For Design Forge 2023, we will explore these guiding questions:

How might we design with and across intergenerational communities?

How might we cultivate pluralistic, participatory communities?

Design Forge 2023 Schedule

Opening Community Event ¦ 5:30-8:30 pm at the Elon Community Church
  • Pre-Forge Workshop with Camilo Romero 
“Cuál es tu Paz?” Story-healing towards intergenerational peace and empowerment

Conflict and its collective resolution apply to each of our families and all of our communities, especially in these times of pandemics and politics. Each of us carries trauma from our own lives and that of generations before us. Our workshop is an opportunity to explore creative and interactive methods of rage and reconciliation, resentment, and resilience. Our workshop will center around community building through story-telling. We will begin with introductions of each participant and explain the origins of ReGeneración ( as a movement for the empowerment of those who have been invisibilized for generations. We will then discuss our children’s book project and form small groups to act out “sociodramas”, spontaneous performances that challenge us to utilize all parts of ourselves to identify, confront, and resolve conflicts within our environment. Our workshop is meant to be collaborative as each of us are experts in our story. Welcome. Bienvenid@.

Welcome & Visioning Keynote ¦ 9:00-9:50 am
  • Our Innovators’ Compass with Ela Ben-Ur 


Working intergenerationally to tackle societal challenges presents its own challenges to individuals and teams involved. How do we apply our design abilities—and many others—in powerful ways accessible for every person and moment, as a compass—not a map? We’ll explore this in community-education partnerships, including Ela’s own work at Olin College, and work together to envision our time together at Design Forge.

Workshop ¦ 10:00-11:00 am
  • Think Like An Organizer: The Story of Self with Jasmine Whaley
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.
Interactive Workshop ¦ 11:15 am-12:15 pm
  • Place-Based Storytelling as Participatory Design Practice with Sandy Marshall
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.
Stories & Strategies I ¦ 1:15-2:45 pm
  • Participatory Making to Learn & Community Engagement Lab with Foad Hamidi & 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 & 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 & rebuild our shared city. We will share in this session how we’ve leveraged human-centered design to work towards our objectives & discuss issues around the pace of systemic change & 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 & will be seeking feedback & guidance on ways to improve our participatory design techniques.

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 & abilities in their own place-based projects.

Collaborative Session ¦ 3:00-4:00 pm
  • Co-create Beyond Cultural Barriers: Intergenerational Collaboration with Local Immigrant Aging Communities with Juanjuan “June” He

The session will start as a workshop using a variety of participatory design toolkits to elicit the audiences’ stories, memories, and emotions. Based on that, the speaker will talk about the methods used with students and local immigrant aging communities to co-create tangible solutions with the community.

Closing Keynote ¦ 4:30-5:30 in McBride Gathering Room
  • “If Not Us, Then Who?” Healing Intergenerational Trauma Through Sociodrama Story-Telling with Camilo Romero 
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.

Reframing Workshop and Reflection ¦ 8:30-9:00 am
  • Where are we now? Our Innovators’ Compass with Ela Ben-Ur
Stories & Strategies II ¦ 9:00-9:45 am
  • Intergenerational Design Teams with Fred Leichter
In this talk, Fred will share how his early industry work in intergenerational finance has turned into a rich set of intergenerational design projects at the Hive. He will also share the Hive’s plans to create intergenerational and cross-cultural co-design teams with students.
Stories & Strategies III ¦ 10:00-11:20 am
  • Designing for and with Relationships & Life Stages with Alden Burke & Michelle Janning
The Deepest Well: Exploring the creative capacity of mentors, friends, & 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.

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.

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

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.

Stories & Strategies IV ¦ 1:00-2:15 pm 
  •  Lessons Learned from Integrating Human-Centered Design in Contextualized Learning Experiences with Saad Shehab & Dhvani Toprani
Lessons Learned from Integrating Human-Centered Design in Community Placement Assignments of Existing Social Sciences & Humanities Courses.

Integrating human-centered design in existing higher education courses is challenging. One opportunity can be to support students in using human-centered design to complete community placement assignments that are required in some existing Social Sciences and Humanities curriculum. In this session, we will share and discuss with participants lessons learned from integrating human-centered design in community placement assignments of three existing courses at UIUC: an education for social justice course, an English education methods course, and a language for health professions course.

Lessons learned from facilitating learning of Human-Centered Design in K-12

Facilitating learning environments where children engage with developing human-centered design requires instructors to prioritize and support authentic, problem-based, and collaborative learning experiences. In this session we will describe an afterschool where 3rd – 6th grade learners worked on a design challenge. We will then analyze the aspects of the learning environment that supported their engagement with complex design concepts. The goal of this session is to discuss strategies that can support practitioners in designing similar learning experiences as they facilitate the learning of complex human-centered design concepts in diverse learning environments.

Closing Keynote Workshop ¦ 2:30-3:30 pm
  • Forging Ethical and Intergenerational Futures with Raja Schaar
“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.