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“All the information in the world won’t tell us what the future will look like.”
 Dr. Maille Faughnan is an instructor for the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Minor Program at Tulane University and is a research fellow at the Phyllis M. Taylor Center. At the Taylor Center she also does community outreach programming and helps with the scholarship initiatives at the center. Dr. Faughnan has collaborated on local and international research projects, from New Orleans to Central America to East Africa, spanning topics like gender and social entrepreneurship, cultural development, design thinking for reproductive health, and the diffusion of design-thinking through capacity building. 
Connect with Dr. Maille Faughnan:

Pluriverse Publication Chapter: Dr. Maille Faughnan  

Written by Tran Nguyen-Phuong and edited by Natalie Hudanick 


Download a PDF Layout of the Dr. Maille Faughnan chapter of the Pluriverse Publication.  

It was sort of accidental like some of the best things in life are,” Dr. Máille Faughnan describes, recounting how she first stumbled upon Design Thinking while she was pursuing her graduate studies at Tulane University. It all began when her advisor, Dr. Laura Murphy, asked her to be a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) for an Introductory class for the SISE minor. When she showed up to class the first day, everyone was presented with the task of brainstorming and envisioning possibilities to activate an unused space. Dr. Faughnan immediately fell in love with the process of design thinking and human centered design.  

Dr. Faughnan’s definition of Design Thinking has evolved to mean so much more to her than what it did in the beginning. She thinks of Design Thinking as “a broad set of practices or a discipline or a field” that equips us with a toolbox with mindsets and methods that help us imagine into being: new scenarios, new arrangements, new futures. It has taught her how to push her visualization skills, how to learn to think and communicate in different ways, and how to be more experimental and ambiguity tolerant. 

Being a white woman from an upper middle-class background, Dr. Faughnan is very conscious of her identity and how it may intersect with and influence her work in International Development. Those efforts were tested when Dr. Faughnan conducted her fieldwork in Kenya with a local organization there. One challenge that she faced in Kenya stemmed from cultural differences. The locals were unsatisfied with how she ran her meetings. What she thought would be productive and efficient, the locals found were ineffective and curt. In order to remedy this problem, Dr. Faughnan applied some design thinking, challenging and empowering the locals to design a meeting that would best fit their needs. What she recognized was essential to the process of problem solving was the human centered aspect of design thinking. Dr. Faughnan often thinks and asks herself, “How do we really design things so that they work not based on necessarily how we think they should work?” In order to craft the best solutions, she has adopted a more experimental attitude and is more willing to share early versions of products for feedback or testing.  

Since then, Dr. Faughnan has received her doctorate at Tulane University. She is an instructor in the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (SISE) Minor Program at Tulane University. She also does some of the community outreach programming for the Taylor Center as well as help with the Taylor Center’s scholarship initiatives. The latter is all about catalyzing research on Social Innovation and gearing it towards social change.  


Her advice to other nondesigners hoping to employ some Design Thinking in their lives is to “push yourself out of your comfort zone”. What she means by that is to “do things that you’re not always doing” and to try “a different way of seeing something or doing something”.  According to Dr. Faughnan, the process is all about “taking a step, reflecting on it, pivoting, moving around, doing something else”.  


About the Hello from the Pluriverse Podcast

The Hello from the Pluriverse Podcast aims to open up and create a space to have conservations about the pluriversality in design.

This podcast is a project of the Design Thinking for Social Innovation Program at the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane University.

Executive Producer: Lesley-Ann Noel, Ph.D

Sound editing

Hello from the Pluriverse 2020-2021 Student Team

Hello from the Pluriverse 2019-2020 Student Team

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