Developing People Through Design

Chenny Xia and Markus Grupp

Using the designer’s mindset and toolset that we rely on daily, we tackled the wicked problem of reducing poverty in East Toronto. In this talk, we’ll explore how we used our capabilities to transform our community.

We’ll share our story of how we’ve helped low-income individuals find employment, housing, or go back to school. By building safe and inclusive learn-by-doing environments, we created real-life learning opportunities to build the critical soft-skills, confidence, and support they needed to rise above poverty.


By day, Chenny supports intrapreneurs and their teams by building internal design thinking, service design, agile, and lean startup capabilities across organizations of all sizes. Chenny’s work has led her to build design teams in Toronto, Vancouver, New York, San Francisco, Beijing, and Copenhagen. Her projects have received numerous international awards, including Best of CES and the Consumer Electronics Association Innovation Award. In 2014, she was also named one of Canada‚Äôs Next 36 Leaders.

By night, she co-leads The Prosper Lab, to make community-led change happen in the city. The hypothesis: by giving low income communities entrepreneurial skills, we will enable them to rise above poverty.


By day, Markus leads a team of designers responsible for designing delightful digital and physical experiences for Indigo customers and employees, while leading a human-centred, design-led transformation across the company. Markus has held leadership roles in experience, product, and service design at Fortune 500 companies, leading design firms, and start-ups alike, in Canada and internationally. He co-founded and led the in-house Service Design team at TELUS, built and led the User Experience Centre of Excellence at Rogers Communications, and has held design roles at Orange/ France Telecom and Nokia/ Mobile Innovation in the United Kingdom.

By night, he co-leads The Prosper Lab, focused on using design to build safe, inclusive learn-by-doing environments for individuals living in poverty to build pathways to sustainable employment.