Open Design Studio: Participatory Solutions for Human Flourishing (2021-2022)


As innovations change societies and complex problems become more interdisciplinary, having representation of all voices is essential for flourishing communities. Key contributors to human flourishing include health, education, economic development and community development. Despite aspirations that innovation within these areas will transform humanity, human stakeholders have often been left out of research and development processes.

Design thinking and human-centered design approaches are gaining traction as effective ways to understand stakeholders. While these approaches to innovation are an improvement in integrating stakeholder perspectives, ultimately the reason for the integration is to make the solution more marketable. Though there is a heightened focus on how humans will interact with the byproduct of an innovation process, the process is not equitable. Traditional design thinking and human-centered design processes still turn humans into end users. What is needed is an approach to innovation that foregrounds equity and co-creation in processes and solutions.

Project Description

The Open Design Studio at Duke is a collective of educators, student and community partners interested in creating solutions to promote human flourishing across social sectors. Open design is an equity-focused research and development process inspired by open-source principles. In both its methodology and its solutions, the Open Design Studio is committed to cultivating a desired world: actively inclusive, transparent and collaborative.

This project team aims to employ an equity-centered innovation approach to co-create solutions across social sectors, thereby elevating the voices of stakeholders who have traditionally been excluded from problem-solving and decision-making processes. Team members will engage open design through four phases with stakeholder co-creators:

  1. Understand: Empathize with stakeholders to define the needs, desires and hopes of the community
  2. Create: Ideate and prototype to find radical ways to build and share
  3. Evaluate: Test and iterate to determine which experiments can move forward
  4. Share: Communicate research findings

Team members will work in four subteams: 

  1. Education: Co-create culturally relevant and project-based computer science curricula for K-12 students)
  2. Health: Explore and improve healthcare experiences of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities in various healthcare settings
  3. Necessity-driven entrepreneurship: Conduct landscape analysis and needs assessment of necessity-driven entrepreneurship ecosystem in Durham
  4. Community-based innovation: Co-create solutions to community-identified challenges with local partners

When applying for this team, you will be asked to specify which subteam(s) you are interested in joining.

Learn more about this project team by viewing the team's video.

Anticipated Outputs

Open-source K-12 curriculum on computer science and ethical technology; landscape analyses; website; data for further research, grant proposals and publications

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will consist of 14 graduate students and 16 undergraduate students. Students interested in expanding their design, qualitative research, innovation, analysis, communications and teamwork skills are encouraged to apply. Students in social sciences, humanities, education, policy, health and computer science will have the most direct connections with the project. 

The team largely collaborates with underserved and underrepresented populations, and students with experience in these populations or looking to gain experience would be ideal contributors. Students should have a willingness to develop an iterative mindset, a passion for contributing creative solutions to complex social problems and a commitment to active inclusivity, transparency and collaboration.

All team members will learn the theory and praxis of open design to be equipped with essential competencies necessary for thriving in lifelong learning, leadership and civic participation. The project will deepen relationships between communities across Duke and the project’s region of open design practitioners committed to co-creating solutions to complex social problems.

Team leaders will design a high-level workflow template for subteams that follows the open design process. Monthly leadership meetings will include time for both team building and sharing of research among the subteams and plans for sharing to wider audiences. Subteams will meet weekly. 

Selected graduate students may serve as project managers for subteams. Potential opportunities for graduate students include contributing to open-access publications, assisting with (virtual) conference presentations and assisting with grant applications. 

Graduate students will be chosen to serve as a project manager and Open Design Strategists. These students will ensure effective management of the subteam projects as well as continual communication between subteams and with the leadership team. 

All students will gain experience conducting interviews with stakeholders, and synthesizing and analyzing interview data to identify needs and draw insights. Students will also gain experience engaging as a team in divergent and convergent thinking to understand stakeholder needs and desires. They will brainstorm and prototype innovative solutions, and test and evaluate feedback and share findings across diverse audiences and media.

The summer component is available only to the Open Design Strategist graduate student, for whom it is mandatory. It will take place from May 10-21 (two-week learning accelerator), and during June and July there will be four one-hour touchpoint meetings.

When applying for this team, you will be asked to specify which subteam(s) you are interested in joining.


Summer 2021 – Spring 2022

  • Summer 2021 (optional): Graduate student Open Design Strategists learn open design through 2-week training, seek IRB approval and draft project management workflows for subteams
  • Fall 2021: Conduct qualitative (interviews), quantitative (surveys) and secondary research; work through design phases 1 and 2
  • Spring 2022: Work through design phases 3 and 4


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters; summer funding available 

Open design.

Team Leaders

  • Aria Chernik, Social Science Research Institute|Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Kevin Hoch, Innovation & Entrepreneurship

/graduate Team Members

  • Todd Bryant, Divinity-MDV
  • Kyle Duerr, No Major Declared
  • Aaliyah Eiland, Bachelors of Science - Nursing
  • Viviana GeronNo Major Declared
  • Cameron Love, Masters of Public Policy
  • Nora Mayer, Bioethics and Sci Policy - AM
  • Krista Pipho, Genetics & Genomics Prgm - PHD
  • Aasha Reddy, Statistical Science - MS
  • Liza Rodler, Masters of Public Policy

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Jonathan Browning, Computer Science (BS)
  • Natalie Chou, Program II (AB)
  • Tessa Delgo
  • Zimeng Fan
  • Nick Haddad
  • Ritvik Janamsetty
  • Mary Jiang, Psychology (AB), Computer Science (AB2)
  • Jun Woo Kang
  • Danielle Kapustin, Philosophy (AB)
  • Anish Kottu, Computer Science (BS), Statistical Science (BS2)
  • Samantha Meyers
  • Jackson Rickards, Computer Science (BS)
  • Elena Rivera, Visual and Media Studies (AB)
  • Jacob Robinson
  • Sachin Shah, Economics (BS), Public Policy Studies (AB2)
  • Wenzhuo Shi
  • Della Sihite, Computer Science (BS)
  • Kara Wall, Program II (AB)
  • Kira Ward, Psychology (AB)
  • Hannah Zelinger, History (AB)
  • Alyssa Zhao

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Richard Chung, School of Medicine-Pediatrics: Primary Care Pediatrics
  • Bruce Grady, Divinity School
  • Lalita Kaligotla, Sanford School of Public Policy-Hart Leadership Program
  • David Ming, School of Medicine-Medicine: General Internal Medicine
  • Josh Yates, Divinity School

/zcommunity Team Members

  • North Carolina School of Science and Math
  • Durham Public Schools
  • North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
  • IBM
  • Easterseals UCP
  • Exceptional Children's Assistance Center
  • Family Resource Center South Atlantic
  • Helius Foundation
  • Recity Network
  • Oak Grove AME Zion Church
  • Hinton Rural Center
  • BRIGHTspot Center