Learn more about our 2023 session facilitators.

Olin College

Innovators Compass
Compass Resources for YOU

Visioning Keynote: 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.

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.


Ela Ben-Ur works to make our best ways of getting unstuck accessible for every person and moment. Drawing on her 20 years at MIT and IDEO, and experimenting relentlessly in the decade since she created the 5 questions and all-free resources of used from preschools to global conferences.

For over a decade Ela Ben-Ur has co-experimented with organizations and educators interested in design thinking. Her present design efforts are focused on developing the Innovators’ Compass ( 5 questions that move us forward. The Compass has been integrated across many different projects and groups, from preschools to global conferences and rural communities. Ela worked 13 prior years at IDEO, co-founding IDEO’s Leadership Studio for developing project leaders, coaching teams, and clients. She earned her BS (1997) and MS (1999) in Mechanical Engineering from MIT.

Drexel University

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

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.


June He is an Assistant Professor of Product Design at Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, Drexel University. She is a multifaceted product designer and artist with extensive industry experience. Her passion and work focus on aging and relevant design innovation, Co-Design practices with community partners, and expertise in eyewear-based products. She uses empathic modeling and participatory design to help increase mobility for students with disabilities and explores the design opportunity at the intersection of gender, immigrant, and cultural identity. June is currently leading Aging + Design courses & research projects for cross-disciplinary students at Drexel University and older adults in Philadelphia’s Asian communities.

Whitman College


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 stage may impact these boundaries.

How should designers integrate inclusive social science methods into design thinking as they iterate a design for an intergenerational center? From research question to instrument design, from data collection to analysis and presentation, sociologist Michelle Janning walks attendees through inclusive research best practices that can be applied to any design project. She also shares the story of her mother, who led the creation of an intergenerational center in her rural hometown. Of primary importance is to use inclusive methods if the end goal is inclusive design. After these best practices are presented, attendees will sketch a design plan for an intergenerational center using some of the methods presented.


Michelle is a sociologist, human-centered design and research consultant, public speaker, and writer living in Walla Walla, Washington. She teaches at Whitman College. Her research is about families and intimate relationships, everyday life, homes and design, technology, inequalities, education, community-based projects, cultural dimensions of childhood and parenthood, and popular culture. Her work has been featured in dozens of national and international news stories, podcasts, and interviews.

ReGeneración Colombia

Community Storyhealing Workshop: “Cuál es tu Paz?” Story-healing towards intergenerational peace and empowerment

Conflict and its collective resolution applies 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 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 our selves 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@.

Keynote Talk: “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.


Camilo A. Romero is co-founder of ReGeneración (, a peace-building initiative, launched in Colombia and now operating globally, committed to healing intergenerational trauma through “Cuál es tu Paz?” children’s books, story-healing workshops, and cultural celebrations like the “Poderosas” project (@regeneracion.poderosas). He has led international delegations in Chocó, Colombia as legal director of the National Farmworker Association, organized student and consumer campaigns as a union organizer for the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores, and designed know-your-rights trainings as legal coordinator for Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California.

Elon University

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.


Dr. Marshall is a Human Geographer who works with migrant and refugee children and youth on issues related to conflict and humanitarian aid. Inspired by his previous volunteer experience working with young people in Palestine, Dr. Marshall’s sought to work with Palestinian refugee children in his research to better understand their everyday lives in the camp. His writing reveals how children express their hopes and desires through creating places of play in the camp and by living beyond trauma and suffering. Since then, he has worked on research related to youth citizenship and belonging in divided societies, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Lebanon, and South Africa. His latest research examines intergenerational memory of shared religious sites in Palestine.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Participatory Approaches for Technology-rich Learning Across Generations

In this session, I will first describe an equity-based approach to technology-rich learning that our research team is developing in collaboration with a community partner, the Digital Harbor Foundation. While initially created for designing learning experiences for youth in urban contexts, together we will explore how this approach can be extended and applied in your own projects to engage participants with diverse ages and abilities.


Foad Hamidi is an Assistant Professor in Information Systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). His research focuses on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Participatory Design, Equity-based Learning, and DIY Assistive Technology. He conducts interdisciplinary community-engaged research and regularly collaborates with community partners. At UMBC, he directs the Designing pARticipatory futurEs (DARE) lab, combining hands-on design studio practices with accessibility research. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from York University, Toronto.

North Carolina State University

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.


Lesley-Ann Noel is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Design Studies at North Carolina State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Design from North Carolina State University in 2018. Lesley-Ann practices design through emancipatory, critical, and anti-hegemonic lenses,  focusing on equity, social justice, and the experiences of people who are often excluded from design research.  Lesley-Ann’s expertise is in emancipatory research, including community-led research, design-based learning, and design thinking.

Design For America


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.


Alden Burke (she/her) is a Chicago-based educator, facilitator, and writer. Currently, she is thinking about modes of introduction, radicalizing HR practices, and free-writing in five-minute paragraphs. Generally, her work centers around supporting collaborative making, process-based work, care in administrative practices, creative sustainability and the question “What are we going to learn from one another?” Alden is the Director of People & Culture at Design for America, the Co-Founder of Annas, and a Lead Organizer for the Chicago Arts Census.

Drexel University

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.


Raja Schaar, IDSA is the Program Director and Associate  Professor of Product Design at Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design. She also chairs IDSA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. She is an industrial designer with an extensive background in museum exhibit design who is passionate about ways design can make a positive impact on intersections with health, the environment, and education. Raja’s interdisciplinary research focuses on addressing inequities in maternal health; methods for engaging black girls and underrepresented minorities in STEM/STEAM through design and technology; innovation and entrepreneurship education; and biographylogically-inspired design and sustainability.

The Whaley Group

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.


Jasmine Whaley is an award-winning community organizer and public policy specialist. She is the Founder of The Whaley Group, a consulting firm that empowers students and policy advocates to use equity-centered design thinking to create better policy solutions. An expert in workshop facilitation and design, she has spent the last decade leading learning experiences for thousands of activists, organizers, policy leaders, and nonprofit professionals worldwide.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Lessons Learned from Integrating Human-Centered Design in Community Placement Assignments of Existing Social Sciences and 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 existing courses. 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.


Saadeddine Shehab is currently the Associate Director of Assessment and Research at the Siebel Center for Design (SCD) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He works with a group of undergraduate and graduate SCD scholars at SCD’s Assessment and Research Laboratory to conduct research that informs and evaluates the practice of teaching and learning human-centered design in formal and informal learning environments. His research focuses on studying students’ collaborative problem-solving processes and the role of the teacher in facilitating these processes in STEM classrooms that feature the learning of STEM through design.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


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.


Rachel Switzky is the inaugural director of the Siebel Center for Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Siebel Center for Design’s mission is to practice, model, and teach design thinking, using human-centered design to reimagine the campus, community, and collective world.

Prior to her current appointment, Rachel has been a global design leader working with Fortune 100 companies over the past 20 years. Most recently, she served as an Executive Director at IDEO, where she helped teams imagine futures and then put them into action, focusing on digital design, emergent technologies, and impact at scale.

Elon University


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 after school 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.


Dhvani Toprani is Assistant Director of the Learning, Design, and Support team within Teaching and Learning Technologies at Elon University with a PhD in Learning, Design, & Technology. She believes in technology’s ability to transform teaching & learning if we learn to effectively collaborate with & around it. Her primary responsibility involves working with instructors to design pedagogically grounded learning environments using different learning technologies. Her research focuses on integrating technology in learning environments to promote collaboration, design thinking, & other higher-order thinking skills. Her work at Elon University focuses on building digital fluency among university’s faculty & staff to support the design of technology enabled learning environments.



How might we create intergenerational and cross-cultural co-design?

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.


Fred Leichter is the Founding Director of the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity at the Claremont Colleges. Known as “the Hive,” the center provides a place where students can form creative teams, be intellectually daring and work collaboratively to address ambiguous challenges. It serves the five undergraduate Claremont Colleges: Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, and Pitzer. Fred also serves as a Clinical Professor of Engineering at Harvey Mudd and teaches Human-Centered Design at the Hive.

Prior to these roles, Fred spent 25 years at Fidelity Investments in Boston, most recently as Senior Vice President of Design Thinking and Innovation. Fred designed Fidelity’s first website in 1996 and created a thriving design discipline at the firm. Fred has also been a lecturer and fellow at the Stanford, where he taught a range of classes such as “Designing with Data,” “Designing for the Law” and “Project Joy.” Fred is also active in the sport of curling. In 2017 he coached his son’s team at the World University Games in Almaty, Kazhakstan.