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Designing for social change is complex work. It requires considering the many stakeholders and factors that could affect outcomes, having deep understanding of people while seeing the bigger picture, gaining clarity and conviction despite incomplete information, and discovering and choosing interventions that have impact, in the multitude of possibilities. Our belief and experience is human-centered design is a powerful methodology and mindset to employ in this work.

The purpose of Designing for Social Systems is to empower leaders and practitioners in the nonprofit, philanthropy, government, and social impact fields to work in more effective, human, and strategic ways. In collaboration with these practitioners, we aim to redesign how this work is done, develop more effective interventions, and advance the sector as a whole.


Our fellowship is a residential full-time program for mid-to-late career social impact leaders to learn the methodology and rigorously apply it to ambitious projects with the potential for large systems-level change. The residential fellowship is on-hiatus for the 2017-18 academic year. We will instead take the opportunity this year to partner with social innovation practitioners to collaborate on on-going projects in their organizations. Applications are currently closed, check back to see the next project partnership application window. 

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Designing for Social Systems Workshop

We offer an intensive workshop to create more human-centered, strategic, and effective programs and organizations in the social sector. We teach how to apply the tools, approaches, and mindsets of design thinking, integrated with the basics of systems thinking, to tackle complex multi-stakeholder social systems projects. Learn more and apply here.

Designing for Social Systems Intensive Workshop

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Resources and Knowledge

We continue to explore and advance how to effectively use a design approach to social systems challenges, and codify those approaches so a greater audience can benefit from the methodology. Find our resources here.

Read more on how both human-centered and systems-thinking methods fit within an effective design approach, and can work in conjunction to address social challenges in this Stanford Social Innovations Review article by Thomas Both. 

Design Thinking for the Social Sector on-demand webinar

Register and access this webinar lead by Thomas Both, Nadia Roumani, and Jeff Mohr in collaboration with Stanford Social Innovation Review.

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Team Members

Thomas Both

Director, Designing for Social Systems

Marna Romanoff

Program Manager, Designing for Social Systems

Nadia Roumani

Senior Designer, Designing for Social Systems


Latest Updates

DSS June Workshop Recap

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Meet the Designing for Social Systems Team

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