The Power of Dignity: Propelling Change in Public Education.pdf (1.18 MB)
Download file

The Power of Dignity: Propelling Change in Public Education

Download (1.18 MB)
posted on 01.05.2011, 00:00 by Gretchen Pinard

In an era of struggling public educational systems, the Allegheny County Propel Schools organization has made great strides to improve academic performance while producing students who are also great citizens. From their founding less than a decade ago, a clear vision and approach to education, captured in a handful of Promising Principles, has been an unquestionable part of their success. As the organization grows and new schools are planted, Propel must find effective means of replicating their model to ensure that each Propel school is as successful as the others.

With this project, the author aims to prove that design and designers have an important role to play in helping this type of organization reach their goals without approaching the situation from a problem-solving, artifact-based angle. Instead, the author deliberately departs from a discipline-specific design approach to engage strategically with an organization devoted to social impact; through this relationship she uses design methodology in a non-traditional setting to show that the power of fully immersive collaboration is greater than the power of design alone.

The result is a set of design recommendations for a systemic model of replication that is both sensitive to the organization’s culture and forward-thinking in its approach. This model, paired with the introduction of a new job position and virtual assistant, is a comprehensive proposal for helping the organization plan for future growth. It is meant to provide a foundation for what is possible, a framework for visualizing the potential, attainable next steps.




Degree Type

Master's Thesis



Degree Name

Master of Design (MDes)


Kristin Hughes