In 2012, Austin Center for Design and the leadership at Narrative hosted a conference to investigate the intersection of design and technology. Heather Fleming shared her thoughts about the relationship between entrepreneurship and the Navajo Nation.
Heather Fleming (Diné/Navajo) is the co-founder and Executive Director of Change Labs, an organization supporting entrepreneurship and innovation on the Navajo. Heather engages partners in and around the Navajo Nation to incubate, finance and train new and prospective Native American entrepreneurs in an effort to diversify local economies and promote innovation. The inspiration for Heather’s work to seed Native American social entrepreneurship was inspired by her upbringing in rural New Mexico and her work with Catapult Design, a company she co-founded in San Francisco and led for 10 years. Catapult is a product and service design firm with an expertise in human-centered design for marginalized communities. Heather remains a Principal at Catapult Design, partnering with organizations and social entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions that address technology and social issues such as: rural electrification, water purification and transport, food security, and improved health.
Heather was previously a design and innovation consultant in Silicon Valley, designing products and services for a diverse range of corporate clients, and an Adjunct Lecturer at Stanford University and California Academy of the Arts. Early in her career she co-founded and led a volunteer group, the Appropriate Technology Design Team, focused on social impact design work through a professional chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) in San Francisco.
Heather was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and a Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellow for her work with EWB and Catapult Design. She serves on the American Society of Mechanical Engineer’s Engineering and Global Development committee, chairing an initiative to create standardized evaluation metrics and design guidelines for products distributed in impoverished communities, and is a former Board member of the Dineh Chamber of Commerce.