Design Circles

Design circles are in-depth, reciprocal working groups that aim to engage stories, experiences, and expertise within communities to catalyze action within that context. Facilitated by our research partners in their own local communities, design circles are distinct from (and far more intensive than) conventional focus groups in that they move beyond only voicing and naming challenges (for instance, barriers of racism and poverty in communities of color) to building relationships, conceptualizing root causes and facilitating emergent family and community leadership and perspectives through co-designing theories of change and pragmatic solutions (for example, envisioning collective parenting strategies responsive to 21st century challenges that also are reflective of and sustain shared cultural practices). Design circles honor community leadership and perspectives by co-designing solutions rather than only on voicing and naming challenges (Bang et al., 2010).

The eleven sites hosting design circles are grouped in four key aperturas, or opportunities for transformative change towards community wellness and educational justice:

○ Educator Professional Learning and Practice
○ Multi-Organizational Racial Equity Initiatives
○ Family and Youth Leadership
○ Learning Across Contexts (education beyond schools)

Phase 1 Design Circles

  • West Side School-Community Design Circle: A Community Leadership Partnership – Salt Lake City, UT
    • Gerardo Lopez, Paul Kuttner, and Almaida Yanagui
      Apertura: Educator Professional Learning and Practice


  • CADRE Re-Imagining Parent-Teacher Relationships, Los Angeles, CA
    • Maisie Chin and Lorena Guillen
      Apertura: Educator Professional Learning and Practice


  • Cultivating Parent Power in Teacher Training, Hiring, and Retention- Salem, OR 
    • Edward Olivos
      Apertura: Educator Professional Learning and Practice


  • CREATE Design Circles, Detroit, MI
    • Camille Wilson
      Apertura: Family & Youth Leadership


  • Grow Your Own Community Power: Citizens for a Better Greenville, MS
    • Joyce Parker and Mara Casey Tieken
      Apertura: Multi-Organizational Racial Equity Initiatives


  • Designing for Culturally Responsive Family Engagement, Central Falls, RI
    • Joanna Geller and Vianna Alcantara
      Apertura: Family and Youth Leadership


  • Developing a Sense of Global Indigeneity, Chicago, IL
    • Ananda Marin and Cynthia Soto
      Apertura: Learning Across Contexts


  • Social Justice in an Iranian School Context, Chicago, IL
    • Shirin Vossoughi
      Apertura: Learning Across Contexts


  • Community-Driven Data for Educational Policy Change, Seattle, WA
    • Erin Okuno and Peggy Kwok
      Apertura: Youth and Family Leadership