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Innovating New Models for Change With ITP and The Grameen Creative Lab

   /   Sep 20th, 2011National, New York City

Participants sketch out models of social change

The notion that change requires a model, and that certain models are more effective than others, was the driving force behind Change Model, a two-day conference held this weekend at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), in conjunction with the Grameen Creative Lab.

The model of the event itself proved to be an insightful look into how the social enterprise movement is taking shape amongst its younger members. A significant portion of the Change Model participants were graduate students, many attending or recently graduated from ITP, and nearly all were in their late-twenties to early-thirties.

Saturday morning began with presentations by prominent thought-leaders in the world of social enterprise Speakers included:

  • Bill Moggridge, co-founder of innovation firm IDEO and director of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. He spoke about the acclaimed “Design For the Other 90 Percent” exhibit, explaining that when the show moves to the United Nations building, it will be re-named “Design With the Other 90 Percent.” He said that he hopes one day the “Other” part will be dropped, too.
  • Utku Teksoz, economic advisor to the UN Secretary-General, Toshi Nakamura and founder of global technology distribution company Kopernik.
  • Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of the UN Global Pulse initiative
  • Jill Kickul, Director of the NYU-Stern Program in Social Entrepreneurship
  • Jennifer Holt, Deputy Director of the global market development organization Peace Dividend Trust.

Change Model’s organizer was interaction designer and  ITP prof Despina Papadopoulos, who was moved to create the event after returning from one year of working with Turquoise Mountain, an NGO that runs a school of traditional artisanship in Afghanistan. There she saw that organizational models of change were in need of innovation if projects were going to move forward and take advantage of international markets.

Papadopoulos’s intention for Change Model was to facilitate exchange of ideas between people with different backgrounds and interests, who share a passion for social enterprise. “We need to change the fundamental vocabulary of development, and this is one way to do that,” she explained.

Participants learn how the afternoon workshops will proceed

“I wanted people who don’t normally meet, who don’t share [technical] language, to meet and share language,” said Papadopoulos.

She also wanted to do something more than create another virtual social network.

“Face-to-face meeting, instead of relying on social technology, can be a powerful way to create exchange,” she said. This was something participants also voiced during the workshop on Saturday.

Saturday’s workshop portion was facilitated by Nick Durrant and Gill Wildman of the innovation design consultancy Plot. Durrant and Wildman prompted participants to consider the gaps, barriers, and opportunities they faced in the current models of change they were working in.

On Sunday, the workshop was handed over to the Grameen Creative Lab. Participants were asked to brainstorm ideas for social businesses and Muhammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, provided feedback for their ideas.

Sticky notes outline barriers, gaps, and opportunities in social change

“[Yunus] was concise and critical, but in a positive way,” Papadopoulos said. “He said again and again that a social business model must focus on measuring the impact. While a profit-motivated business focuses on income, a social business focuses on impact.”

For a real-time run-down of Yunus’ feedback, check out Dowser intern Nami Mody’s Twitter feed. She tweeted from the event.

Despina Papadopoulos discusses participants' ideas

Moving forward, Change Model hopes to make their website into a resource for its participants so that next year, the community’s ideas will be integrated into the workshop.

And while people discussed market-based solutions to global problems at NYU, down the road angry protesters occupied Wall Street in what was dubbed by Adbusters magazine as a global “day of rage.” The protesters voiced their dissatisfaction with capitalism, particularly since the crash and resultant bank bailout of 2008.

The two movements seem to be flip sides of the same coin: social enterprise on one side, anti-capitalist street protests on the other. Both argue that financial profit alone cannot be capitalism’s foundation moving forward. Both have questions about how to change the way we see the market’s potentials. And one of these groups, fortunately, is working on a model for change.

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