We’re excited to welcome Ciara Ali Khan to our team as our Lead Service Designer. We asked Ciara Ali a few questions, so you could get to know them better. Read on below! 


Tell us your story. 

Hi! I’m Ciara Ali (they/them) and I’m currently based in Miami, Florida but really from all over. I moved around lots growing up. Fun fact: I’ve never attended the same school for more than 2-3 years! My design journey started while working in the social services and public health arena evaluating and reimagining federally funded programs that served my local community. That eventually led to major advocacy work, early experiences with co-design and involving the directly impacted individuals in evaluating, reimagining and designing programs, as well as consulting on a national level.  

I was formally introduced to human-centered design through an awesome company named Ker-twang, based out of Miami and Boston. While at Ker-twang, I worked on a wide range of projects in different sectors like academia, international development, nonprofit and government spaces. The last two years I spent working as a Senior Service Designer at Code for America, a civic tech organization that works with federal, state and local governments to build digital tools, services, and change policies to improve programs. I’ve mainly worked on integrated benefits applications for state governments. I spent time thinking about practices and approaches to collective design and building capacity within government to innovate solutions and build more efficient, transparent and user-friendly products. 


What values underpin your work and why?  

My values are constantly evolving as a designer, artist, dreamer, and community member. In my design practice these are a few values that feel good to me currently. 

Designing for interdependence: I value the contributions of multiple collaborators, together we can leverage our strengths and learn to share power. I acknowledge the importance of unrecognized design practices within the communities I work with. I try to strategize around design systems that allow for interdependence and holistic collaboration to be possible.  

Invite wonder and play: It’s important to me to embrace a culture of learning and stay open to being changed by ideas. I strive to make room for experimentation and find comfort in the process. I remember that all or nothing thinking is a nonstarter and design is an iterative practice. 

Lastly, I’ll share this quote by Annika Hansteen-Izora: “Design should support us in reclaiming our time rather than being organized by it.” I like to envision a world where the work I do allows the folks I’m designing for, to thrive. It’s important to learn what “thriving” means for people and to think critically about how the services I design impact the thriving of others.  


Why are you interested in being a part of the PHL Service Design Studio? 

I’ve worked on a wide variety of service design projects on both a local and national level. Thinking about sustaining the work when we (service design consultants) leave the picture was a common thread throughout most of my projects. What happens after pilot? Who sticks around to see implementation through when funding is over? Service design is a skill developed over time; how do we know the quality of the practice sustains over time? The idea of a service design studio embedded within City government and all the possibilities that come with a solid foundation that’s around for the long run, excites me.  

I’m so impressed with the work the Service Design Studio has accomplished. I hope my experience proves valuable for my internal team, that I can do good work and make a positive impact for the City and its residents.


What’s your most favorite thing to do in your down time and why? 

I suppose it depends on what mood I’m in. I have a lot of hobbies. The major one is being outside! I like going on ecoadventures and taking photos. I love to move my body, boxing, running, hiking. I’m also an artist, I enjoy creating – fiber arts, photography, film, mixed-media – anything that allows me to work with my hands. I also love to relax by watching films, shows, music and reading. Lastly, and worth noting, I love food.