Community-Based Design Thinking: A Moment or a Movement?


  • Danielle Lake
  • Phillip Motley
  • Kathleen Flannery
  • Tracey Thurnes
  • Audrey Mangili



design thinking, community engagement, place-based, public health


This paper assesses the value and limitations of a two-year community-engaged design thinking initiative across one county in the southeast United States. Initiative goals were to foster the design of more inclusive and holistic public health community-based services with underserved communities, institutionalize and socialize community-based design within a public health framework, and build organizational and individual capacities. Findings indicate the acquired design thinking processes transformed mental models, fostered new relationships, and built skills. Findings surfaced challenges related to grant and time constraints as well as organizational differences. Recommendations for service design practitioners and researchers seeking equity-centered, community-first practices are noted, including a commitment to emergent codesign practices, frequent and iterative prototyping, intentional cross-learning, and long-term transitionary resourcing and oversight.