Common Bond

How can we counteract parents' intentional and unintentional segregation
of their children?


Problem framing
Ethnographic research
Service design
Iterative prototyping
Communications design


Academic Zone
Megan Fath
SVA Design for Social Innovation
SVA Alumni Scholarship Fund


Caroline McAndrews

Common Bond is a method for educators to engage parents in protecting diversity, both in and out of the classroom. We created Common Bond as our MFA in Design for Social Innovation thesis.

Over the last 40 years, Americans have become segregated geographically by class. As a consequence, access to opportunity has been divided along these same boundaries, which perpetuates inequality over time.
— Robert Putnam, "Our Kids"

Problem Framing & Ethnographic Research

Interested in inequitable education, we set out to identify ways to counter the effects of school segregation in New York City. We first focused on building strong relationships between youth from different socioeconomic classes in a way that mimicked former integrated neighborhood bonds. But through our research with parents, educators, and students across the city we recognized a problem being overlooked—parents segregate their children both intentionally and unintentionally, ultimately stifling the benefits of their diverse friendships.

Iterative Prototyping

Using our research insights, we conducted a series of increasingly high fidelity prototypes to better understand our user needs and design constraints. Based on prototypes with parents in diverse schools, as well as a 3-week pilot with an after school program in Brooklyn, we developed Common Bond: a method for educators to engage parents in protecting diversity, both in and out of the classroom.

Service Design

Common Bond consists of four phases that guide an educator in engaging parents, building connections, and extending their diverse relationships.

  • Phase 1: Co-Create for the Context—In our pilot, we saw the importance of an educator with authority having ownership over the method, so the first phase consists of a workshop where they tailor the method to their context.
  • Phase 2: Engage Parents—They then use a family event to get parents involved and build interest in participating further. All of the parents who participated in this family event in our pilot then agreed to continue in the third phase of Common Bond—a parent storyshare.
  • Phase 3: Build Connections—The parent storyshare is digital tool we developed in our prototypes to allow for flexible and facilitated introductions between parents from different socioeconomic classes. By swapping audio responses to the same questions over the course of a week, they connect based on their common experiences as parents.
  • Phase 4: Extend Relationships—At the end of the storyshare the educator provides opportunities for the parents to get to know each other in person, and further cement theirs and their children's diverse relationships.

Read more about design process behind Common Bond. Piloting of Common Bond was conducted with Academic Zone and funded by the SVA Alumni Scholarship.