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We welcome you to the Forge on March 29th – 31st, 2023!
Stay tuned for the zoom recordings of each session posted here!

2023 Schedule

Keynote Speaker Ela Ben-Ur : Our Innovators’ Compass

“We all face increasingly complicated, uncharted challenges every day—from our daily actions to big decisions, alone and together.
What if our best ways of getting unstuck were accessible for every person and moment?
This question fuels us in this passion work, and the simple yet powerful 5-question tool that’s emerged—used from preschools to global conferences, and companies to rural communities.
All resources here are free—please use and share them to unstick things in your world. Just 1) credit innovatorscompass.org and 2) share back your experiences, which propel this work.”

source: Ela Ben-Ur &The Innovators’ Compass

Community Storyhealing Workshop on March 29th

Featuring Camilo Romero – located at the Elon Community Church


Thursday, March 30th, 2023

Welcome & Visioning Keynote with Ela Ben-Ur and Danielle Lake – 9:00-9:50 am

Think Like An Organizer: The Story of Self with Jasmine Whaley – 10:00-11:00 am

Place-Based Storytelling as Participatory Design Practice with Sandy Marshall – 11:15 am-12:15 pm

Stories and Strategies I: Participatory Making to Learn & Community Engagement Lab with Foad Hamidi & Rachel Switzky – 1:15-2:45 pm

Co-create Beyond Cultural Barriers: Intergenerational Collaboration with Local Immigrant Aging Communities with JuanJuan “June” He  – 3:00-4:00 pm

Day 1 Closing Keynote: “If Not Us, Then Who?” Healing Intergenerational Trauma Through Sociodrama Story-Telling with Camilo Romero – 4:30-5:30

Friday, March 31st, 2023

Where are we now? The Innovators Compass with Ela Ben-Ur – 8:30-9:00 am

Stories and strategies II: Intergenerational Design Teams with Fred Leichter – 9:00-9:45 am

Stories and strategies III: Designing for and with Relationships & Life Stages with Alden Burke & Michelle Janning – 10:00-11:20 am

Keynote Workshop: “How might we use design across intergenerational communities to create patient-centered care?” with Lesley-Ann Noel & Dr. Alessandra Bazzano – 11:30 am-12:30 pm

Stories and strategies IV: Lessons Learned from Integrating Human-Centered Design in Community-engaged Courses with Saad Shehab & Dhvani Toprani – 1:00-2:15 pm

Closing Keynote Workshop: Designing Futures: Social Science and Design for Intergenerational Centers with Raja Schaar – 2:30-3:30 pm

Design Thinking for Student Learning is Elon’s annual convening of design thinking educators, practitioners, and thought leaders. Each year, Design Forge addresses a topic of interest to higher education, strengthens collaboration in the design thinking community, and searches for new opportunities for design thinking to enhance student learning.
Design Forge is a hybrid/hyflex, interactive, and collaborative convening designed to support your efforts to cultivate participatory placemaking projects with strategies and networks of support.
The goal? Like in prior years, we will spend time together exploring the how-might-we question in an environment that is part design and part convening, launching new relationships and generating questions, resources, ideas, and frameworks that advance the value and impact of design thinking practices.
Learn more about what to expect at the Forge.

2023 Forge Facilitators

Keynote Speakers

Ela Ben-Ur

Our Innovators’ Compass

How might we accessibly harness diverse design abilities to uncover our stories, visualize the present, and codesign the future across generations? Participatory design across generations requires a compass, not a map. In this opening keynote, we’ll explore our shared stories and work together to envision Design Forge 2023.

Camilo Romero

“If Not Us, Then Who?” Designing Opportunities to Heal Intergenerational Trauma Through Sociodrama Story-Telling

Seven generations. Our life is impacted by our ancestors. And we become ancestors to those who follow us. How may we begin to break the cycle and heal intergenerational trauma? The design method of sociodramatic story-telling facilitates vulnerable introspection to recognize and address conflicts we carry in various somatic forms. ReGeneración has practiced this method with urban and rural communities affected by the violence in Colombia. As a supposed “post-conflict” civil society comes of age in various countries, how may we – locally and globally – heal our generation for the sake of the next.

Day One: Thursday, March 30th

Jasmine Whaley

Think Like An Organizer: The Story of Self

Everyone has a story that can move others into action. And that’s why the Story of Self is the first tool in every community organizer’s toolkit. The Story of Self reveals values, morals, and priorities and creates authentic moments of connection across lines of difference. In this workshop, participants will learn how to use their Story of Self to increase their own agency as activists and create movements built on trust and solidarity.

Juanjuan “June” He

Co-create Beyond Cultural Barriers: Intergenerational Collaboration with Local Immigrant Aging Communities

Using a variety of participatory design toolkits, this session will help attendees explore their own stories, memories, and emotions. With these frames in mind, we will prototype methods used with students and local immigrant aging communities to co-create tangible solutions with diverse communities.

Sandy Marshall

Place-Based Storytelling as Participatory Practice

Stories shape our understanding and often our misunderstanding of place. How can communities use oral history and digital storytelling to create their own representations of place? This session introduces participants to the theoretical background, practical procedures, technical tools, and ethical practices of place-based digital storytelling.

Day Two: Friday, March 31st

Lesley-Ann Noel with Dr. Alessandra Bazzano

How might we use design across intergenerational communities to create patient-centered care?

In 2020, Alessandra Bazzano and Lesley-Ann Noel created an equity-centered design toolkit for engaging underrepresented groups in Patient-Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR). The New Orleans-based research team worked with local stakeholders to translate methods used by designers and qualitative researchers into methods that could be used by people in public health. In this keynote talk and interactive workshop Forge, participants will get a chance to engage with the equity-centered design toolkit, learn about the research process used to create it, and provide feedback that will continue to improve the tools.

Alden Burke

The Deepest Well: Exploring the creative capacity of mentors, friends, and other learning-centered relationships

How do our relationships shape the way we learn, move, and participate in the world around us? How do formal and informal learning environments influence our capacity to create, play, and fall further into ourselves? In this participatory session, we’ll explore our own relationships to better understand our most fruitful, generative, and safe learning environments. Participants will then work together to collectively ideate ways in which they might share and replicate these modes of relationships in and outside the classroom.

Michelle Janning

Designing Meaningful Boundaries across the Lifespan

What does research show about how different ages and other social groups attach meaning to designed things? How might our social locations affect the boundaries we create to separate or integrate various parts of our lives such as work and family? After a brief lecture where sociologist Michelle Janning shares her research findings on technology, boundaries, and objects, attendees will workshop their own meaning-making processes, with a particular emphasis on boundaries between public and private life realms. Part of the exercise will entail sharing ideas about how life stages may impact these boundaries.

Other Notable Speakers

Rachel Switzky

Developing a Community Engagement Lab

In the summer of 2020, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign decided to mend decades of mistrust from the local community and worked closely with city stakeholders to establish the “Campus-Community Compact”, an initiative that brings together members of the community with campus partners to collectively rethink and rebuild our shared city. We will share in this session how we’ve leveraged human-centered design to work towards our objectives and discuss issues around the pace of systemic change and the challenges of working with a large group of diverse stakeholders. Though we have been working on this for two years, we are still early in the process and will be seeking feedback and guidance on ways to improve our participatory design techniques.

Raja Schaar

Forging Ethical and Intergenerational Futures

“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” — Greek Proverb

In a world of ever-present issues and opportunities, how do we nurture design mindsets and skill sets that are futures focused,  equitable, and inclusive for everyone — including generations yet to come? During this interactive workshop, participants will combine applied ethics and worldbuilding activities to imagine and co-create speculative worlds set in an uncertain future. We will interrogate how design decisions we make today might lead to possible, probable, and preferable outcomes, and leave with a better understanding of the agency we possess to make choices that lead to positive changes we want to see, for generations to come.

Foad Hamidi

Participatory Approaches for Technology-rich Learning Across Generations

This session explores an equity-based approach to technology-rich learning under development in collaboration with the Digital Harbor Foundation. This approach was initially created for designing learning experiences for youth in urban contexts but is expanding to include other populations. Together we will explore how we can engage participants of diverse ages and abilities in their own place-based projects.

About the Forge


The conference is for educators, design practitioners, changemakers, and thought leaders


Designing opportunities for higher education to more inclusively and collaboratively address wicked problems


Strengthen collaboration between communities & search for opportunities for DT to enhance transformational learning