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NOTES ONLY - Not for General Distribution as of 2/27/07


Design and Social Enterprenuers

There are new opportunities for the socially engaged design professional.

See Design21 as just one among many examples.


As the "creative destruction" of global industry continues unabated, 20th century formal organizations are reinventing their business models. For-profit enterprises are looking for ways to make money "at the bottom of the pyramid", find "long tail" products, and manage their companies through the lens of their customers and society at large.


Non profit enterprises are moving towards models that advance their social mission through entreprenuerial, earned income strategies. See se-alliance.org for a description of the social enterprise.


Governments and educational institutions are searching for ways to measure success, reorganize their job definitions and their incentive structures in the service of improving outcomes with significantly less input.


In an information rich - many would say information overloaded - environment, the value of designers who can engage with teams that will organize and deliver objects that create a context that optimizes the transmission of useful information has never been greater.


The challenge is that the traditional skills,work methods and culture of design practice must be sensitized to be able to converse with the approaches of economics, sociology, demographics, biology and philosophy to create the value that will be rewarded with social and personal success.


Design and Social Entrepreneurs is meant to start to bridge this gap in a curricular context.


There is a longstanding - but incorrect, in our view - perception that communication design exists primarily to sell ideas and things. We believe instead that the core value of design is to create a context that can make life for people at the grass roots, easier, more satisfying and more sustainable.


In particular, the potential value creation of communication design in an information society has been overlooked. A successful demonstration of the power of communication design to deliver "useful information" combined with an analysis of the changes in behavior that occur as a result of this intervention, will go part of the way to changing this debilitating perception.


To the degree that we are successful we may be able to generate practice that could be useful to the University as it considers its own organizational transformation. The hope is that through cross discipline and cross division collaboration, we will help define an educational model that will leverage the investment in our students and faculty to make a better world through models for demonstrable success for social enterprises.


The principles and approach

This is a team-teaching, cross discipline, project based approach.

It is informed by insights from Actor Network Theory, Soft System Methodology, Action Research Communication Ecology.


In education, we start from the notion that the purpose of education is not to teach, but to create an environment where learning takes place.

This idea is based on 5 years of experience at Parsons, 2 years working closely with an inner city vocational high school, 30 years managing a printing company, and 2 dot com startups in the 90's. In CDT, we have practice in creating an environment that has produced some interesting outcomes for Sophomores in our program. At the Parsons CDT Pub Center, we have some encouraging outcomes working across disciplines, departments and divisions.


We are now looking for an opportunity to take what we think we have learned and test it in a larger context.


The 6 necessary elements for educational success

1. Engaged learners who are invested in what they will be ABLE TO DO, as a result of going through the rigors of the course.

This is the proximate incentive that drives the learning process.


2. Accessbile domain expertise - experienced people, library resources and internet assets.

Easy access to expert experience and different conceptual frameworks encourages more effective research and problem solving by the project teams.

Theory driven research that defines the problem on many levels, from the viewpoints of many stakeholders, is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for success in organizational innovation. For the greatest chance of success, it would be optimal to define the problem informed by the narratives of sociology, anthropology, economics, history and communication design. The expertise of each of these disciplines are useful as long as the focus is on the needs and constraints of the immediate problem stakeholders.


3. A transparent environment of clear incentives, responsibity and authority for each learner, teacher mentor, and domain expert.

Teams function best in environments of trust that are realistically built on the experience of team members fulfilling their responsibilites and acting in accord with team principles of behavior - which are also referred to as the "ethics" of the team.



4. A logistics structure that respects the different but always limited resources of time and focus resources of domain experts, teacher mentors and learners.

The recently accesible web based collaboration tools have radically changed the logisitics of collaboration to innovate and execute. We have deep interest and experience in using some of these new tools.



5. A clear demonstrable goal that makes a real difference in the real world.

It is only demonstrable success that has a chance to develop into scalable models. It is only scalable models that have the possibility of far reaching change that are important.



6. A resilient communication ecology that supplies the feedback measuring each learner's activity so that appropriate intervention can occur at the exactly right time.

In the limited time available and based on the nature of learning, getting the "right" information, at the "right" time, to the "right person" is central to the effectiveness of a system of learning.


In the normal curriculum there has not been the resources to insure that all six elements are available. The purpose of the grant is to put them all together in this course, and get a clearer understanding of the best practices to make them appropriate in different learning environments.



A clear demonstrable goal that makes a real difference in the real world.

The proposed focus for this first class is to design and deploy a functionality that will mitigate some of the problems associated with high stakes testing in high school education in New York City.


There are many problems with high stakes testing as a measure of success for educational acheivement. As the world economy is moving to an eniromnment in which the best life chances are migrating to symbolic analysts who are problem solvers and life long learners, the prevelant content based testing is inevitably leading to a distorted system of "teaching to the test".


Our approach will be based on the insight that what must be measured is the output- learning, and not the process input - teaching.


We will focus on deploying a "proof of concept" functionality to complement and perhaps eventually replace high stakes testing in K-12 education.


As long as there is no alternative measuring model in place, the education system will inevitably organize activity to succeed in whatever ways "success" is defined.

In addition to wasting massive financial and human resources, it will not serve learners well. To the extent that it doesn't, the education system will continue to act as a filtering mechanism instead of an institution that can compensate for disparate individual opportunities that are based on accidents of birth.


Our contention is that we have the experience, the problem defining resources, and the ability to install a "proof of concept" in 15 weeks or less.


The purpose of the grant is to free enough time to prepare a granular tactical plan and organize access to the necessary domain expertise to acheive this goal.

Unorganized Notes

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