Starting the Center for Sustainable Design Studies and the Pratt Design Incubator from scratch, I have had the opportunity to establish new systems and protocols that align with my key personal values—be courageous, make change, inspire collaboration, matter to the world, and help others in their quest for good.
When I turned 50, I made a pact with myself to take opportunities and lead with my heart. There’s no going back on this path.
The Stories of Change Impact Lab was a concentrated version of the types of experiences we create at the Center for Sustainable Design Studies and the Pratt Design Incubator. What was different was that there were five parallel projects going on at the same time, with a common objective to integrate design thinking in addressing a defined challenge. Being a team facilitator in this setting required a lot of flexing and adapting that is very different from working individually. The opportunity to have a conversation amongst the facilitators at various times during the week was an exceptional and rare experience.
Working with a broad range of thinkers that come from a variety of backgrounds is challenging—you have to “learn” people one by one. The more you work with diverse groups the more you develop a sense of how to gain trust. The Imazon group, for example, had a core team that consisted of a scientist, a communications manager, an interaction designer, a young design entrepreneur, with additional drop-in participants from a Google Earth engineer, and a platform specialist along with the Tomorrow team and various guests. Whew! It’s a fabulous mix that requires deep listening and mirroring skills to make sure everyone is on the same page. I encouraged the group to create new words to define new concepts once we’d gotten some agreement—and this is where drawing and mapping are incredibly helpful.
Our approach was probably a bit different from the other teams. Because we were able to build on Tomorrow’s design research in Brazil, we were more equipped to set up a strategy that would guide designers in a next stage. We addressed two interconnected challenges: how the existing data and information system needed to change internally and how we might create new user types and experiences based on these changes.
The group’s skill sets didn’t go toward what the idea might look like as much as how new concepts could be incorporated into existing systems. With a different team the results would have been different. For example, we didn’t have a filmmaker’s or industrial designer’s perspective, which might have added another layer of narrative and innovation.
The Stories of Change Impact Lab was choreographed brilliantly and was very responsive to the sudden needs of the groups throughout the week. It was a great opportunity to get better at what I do and I feel more connected to the human world. It will also change how I work in the future—as it adds a new layer of experience from which to draw.
I was introduced to amazing projects that fuel my sense of purpose and values. I met new people who I know will remain connections in the future. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to engage and participate in meaningful work.
Oh, and I consumed a lot of great chocolate.