Department Spotlight: Design and Innovations
Our small but mighty Design and Innovations (D&I) team has their hands on every piece of Educate!’s work. They spend their days designing our curriculum for students; orchestrating trainings for Mentors, staff, teachers, and government officials; and running experiments, developing pilot programs, and conducting field research to test new ideas and assumptions. It’s demanding work, but these are the people who lay the foundation for Educate!’s success and who make future growth and improvement possible.
One of D&I’s major projects in 2017 was the launch of the Design Academy. Based on Educate!’s 9 years of experience in curriculum design, pedagogy, and contemporary learning theory, the Design Academy seeks to help up-and-coming designers hone their design skills, develop an understanding of priority skills for youth and educators in Africa, and learn to apply design principles for skills-based education.
Design Academy was born out of Educate!’s need to recruit, train, and retain highly-skilled designers. As we broadened our reach and expanded internationally, we observed an increasing need for a more unified and streamlined approach to training our newly hired designers. Our most senior designers sat down to discuss the challenge, and ultimately developed a set of foundational principles for design at Educate!: Empowering, Humanistic, Impactful, and guided by Backward Design. These foundational principles formed the basis of an online blended-learning platform, where interested individuals and new hires can work through individual lessons and assessments, while also receiving 1:1 coaching and guidance from Educate! design experts.
By “designing for the designers”, Educate!’s D&I team has already seen major impact: staff are more quickly onboarded and have clearer expectations guiding their work, design outputs across the organization are grounded in the same principles and learning philosophy, and managers can provide feedback that links directly back to the same foundational principles and trainings. D&I is excited to roll out Design Academy as a publicly-available tool and hopes it will serve as a capacity-building resource for designers around the world.