An introduction to the Liberatory Design framework + resources


The National Equity Project, in collaboration with the K-12 Lab at Stanford’s, has developed an equity-centered approach to design, which shifts traditional power dynamics related to decision-making and brings forth deeper innovation and agency amidst institutionalized norms and structures.

The framework consists of both the Liberatory Design Process and Liberatory Design Mindsets. The Liberatory Design Process includes:

  • Notice: Practicing self-awareness of one’s own identity, values, emotions, biases, assumptions, and situatedness
  • Empathize: Understanding the experiences, emotions, and motivations of others
  • Define: Developing a point of view about the needs of the community
  • Ideate: Generating as many inclusive solutions to a problem as possible
  • Prototype: Iterating on development of tangible artifacts or experiences
  • Test: Getting specific feedback on prototype, checking assumptions, and learning how to improve design
  • Reflect: Building in time to reflect on actions, emotions, insights, and impact

Liberatory design Mindsets include:

  • Practice Self-Awareness: Knowing how who we are shapes what we see, how we relate, and how we design
  • Focus on Human Values: Getting to know your end users, which could include immersion, observation, and co-design
  • Recognize Oppression: Framing a challenge and seeing how oppression may be at play in our context
  • Embrace Complexity: Staying open to possibility, especially when things get messy
  • Seek Liberatory Collaboration: Recognizing differences in power and identity. Designing “with” instead of “for”
  • Building Relational Trust: Intentionally investing in relationships, especially across difference
  • Bias Towards Experimentation: Creating safe-to-fail environments that encourage courageous action
  • Share, Don’t Sell: Practicing transparency of process and non-attachment to ideas

Follow this link and check out the Attachments section to learn more about the framework and accompanying resources.

Preferred Citation

Liberatory Design Approach by the National Equity Project and the K-12 Lab at Stanford’s