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About us

Our vision is a future where public and social organizations create bold new ideas that  improve peoples’ lives around the world

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Our story

Stephanie Wade is a world leader in innovation and the Founder and CEO of Ascendant. She is an expert human-centered designer, strategist, keynote speaker, teacher, and change-maker working to build a better world. Prior to starting Ascendant, Stephanie oversaw a $65M portfolio of innovation programs around the world at Bloomberg Philanthropies, served as the Director of and Innovation Lab in the U.S. Federal Government (Lab@OPM), and helped build Booz Allen Hamilton's human-centered design practice.

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Stephanie has diverse experience building impact through program, service, and UX design-based innovation projects in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, has helped build a culture of innovation in multiple organizations, and led the development and delivery of human-centered design and equity-centered innovation curriculum and training to over 7,500 public sector staff in national and local governments around the world.

 

For example:

  • The U.S. Federal Government transformed the hiring experience for 200 million visitors a year through USAJOBS.GOV

  • The City of Paris, France is converting 760 schoolyards into public shelters during heat waves

  • The City of Mobile, AL reduced blight by 53%

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration increased access to healthy school lunches for children around the country and saved $600M in taxpayer dollars

  • The City of Syracuse, NY decreased housing evictions by 70%

  • The City of Tel Aviv, Israel filled an education gap by creating a digital platform that connected parents to 600 new services for their young children

While at Bloomberg Philanthropies, Stephanie led the Foundation’s innovation and human-centered design programs to help over 100 cities around the world learn a comprehensive innovation approach, co-create ideas with the community - especially for historically underrepresented residents - build a culture of innovation, and tackle complex social and public challenges to deliver measurable results for their residents. For example:

  • Seattle, WA connected 3,000 students experiencing homelessness to tailored services to achieve housing stability,

  • Syracuse reduced the time it takes to issue a commercial business permit by 86%,

  • Baltimore, MD eliminated 93% of its vacant and abandoned properties cleaning request backlog​

 

When Stephanie served as the Director of the Innovation Lab@OPM, she worked across the U.S. Federal Government to develop and deliver human-centered design curriculum and training, partner with the White House and other Federal organizations to create bold new ideas that reimagine the way it delivers services, and build a community of practice to grow a culture of innovation and share lessons learned. 

 

Stephanie also helped stand up and build a human-centered design practice at Booz Allen Hamilton and led the development of world-class strategic plans and performance management systems for domestic and international governments.

 

She is an adjunct faculty member at IIT's Institute of Design and a frequent guest lecturer at leading academic institutions including Harvard University, Columbia University, Duke University, and Cornell Tech University. She holds a Masters Degree in Public Policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Practitioner's Certificate in Design Thinking from the Austin Center for Design, and a Bachelor's Degree from Boston College in Sociology and Studio Arts.

 

Key speaking 
engagements

International Association of Science Parks

Global Virtual Conference (2021)

Experimentation By Design

Copenhagen, Denmark (2020)

Wonder Woman Tech

Long Beach, CA (2019)

Design For America

Chicago, IL (2019)

Chief Innovators Studio

Detroit, MI (2018)

World Design Week

San Francisco, CA (2018)

Prototyping for Policy

Stanford D School, CA (2018)

Chicago Ideas Week

Chicago, IL (2017)

City Lab

Paris, France (2017)

UX Exponential

Washington, DC (2016)

Public Sector Innovation Week 

Brasilia, Brazil (2015)

Engaged Exchange: Gates Foundation

Washington, DC (2015)

LabWorks

London, England (2015)

Australian Government

Canberra, Australia (2015)

Customer Experience Summit

Washington, DC (2014)

OECD 

Paris, France (2014)

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Our values

Optimism

We believe you can change the world. There is no problem that can’t be solved if you are truly committed.  We are driven to help you tackle your toughest challenges.

Passion

We truly want to help others succeed in making the world a better place. The road to innovation is rewarding but challenging and we are with our partners every step of the way.

Creativity

Imagination is the engine of innovation.  We help you open up to new and inspiring ideas that provide the foundation needed to generate meaningful solutions that improve people’s lives.

Inclusion

Equity is the engine of a productive, thriving society. We will help you co-design new programs, services, and experiences with your community and stakeholders that put equity and inclusivity front and center.

Impact

We will not only help you develop bold new ideas; we will make sure they generate measurable impact because real change only happens when we turn ideas into reality.