Shaping better leaders of tomorrow by starting early


|Turning the ethos of Destiny - the 'Warrior Code' into a powerful leadership curriculum 

The Challenge

Destiny Arts Center gives young kids from the Oakland community a way to be. They help them express themselves through Martial Arts and Dance. Destiny wanted to take this a step further by helping them start early in honing their leadership skills.

How might we design a curriculum that develops leadership qualities in kids throughout their journey at DAC?

The Solution

A curriculum based on Destiny's legacy. 

This has two parts: An interactive book of activities & a website.

The website enables the parents to understand the curriculum and the requirements to complete it.

The interactive book of activities is an open source book developed together with kids and teachers- for them, by them.


Design Process

It was important that we understood clearly what Destiny Arts Center stood for. So we divided are design process as follows:


Getting the full picture: User Research 

We used multiple methodlogies to understand the true needs of all stakeholders involved. We first sat down with Beatriz- our point of contact at Destiny Arts Center (DAC) to map all of them out.

Parents would often wait at the centre while their kids were in classes. We leveraged this time to get them to fill up paper surveys and conducted interviews with them. They thought that working as a team, listening, supporting, empathy, humility and having an open mind all combine to make an effective leader.


Shylah Hamilton

Chair, Critical Ethnic Studies Program at CCA

Shylah Hamilton’s perspective was pivotal.  We discovered that there should be a “We-based rather than I-based model”. She told us about the leadership concept of Ubuntu which means “I see you, You see me” or “I feed you, You feed me.”

"We are all interconnected and leadership models for this community should be based upon empathy for the collective."


Sharon Green

Associate Professor, Graduate Interaction Design Program at CCA

Sharon Green helped us see that we must use appreciative inquiry to recognize what Destiny is already doing right and to build on that. This was crucial for adoption by staff and teachers who will pass the leadership models on.

"You can’t bring in a foreign leadership model or set of principles or activities that is not in alignment with what Destiny already stands for."


The tenets of the Warrior Code are:

Love, Peace, Resonsibility, Respect,                Care and Honor.

While the Warrior Code is the ethos of Destiny, We learned about the disconnect within the DAC community around it, especially among dancers.  The youth also did not really understand the real meaning behind those words and would just chant them at the beginning and end of every class.

Once we started to map all of this out, patterns started to emerge about different behaviors and teaching methods. 

We drew a waveline of the journey for parents, kids, teachers and TAs of their lifetime engagement with Destiny. The high point is The Show where they perform in front of the community while our opportunity area is students brainstorming during the class.


Wavelines of different audiences through their lifetime journey with Destiny Arts Center.

Condensing it all: Insights

Warrior code is a prevalent framework of leadership at DAC, but kids lack understanding of how to put it into action.

A ‘We-based’ model is representative of all the different leadership styles within the Oakland community.

Other Takeaways

•  Our leadership curriculum must span the needs of all stakeholders across the organization in order to be adopted.

•  Community inclusive design will be more widely accepted than foreign models.

•  Destiny’s unsaid mentorship program already in place motivates kids to be better.

•  A definitive leadership pipeline paved with positive reinforcement creates more successful leaders.

This helped us pivot- from just designing a Youth Advisory Board as our partner had in mind, we decided to design for the whole community at Destiny, not just 10-12 kids a semester.

The first failed proposal

We proposed that Destiny change the "Warrior Code" to "Destiny Code" to make it more inclusive of all. The class would be divided into 'houses' based on tenents and each student would imbibe that tenet and learn the other tenets from their peers.

This was not widely accepted. We as designers failed to understand the deep history and meaning behind the term "Warrior" at Destiny. To help everyone grasp this truly became our next big challenge.


The approved system

> We design activities around each tenet of the Warrior Code. These activities will live on a microsite and a book. 

> Each class to begin with an opening cirlce where the activity is practiced.

> An evaluation system to be built in. Students can prioritize which tenet they would like to focus on that semester. 

> Positive reinforcement through a rewards system, which will be happen as a end of the year celebration during the final recital.

> Anti-racism task force to act as the Youth Advisory Board for all students at Destiny.


Building the activities together : Co-design Sessions


8 students. 4 teachers. 2 designers.

Together, we sta digitally to refine and understand the new Warrior Code. Once that was in place, the students proceeded to build activities around them through prompts provided by us. The final step was prototyping them in the sessions, which helped us lock them down perfectly.

Proposed microsite 

The website for Destiny Arts Center serves as a main information portal for parents and funders. We believe that showcasing the program here will help Destiny showcase it's thought leadership and provide the activities for anybody to use through easy access.


Recognition through little rewards

Our research showed that rewards and recognition create a long lasting positive impact on kids based on all that they have learnt.The final class will reward the groups who have showcased the tenants in the true Destiny way witrh trophies and everyone else with unique badges so as to not leave anyone out.


We are currently in the final prototyping phase of this project which will be active from Spring Semester, 2021. Updates to be posted here soon! 


Shanna Bowie

Program Manager at Destiny Arts Centre

What our partner thinks

"The CCA Team took a deep dive into Destiny Arts Center's practices to identify what we do well and co-design activities to instill youth voice and leadership at all the stages of our young people's development. I truly appreciated Purva's ability and willingness to interact directly with our young people and to make sure that she embodied the "Destiny way" during her sessions with our community. Also, her thoughtful approach to design and really getting to the core of who we are as an organization was invaluable to the process. "

My learnings: About humility and getting buy-in for my designs

Through this project, I fell in love with a culture that I knew nothing about. It helped me see the importance of community. I believe that the timing of this project was just right, with kids like Greta Thunberg leading movements. The project most importantly helped me learn how to bring multiple stakeholders together across an organisation, and help win support for my designs. 


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