A Design Thinking Immersion and Conference Like No Other

Fuse is unlike any other education conference. Fuse is a total-immersion experience in design thinking. Each summer in June, MVIFI gathers educators, business leaders, social innovators, change agents and dreamers to make an impact while learning more deeply as design thinkers.

We believe that design thinking is best learned by doing.

We believe that schools have a unique ability to bring about positive change in their communities.

Fuse is an experience where we set the conditions for participants to do both of these in concerted collaboration with MVIFI, community partners, and YOU -- the emerging designer -- in a few intense but seductively fun days of people-centered problem solving. Let’s put human needs under the microscope so that we may better recognize the universe of design opportunities worth solving.

What's more, the experience doesn’t stop when you leave fuse. We spark a network of innovators, instigators and influencers who can ignite the engines of change back on your own launch pads.

This year, fuse17 will continue the ambitious trajectories launched at fuse15 and fuse16 - moonshots to teach people-centered problem solving while primarily making a huge difference for Atlanta social innovators and the communities they serve.

Come join the mission!

A Brief History of Fuse

From Design Thinking Summit to Moonshot Impact

In the academic year 2011-12, the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School launched the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation (MVIFI) as an interdependent research and design hub for accelerating innovation in transformational learning and education. That March, MVIFI hosted the Design Thinking Summit 2012 and inaugurated its annual, design thinking conference. In addition to including brief, high-impact talks from several incredible speakers, the heart of the experience involved and empowered participants in a design thinking challenge related to outdoor learning spaces.

For the next iteration in the summer of 2013, MVIFI unveiled the new name for the summit - fuse! The name pays tribute to the fundamental purpose of fuse - to ignite an explosion of human-centered problem solving by bringing together people - particularly educators - and nurturing their creative confidence as design thinkers. Dr. Jacobsen, Head of School at Mount Vernon, announced on his Design Movement blog that MVIFI would partner with Leadership + Design (formerly called Leading is Learning) for fuse13 and fuse14. The conference doubled from one day to two days, and participants engaged in design challenges centered on redesigning the first week of school (#fuse13) and opportunities for expanding student-centered learning (#fuse14). MVPS student Josh Eastwood created a montage video for fuse14 that captures and showcases the unique energy and ambition of the Fuse conferences.

At the fuse14 event, another significant moment occurred. MVIFI released its DEEPdt Playbook and FlashLab. In fact, David Kelley, from IDEO and the Stanford d.School reviewed the Playbook and sang its praises as a fabulously designed resource for design thinking.

David Kelley reviews MVIFI DEEPdt Playbook

Over a number of years and hundreds of design challenges, and through pioneering leadership by Mary Cantwell, Director of the MVIFI Center for Design Thinking at the time, MVPS and MVIFI’s design thinking leaders have progressively developed the DEEP methodology - Discover, Empathize, Experiment, and Produce. These four modes of design thinking work as a system so that one can identify opportunities for creatively addressing human needs by fundamentally relating to the stories and experiences of “users;” using empathic insights to define particular problems; highlighting “moments of visible empathy” (MoVe); prototyping, testing, and iterating solutions; and shipping the produced innovations.

Students and teachers and parents, across all of the divisions of MVPS, Preschool through Upper School, employ DEEPdt and its various tools to engage in real-world problem solving and to apply their developing knowledge to make a positive impact throughout numerous communities.

Fuse, at its very core, serves to spread DEEPdt’s people-centered problem solving to educators near and far - school leaders and student learners, community partners and corporate leaders, and a whole host of other engaged citizens.

For fuse15, MVIFI partnered with the Georgia Center for Nonprofits (GCN). The theme for fuse15 emerged from three words, three aspirations, three actions.

Dream. Make. Launch.

With coaching from thirty-six of MVPS’s finest design thinkers - teachers and students - and the MVIFI d.Team, fuse15 gathered over 100 participants from all over the country to serve as an army of designers and crowd-sourced solution seekers for nine nonprofits in the GCN network. In two and a half days, we employed DEEP - Discover, Empathize, Experiment, and Produce - so that we could address challenges and opportunities that these nine nonprofits faced as they embarked on new collaborative work in our Atlanta metropolitan area. Additionally, we demonstrated how “school” can be done differently by sharing MVPS’s approach to purposeful partnerships and real-world problem solving.

Innovating OUT.

In 2016, fuse continued the ambitious trajectory - the moonshot thinking - developed for fuse15. For fuse16, MVIFI partnered with Plywood People to collaboratively problem solve with four of their social innovators - Love Beyond Walls, Paint Love, Wilderness Works, and Refuge Coffee. We developed a module structure for the conference, and we provided "basic training" in the form of a DT101 FlashLab, so that our design-thinking participants could experience a full cycle of DEEPdt in order to build greater capacity for the more complex work in which they engaged with the Plywood partners. At the close of fuse16, the nonprofit leaders left with viable prototypes for challenges and opportunities they faced in their businesses. And fuse16 participants completed a series of workshops, called DEEPr, to cement their learning and further activate their enhanced creative confidence to take design thinking back to their schools and organizations.

Design Thinking Summit 2012

MVIFI's inaugural design thinking conference, launched in March 2012, featured "I.C.E. Talks" and a design challenge focused on outdoor learning spaces.


In 2013, MVIFI reimagined the DT12 Summit and created the fuse brand. The event extended to two days, and Leadership + Design (Greg Bamford) became a partner. The design challenge centered on redesigning the first week of school.


For fuse14, MVIFI ran two tracks - a DT101 and a DT201 track. In the DT101 challenge, participants tackled "student-centered learning" as a topic. In DT201, assembled teams advanced a challenge or opportunity facing them at their own school. The DEEPdt Playbook launched, and MVIFI began offering badges via Credly.


In 2015, MVIFI embarked on its most ambitious trajectory for fuse (yet!) - to serve Atlanta by partnering with nonprofits to make a difference for our city. We collaborated with nine nonprofits in the GCN network, and conference participants learned design thinking while doing something awesome for others.


At fuse16, we partnered with four Atlanta nonprofits connected through Plywood People - Love Beyond Walls, Paint Love, Wilderness Works, and Refuge Coffee. Our nonprofit partners left fuse16 with viable prototypes for opportunities ahead of them, and our design-thinking participant learners left with strong experimentation about how to spread such community-connected work to their schools and organizations.