Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum

I am trying to keep up with the posts while trying to read several books, attend classes, write elevator speeches and think about my Big Idea. It has been a challenge but here we go.

The Impact! Design for Social Change class visited the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum last week. The museum currently has their National Design Triennial on display. This year, the curators and collaborators decided to theme the exhibition and focus on the work of designers who are addressing human and environmental issues in the fields of architecture, fashion, furniture, etc. Cynthia Smith, one of the curators, showed us around the exhibit and gave us a brief explanation of some of the projects.

I was surprised to find that one of the projects on display included a map of Colombia highlighting Medellin and many of the new buildings that have been built in the past few years. There was also a model of the library and several photos showing the community making use of these public spaces. The buildings were built to address the problem of violence and lack of community in the poorest areas of Medellin. The schools, library, metro cable and other buildings have not only made education more accessible to many but they have also been beautifully designed and they create an environment that the people of Medellin can be proud of.


Another project shown in this exhibition is this 88 unit affordable housing complex near Madrid, Spain. The Carabanchel Social Housing building opens up to a garden on one side and a public park on the other. The facade of the building is ever changing since it is made up of bamboo shutters that tenants can open or close as they please. 

The NYC Hoop Rack is an item that is on display and one that many of us have seen and will be seeing throughout NY. These minimalist designed bike racks are being installed around the city in order to encourage people to ride their bikes as a main form of transportation in urban areas. Not only do they provide security from having our bikes stolen but they look great too.

To see the rest of the designs on display, visit

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Art of Possibility

Last week in our Fundraising class, we watched this inspiring and entertaining video of Benjamin Zander giving a lecture at a PopTech. Mr. Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philarmonic Orchestra and has also written a book with his wife Rosamund Zander called The Art of Possibility. In this video, he speaks about some of the points in his book, like giving everyone an "A" from the start. I read the book a few years ago and highly recommend it. The information in the book was very useful on a daily basis but also had great insight that was helpful when working in a sometimes limited environment such as a non-profit organization and helping see beyond those limitations.

PopTech : Popcasts : Benjamin Zander - PopTech 2008

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lecture with Milton Glaser

Last week we had the great privilege of attending a lecture by Milton Glaser. Those of you who do not know who he is, may recognize him as the designer of the "I (heart) New York" logo (below). He shared his experiences and his work related to the non-profit and or social fields (more examples below). It was a truly entertaining lecture and Q&A session and it was inspiring to see someone who has the ability to choose exactly the work he wants to do!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Recommended Reading for Big Idea

One of the classes we are taking is called the Big Idea with Bob McKinnon. The purpose of this class is to give us the opportunity to work as entrepeneurs in social change. Each one of us has to think of what it is that we want to change and why as well determine what the barriers will be and how to overcome them. The idea also needs to be sustainable.

These are some of the questions to consider:
What are we changing?
Who is doing the changing?
How will it work?

I will be honest, at this point I have several ideas but am having a hard time narrowing down the problem and thinking of ways to make it work. I am hoping that by the end of this week, my Big Idea will be clear.

In the meantime, Bob has recommended several books that so far I have found to be very informative and fun to read.

Here are some from the list:

Nudge, Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness
by Richard Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

Monday, July 19, 2010

Week 2 of Impact! Design for Social Change

Today we start week 2 of Impact! Design for Social Change. My group met with Karen Hu and Myriam from the Phipps Houses Group to learn more about the challenges they face as managers of low-income homes and maintenance of a "green community". It was impressive to find out all of the changes and upgrades that have been implemented to one particular building that they manage. The focus has been mainly on energy efficiency and they are in the process of implementing ways of measuring consumption and holding each tenant accountable. There is also a definite challenge within the building, as well as in many others, to get people to recycle even when many of the items and tools are provided to them to make the process much easier. Hopefully, we will be visiting two of their sites tomorrow and learning more about the challenges of the tenants within this community.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Impact! Design for Social Change

I am currently attending a 6-week intensive course at the Visual School of Arts in New York. This program focuses on social change and how it can be created through design.

Today is our fourth day and already we have had the opportunity to attend classes with amazing instructors and professionals in the fields of design, social advocacy, marketing and business. We have also had the chance to meet several non-profit organizations that are working hard to improve certain aspects of people's daily lives in one form or another.

Some of these organizations include:
Healthy Bodegas

I have chosen to work with Enterprise Community Partners along with two other students from Brazil. "Enterprise is the national leader in making affordable housing happen. Their mission is to create opportunity for low and moderate-income people through fit, affordable housing and diverse, thriving communities."

More on the challenges and focus of our project later...

Milton Glaser will be giving us a lecture very soon!