Meet the 2020-2021 Innovation Hub Team!

Betelehem outdoors, smiling to the camera
Betelehem Gulilat, Writer & Editor

This year at the Innovation Hub we are excited to continue our work for students by students with our largest and most diverse team yet! Like many, we have adapted to the “new normal” by re-directing our team into a collaborative virtual space to help keep our momentum going through the coming year. Despite these uncertain times, our multidisciplinary team continues to mirror the diversity of the University of Toronto community and is expanding to support our growing number of projects.

#DisplayYourPride 2020: Celebrating Pride and Intersectionality at the Innovation Hub

Written by Terri-Lynn Langdon and Kaitlyn Corlett

#DisplayYourPride 2020 at the University of Toronto. More colour, more pride! Theme is Intersectionaly LGBTQ+ identities.
Celebrate this year’s #DisplayYourPride! Image provided by the University of Toronto

Happy Pride Month, 2020! From all of us at the Innovation Hub, let’s celebrate love and affirmation for everybody. This is especially important in a time where many of us may feel disconnected from our communities, spaces, and activities that ground us for celebrating this important time of year. At the Innovation Hub, we often celebrate #DisplayYourPride in a collaborative activity to connect with one another and express how we are celebrating. Since we can’t connect in-person this year, we are celebrating by acknowledging the important history of Pride and inviting readers to think about how to celebrate in a commitment to anti-racism and intersectionality. We are centering the lives of Black LGBTQ2SIA+1 folx2, who continue to be catalysts for significant change in the LGBTQ2SIA+ movement

The Redefining Traditional Backstory: How Design Thinkers Created a Virtual Community of Student Parents and Supporters During COVID-19

Redefining Traditional: Making Higher Education Family Friendly

By Celeste Pang, Sauliha Alli, Sanja Ivanov and Heather Watts

Design thinkers at the Innovation Hub share the backstory of the Redefining Traditional virtual community of student parents and their supporters.

In Solidarity with Black Lives: Centering Black Communities and Committing to Anti-Racism in our Lives

By Terri-Lynn Langdon, Editor and Writer

Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else.
– Maya Angelou

Three individuals interconnected by a circle with someone in the middle. Community support

At the Innovation Hub we honor our commitment to design with and for students. This work intersects with a scope of communities, faculties, and voices to ensure that we can co-create a university that works for all. Recently the University of Toronto has addressed a commitment to anti-racism in solidarity with Black lives, communities, and spaces. Through conversations, protests, and movements we are experiencing a critical moment in time to end racialized violence. This is a centuries-long movement that must be joined, loved, and actively acknowledged.

In these conversations we have also recognized that it’s important to name racism and support anti-racist efforts. Compounded by the reality of COVID-19, many Black communities are disproportionately impacted by racism in education, health care, and law enforcement. These experiences are present in many spaces we are a part of – in Canada and beyond. We must continue to acknowledge and address by resisting these types of discrimination in the foundations of the work we do. 

Imagined Worlds

How Imagination Drives Innovation

By Darren Clift, Writer

It’s easy to exercise creativity during childhood, when imaginations are unrestrained. But as we grow up, we learn to leash our imaginations, to criticize our own creativity. The open parks of childhood become the closed spaces of our grown-up selves.

Design thinking seeks to re-liberate our creativity, but the forces and learned behaviours pushing against it are strong. To see how design leadership can nurture fresh ideas, I spoke to Gabriele Simmons, a Senior Project Assistant at the Innovation Hub.

The Innovation Hub is Hiring for the Summer 2020 Work Study Term!

We are hiring!


Julia Smeed – Manager, Innovation Projects

As we work and learn in these uncertain times of COVID-19, the Innovation Hub has been thinking deeply about our projects this summer, and how they can truly benefit the UofT community and beyond. We want to offer our potential team members the opportunity to both contribute to the university and learn new skills during these times. We’re looking for dedicated students who are interested in improving campus life by focusing on student needs, who want to work with design thinking inspired methods, and also have the ability to work remotely and engage in virtual project work in collaborative environments. We hope to put together a diverse team that enjoys the challenges of our work!

Please note that job postings go live April 30th, 2020.

The deadline for applying to positions is Monday, May 4th, 2020 at 11:59pm.  

Read below for job descriptions, and go to the Career & Co-Curricular Learning Network and search for the work study job board to find the positions and apply.

Designing Better Empathy

Two hands reaching towards each other
Photograph by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

By Max Yaghchi, Writer

Can empathy be learned?

This question is central to the Innovation Hub’s methods. We use design thinking to take “a human-centred approach to solving problems,” and since the rise of empathic design in the late 1990s, designing for humans first has meant empathy.1

The Evolution of the Design Thinking Experience Program: Winter 2020

An Innovation Hub banner alongside an art installation consisting of coloured sticky notes arranged into the shape of a lightbulb with arrows emerging from it.

Charis Lam, Writer

On Thursday, January 9, the Innovation Hub launched the third edition of our Design Thinking Experience Program (DTEP). As in our February and September 2019 programs, we are working with participants to understand and solve challenges at UofT using human-centred design thinking and empathy-based approaches. This time, in addition, we’re thrilled to welcome staff members back to our design teams.

Lessons in Listening

Innovation Hub members practising their interviewing skills

By Anusha Arif, Writer

To design for students, we need to understand the student experience. Thus, the Innovation Hub prioritizes learning to listen—interviewing empathically and attuning ourselves to the world revealed through participants’ words. Though ‘listening’ is a basic skill, listening deeply is another art, and learning is an important part of the process. Some Innovation Hub members come with experience from anthropological, sociological, or other human-centred research, but many others are new to empathic interviewing. How does this learning process go for them? What do they find challenging and interesting?