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Associate Professor, Social Innovation Design, Faculty of Design, OCAD University

Sarah Tranum is an Associate Professor of Social Innovation Design at OCAD University and Founder/Design Strategist of TrickleUp Design. She created, produces, and hosts the podcast series, Designing a Humane Future, which encapsulates her research as she explores complex societal challenges through a design and systems thinking lens. She shares her findings through the podcast with the goal to make the information widely accessible to a general audience and further distills the work into essays and articles to share this knowledge with a broad range of readers.

She is an expert in participatory design projects for women’s economic empowerment. She conducted a multiyear study, funded by Grand Challenges Canada (funded by the Government of Canada), focused on women’s health and women-centred production, which was based in India. Sarah has worked with diverse communities as a microfinance practitioner in the U.S. and Canada, implementing community-based, small business lending, savings, and training products. She has collaborated with a range of international stakeholders to assess the needs of organizations and businesses and to develop systems-based solutions to complex challenges. Sarah has developed products from the ground up and is experienced at prototyping, testing, and launching into the marketplace. She recently received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to engage in a systems-based women's health project in Zimbabwe.

Sarah has created and taught several courses across OCAD University’s Faculty of Design that focus on guiding undergraduate and graduate students as they imagine and develop innovative and sustainable models for using design as a tool for social change. She spearheads OCAD University’s Social Innovation Design Pathway, which includes the Design Abroad course. Design Abroad began in 2013 and has brought 57 OCAD U undergraduate students to work in India and Costa Rica with local communities to co-design systems-based solutions that have measurable impact.

Sarah is an award-winning designer, experienced community economic development practitioner, and well-respected professor for her effective social innovation curriculum. In 2020, after being nominated and receiving support from students and colleagues, she was chosen for the OCAD U Teaching Award for the Faculty of Design. Sarah received a Master of Design in Designed Objects degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a Certificate in Interdisciplinary Design Strategy from the Institute without Boundaries, and her undergraduate degree in Policy Analysis and Management from Cornell University.

Current Research Focus:

As a social innovation designer, Sarah studies various issues and the connection with design, systems thinking, and socially innovative solutions. Through the examination of complex challenges, she aims to find the common approaches, elements, and philosophies among those working at the root causes of systemic challenges -- those working to solve these issues and not just manage or react to the symptoms. Sarah’s goal through this body of work is to build out the principles of Humane Capitalism, a kinder, more equitable economy model that can move us collectively towards a better future.


  • –present
    Associate Professor, Social Innovation Design, Faculty of Design, OCAD University


    Institute without Boundaries, Certificate in Interdisciplinary Design Strategy
  • 2009 
    School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Master of Design in Designed Objects
  • 2000 
    Cornell University, Bachelor of Science, Policy Analysis and Management