Nadia Roumani

Nadia is the Senior Designer for the Civic Innovation track of the d.school Project Fellowships program and the Director of the Effective Philanthropy Lab at PACS. Whether as a community organizer or an economist, a development specialist, researcher or social entrepreneur, Nadia has worked tirelessly to uncover hidden talents and resources within individuals and organizations, and to build collaborative, creative, learning communities committed to social change.

She first learned to take a people-centered approach from economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz. “He’s the one that made me realize the importance of asking questions and the power of unbound curiosity,” she says of Stiglitz, a mentor and her former boss at the World Bank. After graduating from Stanford, Nadia worked with Stiglitz to launch the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in international affairs.

In the next ten years, Nadia launched several initiatives and organizations addressing a wide range of global social and economic issues: from the Women Leaders Intercultural Forum with Ireland’s former president Mary Robinson, to the Global Policy Innovations Program at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, to the International Network of Foundations with the UN Alliance of Civilizations, and the Building Bridges Program at the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

In Nadia’s desire to understand and bring about systemic change, she not only worked with global institutions, but also prioritized change at the grassroots level. In 2008, she co-launched the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. AMCLI helps young, pioneering Muslim non-profit executives and public officials realize their full potential to foster healthy, civically engaged communities needed to sustain a robust, pluralistic American public square. “These communities have a lot of talent,” Nadia says. “If you can harness their contributions, it symbolizes the best of what America’s all about.”

Nadia is currently the Walter and Esther Hewlett Design Fellow with Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS), where she is leading efforts to apply design thinking to foundations and nonprofit organizations to fine-tune their strategies, and increase their ability to collaborate and innovate. Her work and experiments with dozens of foundations can be found at designthinkingphilanthropy.org.

Nadia was an inaugural d.school Fellow in 2012-13, where she applied design thinking to her portfolio while a program officer at the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, and to launch the Muslim Giving Project. She continues as a d.school Lecturer, recently teaching “Give Big” in 2014 with Lucy Bernholz, a class combining design thinking, systems thinking, and strategic philanthropy.