To become great leaders, people need real-world, hands-on practice. Full-time students, however, are often limited to practicing their skills on hypothetical projects in the classroom.
Leadership Studio, established by Design for America at Northwestern University in 2011, is an intensive crash course in design basics, teaching students the strategies they need to develop their own studios and practice human-centered design in their local communities.
Leadership Studio is more than just learning; it’s building — building skills, community, sensibilities, and solutions that will last a lifetime.
Students from different disciplines, universities, and experience levels form collaborative teams. What they have in common is the goal to immerse in and improve the lives of those experiencing local, social issues. Past Leadership Studio topics worked with childhood asthma, elderly inclusion, urban flooding, down syndrome, breast cancer, voting rights, and urban accessibility.
Unafraid to confront intimidating projects like these in just a short weekend, Design for America students go home with the curiosity and skills needed to implement long-term change in hundreds of communities, nationwide. Indeed, what started with nineteen students from eight universities has grown to become more than two-hundred students, community members, and mentors from more than thirty-three universities.
The training doesn’t end there. After shaking hands with one another in Illinois, the momentum continues through the next 12 months with conference calls and an active online community that shares resources, instigates discussion, and provides feedback. These touch-points keep DFA members focused, excited, well-informed, and pushed to do their best. Leadership Studio has proven an effective way to scale nationally and in 2013 was awarded the Core 77 Design Award for Design Education and Design for Social Impact.