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Mod. 2 Assignment - Foundations of Design Informed Solutions

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Social Entrepreneurship — Share your aspirations as a social entrepreneur based on your Ikigai?

Reflecting on the text from Bornstein’s and Davis’s Social Entrepreneurship, I am inspired by the social entrepreneurial work of Muhammad Yunus (whose daughter Monica is an opera singer I have worked with before) and Fazle H. Abed. Looking at my Ikigai and future role as a Cultural Ambassador, rather than becoming a social entrepreneur myself, I’d employ the practice of design thinking shared by Jocelyn Wyatt, Tim Brown, and Shauna Carey to create a transdisciplinary network of experts to advance the work of existing social entrepreneurs within my own sphere of influence. I would use my access, privilege and resources in the arts to combine the power of curated artistic expression and executing beautiful events to create an environment in which influential and wealthy patrons are introduced to the work of social entrepreneurs creating lasting impact in the lives of others.

There are many ways in which influential people are introduced to new practices and solutions within the myriad landscape of issues in need of investment. In my experience, introducing people to new ideas and work in a social context without risk of embarrassment, they are more likely to respond positively and support the work. An important fact that I share with all of my artistic collaborators is that when people arrive, they are open to anything and they are giving you the benefit of the doubt until you give them a reason not to. Similarly, in my experience of putting on successful events and fundraisers, people arrive open to hearing and learning about just about anything, as long as they don’t feel they are being browbeaten or manipulated into it.

This practice has been utilized by nonprofits for decades to support their organization’s mission, but in many cases, it has become stale in execution and its effort of reaching broader support. Many have too few staff to give meaningful resources to R&D and are too dependent on maintaining their existing donors' continued support to try out any new practices aimed at bringing in new energy into the lifestream of the organization. By employing the impact and example of Systems Change, such as was successfully realized in the state of Iowa, as introduced by David Peter Stroh in Systems Thinking for Social Change, I would collaborate with my established transdisciplinary network of experts to identify ways to combine efforts, streamline existing expertise and resources, and experiment with new areas of potential impact, learning, and scale to the betterment of all parties involved. There have been many examples of organizations uniting for a mutually beneficial cause such as Live-Aid, but a commitment and investment into employing an ongoing systems change approach with a transdisciplinary network of organizations has never been done before and would allow for expanded impact in ways never before seen.

Design Thinking — How do you feel design thinking can be more inclusive as it relates to social impact and change and what has changed over the last 10-15 years based on the articles you read?

Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyatt’s follow up article on Design Thinking for Social Innovation offers a rare look into how an innovative approach like human centered design can not only embody the ethos it espouses by acknowledging its own shortcomings in early iterations in order to learn and become more effective, but also how design thinking can become more inclusive in the area of social impact and change. Their reflections identify a number of approaches and practices they have learned over the past decade that have helped mitigate the shortcomings of their earlier work.

The areas that resonated most for me were building a transdisciplinary network/consortium of partners that integrates different forms of expertise; designing a human centered change model with built-in systems that produce evidence outside funders and influencers deem and understand to be compelling; investing in the infrastructure and evidence needed to scale from the onset of the model’s creation; giving attention and credit to the behind the scenes work and people who support the front facing people representing the model to the public; being intentional about crafting practices for building community ownership; and embracing radical collaboration. The quote that stuck with me the most is, “The best design happens with communities, not for them.”

Systems Thinking — Where do you feel systems thinking can have its most disproportionate impact as it comes to the socially complex problem you are trying to solve?

I have worked with multiple nonprofit organizations and the number one issue I see in each one that remains unresolved is what is called “siloization.” The ideology behind this effect is the notion that if each individual focuses on their own department’s goals the cumulative work of the company will be successful. Systems thinking would have a huge impact within all of these organizations because it motivates people to change their ideology because they begin to discover their own role in exacerbating the problems they want to solve.

If I had the opportunity to work with Executive Directors and Senior Teams, I would employ systems thinking to encourage each of them to examine their own role in their respective department’s limitations and successes, explore how catalyzing collaboration with each other could yield huge results by creating group focus on the mission at hand and establishing a life-long practice of continuous learning and sharing to achieve significant and sustainable impact. It was only recently that I realized that departments within an organization with no overlap at all, with completely different focus, and with completely different expertise and skill sets, view each other as competition within their own organization. Systems thinking would break down this internally competitive mindset and break open new possibilities for mutual benefit that reaps mutual gains.

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