Avondale faculty at the design workshop

Community Design Labs: Avondale

How might each of the district’s ten schools design a unique identity for themselves?


At Avondale, the district goal is for each school to develop a unique identity that is embedded in the school culture. This project was based on Avondale’s vision to provide high-quality neighborhood schools whose mission and service resonate positively with the community. Our partnership with Avondale was built on MLFTC’s existing strong relationship with superintendent Dr. Betsy Hargrove and was being financially supported by the Burton Family Foundation.

What we did

Each of the ten schools in the district formed design teams made up of teachers, administrators, parents and students, with a group of district staff forming an 11th team. We led a series of design sessions with these groups to guide them through the design process. The first workshop kicked off with a design sprint on October 17, 2017, where participants formed pairs with people they didn’t previously know and re-designed a space or process at their school.

Over the next several months, teams engaged a variety of stakeholders and perspectives as they worked to better define their school’s identity, and focus in on a particular problem to tackle or approach to take. Teams then prototyped their ideas and worked on testing and refining them.


Each school created a prototype for how they might improve their school’s identity, and they shared their prototype plans at our February 2018 showcase event.

Through reflections and conversations with Dr. Betsy Hargrove, AESD Superintendent, we have understood that these sessions with the Design Team were an integral part of supporting a cultural shift around innovation and being open to change in the Avondale Elementary School District.

And finally, in a related project extending from the 2017-18 work, we facilitated a design sprint at the Avondale District Office in August 2018 to bring the power of design thinking to the district’s Nutrition Services staff. The session was our first bilingual session, and with the guidance of Director of Nutrition Services, Linda Sharett, each school’s nutrition services staff created a project plan to prototype solutions to the different challenges and opportunities the teams identified. What’s most exciting about this work is that it shows the intrapreneurial culture and spirit taking hold at Avondale!


Avondale Elementary School District

Burton Family Foundation


2017 - 2018

Related resources

Blog posts

Avondale ESD launches “A Future Without Limits”

As part of an exciting new district partnership, the Office of Scholarship and Innovation kicked off a community design lab with the Avondale Elementary School District

Serving up empathy with Avondale/ Sirviendo empatía con Avondale

When we say we want to help create change within educational settings, we truly mean all facets of education, even the areas that many don’t typically think about when the word “education” comes up.