Design For Change

Design For Change

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Getting Crazy with DFC

The Crazy Horse School in South Dakota participates regularly in the DFC challenge. Their two main teachers helping to implement DFC are Jay Quarantello, the history teacher, and Tara Harrington, a Teach for America fellow.

When Tara learnt about DFC, she was “really excited, because it takes a really complex process that could feel overwhelming, and created it in a framework that is very simplistic in the framing, without it taking away from the complexity of the actual process.”

“Students have witnessed a lot of people trying to create change, and then that not coming to fruition, or there being a ton of barriers – those barriers being so huge, that change does not happen,” she says. “So it is critical that students in the FEEL stage feel empowered that change is possible.”

When Jay met the students for the first DFC meeting, they went to a retreat. Why a retreat? “We wanted something that definitely felt outside of school. I wanted to provide something different and a little disconnected from school. The second reason was that there are a lot of parts of their own community that we wanted to explore, and I think removing ourselves from our comfort zone, and taking a step back would’ve been interesting.”

However, there have been challenges. “There are thousands of different solutions. They have to critique their own solutions to understand what the potential change would be’. They have to understand and be aware of different solutions – whether change will be long term, or we’re dealing with a symptom and we may see change, but it has to be sustained every year,” says Tara. “Further, at the DO stage, teachers and students both need support in really knowing how to create an action plan that will guide their action, and then to hold them accountable for taking that action.”

When asked how it had affected the students, Jay says, “I think its definitely leading to students taking charge. The shift is visible from the moment they begin the process”.

“I am excited about how this exciting journey will turn my students into leaders!” says Jay as a we close the interview.

These young, enthusiastic change makers have a tough time in their community. Hopefully, through DFC, they can make their lives much, much better. Best of luck to the Crazy Horse School!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sanjli Gidwaney-USA: Design for Change Global Catalyst

As told to David Wygant

It was a gorgeous January day, 2009. I was gathered in one of the Riverside School,  in Ahmedabad, India, classrooms with many of the students. I remember how excited the kids were. Kiran had just returned from Mexico and everyone knew she would have stories to tell.  

I’ll never forget the detail of my conversation with Kiran.  Through Design for Change, she has managed to combine education, social change, and design.  These were all things that burned like fires for me.  They ignited me.  So, when she said, “Sanjli, you know I need a partner in the USA.”  I said, “Well you have me!”  

At the time, it seemed like I was living my life waypoint to waypoint.  I had conducted creativity workshops in Kenya and the Dominican Republic, but never would I have imagined that some of my contacts at Design Continuum in Boston would have placed me in front of Kiran at that moment in time.  I was at Riverside School teaching students from the 6th grade, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) inspired creativity workshops.  Yes, I was really at Riverside School, I was talking to Kiran, and I had just committed to bringing DFC to America. 

What to do?  The first thing I did was find a few people to join the team. We wanted to understand the educational environment in the USA.  We wanted to understand the unique needs of American educators so that we could respond in a way that helped.  Soon we piloted our first DFC project in a school so we could learn and fail quickly.  We knew that if we learned as much as possible in the beginning we would succeed later. Two schools entered the Challenge that first year.

Our first school was Pearl River Middle School in New York.  Their project was to reduce negative messaging in the media.  Their goal was to add positive ideas and messages.  The project’s link:

We started by approaching individual schools where we saw opportunity.  We quickly learned that it was hard to get schools onboard with little credibility and backing.  We didn’t have an educator on the DFC USA team at the time to help us better appreciate the challenges teachers experienced when implementing such a program in terms of time and other resources.  On the teacher side, they didn’t fully comprehend the value that DFC could bring to their schools – the idea of “design thinking” was new.  Touching all of these pieces was the fact we were a team of volunteers.  There were limits to the amount of time we could give individually, but we were very committed nonetheless. We are partnering with colleges and universities through our ‘Change Agent Initiative’ to recruit students who act as mentors tasked to support projects in their communities.
We drew energy from our belief in what DFC had to offer the schools and students who participated.  For example, the Share component gives students who are already changemakers a way to Share their accomplishments.  Then inexperienced change makers could see the lessons already learned and move ahead more quickly with their projects.  Share is a virtuous circle of support.  
Through the DFC curriculum, classrooms and schools can once again focus on service learning while they also work on and meet the required educational standards.  The DFC curriculum is flexible and it easily overlays the core education content like reading, writing, math and many others.   We created tools that can be used to document the academic accomplishments as the service project is implemented.

There have been high points and low points.  Without a doubt, the high point thus far has been watching a team from a very resource constrained community, work its way through the DFC framework to design and implement a project they are passionate about; and then go on to win the DFC-USA challenge.  Look for them at the BTC Conference.  They’ll be there!  I’m not sure if it is a low point, but certainly one of our greatest challenges has been meeting the demands of all the schools and organizations we are working with – at a certain point, it becomes very difficult to customize our programs, given the limited size of our team – especially since we’re all volunteers.
Another highlight going for us is the hosting of two major celebrations in Dallas and Boston in May, ’14. We are also piloting a DFC USA Online portal for teachers/ mentors/ students can fully engage with DFC resources and lesson plans. The feather in the hat has really been the fundraising of $150,000 for the DFC USA operations and hiring permanent staff; while simultaneously and rapidly growing our reach through partnerships with Ashoka, Teach for America, United Way and many others. 

I think we’re learning our lessons.  
Now we know building a team and organization is a continuing effort.  So we continue to enlarge the DFC-USA team as our work requires, or, as we find dedicated people who bring a strong work ethic, a passion for the DFC mission, and a desire to do what is necessary to provide our students with the support they need. It is essential to recognize and appreciate the challenge faced by teachers in their daily lives, and how we can offset those challenges through DFC. Find the right partners, whether they are schools or other organizations.  As examples, we are currently working with Ashoka and Teach For America.
Also, build a network of supporters who understand that you are a new, growing organization and are still learning and perfecting your model. Know that there are a gazillion people out there who believe and support you – that’s what we realized through our fundraiser!
We are learning how to ask for money.  Recently, we raised $15,000 in eight weeks so that we could send the DFC team to India.  As part of that effort, we conducted our first fundraising event.  Next we are developing a compelling case to approach wealthy funders and granting organizations. 
We have learnt that visibility is important to inspire, and thus, lead change by inspiring others.  With this in mind, we are creating our own DFC USA promotional film. Also, we are redesigning our website for launch in May ’14.

 We have a lot to look forward to.  I am most looking forward to how DFC USA is going to grow and how the “I CAN” bug will continue to catch on here! We can already feel it, change is in the air and our students are going to lead that change across the country, and in the world!

Sanjli Gidwaney - Co-Director, DFC USA
Sanjli recently graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, with a focus on curriculum design and non-profit management.  As Co-Director of Design for Change USA, she manages a national team of designers, educators and technologists.  Under her leadership, DFC has forged partnerships with notable organizations such as Teach for America, Strong Women Strong Girls, Ashoka, Harvard’s Good Work Team and Stanford Design School. Sanjli has also collaborated with research groups at MIT’s Media Lab, industrial design firms and various NGOs to develop and conduct several hands on creativity workshops for children around the world including India, Kenya and the Dominican Republic. She believes in a pedagogy embedded in experiential learning and cross-curricular approaches.