Designers in Residence 2.0: Accelerating Pathways

Higher Ed Leaders as Regional Transformation Agents

Expanding on the work of the first Education Design Lab Designers in Residence cohort and Accelerate ED, Cohort 2.0 designers are building regional ecosystems that support accelerated associate degree attainment for students who are Black, Latino, or from low-income backgrounds.

Six designers from community colleges in five states are working with the Lab for 18 months — from June 2023 to November 2024.

This project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Latest

Updates on what we're doing, what we're learning, and where we're going

Where we are: Spring 2024

This spring our focus is on bringing the programs to life, aiming to launch the prototypes by Fall 2024. As we keep the momentum going, we’re working with each of our designers to support them in the implementation in a personalized way. In February, the designers joined us at the AccelerateEd convening in Austin, Texas, where we gathered with leaders working on accessible, affordable, and accelerated dual enrollment pathways across the country.

Where we’re going: Summer 2024

In June, the designers will meet in Minneapolis, Minn., to reflect on the challenges and successes of their programs; plan for spread and scale at their institutions with a leader in this work — Becky Margiotta from the Billions Institute; and finalize blueprints for their sites. We are also organizing a virtual student convening, which will bring together the students who have served on the regional design teams for each college. This convening serves as a key part of our evaluation of the equity-centered design process where we hear from the students about their experiences serving as the experts in this work. This summer we also plan to release another insights brief.

What We're Learning

3 things (insights!) we’re learning as we kick-off our work

The purpose of this Design Insights Brief is to provide a glimpse into the 18-month journey (June 2023 to November 2024) with the Designers in Residence after a deliberate planning and preparation phase.

We hope these insights — and our future learnings — might help higher ed leaders who are grappling with the same challenges, from improving their dual enrollment partnerships to leading collective impact efforts in their regions.


Unleashing the power of student perspectives: A how-to with Arlington Career Center

Imagine how impactful it would’ve been if, in high school, the adults around you asked what you needed to maintain motivation and then let you decide how you wanted your future to look.

In June, we worked with our Designers in Residence to facilitate a design sprint with students at Arlington Career Center in Arlington, Virginia. In this blog post, we share how we did it and the ideas we heard from the students who participated.

View Story

Photo: A student at Arlington Career Center in Arlington, Virginia shares the idea he and his team came up with to remove barriers that are in the way of their futures (June 2023)

Program Overview

Designers in Residence 2.0

The Lab’s Designers in Residence 2.0 will build sustainable, regional ecosystems designed to support students from low-income backgrounds to complete an associate degree by the 13th year of education, one year after high school graduation.


What is a regional ecosystem?

At the Lab, we define regional ecosystems 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.

Over 18 months (June 2023–November 2024), Designers in Residence 2.0 will work with the Lab to:

  • Build their capacity to serve as regional transformation agents.
  • Be a part of a lifelong network of leaders across the country seeking to reshape the learn-to-work journey.
  • Learn and train in the Lab’s human-centered design process alongside expert education designers.
  • Receive a grant award of $75,000 for their institutions.
  • Experience opportunities to share their work and amplify the ideas and voice of their regions.
  • Be mentored by the innovative Designers in Residence from Cohort 1 who created the tools that will be utilized and tested.
  • Gain first-hand access to ongoing Lab learning and initiatives, including access to the Lab’s novel community of practice and experts, institutional team members, advisory groups, and peers from the Lab’s Community College Growth Engine and BRIDGES Rural initiatives.

Program Engagement Arc

Meet the Current Cohort

May 2023 - November 2024

Introducing Cohort 2.0

Favorite Songs from the Lab's Designers in Residence

2023 – 2024 Playlist


2021 – 2022 Playlist

Tools (Prototypes) for Higher Ed Leaders Driving Regional Ecosystem Alignment

As prototypes, we're actively collecting feedback from stakeholders during the current program year. Scroll below to see what we're hearing!

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 toward building a truly equitable future. Cohort 2 Designers in Residence will use these tools to build and enhance a sustainable, effective education-to-workforce ecosystem in their region.

Ecosystem Self-Assessment

A tool for leaders of community-based organizations, education institutions, and workforce development agencies who seek to align their ecosystem with an equitable future state in work, vision, and goals.

This Self-Assessment is designed to catalyze conversations between partners and stakeholders, plus provides space to prioritize goals and track next steps.

Access the Self-Assessment

First Steps to Regional Transformation

An interactive resource that offers steps in implementing three levers for regional transformation.

For each lever, we provide inquiry-based questions to dig deeper in understanding, alongside suggestions of short-term actions to kickstart each inquiry. We recommend using this resource after completion of the Ecosystems Self-Assessment, as we offer first steps to build towards the elements of the future state that you, partners, and stakeholders have collectively identified as priorities.

Access the First Steps Tool

Stakeholder Feedback: Winter 2023

These tools were initially designed with our inaugural cohort of higher ed leaders for higher ed leaders needing a way to align on collective goals and start getting there. In order to make these tools successful in meeting the needs of higher ed leaders in meeting this problem, we’re jumping into further testing. In Winter 2023, we spoke to stakeholders in multiple listening sessions representing colleges (17), K-12 (4), and workforce partners (7).

Slide deck used to facilitate feedback sessions

Summary of feedback thus far


We are always open to connections, partners, and collaborators in this work. Send us a note at or simply fill out the form below. (The form goes to our program email!)

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