I am honored to participate in Rauschenberg Residency proposed by Sanjit Sethi, Director of the School of Art and Design at George Washington University. A day after the election, I was on a plane to Captiva Island off the coast of Florida. It was a surreal experience to be greeted by a brilliant and generous group of people, a delicious meal, and plenty of wine against a backdrop of palm trees and the seaside on that evening. I look forward to working with this core group to design and pilot a project that "exists in three distinct socio-geographic regions at the intersection of design, policy, cultural programming and philanthropy, and create recommendations on how Arts Education can operate in the future. " 1
Our facilitator and host, summed it up in his facebook post:
"Last Wednesday I, along with six dedicated colleagues, embarked on a year-long project through the generous support of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation intended to redesign our approach to Arts Education.
Over an intense 1.5 days in the idyllic settings of the Rauschenberg Residency on Captiva Island, Florida we launched this project under the scepter of the devastating election results we experienced this week. We mapped, prioritized, deciphered, critiqued, listed, crossed-out, distilled, elaborated, focused and pushed each other to move beyond current models and prevailing attitudes of Arts Education. Over the next year, this core group will design and pilot a project that exists in three distinct socio-geographic regions, build more expansive and nuanced relationships between areas of design, policy, cultural programming and philanthropy, and create recommendations on how Arts Education can operate in the future.
I am incredibly grateful to Roger Montoya, Liz Maugans, Maureen Lallos Dwyer, Jennifer Parks, Christine Cerqueira Gaspar, Sarah R Filley, Marianna Brown Schaffer, for, despite Tuesday's trauma, rolling up their sleeves, coming together as listeners, thinkers and visionaries and embarking upon on the creation of something greater than the sum of its parts." - Sanjit Sethi (1).
Future posts will examine the how the ULab process can support this work, and I will be sharing the process of prototyping!
This year, I have the privilege of co-facilitating MIT's Ulab MOOC with over 75,000 participants focused on the theme of the Future of Cities. In partnership with The Institute for the Future and the Global network of Impact Hub's we are exploring leading from the emerging future through an incredible framework to understand systems thinking and change: "Transforming Business, Society, and Self, a global movement to build a new economy by co-sensing and co-creating the emerging future.
Midway through the "U" I experienced a new awareness of the political and social systems defining our moment in history. I could feel these systems as closed systems, outdated, and and sensed that something new was required to connect and adabt the existing systems in order for them to operate together. I was searching for a Theory of Interoperability.
I walked into Gray Area Foundation for the Arts and saw it. A free and open source 3D printable Universal Construction Kit (http://fffff.at/free-universal-construction-kit/) which connects any type of building kit (e.g. legos) to any other type of building kit (e.g. Tinkertoys).
This was the new "universal language" hybrid model, a way to join one or more closed systems together to form a new outcome. This is a perfect metaphor and provides a new vocabulary for interoperability which also hints at how we might transform social systems that are functioning in isolation, and therefore not innovating. We talk about cross-sector collaboration, collective impact, and de-siloing our work in order to achieve better outcomes, but we still seem to be creating outcomes that no one wants. The ways in which we collaborate seem clunky, because they are. We have hacked our 20th century models into various prototypes because these systems are not designed to go together, just like trying to get a lego piece to fit with a tinker toy. The Universal language of connectivity provides a metaphor for connecting these closed systems to work together in the 21c and help us prototype new solutions.
I use this model of interoperability to prototype certain "Hard" solutions to connect, de- silo, and join together systems, ideas, business in new models of working together to create innovative solutions based on collaboration and co-operation. "Synching" organizations, departments, or even community assets within a planning context, can yield great results. This process works when a new "thing" has to be created in order to work better together. Sometimes it is policy, process, or it is shifting the place and its shape. Yet, in our work in communities sometimes the process of transformation, either personally or collectively feels much more terrifying, like a cliff with no bridge to the other side. What is required then?
Next I will talk about the "soft" solution that addresses what happens when we need to dissolve the systems all together. What is the metaphor for systems change, for disruption and dissolution? What is a metaphor that helps us let go in order for something new to emerge?