Archive | October, 2013

We Get What We Celebrate (and Study!)

31 Oct

Reading this article in the Atlantic on the rising demand (at Harvard) for a course on Ancient Chinese Philosophy and its position in 3rd place with Micro Economics in first and Computer Science, 2nd it dawned on me that for the past several years these topics have been central to social entrepreneurship and the design management curricula that my colleagues Kevin Foster and Jon Jelen and I have been developing.

Our students explore role of social science, technology , digital economy and an increased consumer centric economy / citizen or civic economy as we take user -centered design solutions from ideation to implementation.

Micro-Economics, Technology and principles of Classical Chinese Ethics often converge in our exploration of a “new economy” requiring user-centric sustainable design and social / environmental entrepreneurial transactions beyond purely economic bottom line pursuits.


FROM design for profit TO design for generosity (check out Klaus Klippendorf’s Semantic Turn and my favorite cyborg Clay Shirky : Cognitive Surplus )

From traditional Industrial design and design specialists TO co- designing , co-creating, where DYI culture consumers donate intellectual surplus for the greater good ( Shirky estimates 1 trillion hours of cognitive surplus available ) and:

From plain ole ROI TO Social Return on Investment

sroi lightbulb

Our students have proposed and (a few have launched) projects such as :apps, software and crowd sourcing tools with goals for sustainable urban development, bottom up strategies for community building , crowd sourcing health and wellness, collaborative art making, and waste reduction (as opposed to simply management), and social media for education – applying various models to examine feasibility and impact.

In a free society, you get what you celebrate – Dean Kamen, Inventor

What we celebrate:

  • Micro economics- how individuals and firms make decisions (with limits on resources) on choice choose goods, services, capital , labor and leisure and in what proportions – should human and environmental capital be added to the production function
  • Computer science – role of technology, data visualization, gaming, explosion of online DIY culture , crowd sourcing to investigate process , share and visualize social science – with non programmers , non engineers participating just to understand how it works not necessarily to participate, co-creating/ co-designing
  • Chinese ethics – consequences of action on others and community being aware of self and ripple effect of consumer/business (micro- economic) choices on the universe.


City Farming Chronicles II – A Warm October Evening in Harlem USA

4 Oct

On an unseasonably warm evening, I held the environmental entrepreneurship course at Harlem Grown where we chatted and sampled some wicked arugula with HG founder Tony Hillary and Kelly Gillen his program manager. Tony  gave us an honest uncensored presentation on the complexities of conceptualizing, designing solutions that support youth, family through school- based urban farming programs.



Tony, a true social entrepreneur, leveraged his social capital derived from a former client base of Hollywood celebrities (from a former life in traditional profit-based enterprise) to circumvent bureaucracy to access under-utilitized city owned land for local food production. An integrated workforce programs engages the elementary school children’s families or Tony’s “Moms and Dads” as he calls them who are integral to the farms operation: harvesting, composting, monitoring and adjusting hydroponic nutrient levels and administrative work.

During class visit we were joined by grad students from CCNY’s Sustainability program and a representative from a new for profit partner Price WaterHouse, Maya Perl Kot (Maya was a greenproofing volunteer many years ago and brought her employer to Harlem to her roots in local sustainability efforts).


Also in the house was Donald Notice executive director of West Harlem Group Assistance. by lucky coincidence WHGA owns the buildings (affordable housing) adjacent to the sites of HG’s soil based and greenhouse hydroponic farms.WHGA buildings supply harvest rainwater and electricity to the farms.

Next steps for our class and for Harlem Grown include an experiential learning collaborative to take on HG strategic and fund development which will entail investigating partnerships, conducting cost benefit analyses to determine next phase in their hybrid model of free food and programs and profit based B2B for- profit arm supplying local restaurants.

And a sustainability grad student is toying with the idea of taking on a studio project to reignite our failed attempt at solar power supply, by revisiting a plan to install panels on WHGA’s building roofs.##