{DESIGN AND SOCIAL INNOVATION} Building capabilities in communities by instructing engineering-design skills

Original post at the DILAB:Engineering Design Initiative

ING14_JangoTec-Imagen Blog
Picture: JangoTec session in La Granja 2014

{ENG} Many people refer to  the concept of social innovation as something enacted by a stranger to a community that “needs” help. We’ve explored and reflected over this extensively on our”design for social innovation” website. There are different takes on the concept. In our experience, there are few individuals promoting social innovation that seek to empower communities to build their own solutions or believe in changing or adapting their own fate. Looking to fulfill our interest in community building and empowerment, the DILAB staff, together with the student movements: Convive and La Resistencia, decided to create an educational hands-on program for the democratization of some of the skills that engineer-designers get at the Católica School of Engineering. These include: technology, establishing networks and prototyping. The project is called JANGOTEC: “A Journey from our talents to new capabilities.” This is a space of learning and approach to technology.

Principles that inspire us: “We all have creative potential”, “We’ve done a lot with little”, “We are building a floor to get high” and “We can.”

{ESPAÑOL} Mucha gente habla de innovación y mucho más de la innovación social. Es un tópico bastante explorado (more…)


June 30, 2014 at 11:24 pm Leave a comment

Where am I today doing Design for Social Innovation?

DILAB_ConstanzaIt’s been a long time since I have not written any post for this blog! Today I am at Escuela de Ingeniería PUC in Santiago de Chile becoming an intrapreneur. Just as Steve Jobs formed a group of people within Apple to develop the Macintosh, “going in essence back to the garage” (Jobs, as told to Newsweek in 1985), we have developed (together with Catalina Cortázar ) the DILAB, Engineering Design Initiative at PUC. This Design-Anthropology lab has been developed in a prestigious school of engineering in Latin America, serving more than 1,000 students a year and connecting with schools and companies all around the world.

The lab is promoting educational content that used to be foreign for the core of engineering in this country. It mainly provides design-anthropology knowledge and tools to engineers engaged in the area of mechanical construction and robotics, as well as to those who are more business oriented. The lab is fostering an alternative pedagogical culture to the one obeying the ‘assembly-line-instruction’ (Rogoff,  2011) typology. This new model coaches critical thinking skills through applied, real-world experiences with organizations where the students become the protagonists. Rather than solving exercises in a vacuum, this gives students a sense of applied reality to their learning. Check out the initiative and our Facebook page.


June 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm Leave a comment

DI-LAB: New course in Santiago de Chile for Engineering Design

DILab13_Promo Slide UC_DNO-web

Pic: Compiled images from experiences at NC State

Having a big interest in education, as a method to achieve transformation, we will impart an innovative course in Santiago de Chile starting in August 2013 at the School of Engineering at PUC. The DI-LAB  is a unique course for all engineering and design specialties where the students engage with an American-based company in solving an ill-defined forward thinking “issue”. It works with design-anthropology, negotiation and visual thinking among other lines of thought. The companies that will partner with us entail a wide range of typology, from successful ex-startups to big companies that are leaders in their area.  The companies are:  Design Central, Teague Associates , Oracle , Ziba and  Artefact  . If you are an engineering student at PUC you can get more information at www.di-lab.cl . Like us on Facebook  in order to get our latest news.

If you are not a student at PUC or you are out of school already, don’t worry, we love open source! We will be posting interesting stuff on the student’s process at the DI-LAB website and on our Facebook page .

July 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm Leave a comment

CoAT Program: Training graduate students to become better educators

Blog 13_CoATPic: CoAT Website.

This post does not only entail education in Design or Engineering. It touches upon the CoAT program at NC State University, in the US, which is part of the PFL (Preparing Future Leaders) program. The Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching (CoAT) is an initiative from the graduate school for developing pedagogy skills in graduate students from different disciplinary backgrounds. These g.students will soon become the educators of future professionals. Being close to people (including myself) that came to the US with a focus on improving Latin American education (to achieve equality), this program caught my attention. Furthermore, having experienced it made me a believer that programs like this make a difference and have an impact in an educational environment.  This was my experience:

As a Design PhD student and instructor (from 2009-2013), me, and a group of other PhD students, fulfilled a series of workshops focused on higher education instruction. In addition, we were exposed to “actual hours of instruction” where (more…)

July 1, 2013 at 10:18 am Leave a comment

Reflection on Entrepreneurship. Ideas to Reality. The Critical Story Behind Creating Self-Watering Seed-Starters

Blog 13_OrtaPic: Anne Fletcher’s Self-Watering Seed-Starter (Orta)

Studying in the States, I’ve been exposed extensively to entrepreneurship. Most of my good friends with good ideas make them work and turn them into reality. The entrepreneur spirit is in all of those who work hard, and believe that they have something to improve others daily living. This is what happened with my friend Anne Fletcher, instructor at the D.School and consultant. After showing off her entrepreneur skills in Chile’s surfing context, she came back to the States, and here, she is doing it once again. Meet her dream of helping others to keep seedlings alive. But is not that easy! There are pitfalls and a-ha moments! It is always good to hear a real story and reflection, overall from someone who is critical and has a vision behind it. Here is what she tells us about her quest:

-. I find hope in planting seeds .-
Terracotta self-watering seed-starters will keep your seedlings alive even if you ignore them a little! Before I started making terracotta seed-starters in my garage, I killed a lot of seedlings.  In the delicate seedling phase, plants need gentle watering every single day, twice a day if it’s hot outside. With long hours and work travel, sometimes it just wasn’t possible for me to keep those baby plants alive. About a year ago I had an idea for a new way to solve this problem.  I invented a terracotta self watering seed-starter with a reservoir for water, and porous walls that keeps seedlings happy for about a week between waterings. After debuting my invention last September, I started selling out all the production runs I could make in my garage.  I found some local artisans here in California to help me meet the growing demand.

Now I’m working on a new, bigger model.  The 12-pack allows you to grow bigger seedlings, and more of them.  Big is great for the plants, but it’s too much for me to handle in the garage.  I’m doing a Kickstarter project to raise the funds to make the 12-pack a reality by paying for professional mold-making, and working with manufacturing partners in California. This project partly comes from a desire to keep my plants alive in a pretty package on the windowsill – there’s no denying that.  But there’s another deeper reason.

As a designer, I struggle all the time with the visions of apocalyptic futures that experts say are coming if we don’t change our consumption habits.  When I ponder the designer’s role in all this (as creator of objects people desire, and sometimes as creators of the desire itself), I feel a mental paralysis.  It’s extremely difficult to balance both being aware of what we humans are doing to ourselves, and yet stay positive enough to have the energy to make positive changes.  In a world sharply divided between doom-and-gloom apocalysm and head-in-the-sand optimism, we designers need a new way forward.  I can’t ignore the reality of our current situation, yet I also can’t create positive change from a place of fear and pessimism. -. I find hope in planting seeds .- (more…)

June 25, 2013 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

Good Tools: Mendeley An Open Source/ Social Media Reference Manager

Blog 13_MendeleyPic: Mendeley’s Website Screenshot

Many of the graduate students, as they leave school, they have to leave behind the subscriptions to things like their “Reference Management Software” (End Note, RefX, etc). My advice, after going through my doctoral studies is: DO NOT USE LICENSED BASED REFERENCE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE! It is most likely that you will end up switching jobs, countries, universities or even migrating from your computer operating system. Even though for some of these licensed software have some web based components, their penetration in particular communities depends if someone is sponsoring the license payment or not.

Even though I started using a licensed software at the beginning of my PhD program at NC State, I opted to try out Mendeley, a web-based reference manager that entails social media tools to connect with other researchers on the web. Mendeley provides you with a desktop tool where you can just drag and drop papers in order to have a copy in your reference manager. It also allows you to highlight (mainly the actions that Acrobat PRO provides) and write notes in the document that you can later access in your smartphone, tablet or computer. You can also join other researchers in groups of interest where you share bibliographic references online. Not everything is perfect in Mendeley though. There are issues on their importing plug in for Firefox and other small issues. But it is a pretty amazing FREE TOOL (Open Source) that you can use in your endeavors or with educating young researchers or students into better practices for working with bibliographic references.

April 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

Chilenos en Papel: Giving Back to People in a Visual Way

Blog 13_Chilenos en papelPIC: Alejandro Blanco

Not long ago DFSI showcased the work of Saul Flores in his visual work “Footprints: the Walk of Immigrants”. This time, I came across a great project from photographer Alejandro Blanco and psychologist Catalina Correa : “Chilenos en Papel“. This ambitious visual project seeks to recover the cultural patrimony related with the social capital of Chileans and their traditions. One of the most interesting things is their idea of “giving back” to the community. This is not that usual for our tradition in Anthropology, but with the technological advances in photography, processes have become more affordable and democratic…and this project embraces that. Here is what they write:

Alejandro Blanco, photographer
Catalina Correa, psychologist
IDEAME Fundraising URL
We all love watching pictures that bring us memories of important moments or people that have been meaningful in our lives. But people living in remote or (more…)

March 14, 2013 at 2:10 am Leave a comment

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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
Creative Commons License
Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.innovacionsocial.cl.