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Royal Roads Design Thinking Educator & Practitioner Conference

Virtual Conference • February 17, 2023

Design thinkers are drawn to its championing of imagination and its promise to bring into decision-making rooms the perspectives of those who matter most; to its potential to foster cultures where learning, trying, and iterating might be valued and rewarded; and to the inherent optimism of design—the possibility that it might assist in bringing preferred futures into being.

But what preferred futures do we want? This is where design thinkers—and thus various approaches to design thinking—diverge. There is no longer a single version of design thinking, if in fact there ever was.

For some, design thinking is a means to achieve more imaginative problem solving—to better equip students to succeed in a tumultuous employment market and organizations to adapt and thrive in VUCA times. Others hope to leverage its potential to navigate wicked problems in service of social innovation and more broadly the social good.

Others, still, want more radical disruption of the status quo than either a design thinking focused on imaginative problem solving or one focused on social innovation seems to offer. From this latter group, new forms of design thinking have emerged. Examples of those redesigning design include proponents of liberatory design, “an evolution of the design thinking methodology… that helps people translate their equity values into action” ( and those at the Creative Reaction lab (, who critique design thinking’s complicity in perpetuating societal inequities while still maintaining faith that, using new versions, “systems of oppression…can be redesigned.” At Copenhagen’s GenderLAB, educators are bringing together “the reflexive process of norm critique with action-oriented design thinking” for the purpose of “engag[ing] with and interven[ing] in organizational practices while remaining critical of these practices” (Christensen et al., 2021, p. 1036).

This conference invites design thinking lovers, skeptics, revolutionaries, and curious bystanders to come share ideas and techniques. This is a conference about both how to “do” design thinking—about the art of making design thinking work in environments that often are not conducive to its ambiguity and insistence on deep understanding—and about debating the deeper questions it raises.

A Conference for Educators, Practitioners, and Researchers

Submit a Proposal If…

• You are a design thinking lover who has experienced successes or challenges in the classroom or the workplace.

• You are a design thinking skeptic with concerns, for example, that design thinking does not go far enough in addressing power inequities or envisioning radical futures or fostering different forms of human creativity or addressing the politics inherent in real change.

• You are a design thinking revolutionary, who has gone beyond concern and critique and is engaged in new design thinking practices. For example, you are combining design thinking and systems thinking, design thinking and futures thinking, or design thinking and critical pedagogies.

• You are a curious bystander, who hopes to play a role in fostering more sustainable, equitable, and joyful classrooms, organizations, and societies. You have heard of design thinking but perhaps have not focused on it. Come help us consider new areas of potential intersection with design thinking.

Four Ways to Present

Professional Development Workshop (55 minutes): You will facilitate participants in a hands-on engagement in a design thinking activity. Participants will leave the session with ideas for how they might lead such an activity in their own practice.

Facilitated Discussion (25 or 55 minutes): You will facilitate discussion around an area of challenge for those who lead and teach design thinking, with the goal of unearthing multiple perspectives and developing collective insight. It is recommended that you propose a topic you are grappling with, and around which you would appreciate insight from others in the field, for example, “How can design thinking be facilitated for remote workers?” or “How to introduce design thinking into a hierarchical culture?”

Tips and Tools Presentation (20 minutes): Share a brief “here’s what worked—or didn’t work—for me” presentation. Do you have an experience of leading or teaching design thinking about which others would benefit from knowing? Do you have an exercise that you have used in your professional or teaching practice that worked particularly well—or didn’t? Come share it with the community.  Suggested format: Maximum 10-15 minutes presentation, with 5-10 minutes Q and A. You may also choose to use your 20 minutes entirely interactively, for example, to lead participants in an activity. You are encouraged to share resources (e.g., handouts, session plans) that would help others in benefiting from your experience

Research Presentation (20 minutes): Are you researching strategies for better fostering design thinking in the workplace or post secondary classroom? Come share your knowledge. Suggested format: Maximum 10-15 minutes presentation, with 5-10 minutes Q and A.