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Why Our Biggest Challenges Require The Design Of Systems

  • Native hostel 807 East 4th Street Austin, TX, 78702 United States (map)

CCI is participating in this year’s Austin Design Week! ADW is a week long event that is free to the public and explores and celebrates the city’s diverse creative community.

Some of the most pressing challenges we face in the world today cannot be solved by one single organization or entity. Regardless of whether the issue is one of economics, health, or education; working in isolation, we can only hope to move the needle incrementally. This need is opening the door for designers to play a key role in the development of adaptive systems. By using design as a strategic tool, we can tackle these challenges with human-centered approaches that enable stakeholder collaboration across organizational silos.

Our panel brings together leaders responsible for designing, creating and managing adaptive system models for transformational change. During this discussion we will explore why the world desperately needs this approach, what models have gained traction, why it’s so challenging, and what we all can do about it.


Christopher Laing, Executive Director, Capital City Innovation
Chris leads an organization that is coordinating the stakeholders of the innovation district emerging around Austin’s new health district. Austin’s innovation district is committed to economic diversification, inclusive place-making, and healthy community.

Mike Millard, Managing Director, MassChallenge Texas
Mike is the Managing Director for MassChallenge Texas. MassChallenge is the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet. No equity and not-for-profit, it is obsessed with helping entrepreneurs across any industry. Through its global network of accelerators in Boston, UK, Switzerland, Mexico City, and Texas it is creating a global renaissance of innovation.

Tim Sweeney, Founding Partner, Upstream Thinking
Tim leverages an extensive design background to help leaders working on systemic health and education challenges to drive greater impact through human-centered innovation. Currently Upstream is focused on helping public and private sector leaders transform chronic disease care, population health, education, business and culture. While much of Upstream’s work is global, Tim is eager to see the Austin Innovation District’s vision and strategy (that Upstream helped develop), impact population health in our community.

Michele Van Hyfte, VP Economic Development, Downtown Austin Alliance
Michele leads initiatives that advance smart, sustainable real estate development and infrastructure at the building and district scales. She coordinates partnerships with downtown business owners, stakeholders and city leaders to create healthy, vibrant spaces including the emerging Austin Innovation District. Michele is a Registered Architect and LEED Accredited Professional with over 20 years of experience in architecture, urban design and construction.


Melissa Young, Partner, Upstream Thinking
Melissa has over 20 years of experience creating impact through a design-centric career that spans graphic design, advertising, branding, digital experience, product design, social-media and most recently, human-centered innovation at Upstream. Her portfolio of work spans a number of industries, including healthcare, CPG, education, media, energy, and more.