Designmatters alumni Nidhi Singh Rathore highlights some the social innovation projects she’s worked on since graduating.
Having completed a Masters Degree in Media Design Practices, my design work is concentrated in Civic Tech and Innovation. I currently lead civic design for the Montgomery County Government in Maryland. My work ranges from visual communications, researching, building project strategy, and navigating local government bureaucracy. Most days, I apply people-centered design methodologies to reimagine civic engagement and gender & racial equity in the workforce.
As a design researcher, my expertise shapes nebulous concepts into thoughtful and methodological questions and sessions. With my interest in alternative research methodologies and research-based design, I attempt to bring people together to break down complex problems to co-create actionable solutions. I work with environmental and human rights collectives in my spare time, create political art, and lend my expertise to fellows at Stanford Impact Labs, a Stanford University initiative incubated at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. My design aesthetic moves from complex diagrams, white-boarding, to maximalist political posters. I want to think of myself as an individual who is not limited to a medium and is more focused on identifying, understanding, and addressing problems.
Designmatters redefined my practice as a designer and researcher in many ways–as it introduced me to civic innovation. During the Summer 2018 fellowship, I saw applications of what I was learning in school in local government and learned how design intersects with policy and research. A year later, after graduation, I found myself working for the same team doing the same work as before. Since July 2019, I’ve been working as a civic designer, and I have never liked anything more than advocating for people and creating change one step at a time. More importantly, I got to work on COVID-19 Response in Los Angeles as a part of Mayor Garcetti’s Innovation Team, which led me to concretize the belief that local government entities are where policies turn into action. If it wasn’t for the fellowship, I might not have gotten the chance to serve LA in one of the most momentous times of our lives!
As a young designer, I may have a very grand idea of what social innovation means to me. But as a public servant, I believe that social impact is the ability to fight for change while setting your ego aside. While the impact may differ from ten people to thousands, we have the ability to shift perspectives and shape social transformation with our work. I’m constantly separating and weighing the words social, impact, and innovation. To make sure I’m as dedicated to ‘impact’ as I am to the ‘community.’ This helps me hold myself accountable as a designer because we often forget how we create and work for people while being obsessed with impact. Although, during a project, I find myself more engaged in the behavioral and perspective shift our work facilitates than the impact.
Nidhi Singh Rathore is a Maryland-based civic designer. In her free time, she enjoys sitting in a park reading Bell Hooks, Joan Didion, or Rebecca Solnit; or simply taking a walk and practicing the art of doing nothing.