The High Impact Program at the Human Systems Online School

A Community of Designers, Product, and Policy People Bent on Repairing the Social Fabric

Apply now for our workshops: Nov 18/Dec 20 or Jan/Feb.

The Workshop & Online Class

Learn to design social environments around human values. Designers who work at large scales need to understand the social effects of what they design. They must understand the social fabric, and how their design changes it. Recognizing our role in the social fabric can be challenging, vulnerable, and transformative. You’ll see how social practices and norms evolve in the environments around you, and how these relate to your values, goals, ideologies, feelings, and your sense of meaning.


“This marks one of the most important shifts in my design career and I believe in our industry.” — Kate Pincott, Designer at Facebook
“This curriculum is the best way for designers of social systems to do their jobs responsibly. My hope is that this can lead more people to articulate and confront how their company’s tool or platform is letting people down — and inspire them to do better.” — Katherine McConachie, MIT Media Lab
I found the “hard to dos” concept really helpful. Translating from values to specific difficult actions seems to reliably generate insights. — Andy Matuschak, Khan Academy

Who is it for?

Designers in charge of social systems, policies, or online environments.

In this material, we’ve found practical techniques for preventing social problems (like widespread depression, isolation, and the breakdown of democracy) that arise from bad social systems design.

Working together to re-imagine online and offline social systems.

Facing the challenges of the 21st century will take a network of designers with a common vocabulary. Our graduates work together across many organizations, with alumni in Google, Khan Academy, Mission U, Adobe, Buzzfeed, Facebook, Github, The Sorbonne, and Amazon.

Advocating in their organizations, fighting to get better policies and systems adopted and shipped.

With the method here, social solutions are described in terms of the values of our users, and then linked to success metrics for our organizations and products.

Key Concepts

Many of us know that sinking feeling, when something we’ve made causes social problems. This material helps us to redesign the social systems we’re responsible for, and avoid these problems in future designs.

One key concept in the course is human values: e.g., open-mindedness, agency, protecting one another, and belonging. Most people talk about values using vague terms that aren’t specific enough to name what’s really important for a user. We practice naming user values as concretely and specifically as we name user goals and feelings. We uncover values through in-person interviews, surveys, and usage metrics.

And we learn to design systems around values, as well as to measure the connection between systems and values—whether a system supports or blocks the user in living by their values.


We are a community (over slack) of well-positioned people in Silicon Valley and beyond, who work to reinvent social systems to address social problems and support users in living by their values.

We work together across many organizations, with alumni in Google, Khan Academy, Mission U, Adobe, Buzzfeed, Facebook, Github, The Sorbonne, and Amazon. Previous and current students collaborate, and practice the design methods together. We share stories of how the material is being applied in various companies.

Conceptual & Rhetorical Tools

We advocate for values-based group processes, social systems, and designs. We have developed tactics to get buy-in—both inside and outside of organizations — for the systems that humanity needs to face global challenges.

The class provides a variety of conceptual tools for proposing measurable changes and fighting for what’s right. Part of this is a powerful vocabulary: we can discuss the emergent norms in our systems, we can name the values of our users, and we can suggest which specific features will align those norms and values.

Want more information?

Ask questions on twitter or schedule a call.
Check our FAQ.
Contact alumni in our Facebook group.


Join the High Impact Program through a six-session online class or a two-day workshop.

Six-session online course

  • 6 sessions / 14 hours of small-group instruction
  • practice coaches + mentors
  • an exercise book to share w. coworkers
  • subcommunities at bigcos/cities/online
  • a self-evaluation process
  • personal product/metrics help w. Joe Edelman or another trainer
  • weekly redesign jam sessions
  • $1,200 per student
    with full refund if you’re unsatisfied after the first session
  • Scholarships based on individual need

Two-day workshop

  • Everything above, plus additional time with your team to work on design and metrics
  • $7,000 + travel expenses, per trainer
  • One trainer is required for each group of up to five students

Ready to get started?
Fill out this form to apply for the class.

We look forward to meeting you