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How Design Thinking Transforms Communities, One Project at a Time

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For many, entrenched in an outdated system, they are the stuff of science fiction.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.

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