Human-Centered Design for Social Impact - Online Certificate Course

Human-Centered Design for Social Impact

Making a positive impact on social issues requires a new way of thinking that puts humans at the center of the program’s design process. This online course teaches the principles of human-centered design and helps you develop design thinking skills for social impact.

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About this Course

Design solutions that put people first

Innovation does not just mean building a technology that has never been seen before. It is also about taking something old, a process, a service, a tool, and transforming the way it is used into something innovative, creatively. Quite often we look at problems from the same lens they were created in the first place so of course creativity is lacking.

Design thinking is about creatively tackling real-world problems, inspired by what seems at first a simple approach of tackling human problems around three stages: Is the solution feasible, can the solution be implemented, and is the resulting solution desirable by those experiencing the problem.  In understanding people who are experiencing a problem, observation becomes the key.  Why they do what they do, how they do it, what issues do they confront and how can a new approach change the experience into a positive one.

The difficulty of implementing design thinking on a problem begins with the first step in the methodology:  observation.  Those using the approach feel compelled to come up with a solution quickly and in isolation prior to understanding the human experience. Each subsequent step in its totality is all experimentation, and often that can feel uncomfortable. Empathizing with the user, prototyping solutions, iterating, all before implementing. And the process may move through these steps often.

In Tom Kelley’s book The Art of Innovation:  Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, he describes the steps of human-centered design as if it were simple and straightforward.  We know it isn’t, however it is transferrable.

Human-Centered Design for Social Impact is a new course, taught completely online. Offered by Claremont Lincoln University, and taught by Leonard Medlock, this course intersects the theoretical with the practical. The challenge, or problem to be presented is one that is pertinent to the industry of the participants.  Videos, working papers, worksheets and contact with the instructor allow the participants to meet on their own time, completely online or on-the-ground, using the material from the course.

Start Date
September 3, 2019
6 Weeks
5-10 Hrs / Wk

Examples of Human-Centered Design In Action

Human-Centered Designed Courtroom

A design team used human-centered design to redesign their local county courtroom. By improving the layout of the room and the overall physical environment, it allows for better communication between the judge and defendant and ultimately for fairer decisions.

Designing a Human-Centered Ethical Framework

In Bolivian culture, ethics and accountability are unfamiliar concepts, which has impacted the country’s judicial system. 95% of Bolivians believe that the judicial system is corrupt. A CLU alumni used human-centered design thinking to host a workshop for law students in Bolivia to implement ethical frameworks for Bolivia’s future lawyers.

Designing a Human-Centered Public High School

The course instructor, Leonard Metlock, used human-centered design when launching three new public high schools in the Fall of 2014. In his ESI School Design Fellowship, he launched an initiative to rethink the way high schools and its programs are designed in order to better serve at-risk black and Latino males.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Contrast human-centered design from alternate problem-solving approaches
  2. Examine social issues through the lens of affected individuals or communities
  3. Distill specific needs of individuals or communities affected by social issues
  4. Adopt an iterative approach for meeting the needs of individuals or communities
  5. Determine when and where to apply human-centered design principles

Weekly Lesson Topics

  • Week 1: Foundations of Human-Centered Design
  • Week 2: Practical Methodologies for Human-Centered Design
  • Week 3: Human-Centered Design Challenge #1
  • Week 4: Human-Centered Design Challenge #2 – Empathize, Define, Ideate
  • Week 5: Human-Centered Design Challenge #3 – Prototype, Test
  • Week 6: Storytelling in Human-Centered Design

Weekly & Major Assignments

  1. Weekly Discussion: Each week, students must read (or watch) primary source material to be read (or watched) by everyone and respond to faculty questions about readings and discuss with classmates.
    • Learners are expected to contribute at least one substantive post per discussion question and two substantive responses each week related to the weekly readings, faculty prompts, and/or article/case discussion posts. This is a minimum, and it is hoped that you will participate continuously throughout the course.
  2. Weekly Learning Activity: Students will complete activities designed to let them practice specific design methods each week.
  3. Major Assignments or Projects: Students are required to submit two (2) signature assignments or projects.
Leonard Medlock


Leonard Medlock currently serves as a Director at EdSurge, where he leads the Concierge program. He took a leave of absence in the summer of 2013 to serve as designer-in-residence for the ESI School Design Fellowship, a New York City Department of Education initiative to rethink high schools for at-risk black and Latino males, which launched three new public high schools in the Fall of 2014. Before joining EdSurge full-time, Leonard was a coach and lecturer at the Stanford and a Research Assistant at Stanford’s Project Based Learning Lab, where his work on global teamwork and collaboration was published in the International Journal of AI & Society. He is also co-author of “Blend My Learning: Lessons Learned From a Blended Learning Project,” the precursor to Leonard holds a M.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in Learning, Design, and Technology and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Duke University.


Who It’s For

CLU Certificates were created for those in leadership positions, community organizers and for anyone with a passion for life-long learning. CLU’s online certificate programs offer timely information for collaborating with diverse people to impact meaningful change.

Journey with us on your own or access Group Sales for more information on learning for teams and organizations.

About Claremont Lincoln University

Claremont Lincoln University is an accredited, non-profit graduate university founded in the belief that education should help transform the world around us.  Master’s degree programs include Organizational Leadership, Healthcare Administration, Human Resources, Social Impact, Civic Engagement, Ethics, Peace and Social Justice, Higher Education, Sustainable Leadership, Technology Management, and more. We pride ourselves on our ability to offer a top quality education at an affordable tuition.  Learn more about CLU and our Masters Degrees.