Design Thinking for All: Interview with Benetech Board Member Katie Dill

By Carrie Motamedi, posted on

At Benetech, we value diversity of background, thought, and life experience. We want our board to reflect our work and the communities we serve. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with newly appointed board member, Katie Dill, about the expertise she brings to Benetech’s Board of Directors and why she believes software is the best way to deliver social good at scale. I’m honored to share this interview following International Women’s Day, as our board of directors has reached 50/50 gender parity.

Katie Dill is the VP of Design at Lyft and has a successful history of building highly impactful organizations and fostering a culture of effective collaboration. Her experience spans industrial, service, and digital design, as well as user research and business strategy. Previously, she served as Director of Experience Design at Airbnb; Partner at Greenstart Ventures; Creative Director at Frog Design, and as an instructor in California College of the Arts’ graduate design program. She is passionate about providing services for real world experiences between people and is committed to driving positive changes that can improve communities at large (Read full press release here.)

It is especially exciting to announce Katie’s appointment to the board as she becomes the fifth female executive on the ten-person board. Reaching 50/50 gender parity around International Women’s Day, with the theme “an equal world is an enabled world,” is especially significant and directly reflects Benetech’s core values.

Read more to learn about Dill’s viewpoint on software for social good and why we are looking forward to having Katie as part of our leadership team driving excellence in inclusion and equity for all.

Why does using software to deliver social good resonate with you? 

When done right, technology is like magic — connecting people, making things easier and more convenient, and addressing an issue whatever the size and scale. The trouble is, too often big bet innovations are focused solely on the needs of paying customers. Meanwhile, there are so many worthwhile opportunities to make a tangible difference with technology in the social sector. By applying design thinking and technical expertise, we can develop innovative products and services that can transform the social sector and have a meaningful impact on communities and individuals. 

As William Gibson said, “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” I am absolutely thrilled to be working with Benetech—one of the few organizations bringing innovation to underserved high-impact areas. Through technology, we can multiply the efforts and spread the reach of other social impact organizations. This is the kind of magic I can get behind! 

What experience do you bring in achieving social good at scale? 

I have focused my career on using technology to make positive change. Currently, I head the design team at Lyft; previously, I was at Airbnb and Greenstart Ventures. The one thing in common between all of these companies is the use of technology to have a positive impact on people’s lives. 

Greenstart is a venture capital group focused on early-stage, environmentally focused start-ups. As a partner, I acted as an advisor to the companies we invested in, helping them with their product, strategy, and brand. By helping these organizations get in better touch with their customers and build products people could love, we helped them have even greater impact on the environment. 

At Airbnb, I led the experience design team. There we leveraged our technical expertise to build products that bring people together. Travel is one of the most eye-opening, empathy-building experiences there is. By helping micro-entrepreneurs rent their home and giving guests a sense of belonging anywhere in the world, we helped to unite people and build empathy globally. 

At Lyft, our work aims to increase access to transportation to underserved communities and make cites more efficient and safer. We use technology to bring all forms of ground transportation—cars, transit, bikes, scooters, etc.—into one seamless and easily accessible platform. Eventually, this intelligent system can ensure vehicles are only where they need to be, opening up our city streets and giving better access to all. 

How does Benetech bridge Silicon Valley innovation with the social sector? 

This may sound biased because I am a designer by trade, but I would say the simple answer is: by design. We can’t start with the technology—we need to start with the person, the user. What do they need? What is the issue at hand? And then work our way backward to see what technology can do to help us solve their challenge.

Benetech has been doing this since the beginning, leveraging design thinking and technical expertise to solve real problems for real people.  

How can design thinking lead to more inclusive products and solutions? 

Design isn’t just about the look and feel of the end product. Design is most importantly a process for understanding problems and developing thoughtful solutions. Good design starts with understanding people and their needs and then using creative exploration to identify different ways of solving the problem. Design is often collaborative, leveraging experts and users who understand the problem to co-create solutions that work. Design is also iterative, using prototypes with a range of users in different use cases to test assumptions and gain a better understanding of the application. In this way, solutions are purpose-built and thoughtful about the context of their use, making them all the more inclusive for the wide variety of users.  

Learn more about Benetech’s Board of Directors.