In the face of looming challenges like childhood obesity, environmental collapse, and soaring health care costs, we need dramatic and sustained innovation.  I study and design organizations and technology to support collective innovation.

Collective innovation is a process that harnesses the diverse and untapped human, social, and economic capital from distributed networks to discover, evaluate, and implement new ideas. Open, ubiquitous, sociotechnical systems support collective innovation affording greater speed and deeper and broader participation than was imaginable even a decade ago

Theoretically, I draw from on my academic training in social psychology, organizational behavior, design, and social computing. Practically, I draw from my professional experience as a designer and community leader.

As the Allen K. and Johnnie Cordell Breed Junior Professor of Design at Northwestern University, Faculty Founder of Design for America, and Co-Founder of the Delta Lab, I write about human computer interaction, design, and innovation.

My research focuses on how technology and organizations fosters collective innovation. I have extensively studied the unique challenges and opportunities for crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, online communities, brainstorming, and prototyping – and provide a strong foundation for designing engaging social environments that promote innovation, learning, and leadership.

I received my doctoral and master’s degrees in Management Science and Engineering and Product Design from Stanford, my bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth, and have worked professionally as a designer.

To support my mission of amplifying innovation in our country, I am actively designing a new online learning platform, Digital Loft, and a national collective innovation initiative called Design for America. Design for America students and mentors tackle local innovation projects with social impact.  Design for America has been featured in outlets such as Fast Company, Oprah, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, The Chicago Tribune, and Crain’s Businessweek. Currently, Design for America has 6000 members in its network across the country.

Prior to Design for America, I helped to develop the business and design initiative at the Stanford d.school.

I teach DSGN 104: Design Thinking and Communication, and DSGN 305/DSGN 401-3:Human Centered Design, and MTS 525: Communication Design at the Segal Design Institute in the McCormick School of Engineering and in the School of Communication at Northwestern University.

Link to Gerber_CV

Recent Work


  • Harburg, E., Greenberg, M., Hui, J., Gerber, E. Understanding the Effects of Crowdfunding on Entreprenerial Self-Efficacy, CSCW 2015, Vancouver
  • Hui, J., Gerber, E.  Crowdfunding for Science: Sharing Research with an Extended Audience, CSCW 2015, Vancouver
  • Hui, J., Gerber, E., Gergle, D. Understanding and Leveraging Social Networks for Crowdfunding: Implications for Support Tools, DIS 2014, Vancouver
  • Gerber, E., Muller, M., Wash, R., Irani, L., Williams, A., and Churchill. E., 2014. Crowdfunding: an emerging field of research. Panel CHI 2014, Toronto
  • Gerber, E., & Hui, J., To Crowdfund or Not, Collective Intelligence 2014
  • Greenberg, M. & Gerber, E. Learning to Fail: Experiencing Public Failure Online Through Crowdfunding, CHI 2014, Toronto
  • Hui, J., Greenberg, M., Gerber, E. Understanding the Work of Crowdfunding in Communities, CSCW 2014, Baltimore, pdf  *Honorable Mention
  • Gerber, E. & Hui, J. Crowdfunding: Motivations and Deterrents for Participation, TOCHI, 2013 pdf
  • Greenberg, M., Pardo, B.,  Gerber, E. Classifying Success and Failure on Kickstarter: A Machine Learning Approach, Computer Human Interaction WIP 2013 pdf
  • Gerber, E. Why Do People Give on Crowdfunding Sites? NPR Marketplace
  • Gerber, E. Does Crowdfunding Fail Some of the Most Promising Entrepreneurs? Huffington Post 2013

Digital Loft

  • Easterday, M. Lewis-Rees, D., Fitzpatrick, C., and Gerber, E. Computer Supported Novice Group Critique, Proceedings of Design Interactive Systems, 2014
  • Hui, J., Gerber, E., and Dow, S. Crowd Based Design Activities: Helping Students to Access Users Online Proceedings of Designing Interactive Systems, 2014
  • Dontcheva, M., Brandt, J., Morris, R., and Gerber, E., Combining Crowdsourcing and Learning to Improve Engagement and Performance, pdf, CHI 2014, Toronto
  • Dow, S. Gerber, E., and Wong, A. A Pilot Study of Using Crowds in the Classroom, Conference on Computer Human Interaction, pdf, Paris, France, 2013
  • Kittur, N., Bernstein, M., Nickerson, J., Gerber, E., Shaw, A., Lease, M. Zimmerman, J., and Horton, J. The Future of Crowdwork, pdf, Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Austin, TX  2013
  • Morris, R. Dontcheva, M., Finkelstein, A. and Gerber, E. Affect and Creative Performance on Crowdsourcing Platforms, Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction Conference, 2013
  • Lewis, S., Dontcheva, M., & Gerber, E. Affective Computational Priming and Creativity, Proceedings of Computer Human Interaction 2011, ACM Press
  • Shaw, A., Zhang, H., Monroy-Hernandez, A., Munson, S., Hill, B., Gerber, E., Kinnaird, P., Minder, P. Computer Supported Cooperative Action, ACM Interactions, 2014
  • Zhang, H., Monroy-Hernandez, A.,  Shaw, A., Munson, S., Gerber, E., Hill, B., Kinnaird, P., Farnham, S., & Minder, P. WeDo: Exploring End-To-End Computer Supported Collective Action, WeDo: ICWSM 2014

Design for America serves as a laboratory for design based research in collective innovation.