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Participating in the Pluriverse from within the Academy: Design Thinking Assessment & Research

LAKE Danielle
Director of Design Thinking and Associate Professor, Elon University



How might those situated within university structures design teaching, research, and service opportunities that shift higher education towards supporting a “pluriverse”? This paper is meant to serve as an invitation to Reimagine ‘Impact’ within Higher Education. I situate this call within my own lived experiences trying to enact these practices and by explicating several promising strategies emerging from overlapping fields—including ecosystems design, participatory action research, and feminist pragmatism. While design thinking and systems thinking are interwoven with and can reinforce hegemonic and colonial practices, they also provide opportunities for radical and relational imaginaries that build bridges toward multiple ways of thriving. Given their histories and the current state of higher education, I aim to visualize some of the present barriers and opportunities for diverse and expansive assessment and research. I also seek to hold space for exploring how we might incorporate frameworks that take relational and ethical connections to one another seriously and crack open opportunities to reshape the structures and cultures of higher education in order to generate more inclusive and just impact.

design thinking; participatory action research; systems thinking

About the Authors

Danielle Lake’s teaching, research, and service are informed by her lived experiences as a white, settler, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, first-generation feminist pragmatist philosopher situated within and between the academy and surrounding communities. She is the Director of Design Thinking and Associate Professor at Elon University. Her teaching and scholarship bridge design thinking and wicked problems research with the public engagement movement. Current projects seek to explore the long-term impact of relational, place-based learning, design thinking practices, and pedagogies of resilience. By designing, enacting, and assessing an array of relational, critical, and creative engaged teaching, research, and service practices she hopes to expand possibilities for more imaginative and actionable efforts around changemaking . She is co-editor of the book series Higher Education and Civic Democratic Engagement: Exploring Impact with Peter Lang Publishing.

More about her work can be found at

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