About the Forum

The Design Futures Student Leadership Forum is a five-day, interdisciplinary forum bringing together student leaders with practitioners and university faculty who represent some of the most important thought leadership in community-driven and engaged design. We frame the conversation broadly, but try to engender leadership and skill-building for future leaders hoping to use design as a tool for social equity and positive change in undeserved communities.

Our guiding principles include striving to build the next generation of leadership in the field; continuing to diversify the ecosystem of design in terms of discipline, background, race, gender, and scale; elevating the rigor and critical capacity of community-engaged design curricula; and curating a national network of thought leadership drawn from contributing universities and practitioner-faculty committed to the advancement of the field.

We do this through the forum, as well as through the nurturing of our student and faculty (both practitioner and academic) networks, and our consortium of committed member schools. Our goal is to foster peer-based professional development through enrichment and critique and to counter the dispersed nature of this emergent movement by creating opportunities for collaboration and collective innovation

Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and we look forward to helping provide a solid foundation around which to build a successful career path within this emergent field of design practice.  We hope to continue growing the university consortium, so students and faculty from universities across the country passionate about elevating this work to a higher standard of rigor can contribute to the Design Futures learning community.

Johanna Gilligan, Founder & Executive Director of Grow Dat Youth Farm, speaking at 2015 forum in New Orleans.

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Student Leaders

Since our first forum in 2013, we have engaged over 300 student leaders from around the world — establishing a network of future leaders ready to build upon the Public Interest Design field. If you want to stay connected with the Design Futures Alumni Network, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
DF Alumni Network Newsletter
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Forum Leaders

Since our first forum in 2013, we have been fortunate to welcome over 70 Forum Leaders into our network. Some of the brightest minds in their respective fields, these professionals occupy space in the design, non-profit, business, and academic worlds — ensuring that our students participate in a well rounded experience.
List of Forum Leaders
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Innovative Workshops

Over the course of 5 days, student leaders engage in workshops led by some of the brightest minds in the Public Interest Design world. To date, we have seen the creation of over 30 workshops designed to challenge and equip our student leaders with the tools they need.
See Past Workshops
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Growing Network

As of 2018, the Design Futures network includes 17 member universities dedicated to providing Public Interest Design opportunities for students and faculty. If you would like more information on how to get involved, we’d love to hear from you!
Reach Out To Us
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Forum Locations

Design Futures is hosted by a different partner university each year. To date, we’ve held forums in Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; Charlottesville, VA; Lawrence/Kansas City, KS; and Minneapolis, MN, Detroit, MI, and in May 2019 we will head to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Where To Next
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Discipline Diversity

We believe that in order to maximize design’s ability to be a tool for social equity, we must engage individuals from all disciplines and backgrounds. To date, Design Futures has welcomed student and forum leaders from over 20 disciplines!
Who Is Represented

Interested in attending the 2019 Design Futures Student Leadership Forum?

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Design Futures Student Leadership Forum operates under a fiscal sponsorship with the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), a nonprofit organization. Contributions for Design Futures must be made payable to the Center for Urban Pedagogy and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. We are honored and excited to be working with such an amazing group of people doing such great work!