Using Co-Design to Better Center Equity in Our Work with Our Clients and Grantee Partners

Watch our video and download resources about the Learning Lab, our inclusive and equity-focused process for effectively responding to the emerging needs of communities.

We have all been programmed to respond to the human difference between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals. — Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

In November, TSNE and the Social Sector Accelerator hosted two virtual design sessions to demonstrate how authentic co-design, also known as participatory design, is an inclusive process for effectively responding to the emerging needs of communities. Nearly 80 grantmakers, capacity builders, and consultants across the country attended our sessions of Design Labs: Using Co-Design to Center Equity in Our Work. We facilitated these virtual design sessions because we believe in the power of authentic co-design to: 

  • Create space to cross lines of human difference and share power as equals;
  • Move us beyond sympathy to empathy; 
  • Actionize empathy and enable us to move from ally to co-conspirator and actor; and
  • Ensure both equitable processes and outcomes.

During these highly interactive sessions, we reviewed how the Learning Lab uses co-design to better understand the chronic capacity-building needs of under-resourced grassroots groups, and discussed the challenges and opportunities of using co-design in our work. Attendees experimented with and explored a range of dynamic co-design tools; developed a purpose-to-practice strategy to implement human-centered design approaches in their work; learned from and deepened connections with values-aligned peers; and accessed resources that are effective, regardless of mission, field, and community.

Get Involved

If you are committed to using co-design to develop more equitable processes and achieve more equitable outcomes for your clients and grantee partners, we invite you to please:

  • Watch a recording of the design lab’s introduction here
  • Sign up for TSNE’s Learning Lab mailing list to access our human-centered design and agile toolkit, read research on the chronic capacity-building needs of under-resourced nonprofit groups, and stay informed about the Lab’s upcoming virtual sessions. 
  • Access Social Sector Accelerator’s participatory design resources. 
  • Contact Emily Wexler at to join a community of practice of capacity builders and grantmakers interested in engaging their nonprofit and community partners in co-design. 
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