Stay up to date. Sign-up for our emails.




> Apply Now


The Breakthrough Design Fellowship is a semester-long program for educators at Breakthrough Schools to develop the mindsets and skills necessary to redesign schools for intentional equity. Through the Fellowship, groups of up to three colleagues from each of the ten BTS redesign schools will come together for four monthly full-day workshops from September to December. They will develop a toolkit of tactics integrating human-centered design and racial equity work in order to build and test personalized learning models and expansive measures of student success. The ultimate purpose of the program is to build the capacity of redesign teams at Breakthrough Schools so that they can run faster toward their redesign visions.

The Fellowship is designed for tight alignment with other CityBridge programming for Breakthrough Schools, so that teachers and school leaders develop a common language and toolkit for organizational change that enables them to cultivate equity and eliminate oppression.

Applicants to this new Fellowship program are invited to embark with CityBridge staff on this new body of work that integrates design thinking with intentional equity. The four core areas of work that organize the learning experience are: Intentional Equity, Design Thinking, Personalized Learning, and Adaptive Leadership.

The program is part of the CityBridge support package in Milestone 2 for all Breakthrough Schools in Cycle 3 (grants awarded in December 2016).

Program timeline:

  • Cohort 1: up to 3 staff from each of the 10 BTS redesign schools in Fall 2017
  • Cohort 2: up to 3 (different) staff from each of the 10 BTS redesign schools in Spring 2018
  • Cohort 1 applications due and candidate interviews to take place in April; cohort announced in May
  • Builds on all-faculty Learn Sessions scheduled Spring 2017 or August 2017
  • Program is included in the Breakthrough Schools support package

Who should apply?

Experienced teachers or instructional coaches who are excited to develop skills aligned to the learning goals:  Intentional Equity, Design Thinking, Personalized Learning, and Adaptive Leadership. Applicants will believe that they can be an important part of the change process of redesigning a school. Teachers will ideally have two or more years of full-time teaching experience and will have demonstrated their abilities as effective classroom instructors.

When will the Fellowship workshops happen?

Note that these dates are not yet finalized. Fellows are required to participate in all full-day sessions.

  • Workshop 1: Monday, September, 25
  • Workshop 2: Monday, October 23
  • Workshop 3: Monday, November 13
  • Workshop 4: Monday, December 4

We will also host an evening welcome event for all selected Fellows during the first week of June (Wednesday, June 6 or Thursday, June 7). Invitations will be sent when cohort selection is final.

What will Fellows do in the program?

The four in-person workshops will focus on integration of the design thinking process with intentional equity work. The first phase will involve a series of workshops on racial equity that will support fellows in unpacking the intersections of personal identity, history, privilege, and oppression that shape how each of us shows up in the work of school redesign. The second phase will build on that equity work, and will follow a modified design thinking process. This “Equity X Design” framework rests on five principles:

  1. Design at the margins
  2. Start with yourself & your identity
  3. Cede power and embrace discomfort
  4. Make the invisible visible, including unconscious bias and hidden power dynamics
  5. “Speak the future, design the future” by critically examining discourse and finding new language for the work.

During the semester, Fellows will:

  • Engage in courageous conversations across difference about racial equity
  • Learn the Equity X Design framework and apply it to in-person collaborations and independent assignments
  • Conduct empathy interviews and observations, and shadow students to understand learner needs
  • Learn and practice protocols and strategies for promoting racial equity
  • Build skills to reveal leadership challenges as adaptive or technical
  • Read, discuss, and reflect upon key readings and artifacts
  • Develop and test expansive measures of student success, and continue to track those measures beyond the Fellowship semester
  • Engage in small group collaborative teams between program days (in person and virtually)
  • Visit schools in order to observe solutions aligned to fellows’ design challenges
  • Complete a design portfolio documenting their work in the design thinking process, to be shared publicly. CityBridge will publish the portfolios as a support to inform the larger BTS community.

What impact will this have on the redesign work at a Breakthrough School?

Fellows will design and implement “bright spots” in their classrooms and buildings demonstrating small experiments aligned to the overall school redesign vision. As a result, they will become influencers responsible for driving elements of the larger school redesign project, in collaboration with school leaders.

Teachers and school leaders will develop a common language and toolkit for organizational change aligned to the the goal of forging equity and eliminating oppression. Fellows will also be able apply the Equity X Design framework to other redesign challenges and will be able to influence and train other teachers.

The Breakthrough Design Fellowship begins with mindset work and enables educators to make strategic decisions about tools and processes when designing personalized learning models.

What support will participants have?

  • Meals during workshop days
  • A small stipend (likely $200-500) to cover travel to and from program workshops, in addition to any other incidentals related to the Fellowship
  • Personalized coaching from CityBridge staff
  • Collaborative design teams at their school and at other redesigning Breakthrough Schools in Cycle 3
  • Connections to and support from the wider Breakthrough Schools and CityBridge program alumni community.

School leaders should note, as well, that the Breakthrough Schools Milestone 2 grants are designed to offset costs associated with programming (e.g. substitute coverage for teachers), and to provide resources to enable implementation of models, prototypes, and programs that fellows design.


Please note that workshop details are still in development, based on the specific needs of Breakthrough Schools.

Spring 2017


Faculty Learn Session: CityBridge will facilitate workshops at all redesigning Breakthrough Schools during spring 2017. These professional learning sessions will provide foundational knowledge of the Equity X Design framework and demonstrate the core elements of an equitable design thinking process.

Fall 2017


  • Introductions and School Redesign Goals
  • Historical Inequity in D.C. Schools
  • Equity X Design framework
  • Empathy Interviews and Observations: Designing at the Margins and Unpacking Identity
  • Shadow a Student debrief (pre-work for workshop includes shadowing a student at Fellow’s school)

Virtual meeting 1: Collaborative teams meet virtually in between workshops for additional support, coaching, and feedback in support of their design work.


  • Designing With Learners (Fellows will host a student at the workshop so that the student can participate in the design process)
  • Defining Design Challenges: Power Dynamics in Design and Making the Invisible Visible
  • Ideation, Brainstorming, and Prototyping

Virtual meeting 2: Collaborative teams meet virtually in between workshops for additional support, coaching, and feedback in support of their design work.


  • School and Classroom Visits
  • Testing and Expansive Measures
  • Design Coaching and Feedback
  • Introduction to Change Management
  • Design Portfolios: Speak the Future and Design the Future

Virtual meeting 3: Collaborative teams meet virtually in between workshops for additional support, coaching, and feedback in support of their design work.


  • Design Coaching and Feedback
  • Design Portfolios
  • Testing and Expansive Measures Beyond the Fellowship
  • Next Steps

Post-Fellowship Testing and Expansive Measures: Fellows are expected to continue to test and refine the design projects they build during the program. Fellows are also expected to collect and share results on the impact of their with CityBridge at intervals during the remainder of the school year.


Contact Andrew Pratt.

> Apply Now