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Fluid Hive Design Stories

Our work and why it’s important to us.

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Why We Care

We chase big questions. We help people think and solve like a designer to tackle problems demanding new ways to get results. The rewards are often hidden in uncharted territory where the rules of the game are being invented as we play.

photo of Dawan Stanford facilitating at the Aspen Institute in DC

Building Innovation Community and Exploring System Change

Here’s how Benjamin Fresquez, Program Manager, Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, described the results Fluid Hive helped create.

“At the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, we tackle complex problems that require innovative solutions to significantly improve student learning, completion, and employment after college. Specifically, we approached Fluid Hive as a partner to design a workshop in which admissions leaders from highly selective four-year institutions and community colleges explored how we build a national pipeline for community college transfer students to these top colleges and universities.

With Dawan’s expertise, we successfully planned and hosted our design sprint in October 2019, and most importantly, we had a blueprint for how we could pilot this new initiative.

We took that blueprint, and in 2021, launched the Transfer Scholars Network where 200 high-achieving community college students have now made early connections to admissions representatives at twelve of the best private four-year colleges and universities. It’s hard for me to think of anyone better than Dawan and the team at Fluid Hive who could have helped us realize our vision. Not only were the services provided top-notch, but the thought partnership offered by Dawan brought even more value to our efforts.”

Creating a Design Studio for Education Innovators

Challenge — How might we create an learning experience where education innovators can develop and apply design thinking skills?

Solution — The Master’s in Learning, Design, and Technology (LDT) at Georgetown University asked me to weave thinking and solving like a designer into a series of studio courses at the heart of the degree. Students were arriving from a variety of backgrounds and needed to be able to apply design thinking to learning design challenges inside higher education. Working with the LDT teaching team, I designed a way to learn design thinking by applying it to coursework and projects.

Impact — As LDT’s Design Studio Director, I teach a series of three design studio courses where Georgetown students learn to apply design thinking and how to make the skills their own. I developed a learning model where students support each other as they experiment and grow. Students leave LDT with deep relationships and the ability to apply design thinking as learning designers.

Transforming a University with Design Thinking

Challenge — How might we create a university-wide design thinking program serving all students, faculty and staff?

Solution — Elon University asked me to launch Elon By Design: a university-wide design thinking program. Design research and creating with stakeholders generated the basis for a new approach to design thinking tailored to Elon’s history, strategy, students, staff, and faculty. This new approach guided developing the workshops, events, grants, classroom experiences, leadership training, convenings, and projects that continue to deliver the best of design thinking to Elon students, faculty and staff.

Impact — Hundreds of people have learned about design thinking. University leaders are bringing design thinking into strategic planning and action. Faculty are bringing design thinking into classes and degree programs. In short, design thinking is becoming part of learning, teaching and serving at Elon.


Helping Senior Leaders Lead By Design

Challenge — How might we create a way for senior leaders to weave design thinking into producing better outcomes for the people they serve?

Solution — At the Academy for Innovative Higher Education Leadership, I taught senior university leaders how to apply design thinking and service design leadership and strategic challenges. Academy participants learned by applying a design process and methods to familiar challenges and seeing the improved results for themselves.

Impact — Georgetown and Arizona State University launched the academy to develop higher education leaders who can deliver what future students need. The design thinking curriculum, helped Academy become better able to see innovation moves that matter, lead teams using design-driven innovation methods, and apply what they learned to getting better outcomes for students.

White House Convening on Innovation in Higher Education

Challenge — How might we create a day-long White House Convening where over 40 education innovation leaders from around the country and inside the U.S. Department of Education create new possibilities for education innovation? 

Solution — As the Design Director at the Education Design Lab, I led developing and facilitating a unique White House Convening experience where attendees worked in large and small groups to create simple models and representations of their ideas on posters and templates. By forcing participants to go beyond talking and start making, we were able to hold a deeper, richer conversation.

Impact — The participants generated new ways the government might support and develop online skills opportunities and scalable pathways to high-quality, low-cost credentials. 

Using Design Thinking to Protect Vulnerable Older People

Challenge — How might we bring leaders together from across the United States to help the White House protect our most vulnerable older people?

Solution — We needed to deliver ways to support older Americans on topics the technological divide to older workers who can’t retire. These outputs needed to be packaged to influence the White House Conference on Aging. We created a 2-day event where over 50 leaders in aging traveled to Washington DC to participate in a facilitated, hands-on event — the Forum on Aging, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Impact — We guided Forum participants through individual and team exercises designed to generate and prioritize actionable advice for the White House. We visually mapped the short- and long-term actions that would protect older Americans and who is well-placed to take those actions. The Forum report influenced policy choices and amplified the voices of millions of older Americans.

Meet Dawan Stanford

My mission is helping people think and solve like a designer so they can transform how they solve problems demanding new ways to get results. The rewards are often hidden in uncharted territory where the rules of the game are fluid. This is where the big questions lie.

I’ve learned that I like big questions. Why?

Big questions build lasting value, transform lives, and allow us to have a lot of fun along the way. Throughout my career, I’ve helped leaders and teams tackle big questions to deliver large and small projects. I’ve addressed challenges with


people building design skills to transition careers, elevate their performance, or lead more innovative teams.


teams seeking better outcomes from innovation events.


graduate students at Georgetown University blending learning, design and technology


students, faculty and staff by creating and launching a campus-wide design thinking initiative and center at Elon University


senior education leaders at the Academy for Innovation in Higher Education


ed-tech leaders and the Department of Education at the White House


the Education Design Lab as its co-founder and design director

Photo of Dawan Stanford

In 2008, I founded Fluid Hive to help people think and solve like a designer. We apply design-driven innovation to big questions and help people and organizations learn and make the methods and practices their own. My passion is in supporting companies like yours with innovation problems, opportunities and challenges. As Fluid Hive’s President, I’m asking my big question:

How might we build better ways to think and solve like a designer that generate the outcomes we desire?

My big question shapes how we design courses and innovation experiences. It shaped my work at Elon University, where I founded and developed a university-wide design thinking initiative. It fuels my conversations as the host of the Design Thinking 101 Podcast, and it guides how I teach and create learning experiences as the Design Studio Director at Georgetown University’s Master of Arts in Learning, Design, and Technology.

How might my big question help you find and respond to yours? 

We design courses and workshops for people who create services and solutions.