What will I learn?


Conventional efforts to fight poverty in America are not working. Despite billions of dollars and millions of interventions, poverty remains as intractable a social problem as it’s ever been. This class will invite you, the future social impact innovator, to rethink our approach to poverty. Why do so many poverty-fighting interventions tackle short-term symptoms rather than long-term causes? What is it about the systems currently used by government and its agencies that leads to so much ineffective effort and duplication? Isn’t there a better way of finding out what works, and doing more of it?

By partnering with San Francisco-based non-profit Tipping Point, a dynamic, results-focused supporter of grass-roots poverty-fighting organizations in the Bay Area (including communities close to Stanford), you will encounter real-world problems of persistent poverty – and be challenged to design innovative solutions. This class will focus on designing for systems: understanding the current systems for social services and the needs of the individuals who are on the receiving end of anti-poverty efforts as well as organizational and policy-level stakeholders, identifying key levers for change, and designing disruptive approaches.

To tackle this ambitious agenda, you will work in multidisciplinary teams to design tangible, near-term experiments and prototypes– as well as broader strategies for implementation and scale. The aim is to design sustainable new approaches that not only help the specific local organizations that will be partners in this class, but make a contribution to policy innovation at the national level. You will be supported by a teaching team whose experience includes being on the front lines of national-scale policymaking, non-profit service delivery, international social entrepreneurship, and a wealth of human-centered design expertise.

Teaching Team

Erica Estrada, co-founder d.light design
Nicole Kahn, IDEO
Sally Madsen, IDEO
Sarah Stein Greenberg, d.school
Steve Hilton, Visiting Scholar (Freeman Spogli Institute) & Senior Advisor to UK Prime Minister David Cameron