Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the National Agency. Neither the European Union nor National Agency can be held responsible for them.

By: Kyle Wagner and Maggie Favretti


What if every course began with a single Essential Question?

What if people were rewarded for having ideas and not ownership of them?

What if every student experienced success in solving a community problem?

What if school buildings were leveraged as community centers?

What if success in school was measured based on contribution to your community, rather than rote knowledge?

What if every learner could co-author their learning journey?

These were questions that rose to the surface from educators around the world when given a blank canvas to re-imagine school.

For many, entrenched in an outdated system, they are the stuff of science fiction. Too many structures hold this kind of innovation back- from standardized tests, to grades, to unwavering curriculum.

But for a bold and courageous few, these ‘what ifs’ are a manifesto for immediate action.

Meet Maggie Favretti, founder of ‘DesignEd4Resilience,’ (DE4R) an organization that uses design thinking to facilitate collaborative community responses to climate change and other complex issues.

Maggie has empowered young people to transform these ‘what ifs,’ into ‘what happens when?’

“What happens when young people find a meaningful, healing purpose, and connect with nature and other people to create a more equitable and sustainable world?”

This powerful and provocative question has propelled young people in DesignEd4Resilience to: Develop community disaster plans and co-create logistical centers to respond to devastating hurricanes. Create toolkits and resources for emotional and mental well-being during proliferating pandemics. Build community gardens and shared farming plots to protect from food shortages.

Développer la créativité. Tel est l’objectif numéro un du design thinking.

Cette approche développée à Stanford dans les années 80 a pour but d’appliquer la démarche d’un designer pour répondre à un problème ou à un projet d’innovation. Cette manière de réfléchir et d’innover s’appuie de manière très importante sur des retours d’utilisateurs.

Mais en quoi consiste réellement le design thinking et quel est sa définition ? Quels sont ses grands principes et ses différentes étapes ? Quelles sont ses origines ? Quelles sont les grandes dates de l’histoire du design thinking ? Quelles sont ses plus grands avantages ? Voici les réponses à toutes les questions que vous vous êtes toujours posé sur le design thinking.

Quelle est la définition du Design Thinking ?

Premièrement, commençons par la signification du Design Thinking. Chez Klap, nous retenons la définition du Design Thinking suivante :

Le Design Thinking est une méthodologie innovante qui permet de transformer les idées et les projets en actions réelles et en prototypes tangibles.

Quelles sont les origines du Design Thinking ?

Le design thinking naît dans les années 50, aux Etats-Unis, lorsque le publicitaire américain Alex Osborn met au point la technique du « brainstorming ». L’idée : réunir son équipe et stimuler sa créativité en lui faisant brasser différentes idées afin de résoudre un problème en trouvant des solutions.

Ensuite, dans les années 60, le premier programme inter-départemental est créé à l’université de Stanford. Un programme centré sur l’humain dont l’objectif est de faire réfléchir ses membres à différents enjeux.

Puis, dans les années 70, l’ouvrage Experiences in Visual Thinking est publié par Robert H. McKim. Celui-ci-développe les différents préceptes du Design Thinking. Des préceptes qui seront largement développés les années qui suivent par Peter Rowe qui publie un ouvrage intitulé « Design Thinking » en 1987.

Le Design Thinking est une approche de l’innovation axée sur l’humain. C’est une méthode de pensée basée sur un processus itératif dont le principal objectif est de comprendre les comportements utilisateurs. Ce procédé permet également une remise en question des hypothèses et incite par là même à redéfinir les différents problèmes, afin d’identifier des solutions et proposer d’autres alternatives.

Formez-vous au Design thinking avec Usabilis si ce sujet vous intéresse

Quels sont les grands principes du Design Thinking ?

Cet article est librement inspiré de la définition du Design Thinking par l’agence UX Usabilis : Qu’est-ce que le Design Thinking ?

Une approche des problèmes par le développement de solutions

En tant que méthode pratique, le design Thinking vise la résolution des problèmes. En tant que procédé de réflexion, il s’articule autour d’un intérêt profond et commun : celui de développer une compréhension des utilisateurs pour lesquels sont conçus des produits et services.

Social Change is the bedrock of Community Development. Community Development is firmly routed in the principles of social change, collective action, empowerment, participation and social justice.  In order to empower communities to initiate change, firstly they need to identify their needs and work collectively to develop actions to address these needs. One school of thought is that within all communities there are individuals who can contribute significantly in addressing the inequalities that this community is facing; Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). 

Asset Based Community Development is a method employed to support sustainable development.  ABCD places a focus on mobilising existing resources within the community, assets. Often times these assets are not recognised and it is therefore essential to create a space for all individuals within the community to play an equal part in the influencing of change.  This is most effective when the community takes a conscious decision to build on the assets that they already found in the community and mobilises individuals and groups to come together to build on identified assets. 

Design Thinking is a method which can facilitate a collaborative response to an identified problem, and ensure that the assets with the community are supported to address this need.  Design thinking is more than a framework to address community challenges, it is a way to build capacity and collective action, to help members to explore more complex issues in an open and empathetic way, to work collectively to identify the problems and to develop solutions. 

Roscommon Design Thinking Learning Centre is embarking on this process. On the 14th October 2022 it introduced the concept of design thinking to the broader community in the area.  This was a new concept for those active in Community Life, it was perhaps something known and understood to the engineering world, but not yet something that had reached the world of community development in Roscommon.  Once the concept and the 6 phases including telling the story was presented to the group, there was a great energy within the room and a desire to learn more and explore how this concept could be translated to the development sector and what the resulting outcomes may be.

Whilst there is a way to go in terms of building the understanding the merits of borrowing this concept and making it relatable for the community sector there was a keenness to explore and to learn and be open to how it may shape change in the future. The group are going to come together in early 2023 and work on a topic around supporting the integration of the Ukrainian Community into Roscommon and establishing what their needs are and how collectively using the 6 phases that the community can move towards meeting the needs, building on the assets within the community and ultimately affecting change.

"Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the National Agency. Neither the European Union nor National Agency can be held responsible for them."

Social problems are complex, ill-defined, wicked problems. Finding effective ways to tackle and deal with them is often quite difficult. Because of that, organizations and practitioners recently started embracing design thinking as a preferred approach to address similar challenges. But what exactly is this design-driven approach, known with the name of “design thinking”?

Design Thinking: an overview

The term “design thinking” has gained momentum and popularity over the past decade. Although a unique definition is still missing, we can describe design thinking as a problem-solving process that brings design principles, methods and tools to fields afar from more traditional ones. As a matter of fact, design approaches have long been confined within the boundaries of architecture and engineering. However, such attitude turned potentially beneficial to other fields too, making design thinking a cross-industry, problem-solving methodology.

In its essence, design thinking is an iterative process that aims at “changing existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon, 1996). In her book “Designing for Growth”, Jeanne Liedtka describes design thinking as a four-step model corresponding to four basic questions:

1. “What is?” phase, which explores current reality and seeks to gain a deep understanding of customers’ lives and struggles.

2. “What if?” phase, which envisions opportunities and translates the insights collected into new possibilities to pursue.

3. “What wows?” phase, during which the concepts previously developed are culled down to a manageable number. Here, designers create “low-fidelity” prototypes to rapidly test and improve their ideas.

4. “What works?” phase, in which the product/service is actually launched and brought to the real world.

Design Thinking for social innovation

Now that we know what “design thinking” looks like, let’s go back to our starting point. As said, design thinking has been recently embraced to tackle social problems too. But why so? In an article written for Stanford Social Innovation Review, Tim Brown discussed the reasons why this approach can benefit the non-profit sector too.

For instance, DT tools such as journey mapping and field observation can provide practitioners with a faster, deeper and better understanding of specific issues people and communities are experiencing (“What is?” phase). Furthermore, design thinking relies on creativity as a generative force able to lead to disruptive solutions. In this sense, setting up interdisciplinary teams to brainstorm and envision wild, innovative ideas (“What if?” phase) can indeed help non-profit organizations avoid “restricting choices in favour of the obvious and the incremental “. 

Also later phases of design thinking (“What wows?” and “What works?“) can bring significant benefits to social innovators. “Quick, cheap and dirty prototyping” can in fact solicit beneficiaries’ feedback early on, improving the overall problem-solving process. As a result, concrete action plans get conceived only for the best, validated ideas, which end up heading towards real-world implementation.


As we have seen, design thinking is a creative, problem-solving process originating from the application of design principles and tools afar from more traditional fields.

In recent years, this methodology proved to be effective for both profit and non-profit organizations. As a matter of fact, design thinking allows social entrepreneurs and organizations gaining deeper understanding of social problems, unlocking innovative ideas and ultimately “creating better outcomes for organizations and the people they serve.

Today, design thinking is paving the way to a new discipline called “business design“. If you want to learn more about this methodology, feel free to navigate our website or get in touch with us!

Taken from

Governments, scholars, educators, and communities are all interested in understanding why things go wrong. According to one point of view, community participation, or involving impacted groups in the development of solutions, is crucial. This enables the project to be tailored to the needs of the community, better guiding the intervention. Why Some Well-Planned and Community-Based ICTD Interventions Fail, research by Brown and Mickelson, extends on this by examining how simply involving the community in the design of an intervention isn't enough to ensure success. It suggests that simply interacting with people in a community does not necessarily allow us to understand all their needs.

Communities are complex and tough to grasp. Individuals in positions of authority, who frequently do not have the same interests as those on the ground, are insufficiently consulted. You can't expect contacting a portion of a community to provide you enough knowledge to understand the full population. To obtain a deeper awareness of the community, more rigorous participation is required, yet it is necessary for successful solutions.

The issue is that top-down solutions aren't tailored to the communities and concerns that exist inside those communities. The solution design process reveals a disconnect between designers, project initiators, and project managers and the real state of need and capability on the field, where the problem resides. Adult educators, non-governmental organisations, and activists must be equally involved in problem-solving processes to adopt a new method of thinking and building solutions – Design Thinking for Social Change. The EU is evolving, altering, and reinventing itself in the face of new difficulties, both institutional (e.g., the democratic divide) and situational (e.g., pandemics, poverty, financial crises, and security threats), always investing in new solutions and development to advance social transformation.

Since World War II, $2.3 trillion has been invested in development projects to improve health, alleviate poverty, educate, and offer other services that were previously unavailable. While progress has been made, the number of absolute poor people remains unchanged at 2 billion. The emergence of social enterprises as drivers of inclusive communities will be accelerated by Design for Change. It will develop a digital, participatory, sustainable, and comprehensive paradigm for issue solving that will bring together adult educators, community members, and problem solvers to approach social change from the perspectives of:

The European E-learning Institute (EUEI) is committed to providing high-quality learning experiences and innovative educational programmes which engage learners from a range of sectors and socio-economic backgrounds. EUEI is committed to promoting social cohesion, inclusion, and sustainability across Europe, making them a perfect fit for the Design for Change Project.

Our experienced team of trainers, researchers and technical experts are uniquely placed to guide educators from VET, HEI, Adult and Youth sectors to harness the opportunities that innovative and collaborative e-learning and digital tools offer for learners.

We specialise in the delivering of high quality, responsive  and innovative projects to educators and learners in the topics of pedagogic approaches, entrepreneurial competences, digital skills, inclusion, and sustainability.

Meet our Climate Champions at EUEI working on the SFEC project

Canice Hamill- Managing Director

Canice has worked in the field of lifelong education for over 20 years and is recognised as an expert in instructional design and the development of e-learning solutions for education and training. A former trainer and lecturer, Canice utilises a holistic approach to creating innovative, interactive learning environments and works closely with tutors, trainers, and development teams, emphasising the importance of empathy and user experience in every learning solution.

Our Logician -Innovative Inventors with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge

Catherine Neill- European Project Manager

An experienced EU project manager, Catherine is an integral member of our team. She is an effective communicator and has a strong background in areas of Inclusion. The oldest of 5 children Catherine quickly learned how to lead the pack, utilising organisational skills alongside her passion for helping others, she is committed to making the world a more accessible, sustainable, and friendly place.

Our Protagonist -Charismatic and inspiring leaders, able to mesmerise their listeners.

Aine Hamill- European Project Officer

Aine plays an important role in the learning design and subsequently in evaluating the effectiveness of our eLearning products on completion. Aine is always keen to engage with her creative side and implement the newest digital tools, pedagogies, and trends into our e-learning solutions. She is passionate about finding effective and relevant ways to engage learners from all walks of life.

Our Defender-dedicated and warm protectors, able to implement ideas and “create order from chaos”.

Including our key role in the initiation of the Design for Change project we will also work tirelessly alongside our project partners to deliver the highest quality project results as possible. Within the project EUEI will develop the project website and be responsible for the technical realisation of the materials.

Learn more about EUEI

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