Design-Thinking for Social Innovation


Program Dates: March 21-30, 2019
Open to: University students (18 and older) from Japan (Japanese citizenship not required)
Location: Stanford, California
Application Deadline: Early Deadline: December 2, 2018 | Final Deadline: January 14, 2019 (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!






Program fee includes:

  • Accommodation
  • Transportation for program activities
  • Most scheduled activities
  • Arrival lunch
  • Graduation dinner
    Total: $3100 USD (estimated)
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
    • July: Applications open
    • November: Information sessions in Japan
    • December 2: Round 1 deadline
    • January 14: Round 2 deadline
  • Application Review
    • Mid December: Round 1 interviews
    • Late December: Successful applicants notified of acceptance
    • Mid January: Round 2 interviews
    • Late-January: Successful applicants notified of acceptance

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.