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Co-Creating Equitable Futures

October 2, 2021 @ 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Next-Generation Masterclass


Sometimes people can be timid about the change that they imagine is possible. They’ll say people aren’t ready for something, or it’s too hard to get something to change. They can often list why something is impossible. Pushing people’s imagination to the ‘far-out’ future helps them to think beyond the barriers that exist today. This sometimes also shows them the barriers to access that need to be eliminated today. Bringing people back to a nearer future, after they’ve dreamed of where they want to be many years out, gets them to be active about what can be done in the not-so-distant future.

In this workshop, participants will learn how to weave together concepts around co-creation, equity, and critical utopias, to design better futures for all. The focus will be on race, gender, and disability, but the aim of the workshop is to help the participant understand and learn to recognize any form of exclusion and to use co-design to strive for any form of equity.

The workshop will make the Critical Utopian Action Research (CUAR) theory accessible to the general public. It will show real and possible applications of this method in social and civic innovation in particular and will include sample activities to lead co-creation. This will be an interactive workshop involving a mix of mini-lectures, reflective individual activities, group discussions and brainstorming.

Who Should Attend & Key Benefits

The audience for this workshop would include people who want to use design thinking in social and civic innovation such as government officials, educators, activists, and organizers.

  • Use design methods centered in equity and collaboration 
  • Learn to apply CUAR theory to brainstorming around social problems and oppression 
  • Use design methods to co-create future visions and action plans

Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel (Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University)

Lesley-Ann Noel is an Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University. She has a BA in Industrial Design from the Universidade Federal do Paraná, in Curitiba, Brazil. She has a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. She earned her Ph.D. in Design from North Carolina State University in 2018.

Lesley-Ann practices design through emancipatory, critical and anti-hegemonic lenses,  focusing on equity, social justice and the experiences of people who are often excluded from design research. Her research also highlights the work of designers outside of Europe and North America as an act of decolonizing design. She also attempts to promote greater critical awareness among designers and design students by introducing critical theory concepts and vocabulary into the design studio e.g. through The Designer’s Critical Alphabet.

Lesley-Ann’s research interests are emancipatory research centered around the perspectives of those who would traditionally be excluded from research, community-led research, design-based learning, and design thinking. She practices primarily in the area of social innovation, education, and public health. She is co-Chair of the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group of the Design Research Society. Before joining North Carolina State University, she was the Associate Director of Design Thinking for Social Impact at Tulane University, and she was a lecturer at Stanford University and the University of the West Indies.