Marco Polo Project
We bring cultures together
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Design for Diversity

Design for Diversity

What is Design for Diversity?

Design for Diversity is an experiential learning program that integrates international students in the senior years of high-school by increasing their agency and visibility.

International students are a great opportunity for Australian schools. International students bring a new cultural perspective that enriches the experience of other students in their year level and beyond. Over the longer term, their presence can yield precious knowledge about other cultures and rich international networks for other students

However,obstacles stand in the way. Language and cultural differences often make it difficult for international students to thrive socially and academically. Distant or recently migrated families provide limited support to face an unfamiliar environment. Teachers and other students do not always know how to best engage with them.

As a result, international students are often seen as a problem. At best, their academic and social integration somewhat lags behind – but in many cases, they spend their entire school years invisible, isolated and alienated. The challenge that this program aims to address is therefore this: how do we welcome international students as equal and valued participants in the school community, so that they have the most fruitful experience, and the school community most benefits from their presence?


Design for Diversity  brings together international students at senior year levels (10-12) and local students from year 11, working in small mixed teams. Over six weekly sessions of 1h30, participants are guided through a systematic design thinking process, and invited to develop an original solution to the following challenge: ‘how to spend more quality time with people who are different from us’. On the last week of the program, students present their ideas to a panel of fellow students and teachers, and some of those student-led initiatives are then implemented in the rest of the year.

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: 

  • Week 1: Groundwork: build group purpose – celebrate diversity – engage on a mission – form teams
  • Week 2: Sensing – diverge: explore team diversity – consider dimensions of the problem
  • Week 3: Sensing – converge: reframe the problem – bring pieces together – formulate a creative question
  • Week 4: Visioning – diverge: explore solution space – open idea generation
  • Week 5: Visioning – converge: select two favourite ideas – articulate value propositions
  • Week 6: Testing: prototyping session and general reflection




  • 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.