Skip to Main Content
of desiGn

Maura Shea

Associate Professor of Civic and Community Design & Food Systems Action Lab Co-Director

“The role design can play in complex systems is to help build capacities and role model alternative ways of doing things.”


Maura Shea is an Associate Professor of Practice at the Institute of Design (ID) focused on evolving community-led development methods and approaches. She is also the Co-Director of the ID Food Systems Action Lab. Working for over a decade as an innovation leader in national nonprofit networks, Maura is interested in civic and social collaboration and how human-centered design (HCD) can support equity and inclusion through the experiences of belonging and community well-being.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature and philosophy from Macalester College and a Master of Design (MDes), with a concentration in visual tools for design research, from ID.

Activities at ID

Maura has developed and taught courses in design and community development and design research. These courses explore theoretical frameworks and apply practical approaches to design that build skills critical for designers addressing today’s systemic challenges. Collaborating with local networks around food systems issues in the Chicagoland region, the Food Systems Action Lab explores ways to make these systems more visible to the networks of organizations, institutions, and individuals within them and seeks to identify ways to enable better coordination and effectiveness. By revealing these systemic connections, the Food Systems Action Lab helps partners and collaborators within these network collectives identify ways to make food systems more just and equitable.

Industry Experience

Before joining ID, Maura held a range of design consultancy and executive positions. From 1999 to 2008 she held progressive leadership roles at IDEO (San Francisco, London, Munich, and Chicago). From 2008 to 2016 Maura founded and led a new innovation function at the YMCA of the USA, the national office of YMCAs in the US. In 2016 Maura joined Feeding America’s National Office as VP of Innovation where she built and led that department. In both nonprofit roles, Maura focused the innovation team’s work on aligning ambitious agendas for community wellbeing through collaborating with local collectives. She continues to consult on community systems for various partners.