Marco Polo Project
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Design for Diversity

Design for Diversity

What is Design for Diversity?

Design for Diversity is an experiential learning program that brings together globally-minded learners from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds - domestic and international - for collective problem exploration. It is offered as a six-weekly program or as a one-day hackathon. The program runs with senior year high school students, undergraduate and graduate students, and young people more broadly.

Participants are guided through a systematic design thinking process, and invited to develop an original solution to a challenge involving diversity - for instance, ‘how can we use Melbourne’s diversity to learn better, live better, work better’. On the last week of the program, students present their ideas to a panel of fellow students and teachers as an interactive prototype session. The design thinking method that underpins design for diversity is directly inspired by the model of the THNK School of Creative Leadership in Amsterdam, and closely aligns with the models of IDEO and the Stanford School of design. 


The program consists of the following modules. The hackathon follows the same structure

Week 1: The journey begins: discover yourself

Participants learn the base=is of Design Thinking. A series of experiential activities help them identify their role in a team. They start reflecting on the design challenge.

Week 2: Make it yours: identify your team’s unique take on the problem

Participants explore the personal stories and preferences of team members and start exploring potential alternative framings of the challenge.

Week 3: Nail your challenge: reframe the original challenge into a new design question

Participants use various techniques to rearticulate the original challenge in a unique manner corresponding to the team’s unique capacity to contribute, resulting in the articulation of a ‘how might we’ design question. 

Week 4: Get wild with ideas: 

Participants learn and use four (4) creative techniques to come up with as many solutions as possible to their design challenge. 

Week 5: Pick a winner: make a decision on the one

Participants go through a series of guided activities to select a shortlist of ideas, finally ending with two – a ‘safe’ one and a ‘wild’ one. 

Week 6: Make it real: the art of prototyping

Participants explore different ways of sharing their ideas with a broader group, and conduct a cross-pollinating session to present their proposal to each other and iteratively refine it on the basis of feedback.



  • Curiosity: Students develop design thinking – a capacity to explore problems in an open manner, delaying the urgency to seek solution to take time and reflect on the nature of the problem.

  • Competence: Students are introduced to specific models and frameworks both for creative thinking and collaborative work in culturally diverse teams

  • Confidence: Students develop the capacity to pursue work in situations of uncertainty - trusting the process when the goal is unknown. Students work in a team, and learn the confidence to explore ideas and challenge assumptions.

  • Community: Stronger bonding internally. The program also has a systemic effect in the school. It increases the visibility of international students, and offers concrete student-led solutions to integration.