Innovating with social Justice

Anti-oppressive social work design framework



Social Justice, Social innovatiion, Design thinking, Anti-oppressive practice, Human centered design


The world is experiencing myriad social, economic and political challenges that have exasperated inequities across communities. While there have been significant efforts to respond to the challenges, dwindling funds, hierarchical organizational structures, and an over-reliance on traditional methodologies have impacted the ability to create systemic changes. These limitations have paved the way for social innovation to create novel ideas to address social issues. Innovation has predominantly come from the field of business, engineering, design and public policy. Surprisingly, social work, with a professional mandate of advocating for social change and uplifting the voices of communities has made limited contributions to the field of social innovation. This paper introduces Anti-Oppressive Social Work Design (AOSWD) framework, which integrates the principles of anti-oppressive social work practice and a design method, Human-Centred Design (HCD). It explains how social workers can use AOSWD to develop collaborative power through empathy-building, co-creation and integrated feedback. Through the establishment of collaborative power, it explains how the role of HCD can be expanded from an approach to develop user-friendly programs, to a tool for social workers to create a change in thinking in how they view and tackle complex issues. A case example of its implementation in a non-profit organization in Seattle, WA has been provided. The paper has implications for social service professionals in the areas of training, organizational design, research and evaluation.

Author Biography

Aakanksha Sinha, Department of Social Work, Seattle University

Dr. Aakanksha Sinha is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work at Seattle University. She is also a community-based researcher with an experitse in social innovation, program evaluation and mixed methods research. Her areas of interest includes food justice, global social work and community development. She has published work in various social work academic journals, and presented her ideas related to social work and human centered design at national and international conferences. Dr. Sinha enjoys integrating human centered design principles while teaching global food justice, research methods and program evaluation to social work students.  




How to Cite

Sinha, A. (2020). Innovating with social Justice: Anti-oppressive social work design framework. DISCERN: International Journal of Design for Social Change, Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 1(1), 65–77. Retrieved from