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Thrive Foundation for Youth has embarked upon a new approach to integrating innovation and design principles into our work that will result in high impact outcomes to help disadvantaged youth thrive. We apply the principles of Design Thinking from Stanford’s Design Program, both within the foundation and with our grantees:

  • Empathize with the youth we wish to serve, the communities they live in and our partners to better understand real needs in the field
  • Define opportunities for support and solutions gleaned from on-the-ground insights
  • Ideate innovative solutions by bringing together different perspectives, resources, lessons from other fields and creativity skills
  • Prototype elements of our ideas with our partners to uncover learnings and challenges
  • Test concepts to prove impact prior to scale


As a distinct approach to problem solving, Design Thinking is uniquely applicable to Thrive’s objectives in youth development. We bring together the mentors, coaches and other Caring Adults who work effectively within their communities to counter overlapping risks of poverty and lack of opportunity.  Given our goal of creating a better future for youth, we must engage this wide array of participants and complicated systems in an iterative and participative process. Design Thinking is the right approach to understanding and solving these complex challenges.

We believe that by creating a culture of innovation, partnership, and learning, we can fulfill our mission of helping disadvantaged youth to reach their full potential.


Thrive’s strategy and structure stem from a unique combination of innovation practices, academic research, and non-profit expertise.  We are creating a new way to work as a foundation and a new way to work with grantees, with a clear focus on the youth that we ultimately wish to impact.

As innovators, we work hard to empathize with the people we are serving and respect the collaboration we bring together. Our top innovation priorities include:

(1) Support of our grantee community beyond a standard funding arrangement through:

    • Leading a series of learning and design workshops for skill-building and inspiration
    • Providing a platform for sharing best practices and research
    • Offering targeted support for specific on-the-ground, high-impact initiatives

(2) Origination of impactful work:

    • Identifying ways to solve meaningful problems and amplify the work of our grantee community
    • Work together with program staff and youth to discover opportunities to increase the presence and impact of adults in the lives of disadvantaged youth
    • Partner with grantee leadership to identify needs and gaps around growth that we can address across our grantee community
    • Expand our learnings and solutions to the broader youth development field

Future innovation work will explore how to extend the impact of Thrive innovation and may also include support of specific projects within grantee organizations.

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