Staff Catalysts discuss Principled Innovation

Principled Innovation Staff Catalysts

A cohort of MLFTC staff from across college units came together during the 2019-20 academic year to demystify the practices of principled innovation and use principled design to catalyze positive change within their work contexts.


Starting in 2017, the Design Initiatives (DI) team has supported several iterations of cross-staff design work [update link to be the new Project page on the cross staff initiative] in MLFTC, leveraging the design process to establish a culture of risk-taking and support MLFTC staff to be leaders and innovators in their daily work. Building on the energy and successful model of the cross-staff design work, the DI and Principled Innovation teams collaborated to further the culture of design thinking in MLFTC, this time with a focus on principled innovation.

We began by soliciting feedback on our ideas from staff leaders in the college, and then went on to conduct inquiry interviews with staff from a variety of units across MLFTC in order to hear directly from the audience we were hoping to engage. Through these efforts, we got a sense of common challenges and successes, interest in being part of a collaborative cohort, and current understanding of principled innovation.

Using these insights, we refined our project plan. The goal was to create a cohort of MLFTC Principled Innovation Staff Catalysts to socialize principled innovation and begin shifting MLFTC culture by: 1) providing a leadership development experience that introduced the practices of principled innovation; 2) leveraging the design process and collaboration to launch new and innovative projects; and 3) supporting catalysts to take thoughtful action to solve challenges and create opportunities in their daily work.

After reaching out to all MLFTC staff with the project description and goals, we received 12 applications and ended up with 10 staff catalysts in our cohort.

What we did

Our cohort met for four in-person learning sessions in Fall and Winter 2019 and three virtual sessions in Spring 2020 (due to COVID-19). The first three focused on making meaning of the practices of principled innovation in personal, professional and global contexts. Catalysts worked together to find ways they or their colleagues are already implementing principled innovation practices. They also considered areas for growth by considering the college’s practices and discussing with their teams. In the spring, catalysts identified a specific challenge or opportunity in their work. With the support of project leads and the other catalysts, they went through our Principled Innovation design process to imagine and begin to test out a solution, reflecting on what they learned along the way.


Participants in this cohort increased their personal understanding of principled innovation, citing a more thoughtful approach to their work. They also disseminated knowledge of principled innovation beyond the cohort by leading discussions and short learning sessions with their immediate teams.

Some of the design projects developed during this cohort include:

  • Cross-Grant Collaboration: How might we create opportunities to access intellectual assets and leverage them to enhance educational practices using cross-grant collaborations? 
  • Data-Informed Course Design: How might we utilize data to make actionable decisions about course design and deployment?
  • Student Success Central: How might we work more collaboratively instead of in silos?


Principled Innovation team

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College staff


October 2019 - May 2020

Related resources

Blog posts

Looking back and looking forward with the Principled Innovation Staff Catalysts

As we look towards a new year of possibilities and opportunities, we wanted to step back and share some updates with our Principled Innovation Staff Catalysts cohort.

So may I introduce to you… the Principled Innovation Staff Catalysts!

This cohort of MLFTC staff will work together during the 2019-20 academic year to demystify the practice of principled innovation and inspire positive change across MLFTC.