DPMI Moves to Its New Institutional Home: Root Change

RootChangeReimagining Projects

We are thrilled to announce that the Program in Design, Partnering, Management, and Innovation (DPMI) has transitioned to a new institutional home in 2021, Root Change! Launched in 2003 at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, the 3-week intensive program now has 2,200 alumni. The shift from a graduate school to an innovative, ground-breaking NGO offers participants many benefits including new opportunities to engage with practitioners once they complete the program.

DPMI is designed to meet the needs of activists, students, and early-career professionals who wish to enter or advance in a social justice career. The program places heavy emphasis on social change tools, not theory, as well as an exploration of identity and power. The principles of human-centered design, social entrepreneurship, transparency, accountability, and collaboration are tightly woven into all discussions and application of these tools. Program participants, who earn a certificate upon completion, blend skills-based learning with theoretical knowledge, so they can spark change, both domestically and internationally.   

The first Root Change DPMI cohort completed the program in January 2021. “DPMIers” worked closely with representatives from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) to address challenges faced by tribal citizens including high unemployment, food insecurity, as well as the consequences of systemic racism and discrimination. Together, participants and STA program managers identified potential enhancements to existing programs using a “lean experiment” approach. Additionally, they collaborated on strategies to foster empowerment through the transmission of local cultural values and traditions. In the program’s final week, participants crafted funding proposals to help tribal citizens achieve food sovereignty. To complete this project, participants conducted extensive interviews with tribal representatives; received ongoing feedback on their work from multiple stakeholders; and, used a wide array of analytic tools to generate rich insights into the local context. 

As one participant noted, “I liked the immediate application of our learned knowledge in a project setting.” Another commented that “I really enjoyed working with Chuck Miller [an STA program manager] as well as the other STA members. Having a real-life project that wasn’t structured to get a specific outcome was very eye-opening. Working with a real community with real needs was fantastic. I also appreciated being able to take the time to build relationships with our STA partners. The constant and informative feedback was especially valuable.”

DPMI/Sitka taught me principles to enhance team collaboration and team dynamics, strategies for identifying and articulating an issue in a community or organization, and tools to determine the causes and effects of said issue as well as innovate potential solutions. My experience reinforced the importance of relationship-building and deep learning. The tools I’ve learned have as much a practical application to real life projects as they do to my personal development/wellbeing and decision-making processes. With DPMI/Sitka, I learned how to be intentional about reflection and gaining insights from new information. I learned how to ask the right questions in the right way, that builds communities up, celebrates their strengths, and emphasizes their vision for the future. I learned how to work with a team of diverse, brilliant people in a short amount of time in an immersive environment. Thanks to this experience, which helped me grow on a personal and a professional level, I feel confident in my knowledge and my newly gained skills and am eager to apply them in my career. I’m excited to further study DPMI-related concepts at my university and apply for internship opportunities in project management/design and program analysis this summer. – Morgan Moore, Master’s candidate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies

DPMI was designed to respond to a pressing question: “What do social justice activists need to know to successfully promote high impact, sustainable initiatives that address local priorities?” Root Change’s response to this query is a program that enables participants to engage in such activities as:

  • Conducting formal and informal community interviews to gain a multi-stakeholder perspective
  • Co-creating theories of change with local actors 
  • Using Agile Principles, tools, and frameworks to identify potential areas for innovation and improvement 
  • Applying human-centered design principles to generate new ideas that are tightly linked to user needs and preferences
  • Practicing timeboxing and the use of solid metrics to rigorously test innovations
  • Generating creative, compelling responses to funding opportunities

By the program’s conclusion, participants had a broad portfolio of work products to share with future employers. In a follow-up survey, many expressed appreciation for the fact that the deliverables they created were all linked to core competencies valued by hiring managers. They also highlighted the deep teamwork they experienced as they completed assignments. This teamwork––characterized by empathic listening, shared visioning, respectful inquiry, mutual accountability, and unstinting peer-to-peer support––helped them learn how to create spaces where all voices are heard and all perspectives are valued.

DPMI is offered several times a year. Please contact dpmi@rootchange.org to learn more about the program. We look forward to hearing from you!

This post was co-authored by Dr. Beryl Levinger, Director of DPMI and Faridat Animashaun, DPMI Fellow.