Susie Wise is a designer, educator, and author, whose wonderful book Design for Belonging: How to Build Inclusion and Collaboration in Your Communities came out in April 2022 as part of the new Stanford book series on core design skills. She teaches at the Stanford and coaches leaders in innovation practices and liberatory design.




In this conversation we talk about:

  • The topic of belonging and how to foster it.
  • The need for belonging in troubling times.
  • What being bored at school taught Susie about herself and the world.
  • How she moved from politics to design and got involved with the Stanford
  • Her work in the K12 lab at, which combined design thinking with the Montessori education system.
  • Moving from design thinking and education, to liberatory design and design for belonging.


What is belonging? What does it look and feel like? Why does it matter? What is othering, and how does it work? The importance of ritual, storytelling, and spaces, and crafting belonging. As someone who's researched religion through a designer's eye, I love the emphasis on ritual, spaces, and storytelling, and crafting belonging. All of these areas, which religions are famously good at utilizing, whereas secular environments often fail entirely to appreciate. But what if a school made you feel as welcome and as part of the community as the best churches? What if the rituals we crafted and the stories we told included every one of us?


Since this interview with Susie, I've already interviewed a few of her co-authors in the new book series, which will be coming out in the next few weeks.


This conversation is one of a dozen or so weekly conversations we already have lined up for you with thinkers, designers, makers, authors, entrepreneurs, and activists who are working to change our world for the better. So follow this podcast on your favorite podcast app, or head over to to subscribe.


And now, let's jump right in with Susie Wise.




[5:08] Life in the Present

[11:57] Childhood Projects

[13:56] A Path to Design

[18:05] The Birth of the K12 Lab

[20:26] The Montessori System

[23:16] Belonging and Equity

[27:53] Design for Belonging

[29:51] What is Belonging?

[31:29] Seeing Belonging

[36:33] Othering and Systemic Othering

[43:25] The Assumption Storm

[46:49] Shaping Belonging with Rituals

[50:53] Shaping Belonging with Spaces

[54:25] A Short Sermon