Aya Jaffar

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service

Aya is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She is also a Communication Designer for the Amplify program at IDEO.org. In her design work, Aya is most passionate about the collaborative process of designing with and learning from the communities she worked with to cultivate their strengths and potential. She is fueled by empathy and is inspired by its impact on social responsibility, storytelling, and the poetics of everyday life.

Prior to joining IDEO.org, Aya served on the founding team of Verge.nyc, a three-day anti-conference that brings together designers, students, and field experts to galvanize transdisciplinarity within the design practice. Aya holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Transdisciplinary Design from Parsons The New School for Design, and a Bachelor of Design from York University. She has also lived and worked in Baghdad, Dubai. Toronto, Boston, San Francisco, and New York.

When not at IDEO.org, Aya can be found reading anything by Italo Calvino, drinking copious amounts of tea, or hopping on a plane to explore our beautiful world.

The word "design" has traditionally been used to describe the visual aesthetics of objects such as books, websites, products, interiors, architecture, and fashion. But increasingly, the definition of design has expanded to include not just artifacts but strategic services and systems. As the challenges and opportunities facing businesses, organizations, and society grow more complex, and as stakeholders grow more diverse; an approach known as "design thinking" is playing a greater role in finding meaningful paths forward. Design thinking is an iterative problem-solving process of discovery, ideation, and experimentation that employs various design-based techniques to gain insight and yield innovative solutions for virtually any type of organizational or business challenge, prominently including those within public service. At the heart of this approach is a deep sensitivity to the needs of people, whether they are consumers, clients, or everyday citizens. In "Design Thinking: A Creative Approach to Problem Solving and Creating Impact," we will unpack each step of the design thinking process and become familiar with the design thinker's toolkit. Students will develop skills as ethnographers, visual thinkers, strategists, service designers, and storytellers through a hybrid of seminar discussions and collaborative projects. Over the course of seven weeks, students will directly apply what they have learned to a public service issue that they are passionate about, by untangling the complexities of related policy and exploring innovative ways to create real impact.

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