MDES 13 - And it was Called "Blellow"

Adidas_Running_Strong

Monday

What’s our workload like on this lovely 13th week of the semester? Calm before the storm?
Ha! More like eye of the storm! Thesis proposal drafts were sent in today! Fortunately, we have a hope that anchors us and gets us through it: we have each other.
As most days do, our Monday started off with a continuation of group texts from Sunday, supporting each other through our phones.

Hanna and I met and worked at her apartment on our own projects. Sharing coffee, tea, fair-trade chocolate and baguette as the rain poured down, we took comfort in sharing with each other as we moved through our work.
While theses loom and take a lot of our time and energy, we couldn’t forget about our big Design Thinking project. This What Art Can Do event that we’re holding on December 14th has been a roller-coaster of a group endeavor, and a great learning experience to boot. Facebook and Eventbrite events were created today, an open call was sent out to students, and we continue communicating with artists and performers to make this a truly stellar evening.

Monday night after French was my first time visiting the Sport Social Business Lab at INCO, where the social entrepreneurs I’m working with for my SocEnt project are being incubated for the development of their social business. The evening was spent checking-in on individual progress and going over the social business model canvas for Kabubu and REF’s partnership, which we would present at their “hold-up” on Wednesday evening (more on that later). Just a little note, I love these opportunities that this program is providing for us to venture into other worlds, like this one at the Sport Social Business Lab. It’s an awesome space and I completely vibed with it (I’m sure that statement sounds weird, but that’s the best way that I can think to describe it). I can feel that the work going on there is good, if that makes any sense, and a feeling of excitement reigns when I’m there. Pretty special feeling.

Tonight was a bit bitter-sweet personally. My dear old friend from undergrad has been staying with me for the past week as he visits Paris, and tonight was his last evening. While I felt particularly aware of my inadequacy as a host (I spent the whole time he was here working on school stuff), it was such a blessing to have someone here who knows me well, who heard the word “thesis” more than any human should have to when on vacation, who dealt with me neurotically typing away at night, and who was willing to intersperse his time visiting tourist attractions with sitting in cafes and pubs with me while I worked on schoolwork and he read or worked on his creative writing. After my meeting with Kabubu, I rode through the rain and met him at a pub, where he read and I worked on prepping for tomorrow’s leadership development class. Definitely going to miss having a brother (and cafe-work buddy) around all the time!

Tuesday

Our Leadership Development class at MakeSense had an interesting start today. The SenseSpace was abuzz with the visit of former French president Francois Hollande. Once we’d gotten a few glances in (as he made hand-shakes and pleasantries with SenseSpacers), we moved into one of the quiet workrooms. After going over the previous week’s community program content, we hopped on a Skype call with Mana, a friend of Sabine’s and a PhD student in Design Thinking from the HP Institute in Potsdam (in partnership with Stanford University).

Speaking of ‘thinking’, this conversation encouraged us to do so critically. Mana’s work explores how the experts and program designers of DT adapting to their specific contexts. Our conversation delved into so many elements of DT: exclusivity; flaws in teaching (we do it so fast-paced, making us miss opportunities to learn more about the context of problems we’re trying to solve); the ‘language of DT’ and the ‘designerly’ way of thinking and working; the way culture implicates ability to be “disruptive”; and the possibilities that DT offers.

After our session, Hanna and I stayed at the SenseSpace and made lunch for a meeting with one of the artists who will be speaking at our What Art Can Do event. Lina JK-Rose, a painter from Syria, had so much to share with us about art as an agent for change. If you are looking to be inspired by what art can do, make sure you plug the event into your calendar for the 14th of December from 6-9pm at 34 rue de Paradis 75010!

During the week, our amazing design manager, Alistair, finished the invitations created for PCA students and faculty, with the help of Hanna, Smarti, Vaila, and Khadija personalizing the invites.

Our DT class this afternoon was spent hanging the invitations (it was amazing to see and hear students immediately respond to the invitations we posted in the gallery – first reactions were positive!), checking in about the event, and moving forward with outreach. Smarti, Rica, and I joined forces for staying on top of the speakers. As the week has progressed, so too has our speaker list and our outreach to students who might be interested in submitting a piece to the exhibition we’re curating for the event.

 

Wednesday

I began my day with breakfast distribution for refugees at Port de La Chapelle and then proceeded with meeting the crew at Draft Lab. We all made progress with our individual 3D printing, laser cutting, and CNC milling projects. Smarti, super committed to seeing a plastic-free world (and inspiring the rest of us along the way), ordered biodegradable 3D printing filament to forgo printing in plastic. Pretty awesome, yeah? She is working on a box to coincide with her thesis project.

We also wanted to say thank you to our dear Smarti, because she and her partner Carlos hosted us for a beautiful vegan Thanksgiving last week. Smarti brings smoothies from home everyday, and we lovingly call them her “blellows” (because they’re kind of a mix of blue and yellow). We made a little ‘thank you’ card and placed it where? Of course, right beside her blellow.

I made some progress with the design of a whistle in Rhino. It was a crazy-frustrating experience, yet again, with trying to figure out what seems to be so simple in this software! But all of the complications were pushed through with the help of others in the class (thank you, Leore!) Sitting around the table and commiserating about the difficulties of these softwares and machines with others was oddly comforting, and encouraged me to keep going!

After this, we made our way back to PCA and were delighted to find this little thank you note on the What Art Can Do invitation wall:

It affirmed for us that we are already making a positive impact with this event. It’s convicting to see that an act of acknowledgment for another human can inspire people to share the love and communicate thanks in return.

After French, it was time for me to dart to MakeSense to facilitate a hold-up for the social entrepreneurs I’m working with (their partnership for a sports integration project coincides with my thesis, so I was both excited and super-curious about how the event would proceed tonight)! Fortunately, all of the attendees were such positive contributors and lent ideas that encouraged us to move forward with a business plan, while allowing us to consider some new concepts that could prove really valuable to incorporate as we move forward. I was especially grateful for Smarti and Vaila, who came to participate in the hold-up, lent their creative minds, and helped with set-up and clean-up (Shout Out to you both!)

Thursday

While we didn’t have a scheduled class, we sure had our work cut-out for us today. Both exciting and over-whelming, a lot of the afternoon was spent with all of us deep in WhatsApp, moving forward with details for our event, coordinating the emailing back-and-forth with artists, continuing our open-call outreach, taking stock of the onslaught of Eventbrite notifications (tons of people are coming to our event, according to Eventbrite!) and working a bit on our leadership development project. I also commenced with the follow-up documentation for my Hold-Up, worked a bit on a project for my team at Kids in the Game in New York, and communicated with my SocEnt team to set an agenda for our meeting tomorrow.

Friday

Today was, in many ways, a repeat of yesterday, with heavy work on our DT event, thesis work, hold-up review for me, as well as research, blog writing and event brainstorming for the company I work with back in New York. I spent the afternoon and evening working at MakeSense, where I had a check-in with Sabine and with Yasin, after which I prepared for a meeting I would have tonight with some of the Kabubu team (SocEnts I’m working with). A bit silly, but while I was at the front desk of PCA, they came and met with me there from 7-8:30, where we spent time reviewing the hold-up and working on finding a space to implement the prototype we’re moving forward with to gain insights for a tentative social business model.

Our whole crew stayed connected as always through our WhatsApp group. We got some confirmations for our event, which was super exciting for us. It’s encouraging to know that we’ll have a full line-up of incredible speakers. We also received more confirmations from students about their intention to submit projects for the exhibition. I’m really hopeful that we’ll have a nice array of projects for this exhibition on the 14th.

Saturday

Hanna set out for MakeSense to check out the SenseFiction event, Smarti and Vaila met with their SocEnts, and I went south to Antony to have an afternoon of family work time at my pastor’s home. A new weekly tradition, I’ll make chai, Marita (my pastor’s wife) will cook a little something, and we will work quietly together on our own little projects in their living room (me on my thesis) while their two sons (7 and 10 years old) play. These times are so comforting to me and keep me grounded in the truth that I am loved, cared for and have a beautiful spiritual family in Paris who are doing life with me. It may sound strange that I go to hang out with them and spend the time working on homework, but something I’m learning is that true family doesn’t judge or exclude because you’re not bringing something exciting and fun to the table. Family accepts and welcomes doing life however we need to do it. In this season, it means just being together while we work (but,of course, interrupting the work for laughs; sharing random thoughts, ideas, praises; drinking chai, and marveling at the christmas tree (the sight and the lovely pine smells).

Coming home tonight, I also had a special surprise: a buddy of mine, and incredible artist, showed me a piece he’s working on for submission to the What Art Can Do event. I so badly want to share a picture of the work here but… You’ll just have to come to the event to see it!

Sunday

Seriously special morning. Kabubu, Yasin, and I have been working together to increase refugee inclusion in and through sports. We are still hard at work on a program that can generate income and employment opportunity through social business, and today we made a small and simple step towards this. We brought a crew of seven refugees to be a part of the Adidas running club in Paris. It was an awesome early-stage success to celebrate.

I went to church afterwards and was asked to be on the American Church in Paris’s radio show tomorrow evening, where I’ll share about this project. The show broadcasts to 30,000 people, so I’m prayerfully prepping for this!

As the week closes, Smarti and I connect tonight on what we’ve got going forward, and I’m saying prayers of thank you for this team I’m blessed to do life with!