In a nutshell –
I fundamentally believe in design-driven, market-based solutions for a better world. This is a theory of change that continues to evolve – through conversations, self-driven research, and lived experiences. It's the product of a few distinct spheres of experience: including human-centered design, management and pro bono consulting, and sustainable development. A few snapshots of work are included below – but like many projects, this portfolio is constantly under evolution.
Educational Access + Computer Literacy in Kenya
While visiting communities in Mtito Andei, Kenya, our team discovered high demand for educational resources and computer literacy courses. Currently, 6 million households remain off-grid, with nearly 50% lying within proximity of a low-cost electric connection. Residents travel hours at a time to charge cell phones and enroll in computer literacy courses in the city centre.
Lumen creates high-quality educational hubs to scale educational access and computer literacy in off-grid rural communities. We recently earned $5k in seed funding as finalists in the Greif New Venture Seed Competition -- check out our presentation slides here. Our team will be launching our first pilot site in summer 2016 -- stay in touch with our progress here!
Participatory Urban Design in Helsinki
Our current methods of urban planning are outdated. In an age of smart cities and increasing infrastructure development, The Butterfly Effect leverages open data and social media listening to influence a citizen-centered approach for how we plan our cities.
Our team took first place in the Smart City / Civic Tech division of Ultrahack 2015 in Helsinki, earning the opportunity to pitch at Slush, the largest startup conference in Northern Europe.
STRATEGY & PROPOSAL DEVELOPMENT
Early Childhood Education and Care + Women Entrepreneurship in Kenya
Kidogo is a social enterprise recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative and IDEO.org for early childhood care and education (ECCE) in urban slums in Kenya. Their current challenge: how might Kidogo scale impact in ECCE while achieving financial solvency?
Our team designed two strategies -- a co-op employment model for Kidogo mamapreneurs, and a micro-franchise strategy to further expand community access to quality childhood services. Our proposal was recognized with 1st Place in the inaugural LA+Acumen Social Enterprise Case Challenge 2015, hosted by LA+Acumen and Net Impact.
Civic Engagement Among Millenials
UNICEF and the Boston Consulting Group issued a case challenge in spring 2016: How might UNICEF refresh outreach strategy and student engagement via UNICEF Campus Initiatives? Objectives included increasing the number of active campus initiatives from 120 to 180 chapters, and developing better systems to monitor the efficacy of outreach efforts.
We recognized that effective programming can activate high school and university students to grow as engaged global citizens, thereby increasing the lifetime value of students as lifelong supporters. Our two-prong strategy a) refreshed the toolkit of programming for Campus Initiatives and b) established the framework for case-based curriculum via university partnerships. Our team proceeded as finalists from an initial pool of 200+ applicants, presenting our recommendations to the BCG office in Los Angeles and earning second place and a starting budget to implement the proposal alongside UNICEF's team.
USER-CENTERED DESIGN & RESEARCH
English as a Second Language - Adult Education
In partnership with the nonprofit MEND Poverty in Pacoima, California, our team designed an educational game to promote English language learning for first-generation adult users. In Pacoima, nearly four in ten residents live below the poverty line and less than 20% have earned a bachelor's degree.
Working-age Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals typically earn 25-40% less than English Proficient counterparts. Two-thirds of the US population of LEP individuals speak Spanish at home, and originate from Latin American countries including Mexico and El Salvador. In Pacoima, the effects of limited English proficiency included: limited employment opportunities, language barriers with their children and school teachers, and difficulty navigating social services (i.e. redeeming food stamps).
Though nonprofits like MEND Poverty offer English learning classes, the courses are not accessible, consistent options for working and stay-at-home parents in Pacoima. This creates a problem for families, where parents lack the resources to learn English for long-term upward mobility goals such as pursuing higher education or alternative careers.
User research uncovered key opportunities, which our design team leveraged to design the final Novelitas educational product. MEND Poverty clients encountered a surplus of waiting time in daily routine -- whether at the laundromat or at the health clinic. Additionally, users appreciated pop culture such as popular telenovelas, which ultimately formed the foundation of our educational materials. Novelitas provides accessible, engaging learning opportunities to lower the barriers for upward mobility. This product design incorporates target criteria including: cultural & practical relevance; interactive, user-tested learning format; adaptive levels of difficulty; portable functionality; and engaging, fun style for users.
Nutritional Access & Equity for LAUSD Students
South LA represents a classic food desert — a low-income area with restricted access to affordable, healthy food options. Roughly 75 percent of the restaurants on Figueroa Corridor sell fast food. If you’re a student from the local middle school, or a mom working two jobs, then grabbing a burger from McDonald’s is convenient, cheap, and easy in the short-term — but can perpetuate long-term eating habits and consequences. In LA County, 55% of adults and 40% of kids are obese or overweight. The county loses $12 billion annually due to obesity-related costs. How might we provide convenient access to nutrition for community residents?
I conducted user research in nutritional access and healthy-eating habits among students and parents of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and additionally collected data on behalf of the USC Price School of Policy to support a three-year research project on afterschool wellness programs.
* Primary and middle school students demonstrated distaste toward unfamiliar ingredients such as kale and quinoa. Successful strategies for overcoming “picky eating” included disguising food in recognizable formats, such as broccoli burgers or smoothies.
* Distance proves a challenge for parents when conducting weekly grocery shopping. Schools were identified as a key potential access point for improving the distribution of fresh, affordable groceries.
CURRICULUM & WORKSHOP DESIGN
Human-Centered Design for Social Impact in Los Angeles
For the past three years, I have served as the founding director of Design for America at the University of Southern California. The absence of hands-on social impact opportunities, coupled with a philosophy of learning by doing, directly motivated the founding of this human-centered design studio.
Today, our project teams apply design principles to develop local solutions to community challenges such as income inequality, nutritional inequity, mental health, and homelessness. Our studio operates in partnership with the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, Blackstone Launchpad, and Spark SC.
Check out a studio overview that I designed and published in spring 2015 for a snapshot of our projects and ecosystem. This experience has been a three-year intensive in organizational development and community partnerships, curriculum design, workshop and project facilitation, and all stages of the design cycle. In this role, I curated human-centered design methods and lesson plans into an eight-week curriculum for project teams; cultivated 15+ industry and nonprofit partnerships in Greater Los Angeles; and facilitated introductory design thinking workshops for audiences including startup accelerator participants and the 2014-15 cohort of Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab Scholars.