Communities of (Reflection)

April 1st, 2013

Please join us for two “Communities of (Reflection)” events that continue the conversation from last semester’s on-campus exhibition.

As you know, the “Communities of _______” symposium was cancelled because of Sandy last semester. Since there is no longer an exhibition up that we could use to contextualize a symposium, we have decided to rethink the format. What Pascale, Fabiola, and I are most interested in is contributing towards a more permanent community of practice at The New School, so we are hosting two “Communities of (Reflection)” events, at which we will use two projects from the original exhibition to reflect on the events’ framing questions.

Please join us at both sessions, which take place 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at 66 W. 12th St. Room 410.

  • Friday, April, 5th “Fieldwork” – DEED & International Fieldwork Program (IFP)
  • Friday, April 26th “Social Innovation” – Blank Plate & New Challenge

The project leader(s) will present for about 15 minutes after which attendees will work in small groups to reflect on, and critique/redesign/reiterate on what are identified as the strengths and weaknesses of the project, with regards to the events’ framing questions. We look forward to a lot of great conversation!

While registration is not required, it would be much appreciated so we can plan our refreshments. – To register visit http://communitiesof.eventbrite.com

All are welcome, so please help us spread the word via your networks.

“Communities of ________” has been organized to coincide with the 5th Anniversary of DEED: Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Design. The organizers are Fabiola Berdiel, Pascale Gatzen and Cynthia Lawson, and funding comes from the Provost’s Office Academic Events Fund, Parsons’ School of Design Strategies and Dean’s Office funds, and the Social Innovation Initiative

Communities of _________

October 6th, 2012

NOTE: This symposium was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. Stay tuned for the new date, for sometime in the spring semester (most likely towards the end of February.)

DEED started five years ago, in fall 2007, so to celebrate its 5th anniversary we’re organizing Communities of: _________, an Exhibition and Symposium on design strategies and models for sustainable development, which will begin on October 25th, and culminate with the symposium on November 2nd and 3rd at The New School in New York City.

We hope you’ll join us!

For more details about the events and our framing questions, see http://communitiesof.parsons.edu, and to register, http://communitiesof.parsons.edu/register/

Even if you cannot attend, you can still join the community by submitting your information here: http://communitiesof.parsons.edu/register/join-our-online-community/ - this way others will become aware of your work and connection with the topics at hand. They plan for the website to be a growing resource site during and after the event.

Mind, Body, Spirit, & Gratitude

August 16th, 2012

What is human composition? Is it a scientific interpretation of the body; oxygen and breath, or the unification and movement of atoms to form blood and tears? Is it an abstract; a conception of mind, body, and spirit? Is being “human” what unites us all?

Humanity is the driving force behind DEED. This summer, DEED 2012 c0-founders Cynthia Lawson and Fabiola Berdiel collaborated interest with a diverse group of New School students, designers, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, artists and embarked on a 15 day adventure across the countryside of Colombia where they worked with local artisans, the Universidad Autonoma de Manizales, http://www.autonoma.edu.co/  and Centro de Desarrollo Artesanal de Caldas towards human centered design.  Each individual with their varied interest, background, and outlook on life proved to be asset to this initiative and was instrumental in the success of the project.

This amazing team used human-centered design to create sustainable development.  Sustainable development (like true love) begins within. The individual, including yourself, works inward-out towards the community, kind of like an exploding star.  This approach is the opposite of how development is often executed, starting at the top, trickling down.  DEED 2012 began at the center of us and the artisans and lifted up.

Cliché words and phrases commonly brand the concept of human-centered development; such as DEED’s very own use of entrepreneurship and empowerment.  However the essence of these words derives from one’s personal dreams, goals, and ambition.  Human centered design recognizes every dream that is dreamt plays a pivotal role human composition and the development of mankind; i.e. the internet.

After much reflection, I have been able see how “lleno de vida” Colombia is and what it means to be a human being and an active participant in humanity. Colombia took my breath away while indulging my mind, body, and spirit.

MIND

I arrived in Pereira, Colombia at midnight, and I was immediately challenged with travel issues.  It was obvious I couldn’t operate with my normal predisposed nature, which is to over- plan and organize everything; somewhere between a worry-wart control-freak and a negative-Nancy.  I HAD to adapt to my environment, it was certain it was not going to adapt to me.

Upon exiting the airport, I was confronted with an actual sign of relief that read Lindsey Anne, and a heart dotting the i. My mother is the only person who calls me by both my first and middle names and as a result I felt a giant rush of relief, comforted by this vision of home.  Following this emotional release, I came to the realization I had been panicking over nothing which was more harmful to me, than the actual outcome. I needed to let go of my fear and my mind, trust in destiny and humanity. It was only after this moment where I could fully embrace Colombia.

Relinquish the mind while simultaneously strengthening it. The artisans we worked with in Aguadas, Colombia wove traditional Colombian hats.  DEED created interactive design exercises that established a dialogue amongst the group.  Through this the groups became aware of their core strengths and were enlightened to their underlying potential, and creativity.  The majority of the group members were women artisans, who had never participated in, nor had access too, certain aspects of the hat’s making and business; which was originally defined as a co-op; which it wasn’t.  DEED encouraged exploration where many (if not most of the women) began to exude confidence and even engaged in parts their process they had never thought of participating in. One woman confidently stated “I am sure that if they teach us, we will learn.” This was an organic moment of self-realization promoted by DEED . These Aguadas artisans had little, but they were rich in happiness, they possessed passion for their work, love and compassion for one another, and the spirit of life.

While participating in a sketching exercise, Universidad Autonoma de Manizales Professor Francisco Lopez informed me to  “try not to think so much, just do; try to embrace and create the happiness around you.”  I had to change my mind, utilize the subconscious, be cognizant of the human condition, but conscious not to neglect reflection and meditation. Let go, enjoy the adventure that is life.

 

SPIRIT

The village and reservation Rio Susio was asleep.  It was as if I had entered a movie, walking through the town square, everyone drowsily staring, yet nothing moved, not even the wind. The indigenous people of Rio Susio came across as stoic and static, barely awake for our initial visit.  When asked what their dreams were, there was a long silence followed by no answer.  This was our biggest challenge yet. How can you practice human centered design if human is amiss?   Dreaming is sacred; nobody can define another individual’s dreams.

Learning from this, we began our second session with some exercises, actual exercises.  First the “Macarena” followed by “cabeza, hombros, rodillas, manos y pies;” We wanted to get the blood flowing, connect the mind, body, and spirit.  This broke the ice.

We first asked how each individual defined themselves; i.e. artisan, mother, friend, farmer, business person, etc.  Then we inquired what skills did these roles entailed; i.e. patience, kindness, strength, math, etc. We later asked them to link the roles and skills to a hypothetical goals, which acted as jumping-off point for them to define their own goals.  This exercise started with the individual and work towards the goal.

Spirituality for the artisans of Riosucio was the act of making, not the commodity. As an artist and a human, I can relate to how easy it is to get lost.  Unfortunately dreams sometime fall to the wayside, whether it’s trying to feed your family or navigate the fluid motion and sensory overload of New York City.  Humanity needs to dream to feed their inner spirit; this is what poetically separates and defines each of us.

BODY

When you are dying of hunger and thirst you will take what is given to you. The human body requires food and water to flourish, but what is this vessel without a soul, a mind and or spirit?

Early in this adventure my DEED colleague Dominque Howse got a tattoo in Manizales which reads “Viva la raza”.  Race and economic circumstance were topics that manifested throughout our journey, often surfacing amid long thought-provoking car rides.  This passion was not only ignited through the dialogue but also the buildup of cold showers, lack of AC and sleep, cramped quarters, and the speed of the car down mountains and around cliffs.  DEED collaborators Fabiola, Dominque and Rashid Owoyele shared their profound experiences with race.  And on another car ride Deniss Garcia a design student at Universidad Autonoma de Manizales was enlightened on the matters of race, equality, and diversity through a discussion on The New School’s Social Justice Initiative.  http://www.newschool.edu/leadership/provost/social-justice/  and http://blogs.newschool.edu/social-justice/  For some folks these concepts were everyday, and for others it was an awaking.  I can only speak for myself here, but first what I took from these perspectives is that ignorance and inactiveness on the matters of race, equality, and bodily respect is just as negligent and hurting as foul play; second that in order to carry out human centered design there has to be a horizontal pedagogy across the board, no hierarchy.

DEED 2012 was more than studying abroad, TA experience, and or a vacation; this was real life work, with real lives and real outcomes.  It was the time of my life.  I am grateful for this experience and I am grateful for every human I encountered and every experience I had, both good and bad. Thank you to the artisans and their families, Professor Cynthia Lawson and Professor Fabiola Berdiel, Alicia Brindisi, Daphna Lewinshtein, Dominique Howse, Rashid Owoyele, and The New School; Professor Francisco Lopez and Professor Jose Luis Gallardo, Deniss Garcia & The Garcia Family <3, Jessica Gonzalez and Jimenez, Santiago Zamora Arroyave, and the Universidad Autonoma de Manizales, the Centro de Desarrollo Artesanal de Caldas, and the light of humanity.

Sincerely,

Lindsey A. Jochets

 

Weaving a “Sombrero Aguadeño” (a.k.a. Panama Hat)

June 6th, 2012

We recorded this video today with the artisan cooperative in Aguadas, Colombia. The video below is playing at normal speed. Wow.

From Brooklyn to Bogota: Mi Primer Día en Colombia Como Una Mujer Negra

June 4th, 2012

Its official! We are in Colombia! Yes indeed mis amigos, the beautiful blue skies have danced on-top of my eyelids and the clouds have wrapped themselves around my heart. Of course, everything you saw on television (outside of the talk surrounding drugs, guns and gangsters) is REAL

The birds fly high here, the people shine brighter than the sun and the food is just as good as your Mother’s Sunday morning breakfast. Truthfully, it seems as if Colombians in Bogota were specifically designed to make the rest of the world smile. My first day as a traveling (black) student living in Brooklyn, New York was truly satisfying. Unlike most international spanish-speaking cities I’ve been to in the past, I automatically felt embraced. From the flight to the time I hopped on the bus to the next city, I felt like a human being. I felt aligned with my ancestors and proud to be part of the international african and indigenous experience. Bogota made me smile. d

Smile, laugh and smile…

I’m making the assumption that most readers might not know what it means to be so excited to feel human and to smile. Well, mi gente, it means everything. It means FREEDOM to give and receive smiles. It means celebrating your history through eye contact and the sounds of drums. It means not being discriminated against, talked about or weirdly looked at because you’re black (and wearing an afro). It means standing tall, firm and sure about your presence.

It was amazing to see that in Bogota, graffiti graced the walls of the city, local children sang on the streets for pleasure, and golden brown elders smiled and greeted in gratitude. Bogota for an instant, had become the escape I needed from gentrified and racially tense Brooklyn. For a little over 30hrs., Bogota was a place that I’d only imagined in my mind, where black, brown and red people could love again…LOVE each other again — without fear, stop and frisks and an Anglo-Saxon critique.

Bogota, gave me the escape that I needed from the rest of the world…

And then I woke up.

Yes, from Bogota to Brooklyn, the struggle remains…

#WelcomeToTruthDOTCom

Day 3: Anserma

June 4th, 2012

What a fantastic day. Although never made explicit, the big difference between yesterday and today was our group agreeing that we should have “demonstration of entrepreneurial spirit” as a criteria for groups with whom we are interested to collaborate. This was apparent in today’s group – although they do not work full-time as artisans, they have the desire to do so and currently find other ways to make a living. We met with just four of the ten women in the artisan association, but had two extremely productive sessions (morning and afternoon) in which we were able to establish join goals and objectives for this initiative we are helping build, and began to map out next steps.

“ASEDAN Punto y Seda” has an interesting history – they were brought together 10 years ago when, through an international cooperation agreement, the Japanese government donated dozens of large looms. At the time, Anserma was known as the silk capital of Colombia, so weaving with silk threads was the craft these women took on. Ten years later, silk is no longer grown locally and yet the product line was the most diverse and demonstration of mastery we have perhaps seen in all of our DEED collaborations.

These products (in the photo are their “Ansermeñas”, one-of-a-kind multicolor scarves with over 90 unique patterns in each) are ready for new markets, and that will most likely become the focus of our collaboration. There are certainly many steps that need to be put into place, and via which we and our local partners can support them which include

  • Shifting from designing individual products to developing product lines for a luxury, intermediary, and basic market
  • Optimize their production costs to see if they can increase their profit margin per product
  • Create an electronic press kit that showcases their mastery and diverse portfolio

We know we’re in the right place when we feel we should stay for at least a month to jumpstart some of the suggestions. Although we can’t we certainly are moving onto our next town with enthusiasm and optimism for these 10 women (or as a student suggested they brand themselves, “The 10 Cocoons.)

Day 2: San Lorenzo

June 3rd, 2012

Our town visits started today with an afternoon in San Lorenzo, about 2 hours from Manizales. In true plan-all-you-want-but-this-is-real-life-style, the plan we finalized yesterday evening with the student team had to be scrapped. It’s better to remain flexible & improvise on the spot, than engage in non-productive activities.

Perhaps the most exhausting first session we have ever had with an artisan group, our afternoon focused on truly trying to understand the objectives of the group, and in particular how they think we could work together. That second part is less clear but, working from the point of a desire to collaborate, we will investigate further when we return on Thursday on our way back to the capital.

It was surprisingly difficult to get the artisans to express their dreams. It’s a humbling experience to be reminded that most people in the world have perhaps never been asked to dream beyond their current life, and to imagine the impossible. But without that encouragement, can we truly end up with better livelihoods? Is it OK to aim for small improvements, or should we always have that dream goal in mind, so as to never settle for less?

An artisan community within an indigenous reservation (which has political and financial complexities that we’ll need to investigate further), CISLOA (the association’s name) were content with our visit, and even happier for our return. For now, we have way more questions than answers, but what is certain, is that through persistent and patient dialogue we think we’ll be able to arrive to a key place – what the next concrete step should be.

Town (and craft) hopping

June 2nd, 2012

And we’re off! We’ll be town-hopping through Thursday. Our first stop is Rio Sucio, in which an artisan association in an indigenous reserve focuses on weaving baskets and accessories. Then, we’re off to Anserma to learn the local craft surrounding locally grown silk thread weaving (they even create accessories with the dried cocoons!) And our final stop will be Aguadas, in which the iconic “Panama Hat” (not Panamian, as it turns out) are created.

Debriefing and team dynamics

June 2nd, 2012

We’re not sure what is the exact formula, but we are, each time, impressed and pleasantly surprised, by the fantastic team dynamics our students engage in when participating in our fieldwork programs. Perhaps this is the nature of international travel with thoughtful, intelligent, engaged, sensitive, university students? Perhaps our focus on horizontal pedagogy and empowerment pays off in these contexts? Perhaps we have built a reputation that attracts great students?

Whatever the reason, at tonight’s debriefing (the first of what we will do each night during the trip) was extremely moving. Our students’ questions, concerns, ideas, and suggestions were right on point. They feel inspired, and excited, and of course so do we!

Day 1: Manizales

June 2nd, 2012

Most of the DEED student team has arrived in Manizales and the project has been kicked off with a bang (and an activity-filled day.) An event with several speakers inaugurated the project. Here, we gave a presentation entitled “Design, Innovation, and Craft without Borders: the Case of DEED” which was very well received. We’ll post our slide deck soon, and as usual, what was most controversial were our “6 Rules for Fieldwork.” Surprisingly, our rule on not exchanging any money with our artisan collaborators always raises the most questions, and even concerns.

After a delicious lunch in an antique disabled train car, the afternoon was one of planning our week ahead. Dominque, from our student team kicked it off with an ice breaker, and then we met 5 artisans – each from a different town in the state of Caldas (in which Manizales is the capital.) The variety of craft represented included dried palm weaving, basket weaving, silver & gold jewelry (from a mining town), silk thread weaving (they harvest their own silk!) and sheep’s wool weaving. Quite the variety, and products of beautiful quality.

All in all a great day, and looking forward to a week of town hopping. We’ll be visiting three of the five places represented. It’s clear that our local partners have specific products in mind, so our focus will be to ensure the artisans are at the center of all decision-making, and to capture long-term dreams, goals, and needs.