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I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with University of Notre Dame students in the new International Development and Design Thinking course on campus this week.  I am serving as a coach and mentor to the students as they work with Design Thinking this semester.

This Advanced Topics and Applications—International Development and Design Thinking course is highly interactive ‘co-creation’ seminar, where the instructor and students will engage in creating and teaching a new course.  The broad theme for the course will be applying “design thinking” — a human-centered, team-based approach for discovering new opportunities and for solving problems — to critical international development challenges. Together the students and instructor will learn about design thinking, and apply design thinking concepts to 1) course design, 2) international development challenges, and 3) real world problems and opportunities.  This class builds on the knowledge and practical skills developed in International Development in Practice: What Works in Development.  Participating students will take an active role in co-creating with the instructor the substantive content of the course as well as teaching the class.  The course will be organized around four modules: 1) introduction to course design, effective teaching, and design thinking; 2) understanding design thinking; 3) putting design thinking to work for education; and 4) putting design thinking to work for the Sustainable Development Goals. Each student will be part of a team to design one of the modules and will lead one class session within the module that has been jointly identified with peers and the instructor.

Students will also work in teams with a real world “client” organization to address a development problem or opportunity identified by the client. This Development Advisory Team (DAT) work will build on the existing relationships with leading international organizations such as L’Arche, Partners In Health, and Enseña Chile, among others.

Finally, throughout the semester, the instructor and students will also serve as a consultant to Notre Dame, as it explores ways to create a new, collaborative, cross-university initiative to support design thinking at the University. The group will make every effort to identify and engage others actors, resources, and physical spaces across the University in this process.

This course is taught by Steve Reifenberg who serves as Executive Director of The Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies.  As part of the future Keough School of Global Affairs, it brings the best of interdisciplinary inquiry to bear on research themes relevant to contemporary societies around the world, especially democracy and human development. Drawing faculty fellows from across the University, students, and visiting scholars, the Institute promotes research, provides exceptional educational opportunities for students, and builds linkages to support the University’s strategic goals on internationalization. The Kellogg Institute creates a space where those interested in international affairs can engage—with one another and with issues crucial to human society. Known for its regional focus on Latin America, the Institute has in recent years widened its scope to include Africa, Asia, and beyond.  A multidisciplinary lecture series, two book series with the University of Notre Dame Press, and a widely respected working paper series contribute to the dialogue.

This course is another wonderful example of how Design Thinking can be applied to a wide range of classroom and real world problems.  I am looking forward to reviewing the student final projects later this year.

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