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Designers in Residence Program

Higher Ed Leaders as Regional Catalysts

The Education Design Lab’s Designers in Residence program is a remote opportunity for leaders to collaborate with the Lab in co-creating the future of learning and work. The June 2021 – March 2022 cohort brought together a design team of 11 visionary thinkers and doers from postsecondary institutions across the United States to evolve and strengthen the role of colleges to be regional change agents to close economic and racial opportunity gaps.

New Release: An Actionable Framework to Drive Regional Ecosystem Alignment

After 10 months of work with 11 higher education leaders across the country, we offer higher education and ecosystem leaders a framework and resources to start aligning regional stakeholders and partners towards building a truly equitable future.

The Call to Action

The Lab’s Designers in Residence program is being launched in response to the urgent need for a new paradigm driven by higher ed institutions to align their respective regions toward a new “school to work” economy.

As we speak, billions of dollars are being invested by companies hoping to win parts of the race, shifting us all toward a skills-based economy (e.g. artificial intelligence, precision data skills assessment, virtual reality training environments). The current COVID-19 crisis, the massive unemployment and displacement that has resulted, and the historic inequities in our labor market underscore the need for urgency to drive the learnings for how colleges and universities can shorten the horizon to skill-based employment while putting learners on the path toward credential attainment. 

As a studio team working within the Lab’s interdisciplinary design setting, the Designers in Residence will co-create a vision that centers the needs of their learners within this new economy, and provide the start of a roadmap for other institutions and innovators seeking to build and scale this ideal system. Designers in Residence will build off of learning from and collaborate with practitioners, leaders, and experts from the Lab’s ongoing initiatives including BRIDGES Rural and the Community College Growth Engine Fund.

About the Lab's Designers in Residence Program

The Lab’s Designers in Residence program provides higher ed leaders an opportunity to work alongside the Lab in driving a national discourse on the need for a new higher ed model. Over the course of 11 months (May 2021 – March 2022), Designers in Residence will collectively investigate the role of colleges as regional catalysts, identify and explore critical areas of inquiry specific to their context, and build the start of a roadmap to build and scale this new vision for higher ed. 

The program will bring together 12 post-secondary leaders from across the country that are leading the development of regional ecosystem collaboratives in service of their learners and community. This future-focused community of practice will serve as a braintrust for informed practices that gives Designers in Residence the tools and resources to assess and interrogate their existing ecosystem initiative, co-design and test new ideas to further accelerate their efforts, and provide critical thought leadership in their community and at a national level. Under the expertise and learner- and employer-centered process of the Lab, Designers in Residence will participate in studio team sessions, manage stakeholder interviews, consult with learners from their community, and write a short brief on their work to be edited, visually designed, published and disseminated by the Lab. 

Designers in Residence will be guided by a Lab Advisory Board and will receive insights from a core group of subject matter experts relevant to their work. This program is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

What is a regional ecosystem collaborative?

At the Lab, we define regional ecosystem collaboratives as regionally-focused, inter-industry partnerships with centralized infrastructure, a shared agenda, consistent communication, and alignment across participating partners (adapted from Stanford Social Innovation Review on Collective Impact). They may take the form of establishing an intermediary nonprofit to a cross-system coalition to a government funded initiative or a philanthropically-driven partnership.

What does it mean to be a thought leader?

The Lab seeks to engage leaders who are the go-to people at their institution or system driving cross-cutting regional initiatives that seek to address economic mobility, college access, or employment opportunity gaps. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas. They are systems thinkers who turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success. The resulting work of the Lab’s Designers in Residence during this program will support in equipping others to replicate and scale their ideas into sustainable change, not just in one organization, but in an industry, niche, or across an entire ecosystem.

Designers in Residence, will...

  • Join a design team building a model and vision for the future that will shape your work on the ground and guide the work of the Lab and the field for years to come
  • Lead the start of a life-long network of leaders across the country seeking to reshape higher ed and the learn-to-work journey
  • Learn and train in the Lab’s learner- and employer-centered design process alongside expert education designers while iterating new strategies for your work and identifying fresh insights with your design team
  • Receive a $5,000 stipend to fund you and your work, and a $5,000 grant award for your institution for a total investment of $10,000
  • Experience opportunities to share your work and amplify the ideas and voice of you and your region
  • Gain first-hand access to ongoing Lab learning and initiatives, including access to the Lab’s novel community of practice platform that includes monthly webinars and discussions, and experts, institutional team members, advisory groups, and peers from the Lab’s Community College Growth Engine Fund and BRIDGES Rural initiatives

We are always open to partners and collaborators in this work. If you would like to get involved, drop us a note at


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