication is set with an irresistible invitation, and an unforgettable meal shared between strangers begins. 

The secret missions from the envelops, often along the lines of "get someone to do / believe / say X," prompt guests to influence the people around them. This gamified dining experience, in effect, leads participants to explore the power that our choices have on how we interact with others socially, how we design our own experiences, and how we influence others. As diners covertly respond to their challenges, they have to negotiate, strategize and push through personal barriers to achieve their task. Many interesting things evolve, and at the end, we share, learn and laugh about the lengths people will go to to win at the task, and at life outside the dinner party...

disrupt design secret dinners
The dinner was so much fun! I couldn’t believe how beautiful the space was and how much I discovered and shared throughout the evening’
— Sally, Secret Dinner Party Guest, NYC
“It was such an incredible experience that was so thoughtfully planned and carried out with precisionist touch. My expectations were blown away. And what a perfect mix of people!”
— Brittany, Secret Dinner Party Guest, Brooklyn

game mechanics 

After many secret dinners we have refined the game mechanics that implicate players in a collective experiment around how we consciously and subconsciously influence others. The game mechanics works on framed challenges and sets individual secret tasks that range from the weird to the wonderful. Critical to the success of the multi-player game is that everyone is implicated; everyone knows that everyone else has their own secret tasks to complete, but no one knows for sure what is part of the challenge and what is genuine human interaction. The game plays out over dinner and, depending on the structure and number of players, the host either facilitates the discovery of how we strategize to influence others in rounds or at the end of the game.  


verbal fight club: debate club meets stand up meets office politics

verbal fight club

In a world of Facebook self-censorship, 140 character twitter constraints and obnoxious political soundbites, are we losing the ability to battle verbally? 

Verbal Fight Club creates a public arena for participants to test out their own level of endurance and conviction on current issues of great (or little) importance. Imagine a really fun, and intensely passionate debate; mix in the hilarious and bizarre dynamic of standup comedy; power all that with the convictions and opinions that you wish you could shout out from the rooftop -- that's kind of what Verbal Fight Club is like. OH, plus there are interjections from the audience, and usually booze.

Here’s how it works

Everyone completes a 'battle card' with a simple question, topic or statement. The cards go into a barrel (or a hat or jar) and the adjudicator preps everyone for the battles by explaining the "respectful interjections" that audience members can employ. For example, one hand motion signals "boring, wrap it up!" and another communicates "I've got something to add". Once everyone has proven that they know how to use these super important hand motions, the adjudicator draws a card at random, which is then battled out by two people on stage. There are rules* and there are engaging interjection actions, which allow the audience to confirm, argue against or reward good verbal battles in real time.

Throughout the night the tone usually touches on super serious and interesting (we've had some niche topic experts wow us as they drop knowledge, and then drop the mic) to hysterically funny (some people are just entertaining as they make points based on their preferences) and everything in between. If something ever gets dull, we respect the audience's pleas and move onto the next round. All in all, battles tend to be a quick exchange of wits and experiences, filled with humor and smarts.

game mechanics 

* The first rule of verbal fight club is you should always talk about verbal fight club, the second rule of verbal fight club is you should ALWAYS talk about verbal fight club - you get the idea...

events by disrupt design
verbal fight club event by disrupt design

Is it based on the movie?

Yep! This was totally inspired by the concept presented in Fight Club, and we respectfully adapted their rules.

What types of things get battled at fight club?

No topic is off limits at fight club! Since we crowd source the topics, it is really a mixed bag from the lighter "which way should the toilet paper roll go" and "cats versus dogs", to the heavier "the morality of religion" and "gun control". We also get a lot of seemingly light topics that end up sparking heavy debates like "hitting on people in the subway" and "polygamy". The rules prevent any hurtful or offensive behavior, but the fast-paced debate leads to many fascinating conversations being unearthed!

Drink & design night

design thinking events

We know there are way better ways to design kick ass campaigns, interventions and communication strategies that make doing good a good idea! In this experience, we combine two fun things: drinking and designing! People come together, already in a team, or solo, as individuals ready to collaborate with five or six other designers / thinkers / doers. Once teams have formed, beers are distributed and a challenge is set that begs teams to use design thinking for positive change. Teams then battle it out, trying to win at creative problem solving and prove supreme dominance over their creative ideas and pitching skills.

Drink & Design attendees tend to be creative thinkers and designery types that are into playful competition and using their creative powers for good.  


What is the experience like?

Think pub-trivia meets TV design show and you've got the idea! Each event has a theme (past examples include TALKING TRASH and BUSTING THE FEAR FACTOR) that focuses on combating real-world messy issues, through fun, collaborative brainstorming, and beers!

Drink & Design is a 3 part team based event. It starts with a drink, of course! Then Round 1, the quickfire round, begins as the adjudicator quizzes the audience on common knowledge and facts on the topic. In Round 2, teams secretly answer questions in a pub trivia quiz format and in Round 3 they finally battle out the design challenge. In the third round, teams have 45 minutes to solve the set design challenge and then pitch their brilliant solutions to the judges. 

Drink and design was such a fun night! Solving real world problems has never been so energizing. We tackled trash in NYC and whilst our team’s idea was great, I was really impressed by all the other crazy cool ideas for fixing the problem! And there was beer!
— Michele, D&D participant