Design Thinking for Social Change

Design thinking is a human-centered method for tackling complex problems. Over the past decade, design thinking has emerged as a dynamic practice that leading companies use to create top-selling products and to increase their overall competitiveness. Yet design thinking also has a powerful role to play in the nonprofit sector. By adopting this method, nonprofit organizations and foundations can become more effective at tackling social problems and promoting social change.

Design thinking involves observing and engaging with beneficiaries and other stakeholders to understand their explicit and implicit needs. Drawing on insights from that discovery process, design thinkers refine and reframe the problem that they aim to solve. Next they develop targeted solutions and create prototypes to test those solutions among users. The testing of prototypes is an iterative process that challenges assumptions, enables learning, and rapidly surfaces new solutions.

In this two-part SSIR Live! series, Nadia Roumani—a lecturer at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University ( and director of the Effective Philanthropy Lab at Stanford PACS—will present key principles and practical tools for applying design thinking to effecting social change. Drawing on real-world examples, Roumani will explore how social sector practitioners can incorporate design thinking into their work at multiple levels. From defining the nature of the problems they seek to solve to honing the vision, values, and strategy of their organization, practitioners can apply design thinking to a wide range of social sector challenges.

Paul Brest, emeritus professor at Stanford Law School and former president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, will join Roumani for the second webinar in the series.

Price for both webinars: $89. This price includes access to the live webinars; unlimited access to the webinars as many times as you’d like for twelve months at your convenience; and downloadable slides. 


Design Thinking to Solve Social Problems

Session One of Two — Recorded Webcast Now Available

Presented by Nadia Roumani

Date: Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Time: 11:00 a.m.–12:00 noon PDT, 2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. EDT

Do you want to ensure that your organization is targeting problems that are truly worth solving? Do you want to find ways to identify creative solutions to those problems? Do you want to maximize the impact that you can make with the resources that you have at your disposal?

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • How to approach a problem with a designer’s mindset and get a fresh perspective on a problem
  • The difference between traditional research methods and design research
  • How to design more impactful services and experiences for your targeted beneficiaries and stakeholders
  • How to make the internal culture of your organization more collaborative and more creative

 Learn more about this webinar and speakers here.


Design Thinking to Drive Organizational Strategy

Session Two of Two

Presented by Nadia Roumani & Paul Brest

Date: Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Time: 11:00 a.m.–12:00 noon PST, 2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. EST

Do you want to improve the strategic effectiveness of your organization? Do you want to enhance your and your team’s ability to make critical decisions? Do you want to achieve greater clarity on which aspect of a complex problem your organization should tackle? Do you want to make sure that your organization has a clear, precise theory of change?

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • How to develop “decision-forcing functions” that will help you determine which groups to target, which needs to address, which ideas to test, and so on
  • How to cultivate a deep understanding of the specific population of beneficiaries that you seek to reach
  • Integrating design thinking with social science
  • How to test hypotheses in order to clarify your organization’s theory of change

Learn more about this webinar and speakers here.