Using design thinking, we help young activists and organizers gain an understanding of the systems and institutions governing their activism.

Our democracy is facing a harrowing challenge: how do we best motivate young people to be civically engaged? In the wake of events such as the shooting in Parkland, Florida, youth have become increasingly interested in affecting change. Having spoken with youth activists and the adults working alongside them, our team has discovered that this activism, while well-intentioned, is usually only impactful in the short term. However passionate the actions of these changemakers may be, they are usually not supported by an understanding of the global institutions and foundational theories that power activism.

Gaining understanding is a fundamental first step in the process of Design Thinking. This iterative method of problem-solving, used by architects, engineers, graphic designers, and others, begins with understanding the root causes of an issue. Our team has found that the most successful activists, although they don’t call themselves designers, tackle issues with the same approach and mindset as a designer.

DesignUnderstandAct answers the question, “How do we civically engage young people?” by addressing the root causes of change for high-impact activism. This 3-day, intensive summer program for a group of 20 young activists and organizers already involved in activism in Columbia, South Carolina. Through a series of interactive workshops and presentations, participants will be able to learn about the systems in place that affect how change is and can be made.


DesignUnderstandAct operates under the fiscal sponsorship of The Southern Guitar Festival and Competition, a 501(c)3 registered nonprofit.

Special Thanks

  • To the early DUA Team members: Kay O’Connor, Quinn Hayes, and Vivien Toumey.

  • To Cortney Bailey, Erin Johnson, Jamesha Shakerford, and JoAnn Turnquist of the Central Carolina Community Foundation.

  • To Marina Alexandra of The Southern Guitar Festival and Competition.

Our Partners