Connecting Expertise at the Colorado College Alumni Climate and Sustainability Forum

I had so much fun supporting an alumni event for my alma mater, Colorado College here in NYC. A lot of students are drawn to Colorado College by the landscape and ecology of the region. When we graduate, many of us take those broadened and deepened interests into the wide world to work to address sustainability and climate change. One of my former professors, Economist Mark Smith, decided to convene a gathering of NYC alumni so we could network with like minded people around our shared interests. Mark was one of my favorite professors, so when I saw his name on the event invite, I offered to capture the conversation with large scale visual notes. It was fascinating hearing from the varied alumni from the 70's to recent grads to everything in between. Being in one of the world's great built environments, it's not surprising that several attendees focused on designing sustainable housing and commercial buildings. And of course there were folks who worked in the finance industry (hello New York!), but with a social impact angle. There were educators, political organizers, funders, and more. Some people did not work directly with sustainability or climate change, but had an interest in being part of the conversation. Once a liberal arts student, always a liberal arts student.

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Above: It was like we were back in class! Only this time with someone capturing the conversation with large scale visual notes! Here are folks doing some thinking and reflecting during a break, using the visuals as a conversation catalyst.

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Above: contrasting the bigger/faster/stronger approach to an efficiency model. 

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Above: situating environmentalism in the broader tapestry of social justice movements.

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And of course, as members of the Colorado College community, we had to go on a strenuous hike! Professor Smith and I trekked from the Harvard Club in the East 40's through Central Park and back downtown before the event. It was great to catch up with him after many years.  And I loved connecting with NYC based CC alumni to learn about how our community is working to address some of our biggest challenges.

The Political Asylum Experience in NYC Redesigned

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It was great to work with StreetlivesNYC, the RDJ Refugee Shelter, Safari Yangu, Civic Hall, and many immigrant partners to start a design process with asylum seekers to find out more about their journeys from their home countries, and their experiences in New York City. The goal is to create some kind of resource for them to help them connect to the information and services they need in what is for them a completely new country. On the RDJ Refugee Shelter site they sum up a typical situation for asylum seekers in NYC:

Thousands of individuals arrive every year in New York City, fleeing violence and oppression in their home countries. However, their strenuous journey doesn't end at the airport. Asylees must wait over two years to receive asylum, and six months for work authorization. In the meantime, they often must learn a new language, look for work, and adapt to a new culture- all while dealing with the emotional and physical trauma from their home countries.

The asylum seekers at the event astonished me with their passion, resourcefulness, and courage. I was moved by the variety and power of their experiences. One of the stories came from a Venezuelan man who said that he came from what was until recently a rich and democratic country that did not have a tradition of outmigration but where conditions now drive thousands of people to flee violence, repression, hunger and chaos. Another man, a member of religious minority who had been targeted by the regime in his home country, fled in a zig-zag journey from embassy to embassy, country to country until he got to New York.  Asylum speakers sat at tables with service providers, designers, and technologists sharing highs and lows of their asylee experiences. 

I captured the subsequent group conversation where groups shared what they learned and started identifying possible areas to improve future asylum seekers' experiences in our nations biggest city. This event was designed as an early step in the design process, and it achieved its purpose to achieve of getting the conversation started.

I look forward to seeing how this project progresses, and I'm glad to be part of it.

Visualizing good in 2017 with a custom card for you, a shoutout to a powerful project, and a custom haiku recap

Hi Folks! It's been quite a year! Happy holidays, and here's a card for you---

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At this time of year, many think about how they can best help other people. If you are like me, you walk by people living on the streets feeling helpless to change their situation. What's the solution? It starts with understanding the fundamental humanity of everybody. To that end, I highly recommend checking out Mark Horvath's project Invisible People where he posts fascinating and moving interviews with people who are living on the streets giving them a them an outlet to speak in their own words. I will never look people caught in the trap of homelessness the same way after watching a few of these. And if enough people start to care, we can do better to address this issue. I encourage you to give invisible people a look!

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Year end haiku wrap up!

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Last but not least, I've condensed this year's Visualize Good recap in a new way, with haiku poems accompanying visuals, followed by brief prose explanations. My work this year consisted mainly of what I call visual listening--creating large scale visuals based on the ideas swirling around meetings and conferences. I also led sessions where people learned to use drawing as a thinking and problem solving tool. I love doing both. If you are interested in creating a powerful meeting experience in 2018, I invite you to contact me to discuss how to infuse your event with the power of visual thinking.

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gather your thoughts, speak,
with drawings reinforcing
messages of care

This moment above was captured during an interview of one of the participants in a massive design jam which had the goal of creating updated standards and practices for social impact investing. I loved the way they used the large scale visual notes I created that day as an interview background. Client: Social Capital Markets.

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interactive tech
designers to be
whiteboard the future

When you are designing something intangible, like a digital interactive product, it helps to draw a picture of who it will impact, in what ways. That's part of what we did in a class I taught on visual problem solving with masters degree students at  NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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what’s equality?
express our vision here, now
ink on paper

It's easy to advocate "equality for all," but what do people mean by equality? At the Asian American Community Development Conference, I gave attendees a quick drawing lesson and had them draw and share their vision of what equality could look like in New York City. We gathered up their drawings and made a popup gallery.

 

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drug trials cost much
time, cash, and precious lives.
picture: Innovate

It turns out that the most expensive part of getting new drugs, devices, and procedures to patients is the clinical trials. At the Disruptive Innovations to Advance Clinical Trials conference, doctors, scientists, and innovators build a community bent on radically improving the way we do clinical trials so we can better treatments to people who need them, faster, and at lower expense. I was honored to be part of this conference, supporting it with large scale visual notes. Client: The Conference Forum.

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how can journalists
understand technology
without drawing it?

As a hardcore news junkie, it was a treat to get a bunch of journalists from outfits like the New York Times,  Wall Street Journal, WNYC and Buzzfeed, drawing to understand new technologies. Cient: Data & Society.

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politics: a tool
to change our reality--

grab a wrench, turn it

You may have noticed a lot of political energy on the progressive side of the political spectrum since the last presidential election. I was proud to be asked to facilitate knowledge sharing among national and local progressive groups at the NYC convening of ActLocal, a national event with multiple sites geared toward strengthening relationships between progressive groups. At the one day event, I  created information murals which captured the conversations and ideas which swirled around the main room.. One of the organizers told me "I can't tell you how many people commented on your work, and how much it added to the experience. The whole thing felt like a community effort at the end, and it honestly wouldn't have felt the same without you." 

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lets turn swords to pens
spill ink, build understanding
the same world, new eyes

Happy holidays folks! Let me know how you're doing! I'd love to catch up.
 

 

Reporters who draw

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I'm an avid news consumer, so it was a treat to help a gaggle of tech journalists from outlets like the Wall Street Journal, WNYC, and Gizmodo, draw their way to understanding new developments in technology and the datasphere at Data & Society yesterday. To get  them started I gave a quick drawing lesson and then had them create and share their own personal technology stories (image above). They also played a picture guessing game similar to a game that rhymes with the word "Wiktionary," and created icons that represented new tech terms while avoiding visual cliches. The verbal and visual metaphors we use influence and color our understanding. So to loosen up their thinking and get them to think about tech differently, we got them to visually represent technology terms with novel imagery. Angie Waller of Data & Society came up with this game.

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Here is a drawing trying to show what a botnet was, without using robot imagery.

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After our activities I asked the participants to share one word that summed up their experience with what we had done. Then I made an illustrated poster out of their responses which ranged from "discovery" to "creative" to "conceptual." Thanks to Data & Society and all the journalists who dove in!

Visualizing ActLocal 2017

It's a great privilege to help people create the kind of gathering that works toward creating a better world, or just a little corner of that world. I had this privilege as a visual listener at ActLocal 2017, NYC event. Here was the billing of the event.

"ActLocal will bring together hundreds of community organizers, faith leaders, and citizen leaders in cities across the country to build local power and promote allyship across the progressive movement"

I was happy to  help participants think over strategy, learn from each other, and weave a tighter fabric among NYC's progressive coalition.

Got this nice note from one of the organizers after the event:

"I can't tell you how many people commented on your work, and how much it added to the experience."

It was my pleasure! Let's go improve politics in NY State and beyond!

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The event started with a few thoughts: 1) After great trauma, there is an opportunity to create positive change, as after the 9-11 attacks in New York.  2) The goal of the day is to support and amplify each others work. 3) Even though we are discussing serious issues, let's mix in some lightness and creativity. The we had a couple of quick presentations to kick off the day, one on creating better access to voting in NY State, and the other on the NY Yemeni bodega strike in response to the attempted travel ban.

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Next various organizers discussed challenges and triumphs of the last year, of which there were many.

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NY State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, weighed in with "When they go low, we go local," meaning states and municipalities need to pick up the slack when the Federal Government is behaving in ways that are not working for us.

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In another session we discussed major players in the NY State progressive ecosystem-Labor, the Working Families Parties, deep-rooted community based organizations, and a constellation of single issue groups.

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Travon Mayers of Common Cause New York led an in depth conversation about next steps to remove barriers to voting in New York State. Finally folks wrapped up with a single word each including (picked at random from a long list) hope, opportunities, energized, determined, trust, and action. Here's to a powerful 2018!