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About The Project


At Journalism + Design, we believe that journalists can be active catalysts for structural change. Since 2017, we’ve been exploring how journalists can adopt a practice called systems thinking to unpack complex problems and inform opportunities to address them.


Through workshops with hundreds of journalists around the country, we've developed a series of tools from systems thinking to help journalists see in systems, cover the most complex issues of our time, and work with their communities to shift our systems toward health.


From the sessions we've led in our workshops, we developed this open-source collection of exercises and resources that are available for anyone to freely use and adapt for their own reporting and newsroom. 


This toolkit is a manifestation of years of applied learning with our partners, testing and iterating on how to practically apply core tenets of systems thinking to journalism. We have adapted learnings and concepts from a variety of systems thinkers, drawing from a variety of fields and practices to inform our approach. 


We created the tools on this site with a few core assumptions in mind:

  • Journalism can be a force for systemic change; 

  • Journalists need more opportunities to examine their practice and find ways to illuminate the often invisible systems that shape the events we cover;

  • Newsrooms can re-imagine their roles in their community to better inform and facilitate opportunities for change through collaboration and participation.


If you're ready to dig in, we recommend starting with our introduction to systems thinking for journalism >

New to the toolkit and not sure where to start? We've outlined a few different ways you can use it in this how-to guide >.

We will continue to iterate on, change and expand these tools based on feedback from those who use them, so we'd love to hear your ideas. Please get in touch using this form > if you have suggestions on how we could improve.


About The Program 

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Journalism + Design > is a lab at The New School dedicated to nurturing a resilient free press for the future.

We believe that design methodologies and systems thinking are key to untangling the complex problems of 21st century journalism. Through classes, workshops, events, and convenings, we seek to inspire journalists to imagine and implement what the future of journalism might look like. We are a place for playful experimentation, where new forms and unexpected strategies emerge.


The following are the Journalism + Design team members that created this site. To meet our full team, click here >.


About The Team 

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Heather Chaplin

Heather Chaplin is the founding Director of Journalism + Design at The New School. She’s a columnist for the Columbia Journalism Review, co-host of the podcast Tricky and the recipient of multiple media-innovation grants. Her work has appeared on All Things Considered and in The New York Times, Salon, Slate and The Cut, among other places. In 2017, Simon & Schuster published Reckless Years, her second book.

Heather grew interested in systems thinking and design when she covered the video game industry in the 2000s. Her book Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution was a New York Times notable book and is considered a classic. 

She’s a regular speaker and is cited frequently on the topics of digital culture and the future of journalism in places like The New York Times Magazine, Talk of the Nation, The Believer, and The New Yorker.


Kayla Christopherson

Kayla Christopherson is the Systems + Complexity Lead at Journalism + Design. Her work is focused on using systems thinking to help others understand and engage with complex problems. Her current work focuses on bringing those ideas to journalists and newsrooms so that they may be active catalysts for change with(in) their communities.

Centered on creating participatory, collaborative spaces, her work is rooted in bringing people together to interrogate issues of systemic health and equity and identify opportunities for change.


She received her Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding from UW-Milwaukee in 2016, where she completed her fieldwork with International Peace Initiatives in Meru, Kenya. Prior to her position at The New School, Kayla was the Graduate Fellow for the Alliance for Middle East Peace and worked for the Eisenhower Center, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit serving people with disabilities.


Cole Goins

Cole Goins is the Engagement Lead at Journalism + Design and a journalist, facilitator, and media consultant dedicated to making journalism more inclusive, collaborative, and community-centered. At J+D, he develops, organizes, and facilitates workshops and resources that help journalists use the tools of systems thinking and design.


He has organized and led trainings, community engagement initiatives, and events with organizations including Berkeleyside, American Press Institute, Poynter, the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, and the Reed College of Media at West Virginia University. He is the former director of community engagement at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, where he led media collaborations and creative public engagement initiatives, and previously served as engagement editor for the Center for Public Integrity.


Allison Lichter

Allison Lichter is the Department Chair and Deputy Director at Journalism + Design and a journalist and educator. She previously served as Deputy Emerging Media Editor at the Wall Street Journal, where she was responsible for audience engagement, social journalism, and developing content for emerging digital platforms. Prior to joining the WSJ, Allison was the Culture Editor at New York Public Radio, the country's largest NPR affiliate, were she oversaw a team of producers, reporters, and critics on the arts and culture beat. Allison's work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and on WNYC, PRI's The World, the CBC, and NPR. She was the recipient of an SSRC International Predissertation Fellowship to support her doctoral research in Dakar, Senegal.

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Alexandra Blair

Alexandra Blair is the lead designer for Journalism + Design's systems thinking resources for journalists. She works primarily as the Community Manager for the program's open education materials for journalism educators. She is also the Project Manager for PRX where she teaches design thinking workshops for journalists across the United States. Her work centers at the intersection of transformative problem solving, radical agility, and journalistic practice. Her goal: to empower all journalists to nimbly address 21st century demands with confidence and empathy. 


A first generation college graduate, she received her BFA from Parsons School of Design in 2019 with a focus on journalistic practices and memory in art and design. Previously, she served as Chief Operating Officer and Editor in Chief of Dancing Astronaut, a leading publication on dance and electronic music culture. She has appeared on the New York Times’ Popcast, and NPR’s Worldview, and hosted masterclass programming at Moogfest. Previous editorial experience at the likes of the Financial Times, Modern Painters, and Project Censored has stoked a passion for every wicked problem vexing the media industry today.


Irwin Chen

Irwin Chen is the Design Lead for Journalism + Design and an assistant professor at Parsons The New School for Design. He received his BA in English Literature from Yale University in 1994, and spent one year in the Netherlands on a Fulbright studying design at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht. He returned to New York where he began work as a digital designer, first for Jessica Helfand and later for FEED Magazine and 2×4. He is the founder of Redub LLC, an information architecture and interaction design consultancy, and is also Visualization Designer for The Mintz Group.




The Journalism + Design team that contributed to these resources drew inspiration and knowledge from a variety of sources to develop the framework and exercises on this site. We collected this list > of some of the main readings and resources that have influenced our work.

Special thanks to the systems thinkers and journalists across the country who helped us refine our systems journalism practice through a series of workshops in 2018 and 2019, including staff at the News & Observer, the Herald-Sun, Renaissance Journalism, City Bureau, Resolve Philadelphia, the Baltimore Sun, the Seattle Times, New Hampshire Public Radio, and WNYC/NY Public Radio. 
This work would not be possible without the generous support from our funders at the Democracy Fund and the Knight Foundation.

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