Design-Thinking for Social Innovation


Program Dates: March 22-31, 2018
Open to: University students (18 and older) from Japan (Japanese citizenship not required)
Location: Stanford, California
Application Deadline: Early Deadline (incl. Kyoto University): December 10, 2017 | Final Deadline: January 7, 2018 (Japan Time)

The Design-thinking for Social Innovation (DSI) Program brings together 30 university students from Japan and Stanford to practice the innovative process of design-thinking for social good. In this 10-day program, you will dive deep into the process of creating innovative solutions and experience working together across cultures as your team applies design-thinking to support an education-focused partner organization.


If you want to see what it’s really like to work intensively a US-Japan team and how to use the design-thinking process in real life, this is the program for you!




2018 Program Coordinators


Kevin Chappelle
Stanford Student Host
Hi everyone! My name is Kevin and I’m a senior studying Product Design with a minor in Japanese Studies. I’m so excited to lead this ASB trip — not only because it fits squarely into my academic studies, but I think it will also provide a unique and nuanced application of both design thinking and an understanding of Japanese culture. I’m interested in a variety of art/design fields — graphic as well as conceptual. Last summer I worked as an art gallery design intern, where I was tasked with revamping the visual branding and the patron experience of the gallery. Before that, I worked as a designer for a stationery company in Tokyo, which was a very enlightening experience for me. It showed me how important it is to collaborate between different ways of thinking, and I hope that the course will be a learning experience for everyone (myself included)!

Kana Sanai
Kana participated in the DSI program in spring 2017. This was a time full of meaning and enhanced her abilities in cross-cultural communication. It also had an impact on her ideas for the future. From this experience she gained appreciation for the VIA family and became eager for opportunities to further engage in this wonderful community. She is part of the faculty of Economics at Kyoto University, but now she is an exchange student in Montreal at McGill University for eight months. Her choice to major in economics is due to her belief that simulating the private sector is key for the future of development. She has a love for travel and thrives off of meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. She hopes to be a supportive coordinator by building strong relationships between VIA staff and participants to make sure everyone has a fantastic experience.

Devangi Yadav
Devangi is currently pursuing her Bachelors’ in Electronic Engineering at Osaka University, under the MEXT Scholarship. Her main interests lie in Technology used for improvement of quality of life, which lead into her interest in Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Participating in various extracurricular activities promoting international exchange drives her passion for learning more about the world around us. This passion for learning translates to various fields, International Law, she is currently the member of her University’s International Negotiation Contest (INC) team, Economics, pursuing a Micro-Masters’ in Development and Economic Policy, and Arts, she has multiple experiences as a published Children’s book illustrator. She recently joined VIA’s ESI program in August 2017, which was a turning point in her world-view, encouraging her to engage rather than observe society. Ready to discuss on any and all issues, she hopes her term as coordinator helps all participants to have a great learning experience in San Francisco & Stanford.


Program fee includes:

  • Accommodation
  • Transportation for program activities
  • Most scheduled activities
  • Arrival lunch
  • Graduation dinner
    Total: $3100 USD
Costs NOT included in the program fee:

  • Airfare
  • Travel insurance
  • Daily meals
  • Optional activities
  • Personal shopping expenses


Kyoto University – John Mung Scholarship:
If you are applying from Kyoto University, you have an opportunity to receive a scholarship to join VIA’s programs through the John Mung Program. After you pass the selection process by Kyoto University, please submit your VIA application.

Enlight Fellowship:
Successful applicants for this fellowship will receive a $500-1,500 award towards the program tuition. In order to apply for the fellowship, you must submit a video essay (instead of typed essays) in your application. To learn more about the Enlight Fellowship requirements, please click here.

Refer a Friend Award:
We’d love to know if you have friends or siblings/relatives who you think would be a great match for the DSI program. If you and someone you recommend is accepted to the program, you will receive a $100 award that will be applied to your program fee.

Note: Awards cannot be combined – successful applicants will receive either a scholarship, a fellowship or an award, but cannot receive more than one.

“It was such a great experience being able to meet energetic and interesting people from Japan and stanford! I felt from this program will keep me motivated for sure! EVERYDAY was so enriched that we couldn’t have a reflection day everyday, but I will do it soon! These days were definitely worth it! Thank you!” DSI 2016 participant

“Since the program was a concentrated week of using English, I was happy to develop my English skills formally and informally. I would like to continue practicing more design thinking to be more even confident in using it.” DSI 2015 participant

“Unlike the Japanese format of holding workshops and events, I like how this program was more flexible, casual and liberal. Everything was very inspiring! It’s been a life changing experience ;)” DSI 2016 participant

General Application Timeline

  • Application Period
    • Early October: Applications open
    • November: Information sessions in Japan
    • December 10: Round 1 deadline
    • January 7: Round 2 deadline
  • Application Review
    • December 14-16: Round 1 interviews
    • Late December: Successful applicants notified of acceptance
    • January 11-13: Round 2 interviews
    • Mid-January: Successful applicants notified of acceptance

Kyoto University Students Timeline

  • December 10: Application deadline
  • December 14-16: Interviews
  • Late December: VIA sends selection results to Kyoto University (students receive results from Kyoto University, not VIA)

Program Preparations*

  • Late January: Participants begin pre-travel checklist (payment, agreement form deadline; start visa application process, if applicable)
  • February: Complete pre-departure assignments and activities

*Preparation activities and deadlines may be added/modified any time before the program

Program Schedule

This is a sample program schedule from 2016.


In the application, you can share about yourself [in English] in 3 sections:

  1. Background & Contact Information: Tell us some basics and how to reach you.
  2. Deeper Questions: Share your story & show your personality through short essays OR video*
    If you’re applying for the Enlight scholarship, you MUST make a video [<5min]. Click here for video tips.

    1. Please briefly describe your experience with design thinking, and tell us why you want to participate in a program focusing on design thinking.
    2. During this program, you will work directly with Stanford students on design thinking projects. Through this cross-cultural exchange experience, what do you hope to contribute, and what do you hope to gain from collaborating with Stanford students?
    3. Please tell us a little about your hobbies or passions, your character, and your plans for the future.
  3. Interview Time Preference: The next step will be a 10-15 minute phone/skype interview with the Program Director a few days after the program deadline.