City 2.0 : Community-based design

A public policy lesson based on design thinking that takes it to the streets. Literally.

Photo of Maggie Favretti
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We are in our third iteration of City 2.0, a public policy class for seniors which applies DT mindsets and skills to real world problems.  We use our Skills and Mindsets Rubric to help us evaluate our students' progress throughout the year, and students frequently reflect together and independently about their growth within the design process.  Pitches are given to classmates, but also to stakeholders, press, and collaborators from the world outside the class.

The opening project, the Redesign of Everyday Things, is meant to instill the skills and open mindsets needed to move on through the more complex challenges of the year.  Then we take our "toolbox" to New York City,  where we meet up with community-based designers and local community groups who are engaged in improving their communities.  We listen, observe, come to know the community, and then make ourselves useful.  This year, we will work with park friends groups, block associations, churches, senior centers, community centers, and school governments.  We have partnered with NGOs such as the Harlem Arts Alliance and the Jazz Foundation of America, and the city government itself.   We help student groups use design thinking to decide what community projects they would like to do, and participate alongside them.  We attend Community Board meetings and help design pitches in support of community projects.  We help with Participatory Budgeting and community visioning.  In class, students identify issues they need to know more about (public schools? poverty? race? aging? housing? safety?) and pursue background reading, bring in guest speakers, and do data research.  We reflect on each others' frustrations and progress.  Their final presentation for this unit is anything but final (students are expected to contribute in less extensive but still purposeful ways throughout the year); they will update their home community on the urban improvements they have helped to bring about, reflect on the process, and plan out the follow through.

Finally, after a storm crisis management simulation set in nearby New York City we apply all we've learned about climate change, communities, governments, and the economy in combination with our STEAM disciplinary knowledge to envision what our city infrastructures might look like in the 22nd century, and redesign some part of them.

As a teacher in her third year of real community-based design, I have learned a tremendous amount about how hard it is to facilitate genuine experiences...across racial and class divides, in communities where we are the outsiders, and with busy people who have a lot of other things on their plates.  And what do you do in the classroom day-to-day?  But what a reward! Students feel empowered by their own creativity and their newly-developed abilities to get things done.  The relationships they build in the City, and the awe of their own impact have lasting effects...on their confidence, world perspective, and habits of mind and action.  I hope to build a solid system of support for teachers who would like to try taking DT to the streets!

Check out our Google Doc:

Check out the Skills and Wills Rubric:

Check out the pitch video on Youtube:

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Do you love this idea?

Yes! I love this idea! - 100%

Inspired by (1)

The West Wing


Join the conversation:

Photo of Paula Marra

Maggie I absolutely LOVE City 2.0 Would be awesome to see this happening at many different schools. I would love to work with you on this. How do you feel about that? We could start a google doc. Cheers, Paula

Photo of Maggie Favretti

I would be happy to share, and am prepared to be the chief spokesperson and explainer.  If folks want me to come to their schools, I can do that, too, depending on how serious they are about it.  What did you have in mind for a google doc?