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iLead+Design: Community Action Studios for Monterey County

Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

iLead+Design, a Community Action Studio, involves high school students in real world problem solving. Our summer program provides local teens community-oriented learning experiences anchored in design thinking (human-centered problem solving and sense-making) and creative leadership. Empathy is key.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if more students became empathetic leaders with community partners to solve problems while applying the Stanford design studio model?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We need to enable a new generation of leaders to believe they can make a difference in the world around them. This generation will build new systems and rebuild declining ones. We need students to be great leaders, collaborators, communicators, and innovators. At present there is a need to provide the framework for teachers, students and community leaders across Monterey County to come together and learn how to co-create empathy.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our program will assist with implementation of empathetic design studio models for local high school teachers and community leaders. We propose to put theory into practice by teaching teachers to help students work collaboratively with community partners in solving real problems. MIIS, IFTF will collaborate. A demonstration iLead+Design summer program held at MIIS each summer. Selected high school teachers will be invited to observe and participate. Staff development to follow for teacher teams from area high schools. In Salinas, student leaders will use their new skills of design thinking and empathy to engage the broad community to create an innovation hub focusing on the evolving ag-tech industry.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

To date the iLead+Design project produced solutions for six community partners over the last two summers. We have worked with the City of Monterey, SPCA, Surfrider Foundation, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Save Our Shores Foundation and the Animal Friends Rescue Project. Our aim is to create a program that will train and support Monterey County educators in the processes we use to make these changes. In coordination with Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), Hartnell College and the Monterey County Office of Education, we plan to expand our program into as many high schools so that students will develop the leadership and collaborative skills that will not only solve community problems, but will equip them for professional careers.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The City of Monterey asked for a redesign of the Transit Center. The students created a multimedia report of their recommendations, which were presented and included in the project by the City Planning Commission. The SPCA of Monterey County asked their team to promulgate a plan to increase awareness of the need to spay and neuter pets. The resulting improved website resulted in a 5% increase in pet neutering. Surfrider Foundation also asked for website assistance to increase community awareness of water use issues. This summer our teams designed a Teen Volunteer classroom for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, reconfigured a pet adoption center for Animal Friends Rescue Project, and planned to eradicate pollution from Sand City Beach for the Save Our Shores Foundation. Photo stream on Flickr is here: Please scan through to get a feel for project

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our program has involved a nucleus of 30 students from Monterey County. Our proposal is to create an opportunity for all interested high school teachers to implement the design model into their schools. Using our prototype, educators will be able to devote part of the school year to solve local community issues. Student mentors will be available. Lyceum's involvement with the County Office of Education and MIIS's new Center for Social Impact Learning may provide a venue for graduate students to become involved in our efforts. see:

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Sustainability Plan The Lyceum is well placed to generate funding from local funders along with support from Monterey County Office of Education, Monterey Institute of International Studies, and Hartnell College. This application, if approved, will provide us with the start up funding to grow the program to full potential within the next five years. Once schools realize the impact of this program, community action will ideally locally funded.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The iL+D is the only program addressing this problem. The Monterey County Office of Education has a charter school, focusing on media arts. Underserved and at risk youth are supported by organizations such as Rancho Cielo, in Salinas, which offers training in the culinary and construction arenas. Our program will differ in that it will be more proactive in addressing community problems while training students to be empathetic leaders. We will be training teachers to provide the guidance the students need. iL+D grads will serve as mentors to new students throughout the county.

Founding Story

iLead+Design was conceived in 2012 by three Monterey educators who sought to provide local teens community-oriented learning experiences anchored in design thinking (human-centered problem solving and sense-making) and creative leadership. iLead+Design recognizes that teenagers are key stakeholders in our local communities and, when given meaningful opportunities to engage in authentic community challenges, they will contribute innovative and viable solutions. Seeing the success of this program, and the wildly enthusiastic responses of our community partners, our team thought it would be appropriate to promulgate community-oriented studio model in design thinking in schools throughout Monterey County.


Bob Cole: Co-founder, Coach, Director of the Digital Learning Commons. MIIS Monterey Aaron Eden: Co-Founder, Coach Anne Gibbon: IFTF and Outreach coordinator Fellow:Hasso Plattner Institute of Design Tritia Moneypenny:Coach, Youth Development Specialist Tom Nelson: Co-founder, Lyceum of Monterey County Sean Raymond: Co-founder Coach,Academic Dean York School Maryanna Rogers:Consultant, Director,Tech Museum of Innovation. dSchool fellow
About You
The Lyceum of Monterey County
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name

The Lyceum of Monterey County

How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

United States, CA, Monterey

Country where this project is creating social impact

United States, CA, Monterey/Salinas

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Foundations, Businesses, Customers.

Supplemental Information
On which of the following California counties does your project focus its impact? (check all that apply):


How does your idea help cultivate empathy skills to strengthen communities and equip young people to become leaders of change?

The iLead+Design program students is unique in that it has provided real solutions for real problems in our communities. The City of Monterey has incorporated many of the ideas the students proposed into the 2013 redesign of the SimoneauTransit Center. The SPCA revamped their entire Spay and Neuter links in their website after implementing that team's suggestions. The Surfrider Foundation board of directors also revised and made their website more interactive (2013). This summer, 2014, our teams designed a new classroom space for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, created a client-friendly redesign of the Animal Friends Rescue Shop and implemented a litter removal program for Save Our Shores. Students greatly impressed the community partners.


There is a critical need to provide students with empathetic models in solving community problems.


As we help today’s students build core academic knowledge, we also need to develop leadership and empathy skills.

Tell us about your partnerships

Hartnell College: Hidden Careers program for high school kids; Expanding Your Horizons ; Cyber Adventures, computer science summer program.

Monterey Institute for International Studies: Model United Nations, hosts iLead+Design.

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) Palo Alto. Associate Anne Gibbon, one of our teachers.dschool alumna

San Jose Museum of Technological Innovation, providing consultation re Design Studio Models, M. Rogers,


1. Getting buy in from area school districts for this approach to learning in the face of all of the other requirements they face.
2. Building a cadre of teachers who can devote enough time to implement the plan.

1. We plan to work with the Monterey County Office of Education, MIIS, and Hartnell College to assist with promotion, offer release time, classroom space and administrative support.

2. The grant will provide stipends for teachers and staffing the classes and demonstrations

Does your project use any of the following approaches to cultivate community members as empathetic and collaborative leaders?

encouraging philanthropy, creating a safe space, building leadership skills, storytelling, immersion, collective problem-solving, identifying shared values and differences, instilling courage, enabling action.

Target Age Group(s)



I learned some valuable STEM skills as a youth through participation in Lyceum workshops.

Tom Nelson's picture

Margaret. Thanks for remembering. The Lyceum has expanded our STEM reach through Expanding Your Horizons and Cyber Adventures. Please check our website to learn about these.