Open Design Studio: Participatory Solutions for Human Flourishing (2022-2023)


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 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 cocreators:

  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 five subteams: 

  1. Education: Create culturally relevant and project-based computer science curricula for K-12 students to advance racial and gender equity in CS education and careers.
  2. Necessity-Driven Entrepreneurship: Expand access to capital and other resources to support small businesses and build economic strength and resilience in communities traditionally underrepresented in the entrepreneurship space.
  3. Health: Explore, understand and improve healthcare experiences of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities, specifically focusing on health communication dynamics in healthcare settings.
  4. Climate and Sustainability: Build on data-driven, regional resilience assessments to create equitable, community-centered solutions to the anticipated impacts of climate threats such as flooding, extreme heat and water supply shortages.
  5. Food Insecurity: Better understand the needs and support bridging services of NC Integrated Care for Kids (NC InCK), a government-funded collaboration that serves Medicaid-insured families across five North Carolina counties (Alamance, Orange, Durham, Granville and Vance).

Anticipated Outputs

Solutions to community problems; equity-centered model for university-community cocreation; landscape analyses; team website; data for further research, grants and publications; workshops; professional development tools; technology prototypes

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will consist of 24 graduate students and 24 undergraduate students in the social sciences, humanities, education, policy, health and/or computer science fields. Students interested in expanding their design, qualitative research, innovation, analysis, communications and/or teamwork skills are encouraged to apply. 

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

Students will gain qualitative research skills and experience conducting numerous interviews with stakeholders, and synthesizing and analyzing interview data to identify needs and draw insights. Team members will also gain experience engaging as a team in divergent and convergent thinking to understand stakeholder needs and desires, brainstorm and prototype innovative solutions, test and evaluate feedback, and share findings across diverse audiences and media. Finally, students will learn iterative applied research skills by contributing to research and development loops in which they co-create solutions with stakeholders.

Graduate student “Open Design Strategists” will serve as leaders for subteams. All graduate students will have differentiated learning opportunities including contributing to open-access publications, assisting with (virtual) conference presentations and/or assisting with grant applications.

Only Open Design Strategists will be required to participate in summer work, which will include learning open design through an intensive 2-week training course in May 2022 and engaging in asynchronous research and project preparation (e.g., scheduling interviews with stakeholders, applying for IRB approval).


  • Summer 2022 (optional): Graduate student Open Design Strategists participate in intensive 2-week training course; seek IRB approval; draft project management workflows for subteams
  • Fall 2022: Conduct qualitative interviews and surveys; work through design phases 1 and 2; work on subteam-specific goals
  • Spring 2023: Work through design phases 3 and 4 
  • Summer 2023 (optional): Continue iterative development of subteam solutions if funding is available


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

This Team in the News

Duke Students Design Solutions to Help Communities Flourish

See earlier related team, Open Design Studio: Participatory Solutions for Human Flourishing (2021-2022).


Image: Collaboration (one of the open design principles), courtesy of 2021-22 project team

Collaborating group.

Team Leaders

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

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Ritvik Janamsetty

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Tavey Capps, Duke Sustainability Program
  • Richard Chung, School of Medicine-Pediatrics: Primary Care Pediatrics
  • Jason Elliott, Duke Sustainability Program
  • David Ming, School of Medicine-Medicine: General Internal Medicine

/zcommunity Team Members

  • North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
  • Helius Foundation
  • Reality Ministries
  • ATLASFit
  • Durham County Sustainability Office
  • NC Integrated Care for Kids (NC InCK)