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Design for America

Creating a network of students using human-centered design to develop innovative solutions that have social impact in their communities

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
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Design for America is a "nationwide network of interdisciplinary student teams and community members using design to create local and social impact." Through human-centered design students are invited to tackle social issues in their local communities, whether it is health, education, environment, etc. 

Each DFA chapter at each of the current 29 universities develop their own projects and activities based on their members' interest. Yet, they also receive support from the DFA national and are in regular contact with a DFA national mentor as well as with other DFA studios.

This is an interesting model of action learning outside of the classroom that reminded me the NESTA article shared by Helder

The focus of DFA is about nurturing change makers and social innovators through concrete projects that can have real social impact. In that sense, it is "open" innovation as the boundaries between it blurs boundaries between the classroom and the world (local communities and organizations working in the field), as well as between different departments and schools in universities (DFA studios encourage multidisciplinary teams) and across universities. 

DFA is supporting collaboration across universities with a web platform Loft that provides resources to students and encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration. 

One specific DFA studio that I know very well :-) is DFA NYU, which is also actively engaged on openIDEO.

This is one interesting example highlighting the blurring of boundaries and the redefinition of the locus of innovation. 

It also raises issues around community engagement that had been highlighted in several other posts. 

How might we rethink the role of education institutions in supporting innovation? Where does learning starts and ends?

How do we create and sustain communities of students both on campus and across campus to support innovation in the long term?


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Anne-Laure Fayard

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Photo of Helder Lima

Anne-Laurent great initiative, thank you for sharing. I think, more and more will see "open innovation" or other conceptual frameworks be embedded in the education landscape to create social impact. Initiatives, like “worthwhile.org.uk ”, for example, are already seeking to extend this trend after graduation by building partnerships with non-for profit sector to retain talents and create jobs. DFA is definitely contributing for this endeavour. Thanks for building on my contribution.

Photo of Shane Zhao

I have to add that Anne-Laure was one of the original OpenIDEO members that pioneered the process of bringing open innovation into education. It's been great to watch how she's worked with her students to set up the first OpenIDEO NYU Meetup, and now DFA NYU. We'd love to see this model take off on more campuses in the near future:)

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Shane...well in fact the original version of DFA NYU was OpenIDEO student chapter. It was the first OpenIDEO student chapter and was inspired by an idea posted during the openIDEO impact challenge (for the one year anniversary of OpenIDEO)! :-)