DSI Newsletter : February 2017

A monthly update on the impact of Design for Social Innovation
Feb 20, 2017 3:45 PM ET
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The DSI Newsletter : February 2017

It’s the middle of winter here in New York, but at DSI it’s anything but gray and dull. Since our last newsletter, we hosted a summit measuring the impact of social design on human health, launched a collaboration with Cornell Tech University, celebrated the launch of faculty member Asi Burak’s new book, cheered as Mark Cuban became a partner in our alum’s company, and watched another cohort of first year students transformed as they learn and grow at DSI.

If this sounds interesting, then this would be the time to apply for fall 2017.

The Measured Summit

At the end of January, over two hundred and fifty people gathered to begin a conversation about how to measure the impact of design on human health. Fifteen speakers, a feisty group of provocateurs and an engaged audience learned from diverse practitioners about best practices and common questions.

One of our primary goals, and the most exciting thing that happened, was to elevate this conversation about design beyond the typical room filled with only designers. With us were measurement and evaluation specialists, funders, corporate and healthcare leaders, data scientists, social scientists, representatives from city government, designers and media.

It was an inspiring launch of an effort that we will continue in various forms, researching and publishing information that spreads and scales the most effective ways to measure the difference that social design makes.

Read more about the event on New YorkerMetropolisUnreasonableSoCap.

Over the next weeks, look for videos of the speakers and Q&A sessions, beginning with this one by architect Michael Murphy of MASS Design Group. We’re editing a film that summarizes the day’s highlights, and are working on another issue of The Understatement featuring writing by the Measured participants. And we’ll be gathering the group together again to begin implementing some of the ideas that surfaced, so sign up here for our mailing list if you’re not on it already.

A Shark Tank Deal for Meryl Natow, ’15 and Her Social Enterprise, Chirps

We first tasted Chirps in 2013 when the Six Legs team competed at the Social Enterprise Boot Camp, a collaboration between DSI, NYU and Columbia. They are delicious, highly sustainable, efficient and nutritious snacks made with cricket flour. And they’re fun — a delightful ice breaker at parties, whether you decide to tell your guests what they’re eating before or after their mouth is filled with them.

Needless to say we’re proud and thrilled about their big breakthrough on Shark Tank, where they scored a partnership with Mark Cuban. Read more about Chirps Chips, and watch them on Shark Tank.

Developing a Practice in Measurement with John Snow, Inc

The M&E module, taught by Anne LaFondNatasha Kanagat, and Amanda Makulec is guiding our second year students through the process of developing an evaluation plan for their thesis projects. Over the course of the year, Anne and her team have worked individually with students to develop a theory of change and identify the indicators of success. At the end of this year, their evaluations of their thesis will be part of their final product.

It’s highly unusual for design students to be exposed to this level of evaluation, but we feel it’s critical to prepare our students for their professional work, wherever they choose to do it. Feedback on the workshops has been exceedingly positive, giving students a formal structure with which to set goals and measure the effectiveness of their work.

Games for Impact Welcomes Cornell Tech

The Games for Impact class, taught by Asi Burak and Toni Pizza, recently presented their first game assignment in the inaugural class integrating colleagues from Cornell Tech. In this month-long project, teams practiced basic game design skills and experienced the game development process from concept to execution. They also learned how to implement game mechanics to generate player engagement.

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Thank you to our extraordinary guest lecturers.

Every Wednesday evening, we are honored to have leaders, pioneers, game changers and rule breakers come tell our students about their work and their world. It’s an opportunity to hear about career paths in social design, make connections, build students’ networks of potential collaborators, and learn about how some of their heroes got where they are. The past few months have been especially inspiring, with speakers curated for the relevance of their work in these confusing times. Thank you to our speakers for illuminating career paths that make a difference. And newsletter readers, visit our Lecturer page to hear these amazing people.

Laurie Ristino, Director of the Center for Agriculture & Food Systems, Vermont School of Law, spoke the day after the November elections, and was a source of strength and courage.

Erin Mazursky taught us how she teaches activist groups to start effective social and resistance movements.

Micaela Blei from The Moth, gave us the healing power of stories.

Doug Powell, from IBM, showed us how design is transforming a global corporation.

Jonathan Rich told us about his powerful life as a campaign strategist for the UN, and climate change.

Bill Browning mesmerized us with his work engineering built environments and its principles of biomimicry and biophilia.

The Next DSI Social Entrepreneur, Pragya Mahendru, ‘17

The best ideas solve more than one problem at a time, and Pragya’s is no different. In one elegant product, she is turning a highly invasive species into a useful material, and decreasing the number of highly toxic and wasteful plastic and paper plates we use.

Currently called ATTA, Pragya’s company manufactures compostable plates made from compressed Kudzu leaves. If you’ve driven on the east coast in the past few years, you’ve likely noticed the vines smothering trees all along the highways from New England to Florida. That’s the raw material for Atta’s line of plates, still in the incubation phase, but with lots of smart thinking and talent behind it.

A Scholarship to honor Dr. Paul Polak, and maybe you?

Paul Polak is a social entrepreneur and designer who has brought twenty million people out of poverty. He may be the most important social innovator of all time. At over eighty, he’s still founding companies that will help millions. He’s an important friend and mentor to the DSI program, and every year we give a scholarship in his name.

Anyone applying to the program for Fall 2017 is eligible. Polak scholarship recipients from the ’17 and ’18 classes are Jade Broomfield and Tae-Young Choi.

If there was ever a time to Design for America, this is it. Why not do it with a scholarship?

DFA is an award-winning national community of college students and community partners that use design to create local and social impact in the areas of Health, Education, Economy and the Environment.

Two years ago, we created a DSI Design for America Scholarship, to help one extraordinary student become a creative and collaborative leader of change. For a member of Design for America, this is an opportunity to join an international cohort, and develop the skills, wisdom and experience for a successful career in social design.

The recipient will receive $10,000 a year towards the tuition for 2017-2019. To be considered for the scholarship, all you need to do is apply now.

Power Play: How Video Games Can Save the World

Asi Burak launched an awesome new book – a compendium for the growing world of games with purpose. You can read more about it here, and get your copy on Amazon.

DSI Students celebrate the Year of the Rooster​

One of the treats of having such international cohorts is to share in the cultural celebrations. Chinese New Year is one of the most fun, and this year was no different.

Coming Events, News and Updates

What Our Alums Are Doing

Margarita Korol '16 launches a new startup AdaptLab Productions, a social enterprise enabling creative professionals with learning differences to lead fulfilling careers.

Yena Lukac '16 has been hired as a design researcher for new startup Nanit, a company that develops baby monitor devices.

Hannah Phang & Rinat Sherzer '16, the creators of innovation lab Of Course Global, a design thinking workshop, have worked with Cooper Union, as well Bard’s MBA Sustainability program.

Current Students​

Tanvi Kareer '17, has been working at the Data, Research and Policy division at UNICEF, with the Policy Planning Unit, which researches and analyzes trends and forecasts that influence the future of children, and the strategies that the organization adopts. Tanvi has focused her efforts on the creation of a smooth engagement process with these offices, via extensive research on successful systems of communication.

Michael Rainieri '17 will be participating in VergeNYC, an event organized by Parsons School of Design as part of a curated conversation panel on “Invisibility in Conflict - Assumptions in the Anthropocene”.

Andrea Archer '18 is working as a data visualization intern at DoH Bureau of Epidemiology Services.

Save the Date

Our Career Day will be on March 31st, 2017. This year, we are combining the event, at which our students host potential employers, with an exhibit of their work.

Our Thesis Show is May 1st, 2017. Please join us if you can.

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