Voters would like to but don’t know what the political parties stand for

Voters would like to but don’t know what the political parties stand for

I have been in charge of or part of our digital election coverage at TV 2 Denmark during several elections. And one piece of feedback that we keep getting is, that the voters are having a hard time figuring out what the political parties actually stand for and how they differ.

In Denmark we have a multiparty system with about 10 political parties that overlap a lot and tend to crowd around the center of the political spectrum and around certain topics like immigration. The many parties foster consensus and is thus different from example the US system, but the issue of opaque politics and diffuse agendas is probably applicable elsewhere.

Because being informed about the way the political parties and their candidates will take you country is the essence of making an informed decision when voting. And people tend to want to do that. It might even raise the (already high) election turnouts.

See network in full screen.

Climate Injustice: Coalition Spaces, Reducing Urban Carbon Footprint and Making Environmentalism Acessible

This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that we have until 2030 to limit the effects of climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. Warming greater than 1.5 C will lead to global catastrophe by extinction of several species, drought, heat waves and food shortages that will disproportionately impact those in poverty. Since beginning college, I have read more and more articles detailing the negative impacts of climate change and more importantly highlighting its urgency. 12 years for radical change in carbon emissions, renewable energy, plastic use and more does not lead for a lot of time. For this reason, I choose to pursue the issue of climate injustice for the rest of the semester. In particular, I aim to think about how can we make urban spaces more environmentally friendly for the Earth and its residents.  My current musing on this project is that environmentalism as a topic has been strictly correlated to conservation of wildlife — which is still important but limiting in the scope of what needs to be done about climate change — and limited racially and financially to white middle to upper class citizens. Climate change has fully become everyone’s problem when talking about environmentalism and also hasn’t become accessible to everyone. Low-income urban resident face food deserts which prevent engaging in healthier eating choices that reduce individual carbon footprints but also will lead to a healthier lifestyle. Similarly, toxins from airplanes, buses and trains create poor breathing environments and change soil content that community gardens to combat food deserts become difficult. The increased warming in urban environment due to glass skyscrapers are also out of the residents control. For this semester, I want to focus on engaging communities, creating coalition spaces, on the issue of climate change, brainstorm and create with them solutions and hopefully promote environmentalism as a topic for everyone. While I am focusing on the individual level, this is not to forget that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions and as such the blame of climate change does not heavily lie on the individual but recognizing that in the process of bringing environmentalism to the individual level can still create healthier lifestyles for those being denied and could potentially lead to collective group effort to influence these 100 companies of reducing emissions.


As such, I am creating a influence map to highlight who are the stakeholders and how do they interact as I begin delving into this topic. The image should appear below. I highlighted the overall, 5 major players in this situation and what impacts I think they might have and onto who.

Creative Learning in Kenya

The topic that I would like to explore is education in Africa and specifically, creative learning in Kenya. By adopting Mitch Resnick’s 4Ps of creative learning in schools: Projects, Passion, Peers and Play; we can ensure that students in Kenya are inspired and interested to learn.

The typical linear teacher-student model should be revised and replaced with a decentralized, matrix framework whereby learning can be achieved through multiple and alternative sources. This could be in the form of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), virtual classroom collaborations, innovative education tools or alternative educational programs.

This topic demands innovative, disruptive and economic reforms. Policy makers, educators and the private sector need to work in tandem to develop long-term educational solutions at the grassroots level.


Ecosystem Map

Ecosystem map of education in Kenya: here


Week 6 – Disaster Relief Map

The topic I think I’ve been interested in the most is how we plan and implement post disaster relief efforts. I’ve been curious about how these strategies are at times deployed successfully, and in other scenarios, very poorly executed. With the continual change in our planets climate systems, we are seeing and hearing of natural disasters globally with greater frequency. Dealing with these natural events and their consequences requires planning, communication, and in many cases, a need to provide aid in some form after the event.


The unfortunate side to this is that there is often a series of political loopholes that can impact how much of these efforts are properly executed and successful. There are many entities that function in these disaster scenarios. FEMA, The Red Cross, The National Guards, the U.N. and the World Bank are a few that come to mind. These events are complex and difficult to negotiate. They often involve governments, financial agencies, community leaders, in addition to the victims of these tragic events. What I’d be interested in is in how this process can be studied, to potentially reframe or restructure how relief is implemented, or even how mitigation is implemented before the disaster even hits.

Key Players:





Local Government (Mayors)

State/National Government

Government Support Structures (National guard)

Aid (FEMA, Red Cross)


Non profits



World Bank

Victims: Most impacted

Victims: Less impacted

Climate change is one of the most serious issues facing the earth and its entire population. A recent UN report indicated that irreparable global damage could occur as soon as 2030 given the current trajectory. The potential risks include widespread drought, flooding, food shortages, and extinction of a variety of species. These issues will affect people around the globe, and is thus an issue that must be addressed quickly.

Currently there are a number of efforts underway to help find a solution for climate change. Those include initiatives around clean energy via wind, solar, and hydro; electric vehicles; low energy appliances; carbon removal; plastic bag bans; biodegradable containers; recycling and composting; etc. These efforts, however, are mostly taking place on a small scale, and the problem of climate change needs a large scale solution.

The main barrier in developing a truly impactful solution is that many people either don’t believe in climate change or simply don’t care enough to help fix it. In addition, climate change has become a politicized issue in the United States, causing many to simply fall within their party lines. I would like to explore ways to remove this barrier by first working to understand why people do not believe in or care about climate change, then proposing a solution to fix that.

My ecosystem map is attached here:

More Fake News

While the “fake news crisis” has been identified as an issue contemporary to today, I believe that the topic might be better understood within a grander sociological history. Problems of agreeing on fact and fiction, especially related to science, have troubled humanity since scientific revolutions, accusations of heresy, as long as there is an association between knowledge and power. Facts come with power. News empowers. Fake news, when believed, also empowers. This is, ultimately, why the topic is important–fake news often spurs action, and misinformed actions are often harmful, and rarely helpful.

By this same (over?)simplification of the problem, fake news harms everyone because of the subsequent actions taken. Even those who are not caught by the bait see the repercussions of its hold on others through real consequences. The most publicized of these suspected consequences, of course, is the 2016 election. Contemporary concerns with fake news also derive from the ease of publishing (without vetting) and the power of click-bait (sensational simplified one-liners proving more easy to ingest than more complex news stories). These exaggerate the reach and harm of fake information, and call for new means and methods for slowing its spread and limiting its consequences.

Events such as Fighting Abuse @Scale have begun to consider how the platforms that enable the spread of fake news can actively try to limit it. Fact-checking articles has been used to pair fake news with real sources, or decrease the visual prominence of articles known to be false. Of course, deleting these articles outright is dangerous territory, as in all of these cases we are trusting the “fact-checkers” to, indeed, represent true facts–a power that suggests in its formation also its potential abuses. It is less common to see events and strategies catered to the end-user–the person scrolling through their Facebook feed–teaching and then trusting them to discern the true from the false.


Rape Crisis at Universities in America

Due to awareness of my own identities and privileges, I have chosen to tackle sexual assault college campuses. The United States Department of Justice highlights a chilling statistic: one out of every four female undergraduates will be victim to some form of sexual assault before graduation. There is an average of 293,066 victims ages 12 or older of rape and sexual assault each year in the U.S. This means 1 sexual assault occurs every 107 seconds. Sexual assault, a type of sexual violence, is a term that applies to a broad range of forced and unwanted sexual activity. Those who study gender relationships have long since made the argument that this crime is about privilege, power, and control. Gender studies have long since explored how institutions structurally uphold male privilege, and the rampant rate of this crime on college campuses suggests validity to that claim.

The film “The Hunting Ground” explores the nature of this problem. Its powerful exposé on the epidemic of rape crimes explores how the crimes have a long and horrible impact on the lives of the victims, their communities, and their loved ones. Rape is a crime that disempowers women; when it happens at school, those women often end up struggling to get the most out of their expensive education and also alienates them from their community—meaning that this crime disempowers them in more ways than one. The film also explores how the universities have failed to address this problem; often times going to great lengths to protect the male perpetrators reputations at the cost of the wellbeing, education, and health of the female victim. The film exposes how universities across the nation avoid the issue through the means of victim blaming, harassment and ignorance.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimates that at least 95% of campus rapes in the U.S. go unreported, meaning that most victims do not receive the support they need and deserve.

A lot has already been done. Victims have organized informal lists of perpetrators and have banded together to take down high-profile perpetrators as part of the #metoo. One called “shitty men in architecture” has several people from my own school, the GSD, on it. Title 9 was a huge step forward in fighting sexual assault on college campuses, but this was one of the first things that Trump overturned when he got into office. The amount of stigma and the intensity of what one has to go through in order to report these crimes also may be a factor that prohibits individuals from reporting; many universities within the last few years now have free counseling available that doesn’t force the victim to report their crime. Online services (and apps!) for victims are very popular: For example, the brand new non-profit, better brave, was started by a friend of mine to give women resources outside of their company’s HR department to report sexual assault or discrimination. Other groups have tried to create online versions of rape crisis support. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really stop the crime from happening, but it does help by providing victims with the things they need. Companies are also starting to build in support systems for these kinds of crime into their services.


Please see my network map here. 

Voter Suppression and Disenfranchisement

The topic I want to work on for the rest of the semester is voter disenfranchisement / voter suppression in the United States. While voting often seems like an ineffectual way of making change, I think it’s important to explore who is actively being blocked from voting. This is a topic that affects a lot of marginalized, underserved, and oppressed communities whose livelihoods can often be directly and negatively impacted by legislations or policies passed without them being able to exercise their voting rights on them. For example, disenfranchisement of incarcerated people in most states in the U.S. (all excluding Maine and Vermont) means that they would not be able to vote for candidates that are pushing justice system policies that directly impact their livelihood and well-being in positive or negative ways. In 35 states, people on parole are also excluded from voting, and in 31 of these states people on probation are excluded from voting as well ( Combined with the fact that mass incarceration overwhelmingly affects Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Indigenous communities, we see a significant population in the U.S. being systematically deprived of their ability to exercise democratic rights. Some other communities that are affected by voter suppression include low-income communities who are not able to afford transportation to voting booths, indigenous communities (for example in North Dakota with the recent Supreme Court decision to only allow people with residential addresses register to vote:, and numerous other people and communities who identities often overlap and intersect with each other to become targets of voter suppression.

There are a number of things that have been done in this area already by groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens, who worked on training poll watchers to not partake in voter intimidation, or Patriot Majority USA who ran voter registration drives in 2016 (“In 2016, Patriot Majority USA funded a successful voter registration drive in Indiana, empowering tens-of-thousands of African-American voters despite state-sanctioned harassment by officials appointed or closely aligned with then-Governor Mike Pence”). Heading into this midterm election, I’ve seen a lot of social media entities like Instagram and Facebook putting in notifications to users to remind them to vote. And a lot of community organizations, from non-profits to student orgs, are canvassing and asking people to register to vote ahead of the election. For this project I would like to investigate further the means through which voter suppression and disenfranchisement happens in the U.S. and design a convening to think about ways to combat it, especially when disenfranchisement strategies are implemented in systematic and seemingly unbeatable ways (e.g. restrictions on voter ID qualifications).

Week 5 – Design an Event / Core Values

  1. Five Core Values


  • Inclusivity: To make the effort to include all those who may be involved or affected
  • Sensitivity: To operate with empathy, considering the context, and potential impact of a completed work, both in the short and long term
  • Flexibility: To engage with real problems knowing that problems can often be variable and changing, thus requiring an ability to adapt to the particularities of a given issue over time
  • Reaching: To know when we need to reach out to those who may have expertise outside of our own, and to be humble enough to ask for insight for the benefit of the project and those whom we work for
  • Experimental: To allow ourselves to test, and to push convention, never settling for easy solutions, but to allow the design process to push back, and enable the process to be self-reflective and self-critical.


  1. Town Hall + Interactive Workshop


  • One of the topics I’d previously expressed interest in was post disaster relief, and more specifically, how we are able to engage disaster situations successfully. I’m not sure that there is any formalized mechanism (or format) whereby support and relief agencies engage with those who may be in need of aid in post disaster scenarios. What I do imagine is that often times, decisions are made for the communities, without their insight or input. How do we successfully support communities that may be in need, while fostering a positive healing process? How do we enable communities to continue forward with dignity and autonomy? I really appreciate hearing about the breast pump hackathon, in particular how the project learned and adapted after its first event, to create a more inclusive and diversified second hackathon event
  • I want to consider a scenario in which hazard mitigation strategies, as well as post disaster aid strategies are negotiated by both the communities and the experts who help enable relief efforts. I think both the preparation (preventive) and rebuilding phases can be informed by collaborative synergies.
  • Community engaged design is becoming more relevant in architecture projects, especially when projects begin to operate at a larger urban scale. BIG’s project for the ‘Dryline’ a system of public park infrastructure that doubles as a biological buffer against sea level rise, was in part designed with the community through hands-on workshops.
  • I’d also like to reference a project by Chilean architecture firm, ELEMENTAL, who led the redesign of the city of Concepcion, while working closely with the communities, through town halls type discussions and continuous conversation with the community during the design process. In addressing the rebuilding after a devastating tsunami, this collaborative approach, allowed for the redesign and reconstruction to better serve the community. Their team work allowed for the strategic redesign of the city to allow for equal access to public spaces, increasing the overall quantity of parks and squares, while designing in such a way that created better buffers for city against future hazards. This tragedy was able to be used as an opportunity to redesign the city that the inhabitants preferred.
  • I can imagine a system in which a workshop format, coupled with a design review+ critique can allow community members to collaborate with experts and professionals, and facilitate a larger dialogue about how to address both preparedness and post disaster reconstruction. In both art and design education, the critique serves as the mechanism whereby the designer is able to present his work to a jury, and receive constructive feedback about a proposal. Similarly, it could be productive to imagine a scenario in which aid groups explain real life strategies that are then critiqued by a community to be able to develop a more collaborative, thoughtful solution that is specific to the needs of the community, while similarly community members can offer suggestions that can then be critiqued and informed by the specific expertise of outside international aid organizations.
  • A big challenge in many disaster mitigation and post disaster relief is the dissemination of information. With events that bring much more of the community into the planning of the systems at play, it would be much easier to spread knowledge that can help save lives, as lessen the impact of disaster events. This open format dialogue would also help to increase transparency and allow for communities to develop greater trust with government agencies and hazard expert.
  • Some of the goals of the exercise would be to better prepare, and inform communities that are at risk, while also helping outside agencies and experts to operate with greater sensitivity and consideration for the people who may need their help.

Unhacking Digital Government

Modernizing and digitizing government is not a new idea. But while the pace of innovation and technological disruption has left the larger world unrecognizable, government and politics have been extremely slow to change. The inherent complexity of the problems to be solved, and built-in systemic inertia, have meant that any major changes in how the government functions have been difficult, if not impossible.

This has left many citizens, and would-be solution designers, frustrated. Many naturally turn to blaming the backwardness and anachronistic attitudes of public officials. By the same token, many in government are annoyed by the arrogance and naivety of those who chose to “fix” government without appreciating its unique structural and social constraints.

Bridging this disconnect in some way is critical in paving the way for holistic solutions that can genuinely improve governance and political representation, while also having a realistic chance of convincing relevant stakeholders of their value and feasibility.

Our goal is to facilitate this process and create a breeding ground for innovative solutions through which digital technologies can improve government and political representation.


Design Principles

Empathy: Good problem solving must start with having respect and an understanding of the constraints of all stakeholders affected by the problem.

Representation: Inclusive solutions that serve the diverse needs of all citizens are only possible if they are represented and heard at all stages of the solution design.

Equity: Representation is only useful if it is also converted into genuinely equitable and just solutions and outcomes.

Accountability: Decisions made in the design process could have significant consequences for large segments of the population. Designers will need to be comfortable and willing to take ownership of that responsibility.

Action: Adherence to all the above principles risks paralyzing the impulse to act. This must be tempered by the recognition that, eventually, progress is only possible through action.


Designing an Un-Hackathon

One of the fundamental problems we are trying to solve for is the inability of two important stakeholders, the government and digital solution designers, to understand the constraints under which the other operates.

“Hackers” assume that government simply does not act as it is either too incompetent, out of touch, or inadequately incentivized. But in their reading of the problem they often do not have an eye for the complexities and weight of political decision making. Given the balancing act between different constituents and affected parties, there are sometimes good reasons behind slow and careful consideration of even minor changes.

Similarly, governments often fail to understand the a technological solution as an entity in of itself. Missteps such as the initial roll-out of the website, that failed to adequately account for the technical challenges of implementing something on that scale, show that there is some way to go before policy and technology can be aligned seamlessly. It is not possible to make a policy and assume the technology will simply follow. The design process needs to start much earlier to ensure successful outcomes.

Given our main objectives are to encourage innovative solutions and help both parties unlearn some of their assumptions and approaches, the event we are proposing is an “Unhackathon”.

We will invite government representatives (elected or nominated officials), government employees, and any citizens interested in making digital solutions to improve the functioning of the government.

At the two-day event, we will reverse the roles of the participants based on their experience and run two parallel “constrained hackathons”.

On the first day, government officials will be presented with a number of technical restrictions, such as scale capacity and cost of maintenance, and will have to design purely technical solutions to solve a problem. This will force them to understand the trade-offs that must be made when creating digital solutions. But more importantly, it will also force them to recognize how design decisions are not neutral, and simple things like user-interface cues can significantly alter the practical implementation of an idea.

The other half of the event will force the hackers to come up with purely legislative or policy solutions for some of the inefficiencies they hope to remove. Their constraints will include existing laws, necessary political compromises and constituent expectations. This should help them gain an understanding of the complexities of political decision making, and the often unseen stakeholders that all changes in government impact.

Each of these two sides will have moderators that will communicate the constraints at the start of the session and will also confirm if all presented solutions satisfy the requirements.

The second day will have the two teams merging and taking their learnings to make more holistic solutions. At the conclusion of the second day all of the ideas will be judged on the basis of how well they meet the core principles stated above.

Articulating Core Values? What’s the point?

1/ Values

I struggled with this exercise – in some unexpected ways. I’ve helped articulate values in very different contexts and scales (e.g. drafting values for an education startup, a university, a classroom); drafted my own values as part of workshops and trainings; and developed values in very different ways (individually, facilitated, collaboratively, and along different timescales – in a workshop, a week, or stretched out over a few weeks in a deliberate/consensus driven process).

So when I approached this exercise, a few questions came to mind:

  • What are the implications of articulating core values? In what ways might articulating values explicitly shape how I work – with myself? With others? How I approach a project? How might articulating values impact different kinds of projects and work (e.g. analytic work, design work, etc.)?
  • How have my “core values” changed over time? What has shaped my core values? Prompted changes or shifts, even in emphasis?
  • How might core values differ based on context – problem I’m working on, people I’m working with, context I’m working in?

I then reviewed notes from my most recent discussion about values- from a retreat held with the Lifelong Kindergarten Group and the Scratch team. LLK and Scratch have grown immensely in the last 10 years – from a team of graduate students to now a group of grad students and staff that reaches 30 people. And while LLK has some clear values (e.g. approach learning with a playful spirit), none of these values have been written down clearly anywhere – and the retreat provided a first opportunity for the group to begin the process of articulating and consolidating core values.

As I considered this, I realized that we do as a group talk about our values quite regularly – and refer to them in conversation. But we haven’t written them down anywhere. Or consolidated them. But there is a clear sense of a culture grounded in a common sense of values. Of respecting the potential of each person as a creative learner. Of approaching learning in a playful way. Of supporting empowered, non-hierarchical environments over top down conditions. Of being thoughtful and respectful in interactions. Of speaking simply and plainly. Of prototyping and giving ideas form instead of talking about abstractions.

And there are certain affordances that come with not articulating values. There is an emphasis on spending time with people to learn the culture – and that learning the culture takes time, happens through relationship building and working and playing together – and is not something that can happen in a few moments or a day. When I see a list of values, I tend to be like OK, I get it. Not seeing the values suggested to me that I needed to unearth, play with, and experience the values to really get them – which made them something else to me – and has already had an impact on how I work and interact. I find myself using simpler language. Asking shorter questions. Prototyping more.

So why articulate and “codify” values in this context? It’s become clear that as the team has grown – and as relationships become more difficult to maintain in the same ways that they were in a smaller group – articulating values will help us ground how we work, interact with one another, and how we engage external partners and collaborators.

All this said, a few ideas on core values that I’d like to bring to my work generally. These values would likely vary depending on the project or specific context.

Courage: The courage to see differently, to think 10x, and to push and prod those around you – even when it will make you uncomfortable. Courage underlies brave spaces (a more powerful form of safe spaces).

Systematic Rigor: I value work that approaches problems with a longer time horizon, seeks to address root causes, and that intentionally interacts with broader systems. Even efforts that might seem minor (e.g. designing a learning resource) can be made more robust by considering the systems in which it is located (e.g. how designing in particular ways might address inequity). Similarly, this implies also thinking about how an effort or initiative might scale.

Autonomy: people should be supported to be active agents – in their communities, learning, work, and lives.

Tinkering: Complex and simple problems require tinkering – playfully exploring different options and possibilities, testing the, and iterating based on feedback, experience, and data. I try to bring this value to my work in a range of contexts – as it brings together an iterative, experimental approach with a playful mindset.

Inclusive community: My most transformative work has involved bringing together diverse groups of people to create communities where the sum is greater than the parts- and where the parts are transformed to be greater than they were before they joined.

2/ Convening

I’m hoping to organize a convening of people working on education in Johannesburg and in Cairo this December.

Who: I’m inviting people who are doing things that are bold and courageous. Initiatives that don’t simply push for incremental changes to broken systems, but that strive for systematic change. Who am I to define bold initiatives? And who am I to convene a gathering in the first place? Even though this is the first informal step of an effort to start bringing together educators working on creative learning and on radical efforts to shift the education equilibrium, what are the implications of me convening people? How am I working with or layering on top of existing networks?

Where: I’ll likely host this in a space that is convenient for the different organizations – and that enables people from different groups/locales to come (both cities are sprawling disasters). I would also likely pick an organization I’d like to highlight as a particularly strong example of what a radically bold learning initiative might look like.

I would try and design the space to encourage people to be thoughtful in how they interact with others, how they share the strengths of the work and open up on the challenges that they’re facing. I would like them to build relationships and to form a strong sense of community, to be able to trust one another as peers – and to see each other as nodes in a decentralized network – nodes that can empower one another to do greater things.

I hope the space creates conversations that allow for depth – to really push into the texture and contours of a subject, issue, or problem – but to also provide room for exposure and breadth – because the dance between breadth and depth is what makes life interesting and fun. And in this dance, I hope that people can trust each other to be courageous, to challenge one another to rise higher and go deeper than they have before.

School Days: A Personal Performance and Reflective Exercise

Five values driving this work:

We believe every voice in this community is valuable: Every person–whether they’re a student, parent, teacher, administrator, or otherwise–has something valuable to add to this picture and we value their opinion and perspective. We recognize that this issue is best solved as a community, with everyone represented.

We believe in equity: This conversation is one part of an ecosystem of structural inequities that systemically disenfranchise black and brown people in this country. Though the space is inclusive of all voices, we also aim to direct some attention to voices that may not have previously been part of this conversation and elevate them.

We believe in positive change: We believe that there are ways we can improve, and we’re invested in seeking those out.

We are honest with ourselves and each other: This work is best served when all parties are honest about their barriers to understanding, difficulties, and challenges. It’s served just as well when folks are honest about their hopes, great breakthroughs, and moments of vulnerability.

We trust each other: In order to create an honest and open space, it’s important that participants have an understanding that they’re safe in this space to express what’s on their mind, and build from these honest conversations and explorations.

With that being said, how do you begin to tackle something as daunting as the school-to-prison pipeline?

The most important takeaway from most convenings is the understanding that though this problem will not be solved in a day, momentum has been made. Thus, I want to give everyone a chance to attack this problem and their understanding of it through empathy. Though the school-to-prison pipeline represents a larger systemic problem involving many actors, many cases begin with an interaction between the student and a teacher or administrator. I’d like this exercise to be one that allows the two parties to later tap into a moment of empathy when faced with conflict again, such that there can be a conclusion other than a punitive one.

During the school day, I’d like to take a full day to do an immersive exercise in which students can share their experiences with faculty and administrators and vice versa. I think any longer than one day would detract from class time and fail to hold everyone’s attention, but it would be enough time to fully flesh out the contours of this exercise. During the first half of the day, students and teachers could start the school day off with a concurrently-run series of interventions that detail their experience with authority inside and outside of school.

For the students–

There would be five sections of the day, all intended to allow students to express how they feel about being in school during the day. For some that could mean letting out some of the frustrations and for others that could mean showing others how they find joy in their community. The first exercise is one designed to let out that emotion out onto a physical object. Each student gets two giant pieces of poster-sized paper and is told to do whatever they’d like to it that represents how they feel about a normal school day when they wake up in the morning, before they have arrived. The second is a more physical activity, asking students to express how they feel about a normal school day around mid-day through bodily movements and dance. Slightly more structured than the last, the third asks folks to let their feelings out about leaving school at the end of the day through song or the written word. The last is a written exercise, asking folks how they feel about life at the very end of the day, as they’re going to sleep at night. Though these interventions are all done in quick succession, any student who doesn’t feel comfortable reliving their day through a particular medium can choose to swap out another medium should they choose. The wrap-up activity is a “Day in My Shoes”, in which students get to share what they’ve learned about the way they experience a normal school day through this reflection. A few students then share the story behind their interpretations of their school day, with an eye for variety. Once completed, the moderator asks students to do this exercise again, except this time describing what a perfect school day would look like to them. They can use any of the mediums they used earlier on in the day, whatever works best for them.

For the teachers and administrators–

An analogous experience would transpire for the teachers at the same time. They’d get space to do this activity in a room of just teachers, allowing them the space to find community in an environment that can often be isolating for them.

Final wrap-up:

The moderators (who were taking notes at all of the interactions of the day thus far) then facilitate a conversation between teachers and students, allowing each to air some of the points that came up during the day. There’s special care to focusing on the elements of a perfect school day, unlocking the learnings found from that reflective practice in particular. Moderators then lead a closing practice that allows everyone to build from what they learned about everyone’s ideal school day to cogenerate some ideas of how to translate that sentiment into practice.

Making Gendered Work Visible


In my work, I aspire to be…

  • Thoughtful and active: It is important to deconstruct an issue by making all of its parts visible, empathizing with a range of perspectives on it, and constructing a broader network of qualitative, quantitative, relational, and contextual information to fully understand it. But just thinking through an issue is insufficient–the work must inspire some form of positive action.
  • Intersectional, with a sharpened lens towards marginality: With any work that delves into social change, it is imperative to consider how different identities work together to create complex lived experiences. While putting things through an intersectional frame, however, I believe it is important to capture and value marginalized experiences, particularly to problematize narratives that fall within the majority experience.
  • Grounded in the Personal, but Embedded within Systems: We are most powerful when we speak from the experiences and information that we know best- and generally those are our own personal experiences. Within work that touches on the social aspect of life, it is inhibiting to try to remove ourselves from our thoughts and observations. It is therefore important to personally understand and see ourselves within the change we hope to make. At the same time, we must acknowledge the historical construction of greater social structures, such as racism, colorism, sexism, cis-heteronormativity, classism, ableism, ageism, regional/nationalism, among others. It is only when we place ourselves within broader structures that we are able to diagnose the deeper symptoms of systems that we hope to change.
  • Aspires to radical change, while beginning with workable solutions: As we conceive of solutions, it is helpful to shed the confines of current trajectory as an inevitability so that we can consider other, radical outcomes. From there, we can work backwards to understand how to negotiate between our current reality and our ideal reality. Within this process, it is important to base our immediate work within the current context and systems, not only to achieve short-term gains to facilitate greater long term buy-in, but also so that we are not forgetting the current generation in hopes of only helping future generations.
  • Compassionate: I personally believe in solutions that emphasize healing. I think that it is important to learn from mistakes through critical reflection, and that that is best facilitated in spaces that are based in accountability, but also based in trust, caring, and belief.


Among the topics that I identified earlier in the semester as issues to progress through social change was uplifting emotional (and other forms of gendered) labor. Currently emotional, domestic, clerical, and educational labor generally fall primarily to those who are not cis-gender men in society along the lines of gender, and more generally to oppressed people as opposed to those in the majority. For this assignment, I hope to affect the way male-identifying people think about gendered work, particularly as a model that can be replicated in the Healthy Masculinity Discussion Group that I coordinate within my department, particularly through a retreat away from campus and through social presencing theater.

Education. To begin with, it seems important to educate members of the group (and more generally, male-identifying people) on the different types of work that are being inordinately borne by non-males in society, and how much of that work is invisible because it is often unheralded and uncompensated. Within this component, it is important to read about these topics from feminist scholars (such as Arlie Hochschild, among others) to better understand the way in which this work is built into structural expectations. Along with having conversations of what these different kinds of gendered work entail, I hope to highlight different examples of how this work manifests, and encourage participants in this conversation to begin personal conversations and empathetically listen to those in their lives who have to bear a greater share of gendered (or otherwise marginalized) work.

Experience. One way to begin to understand what this work looks and feels like is to put male-identifying participants in the situation where they are forced to do this work, without support, and expected to complete tasks to a high degree. They could do this by being given specific tasks and expectations regarding the planning and logistics of the retreat, managing the social and emotional experience of preparing for the retreat, and using that as an initiation point of conversation for those around them. They would be given a loose task, expectations of how well the task should be done (without giving away steps of how to complete it), and a prompt to engage more deeply through conversation.

Theorize. Finally, once on the retreat, the final step would be to engage participants to consider how they imagine an equitable world would look like. This conversation can and should extend outside the bounds of gender, but they can draw on them. However, to get participants to fully drop their pretenses and engage with the visionary and structure-based perspective that we are bringing to this topic, I hope to lead a session on social presencing theater. In this type of exercise, participants are instructed to consider a prompt, such as “what work do you imagine doing in a gender just world that you are currently unused to seeing. However, rather than just having a conversation of the answer, they are asked to perform their vision. I imagine this exercise to be done in the form of a dance party, as it is not always common for male-identifying people to see dancing spaces as particularly safe to introspectively explore their bodies or their ideas, as opposed to spaces in which they are encouraged to perform traditional gender roles for one another and/or seek a mate. While they are dancing to act out their own response to the prompt, participants will be encouraged to look at others in the group, and make eye contact with others in the group to make the experience more personal, intimate, and constructive. Finally, after the dance party, the group will be asked to reflect on the dynamics they perceived, the ideas they saw portrayed and how they physically reacted to what others were doing, and finally, what action- and system-based takeaways they are leaving this activity with.

Hacking Stories, Hacking the Climate

Climate change is perhaps the single greatest threat to future generations. To date, humans have failed to take adequate actions to stave off planetary collapse. A UN report issued this week describes a world of food shortages, floods, sea level rise, extreme weather events, wildfires, and massive coral reef die-offs as soon as 2040 if emissions continue at the current rate.

The report concedes that while it is technically possible to change courses, it remains politically unlikely that we will do so. This is largely because climate change has become a deeply politicized topic. I am interested in work that restores our personal narratives about the shared responsibility we have to each other and to the planet. My work seeks to understand what prevents or impedes individuals from sharing a sense of planetary stewardship.


  • We design for people and planet. We consider long-term impacts on human and environmental systems, seeking to minimize threats to both. We believe that work that does not support future habitability of Earth undermines all other human efforts on this planet. We believe humans are part of nature, and reject narratives that material human needs cannot be met without destroying the environment.
  • We listen with radical humility. We actively listen. We ask respectful questions to understand. We interrogate our own assumptions. We believe everyone is doing the best they can, and seek to understand the choices, beliefs, opinions, and relationships that arise from particular instances of this universal condition.
  • We believe the stories we tell today determine the world we create tomorrow. Humans need stories to make sense of themselves, each other, and the natural world. We believe that we create our reality through expectations, intentions and attention. Our designs engage narrative as the key catalyst for social and environmental change.
    1. Corollary: we believe you cannot dismantle old stories without telling new ones. Many of our old stories focus on individualism, consumption, accumulation. These stories have wreaked havoc on our natural ecosystems and climate. However, we cannot dismantle these stories without putting new ones in place that restore our collective responsibility to each other and the planet.
  • We work within a space of ever-widening “us” and an ever larger “now.” Climate change affects all beings on this planet. In this context, there is no room for “us versus them.” Our work honors the diversity of human experience, while situating it against a backdrop of shared planetary responsibility. In addition, we recognize that the actions we take now could affect generations to come. As such, we design for both the present and future.
  • We practice play as a powerful antidote to paralysis. We support playful, generative designs that resist the temptation of despair.


My convening seeks to showcase American’s personal narratives about climate change. Having worked on climate negotiations, I understand how easy it can be to forget that not everyone shares a sense of urgency to cut emissions. Thus, this convening would attempt to bridge the personal divide between those working on climate negotiations and policies with everyday Americans struggling to make ends meet. The convening would have two parts: an exchange that would couple two (willing and voluntary) participants. The convening might take place in a town with a traditionally carbon-intensive economy, such as one in West Virginia. For the exchange, a “climate wonk” (researcher, negotiator, policy-maker, NGO employee, etc) would spend two weeks getting to know a member of the community (teacher, student, waiter, nurse, contractor, etc) by visiting their homes, getting to know the community, and engaging in thoughtful dialogue.* The second portion of the experiment would bring all the pairs together in a workshop facilitated to help the pairs articulate a shared narrative of the future. When writing the story of the future, what can they both agree on? What kind of world do both want, for themselves and future generations? What are the bare minimum features of a healthy human population and planet? Each pair would craft their story of the future of Earth, which they would jointly deliver to the group.

*NB: this would only “work” if both agreed on the basic facts that climate change is happening and humans are causing it.



Power and service at elite institutions gathering


  1. We recognize our position.
    These gatherings will center on where we can go and what we can do in the world as students at elite universities, which is a position that we strive to recognize and deal with as it relates to a number of other positions of power that each of us occupy along various axes of privilege. We consider all of these positions and what kind of consequences and meanings they have for us and for our communities, using those reflections to guide and ground our work.
  2. We are community-oriented.
    We look towards the guidance of our communities both within and especially outside of the university to design actions and solutions that actually work to serve people in a grounded, informed, and effective way. We recognize that student activism must be connected with and on equal footing with the communities that we occupy and often gentrify.
  3. We are inclusive, intersectional, and non-hierarchical.
    We want to design for justice and equity across race, class, gender, ability, sexuality, and all other kinds of backgrounds. In order to stay true to this mission, we will make sure to echo these ideals in our own practice, centering voices that should be heard
  4. We are action driven.
    We want to equip students with ideas and tools to go forward into the world and work towards making the positive impact that they want to. Because of this, we want to know: what can we do concretely for our communities, for the world? We work towards developing action rather than despair.
  5. We are realistic and authentic.
    While we remain committed to a better vision of the world, are realistic about what methods we have for change and our capacity to execute them. We are humble and curious and always thinking about what we can do to live in a way that aligns with our values and politics as a group.

In the wake of recent political events, but also in general, I’ve been feeling very helpless about what methods I have and what effects I can have on making the world a more equitable place for everyone. I often see popular memes in elite university meme groups about people having anti-capitalist or otherwise broadly social justice-oriented politics, but ending up going into consulting or finance despite that. Responses to these memes include pointing out the potential hypocrisy of criticizing students who choose to go into the private sector by people who want to remain in academia (corporate-funded!) or even go into the non-profit sector (beg for corporations’ spending money!). In general, I feel like a lot of people share my sense of being lost about what paths we have going forward from university, especially elite universities like Harvard or MIT where the allure of high-paying finance or tech jobs is almost inescapable.

This event that I want to plan would be like a hackathon, except not called a hackathon so that I can disassociate it from hackathon stereotypes like staying up late and devising solutions to huge societal problems in 24-48 hours. It is held in the new student center on campus and we would make a specific effort to get non-Harvard undergraduates to participate, from a wide variety of backgrounds; organizers would reach out to community leaders and members around the Cambridge and Boston area to attend. The goal of this gathering would be to create an action plan for students who want to get involved in direct community service and be effective to the people and causes they want to serve today. Further iterations of the event could include critical examinations of pathways out of elite institutions led by a panel of people who went down those paths to think about what kind of life trajectories are possible from our starting points.

Training in algorithmic discrimination


5 values to keep in mind while thinking about algorithmic discrimination:

  1. Transparency: A lot of current problems come from the fact the process–dataset, models, usage, who, what, why, …–is kept private. Establishing some degree of transparency will alleviate inherent structural problems.
  2. Explainability: Many systems are treated as blackbox magic, and we are still unable to explain most of the results. Explainability would be essential in validating the usage.
  3. Questioning: Systematic errors often remain simply because many people readily believe algorithmic solutions as “correct” without questioning or investigating.
  4. Non-abusing: Ethical acquisition of data, just presentation and usage of results, all involve non-abuse/exploitation of individuals (data sources).
  5. Vulnerability: It is important to remember that any implementation of any degree of solution at this point will be far from complete.


While “a convening” is helpful in bringing like-minded people to a conversation or collaboration and is perhaps attuned to the democratic spirit of voluntary participation, it should be for specific issues and clear purposes. Some caveats if it were to be applied to topics such as algorithmic discrimination:

  1. Lack of diversity: These gatherings tend to attract people from similar academic standings. The problem, however, affects everyone.
  2. Preaching to the choir: A lot of these gatherings have a very ostensible political/economic stance, and participants, coming from similar backgrounds as previously mentioned, often have very similar sets of values. The event could easily become an echo chamber with no critical conversation that comes from conflicting values.
  3. Idealism: Undebated values could easily produce unrealistic solutions.
  4. Separation between implementers and the affected: The people most severely affected by the problem would not be the major makeup of these gatherings. Such solutions have a danger of not reflecting the needs of the people they intend to help.
  5. Short-term solutions (especially hackathons): People are induced to imagine solutions that would be implementable in the given timeframe of the gathering. Many of the problems, however, require a much more complex approach on a very long-term timescale.

It may be a completely different category of problem, but I vote to think for a more fundamental, mandatory training system instead of a voluntary convening. It would be something similar to anti-discrimination or sexual abuse trainings that are required for jobs, schools, etc.

Nutrition Injustice Workshop

The Nutrition Injustice Workshop has three overarching objectives. We aim to:

1. Gain a crisp understanding of Nutrition Injustice

2. Accept the factors that encourage Nutrition Injustice

3. Inspire collective action to end Nutrition Injustice.

We will break the workshop into three days to thoroughly explore each objective. To fully understand nutrition injustice, 33% of our speakers and participants will be individuals, who can speak directly to living in a food desert, a refugee camp, in post-disaster recovery, and in unlikely places with food insecurity and nutrition deficits. The first day of the workshop will include:

1. Two keynotes from leaders in food insecure communities, including the consumption of amateur video content describing what nutrition injustice looks like in a community

2. Listen to a panel of food insecure individuals

3. Conduct a speed-dating activity where everyone gets 5 minutes to hear a personal story and needs of an individual living in a community suffering from nutrition injustice.

Since acceptance tends to involve inward reflection, personal or organizational bias admission, and a survey of data (or facts), the second day of the workshop will focus on accepting the factors that encourage nutrition injustice. We will hear from government, profit and non-profit leaders, who are already working in this space:

1. Local government and non-profit leaders with close relationships in food insecure communities, whose organizations have been successful and unsuccessful in improving access to healthy food

2. Behavioral experts on personal values, checking bias and assumptions, who would run exercises such as Core Values, Mission definition, and “How do I know I am right”?

3. Panels with food insecure community leaders, local government, NGO, and industry leaders on lessons learned (particularly corrected assumptions) from the first two days of the workshop

Lastly, to inspire action, we will include a 33% speaker and participant lineup that includes activists, philanthropists, designers, budding entrepreneurs, and influential leaders. These individuals will have little to no (less than 3 months) real world experience living in food insecure areas. The agenda for the last day would include:

1. Design thinkers on creating designs for  food insecure communities

2. Entrepreneur idea pitch (with feedback received from their future customers)

3. Philanthropists and investor panels on what matters to them and what they will fund

I believe that no one individual or company can solve a complex problem alone. The goal behind the conference is to ensure the solutions are supported, designed, implemented and funded by all the right people – interacting together – in order to enable food security and universal access to healthy food.

let’s do some ai+ethics

As many of you know, my thesis project is to develop an AI+Ethics curriculum for middle school students. The goals of the curriculum is three-fold: (1) to enable students to see artificial intelligence systems as artifacts with politics, (2) to enable students to see technology as manipulable, and (3) to empower students to design AI with ethics in mind.

I’ll actually be in the classroom later this week, and these are a set of values I hope to establish in our community.

These first three values come as suggestions from Jaleesa in LLK and her experience in the classroom, so credit and thanks goes to her.

  1. This is a brave space: We acknowledge that designing better AI systems is a hard thing to do, and even hard than that, is discussing the ethics of systems that affect almost every aspect of our lives. However, despite the difficulty and complexity of the problem before us, we will do our best to contribute to a solution. We acknowledge that speaking up in front of a group of people can be scary, and that it is very brave to share your ideas and risk vulnerability. We acknowledge that learning something brand new means we also risk failure, and that learning takes time.
  2. We trust the experiences of others: We accept others as they are and trust in their experiences when they share them with us. We recognize that to deny the experiences of others is to make them less human,  and refuse to do so. We recognize the bravery in sharing about our lives, and encourage an environment that makes each other feel included.
  3. We assume positive intent: We recognize that we will be discussing difficult topics, and that sometimes our peers will say or do something that makes us feel small, upset, or offended. When that happens, we will assume that person meant well in their words or actions and respectfully notify them how their words or actions made us feel so that they may learn how to better communicate in the future.
  4. We value diversity, inclusion, and collaboration: We recognize that our biggest asset in learning about and designing better technology are each other’s diverse experiences. We welcome those who are different from us. We recognize that no best solution comes from one person, and therefore we value collaborating with others on a team, and making everyone in our team feel safe, valued, and comfortable.
  5. We are humble and curious: We accept that the problem set before us is challenging and no single person, regardless of how smart or experienced, will be able to solve it. We acknowledge that to do our best we must be committed to learning about new things, people, and ideas. We acknowledge that asking questions is important, and that no question is “dumb” or “a waste of time,” and that we encourage our peers to be curious by asking questions.

And here are the details:


Middle schoolers, teachers, school district administrators, representatives from local AI startups (software engineers, C-level executives, education outreach officials).

Of course, middle school students are the target age group for my curriculum, so it makes sense that middle schoolers will be there. However,  we are keeping an open door policy. Many local area AI startups are interested in this ethics curriculum, and will be invited to participate in activities alongside the students, or to shadow the class (whichever they feel most comfortable with). We want to show the students that you can learn to design better technology at any age, at any point in your career. Teachers and school district administrators have also been invited to observe, but will also be welcome to participate because designing better AI should be an open, democratic, and inclusive process.


At a middle school in Pittsburgh, PA during the school day. As some of you might know, many curriculum pilots take place during after school workshop or summer camps. There is at least one good reason for this: school time is precious. However, the problem with pilots taking place outside of school hours is that many students systematically do not gain access to these new, high-tech, cutting-edge curriculums. Additionally, an unfortunate side effect is that many of the scientific studies are based on small numbers of participants. Thus, I feel so lucky that I will be able to visit this middle school and work with students during their normally scheduled library period.  Since I will be returning each quarter to the school, I will be able to offer this curriculum to every child in the district.


There will be a few activities for students to engage in. These activities, broadly speaking, serve one of three goals: (1) teaching students the fundamentals of artificial intelligence (e.g. what is training data? what is a learning algorithm? how do these two items affect the success of the system?), (2) teaching students that AI systems have ethical import, and (3) teaching students the fundamentals of value-sensitive design and giving students practice in making hard, ethical design decisions.

In addition to these activities, however, we will also be including community-building activities, such as fun icebreakers, small group and class discussion, and by role playing/modeling behavior that reflects our core values listed above.

De-tangling medical data fragmentation

Resilience: We realize that success is not a path that is foreign of failure – and that is fine. The strength to keep trying and forging forward is what is important

Compassion: We recognize that in order to thrive, others must be part of the equation. As a result, caring for others and their wellbeing is a paramount consideration.

Healthy Mindfulness: A well maintained temple attracts believers and incentivizes them to perform their best. We each inhabit our own unique temples- our bodies- and treat them as such. As such, we value mental and physical health.

Plural Awareness: Every person is an intrinsically unique individual with unique needs and preferences, stemming from a unique mesh of backgrounds and experiences. We champion respectful awareness of others and are excited to learn more about each other.

Stalwart Enthusiasm: We each have the power to bring about change if we work hard and believe in our goals. As such, we remember this every day and motivate ourselves to continue striving and refining our best selves.

For many patients, it is frustrating to navigate between health providers and treatment centers with medical record information fragmented in different places. For health providers, precious time and effort is lost obtaining or even re-doing already created medical data, such as X-rays. The goal of a convening would be to fuel change and minimize the frustration in medical data fragmentation.

As such, I propose a three-day hackathon, centered on developing technologies that tackle the medical record fragmentation among health providers. Health insurance providers and large hospital and healthcare institutions will be invited to the hackathon. They will be tasked with presenting problems in their medical record infrastructure that could be serving as potential barriers to streamlining patient medical data. In addition, a diverse group of people who have first-hand accounts of their experiences with medical data fragmentation will be invited to present their frustrations and specific complaints (e.g A woman who broke her arm and has had to wait two months in getting follow-up treatment since her out-of-state MRI imaging center requires in person authorizations to send her images to another health institution).

Finally, the “hackers” will be all those with the skills and drive to tackle this challenge. Technologists, aspiring health care providers, managers, and sociologists should come together to build solutions. As a venue, I believe a medical school’s research or public health policy center would be an ideal fit and context for inspiration. In turn, the values we defined above will be used as the basis of building solutions to the medical data fragmentation. An ideal solution is one that promotes resilience and a steadfast recovery for a patient, always paying careful attention to the unique needs of each person in tackling their treatments. Representatives from large healthcare providers across the country will serve as judges for the hackathon, since they have the decision-making power to create opportunities to incorporate the solutions developed in the hackathon.

DIY vs DITO (Do it Yourself vs Do it Together)


We seek collaboration: we work better when we work together

We seek inclusivity: our work is better when we draw people together

We seek community: we work better when we consider how we came together

We seek understanding: we work better when we consider why we came together.

We seek knowledge: our work is better when we draw our collective knowledge together



DIY Highly Virulent Pathogens

Background: As the tools and methods of biology become more readily available, the Do-it-yourself (DIY) biology community has come under scrutiny as a potential breeding ground for nefarious uses of biotechnology.

Invasive Population Management

Background: In 2016 the New Zealand government introduced Predator Free 2050, a project to eliminate all non-native predators (such as rats, possums and stoats) by 2050. Non-native predators have been harmful to native flora and fauna of New Zealand, especially conserved bird species.



I am helping organize the Global Community Biosummit at the Media Lab this October 26-28. This conference brings together people involved in the DIYBio/biomakerspace movement together with people from independent and community biology labs. Last year, I attended as a participant from a community lab and this year have a more active role as an organizer.


The three key features of the programming that I feel strongly committed to are the unconference session, the workshops, and the exhibition space. The unconference sessions are informal discussion sessions that are proposed by the convened. The workshops are practical, skills-based sessions where knowledge is disseminated. The exhibition space is available to show works of hardware and art.


My practice as a scientist is deeply connected to the idea of bringing people together to solve problems. As a part of the Sculpting Evolution group, one of our biggest tasks is making science, as a whole, more open and responsive to the communities it affects. For the Biosummit, we are developing an unconference session to talk about the ethics of responsive science in the context of citizen science/DIY spaces. We are also sharing our methods by hosting a Wet Lab workshop on the methods we use to sculpt evolution. Personally, I have been involved in curating and organizing the works that will be displayed in the exhibit space. Interfacing with the community in these ways is how I live within my values.