Spotlight Speaker George Aye Designs the Future for Independent Schools

We are pleased to present the final post in our series of interviews with our Spotlight Speakers for the ATLIS Annual Conference 2020. Here we share insights from George Aye, Co-Founder and Director of Innovation, Greater Good Studio; Full Professor, Adj., The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Aye co-founded Greater Good Studio with the belief that design can elevate the voices of people with the least power. Previously, he spent seven years at global innovation firm IDEO before being hired as the first human-centered designer at the Chicago Transit Authority. Since founding Greater Good, he has worked across complex social issues such as criminal justice, civic engagement, public education, public health, and youth development. He speaks frequently across the US and internationally.  For Monday's Spotlight Speaker format at the Annual Conference, we ask the same question of three experts for them to address from different perspectives. This post provides a glimpse of Aye's response to "How would you design the future for independent schools?" -- SD

ATLIS Annual Conference 2020

How would you design the future for independent schools?

[10-minute read] 

George Aye headshot

Spotlight Topic (Opening Session, Monday, April 6): 
When Design Collides with the Social Sector

Spotlight Break-Out (Session 1, Monday, April 6): 
Power and Privilege in Our Schools, Today and Tomorrow

Why do ATLIS attendees need to hear about your design?


For a lot of people, the word design might evoke images of desirable products and services that are new, shiny, and expensive. In many ways, the word design is equivalent to a noun — a thing you produce at the end of a project. But the word design can also be used as a verb — a way of doing work in a rigorous manner where short feedback loops guide your thinking.

At Greater Good Studio, we work on complex social issues such as housing, education, and healthcare, and we use the word design both as a noun (creating a teacher-facing tool for creative writing) and as a verb (testing a new intake protocols with nurses until it works for them).

When you think about your context as an educator working in an independent school, what are the moments when a new solution would be helpful? And what are the moments when a new way of working would help even more? Design, both as a noun and a verb, could help you get unstuck.

What’s the critical problem your design will solve?

While our studio has worked exclusively on complex social issues for the last eight years, it can be easy to miss some of the underlying factors that led to the inequities we work on. The role that power and privilege have played in exacerbating complex social issues can remain opaque when you don’t know to look for it, but once you do it’s impossible to unsee. 

Based on our studio work, I will share a few key observations on how power and privilege show up and what you as an educator working in independent schools can do about it.

How will you empower our attendees to design the future for their schools?

Through a series of facilitated discussions and exercises, attendees will surface their relationship to power and privilege, helping folks get a glimpse of how others see them—from their own classroom to faculty staff meetings. This new understanding can help attendees wield their power and privilege with greater care, helping to create a more intentional learning environment. 

Also read: “Design Education’s Big Gap: Understanding the Role of Power”

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