Action Lab

At IIT Institute of Design we are committed to facing today’s thorniest challenges head on.

But we’re not doing it on our own. The scale of today’s most pressing, intractable problems require that organizations and individuals work together like never before.

Collective work will drive the creation of new futures.

At ID, we know design isn’t just for designers. Instead, we are tapping into and maximizing society’s creative power, using participatory processes to consider systemic issues in areas like cities, education, entrepreneurship and finance, food, healthcare, and technology

Finding sustainable, equitable, and just solutions to challenges in these areas cannot be resolved without a bevy of stakeholders. And theorizing will only get us so far.

That’s where the Action Lab comes in. 

Addressing systemic issues requires longer-term initiatives...

Together with advisors, partners, and sponsors in nonprofits, communities, and corporations, ID researchers and Action Lab fellows respond to today’s challenges with long-term solutions that consider future generations. 

Leveraging ID's expertise in systems design and human-centered design, the Action Lab undertakes a specific industry challenge (sustainable development, equitable healthcare, just policymaking) and creates a consortium that works cooperatively to produce new, actionable knowledge that addresses that challenge. By bringing communities, stakeholders, and experts together, we synthesize shared value solutions to maximize collective action and acceptance.

...and a new brand of leadership.

Action Lab fellows are experienced and knowledgeable about a consortium topic. Interested in engaging with a broad consortium community to think through an issue, the fellow joins the Lab because of their specific expertise—and their interest in honing key leadership skills, including making space for thinking and strategic intersections, integrating perspectives to enable true collaboration, and making it possible for the consortium to move from ideas to action.

Through the course of their projects, they practice leading with purpose and become not only changemakers, but change-enablers.

Beyond design thinking: design doing.

Design must go further than thinking, and do. At ID's Action Lab, we develop concepts and interventions, and then implement, activate, and adopt those concepts and interventions:

  • Convene
    We start by coming together to learn about the issue at hand, share information, and discuss.
  • Conceive
    We proceed by analyzing and synthesizing information into insights and ideating on potential solutions.
  • Experiment
    Collectively we choose potential solutions and test their efficacy.
  • Build
    Experimentation yields new insights. We continue to build and improve our solutions by creating real-world prototypes. By understanding systems, we devise interventions that have the greatest potential to actually drive change.
  • Transfer
    Having learned from one another as well as learned how our designs, interventions, frameworks, approaches, and tools work in the real world, we share this new knowledge with the public through accessible webinars, podcasts, and demos authored by our consortium.
  • Act
    We work with consortium members to apply our solutions in the real world and identify improvements.

Our solutions go beyond borders.

Home to the sole graduate-only design school in the US, IIT Institute of Design is an international community of learners and practitioners who embrace complexity and drive impactful change.

ID's long history of doing project work with partners and consortia demonstrates the potential for applied design across the private and public sectors as well as the need for such an approach on a global level. Engaging communities around the world, the Action Lab builds on that success and is positioned to make a greater impact as more and more people contribute to knowledge transfer and the building of cooperative, intelligent, and responsible futures. 


Applied design

Through the Action Lab, ID faculty address today’s most challenging systemic problems with a consortium of partners. 


Areas of Focus

  • Health
  • Food
  • Mobility
  • Finance
  • Cities
  • Technology
  • Education