Design Studio

Our constitutional democracy is at a crossroads, facing deep partisan and philosophical polarization. Understanding of and trust in our democratic institutions are dangerously low and misinformation is higher than ever. Universities must take a leading role to revive ethics and civics education, and educating for democracy, across the educational spectrum, including both K-16 and lifelong learning. Universities need to create new institutional partnerships that will fundamentally change how the fundamentals of democratic knowledge–ethics, civics, history, and more–are transmitted to students of all ages. We must engage learners in domains that have become unfamiliar and restore trust in our institutions as stewards of a healthy democratic culture. We seek to develop their capacity to act ethically and in support of democracy across the multiple contexts of their lives. This has never been more pressing. 

The Design Studio at the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University is a hub where scholars, practitioners, and policymakers collaborate to

  • generate ethics and civics learning tools and assessments for use across disciplines, professions, and learners’ lifespans 

  • amplify and grow innovative projects and initiatives across the university that are working to improve ethics and civics learning

  • educate a new generation of students, professionals, and leaders to tackle the hardest civic and ethical challenges of our time

The Design Studio takes an experimental, collaborative approach to design and implement programs that are research-based and research-driven in order to create robust, scalable resources to support life-long civic and ethical learning and engagement.

Meira Levinson (Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and EJSCE faculty committee member) is stepping into the role as Faculty Director for the DKP Design Studio, succeeding Danielle Allen, the Founding Director.


In addition, the Design Studio is led by a Faculty Advisory Committee. This will be chaired in 2021-22 by Jane Kamensky (Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History at Harvard and Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study). That committee (also including Angela DePace, Alison Simmons, Jeff Behrends, Chris Robichaud, and Jess Miner) is made up of pedagogy project leads from across the University, including the Kennedy School of Government, the Harvard Medical School, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. See more information on the projects below.


Current Design Studio Supported Projects:  

  • The Democratic Knowledge Project (DKP), led by Danielle Allen of the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics, is a K-16 civic education provider that offers curriculum development resources, professional development workshops for educators, and assessment tools and services—all in support of education for constitutional democracy.
  • Collegiate Curricular Innovation, led by Christopher Robichaud of Harvard Kennedy School, leads the way on curricular innovation at the undergraduate and graduate level at Harvard through the Ethics Pedagogy Fellowship program. The Fellows partner with faculty to revamp current courses or design new courses that meet the Ethics & Civics requirement for Harvard College’s General Education curriculum and incorporate active-learning projects. This project has also developed the first Intercollegiate Civil Disagreement Partnership in the nation in collaboration with state universities and community colleges. Finally, the Collegiate Curricular Innovation Project helped to launch and now supports Harvard’s intercollegiate undergraduate Ethics Bowl team.
  • The National Ethics Project is a consortium of researchers, educators, and practitioners from different disciplines and a range of higher ed institutions, founded by the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics. The project researches where and how ethics is currently taught at universities and whether university aspirations align with ethics offerings.
  • EdEthics, led by Meira Levinson of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is building a global field of educational ethics, modeled after bioethics, that will offer real-time training and support to school and district personnel, foster ethical policy formation and evaluation, and develop theory that is both rigorous and relevant to key questions in education policy and practice.
  • Embedded EthiCS, led by Alison Simmons and Jeff Behrends at Harvard's Philosophy Department, is a successful collaboration between the faculties of Philosophy and Computer Science at Harvard University that introduces ethics curricula into existing CS courses.
  • The Scientific Citizenship Initiative (SCi) at Harvard Medical School, led by Angela DePace, is seeking to ensure that scientific research training and practice incorporate civic engagement as a professional responsibility and method for learning key skills for professional success, such as leadership, ethics and communication.
  • Educating for American Democracy, led by Danielle Allen and Jane Kamensky at Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, is a collaboration with the EJSCE at Harvard University, Tufts University, Arizona State University and iCivics. EAD comprises a national network of more than 300 scholars, classroom educators from every grade level, practitioners, and students from a diversity of viewpoints, demographics, and roles, who pooled their expertise to create a strategy for providing excellent history and civics to all students.

Design Studio