“The recognition from Ashoka U and the Cordes Foundation is a great honor and a great validation of our work at MICA to demonstrate the value of design in addressing complex social problems. The collaboration with our community partners on real-world social challenges not only inspires our students to recognize the social value of their creative talents but also results in tangible benefits for the community. MICA Social Design partnerships begin with projects in the classroom but lead to longer, sustained collaboration and impact.”       – Mike Weikert

Center for Design Practice, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

The Center for Design Practice (CDP) was established at MICA by Mike Weikert in 2007 to demonstrate a new approach to social design education based upon a philosophy of praxis – combining action and reflection. CDP is now a multi-disciplinary, social innovation studio dedicated to preparing the next generation of creative changemakers. CDP brings MICA students together with faculty and outside partners from government, nonprofit and business sectors to collaborate on the development of innovative solutions to complex social problems.

The CDP is grounded in our philosophy of practice-based learning in the classroom. Outside partners come to MICA with a concrete, real-world social challenge and MICA students receive academic credit (or a stipend) to work over the course of a semester with their peers, faculty and outside partners to develop solutions. CDP projects take place over the course of an academic semester or year (normally 2-3 projects run concurrently per semester, totaling 5-6 per year). Each CDP project:

  • Partners with an outside entity (non-profit, government agency, institution, etc.);
  • Receives external funding ($15,000 to $40,000 per project);
  • Focuses on a specific issue and challenge (not pre-defined outcomes or deliverables);
  • Aligns with the academic calendar (16- or 32-week duration);
  • Engages undergraduate and/or graduate students (3 studio credits or stipend for graduate students);
  • Is overseen by a faculty project manager.

Working as a part of multi-disciplinary teams, students learn to apply their creativity and design thinking processes to translate ideas into tangible outcomes.

Results

  • 7-year track record of over 25 completed projects and growth;
  • Involved over 150 students from various disciplines at MICA (graduate and undergraduate);
  • Leveraged nearly $1m in support for CDP projects;
  • Projects are financially self-sustaining (not pro bono), ensuring their longer-term impact and sustainability;
  • Student and partner interest have grown exponentially, resulting in MICA providing a new, renovated, and expanded space and facility in Fall 2014;
  • Partners are returning with repeat and larger requests for collaboration;
  • Students are gaining real-life project experience leading to professional opportunities beyond graduation;
  • Projects have been featured in GOOD, FastCompany, Design Observer, Core 77, etc.;
  • Received multiple awards and recognition and recently featured in Sappi – Ideas that Matter video;
  • featured in various books on social design (e.g., Andrew Shea’s Designing for Social Change (2012), Christopher Simmon’s Just Design: Just Design: Socially Conscious Design for Critical Causes (2011).

How can people become involved in or replicate your innovation?

  • Join us as a partner: MICA’s CDP works with diverse partners locally, nationally and internationally, from the nonprofit, business and public sectors on distinct social problems and challenges;
  • Enroll as a student: both graduate and undergraduate students from across all departments of MICA have been involved in CDP projects;
  • Stay informed: visit www.micasocialdesign.com and subscribe to our monthly newsletter to stay informed of current MICA Social Design projects, events, etc.
  • Visit us: we have an “open studio” policy and welcome visitors interested to observe and learn from our experience at MICA Social Design.

Contact Information
Mike Weikert, Director, Social Design, MICA: socialdesign(AT)mica(DOT)edu

Cordes Innovation Awards

In partnership with Cordes Foundation, Ashoka U seeks to recognize globally relevant teaching, learning, and partnership practices that may be adapted and replicated across the field.

2014