Kiran Bir Sethi is a designer who became a teacher, a principal who grew into an education reformer and subsequently morphed into a social entrepreneur. A trained graphic designer, she comfortably uses the language of design – iteration, prototype, design specs – to develop not only curriculum innovation, but also community-based social programmes.
After graduating from the National Institute of Design in 1989 with a degree in graphic design, Sethi moved into education, founding the Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India, in 2001. Riverside, a mainstream private school, has grown one grade a year, and is viewed as a laboratory to prototype design processes that enable “exceptional” teaching and “transformative” student participation. All curriculum development is custom developed year-by-year, tested with student feedback and then modified: both processes and outcomes are captured on paper, documented for future use and refined.
In 2004, Riverside began selling its curriculum and teacher-training methods to other Indian private schools, creating a model for financial sustainability. In 2005 Sethi began donating the curriculum to public schools. She worked with several schools in the public and private sector to implement the curriculum in their schools. She has also worked with the Indian Army to adapt the Riverside model to army schools across India, established the first "Beacon School" in Bhutan, and introduced a Riverside curriculum pilot for teaching English as early as Grade 1 (versus the standard introduction in Grade 5) in two municipal schools in Ahmedabad. Riverside’s model of putting "common sense into common practice" is now endorsed by premier institutes in India and the world, including IIM, NID, d.school (Stanford), Harvard Graduate School of Education and Multiple Intelligences Institute.
In early 2009, Sethi launched "Design for Giving School Contest” - a national campaign that encouraged schoolchildren across India to participate in a one-week project to change some aspect of life in their own communities. The contest drew the involvement of 32 274 schools across India and hundreds of thousands of school kids. Participants entered as student teams represented through a classroom, grade or school.
In 2010, the Design for Giving Contest was re-named as "Design for Change" Contest and it went global, reaching out to 250 000 children across 22 countries.
Kiran Sethi was chosen as one of the 12 Thought Leaders of the World by the Culture of Peace Forum in New York City in 2011.
In 2013, Kiran Sethi was awarded the Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellowship 2013 in Social Entrepreneurship.