Posts filed under ‘Ethics’

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

Give and take, a service designed social economy

Pic: ccxtina on Flickr

Christina Worsing is more than a social activist. A designer by formation, which is how I happen to know her, Christina has pulled forward this amazing initiative that is called “Give and Take”. Willing to revert object’s planned obsolescence [just a bad design strategy], they provide the service connection to recirculate “pre-loved” resources by setting the stage for “Ethical Economies” to happen. Based on the idea of formalizing “cambalaches” [how this is called in Chile] or swaps… Her initiative has created a whole rethinking of the service deployment that a social re distributed economy like this would have. This service strategy has been defined using the design process in creating touch points, diagramming system’s flow and conducting front-end research to understand all the individuals involved.
Pic: ccxtina on Flickr

So what is Give and Take?
“Give-and-Take is a community-based project that develops services, activities and events to circulate pre-loved clothing throughout the local area. Along the way we share ideas and thoughts on how to re-use, repurpose and rethink (more…)

February 23, 2012 at 4:59 am Leave a comment

Indigenous Knowledge and Design: interview to Dr. H. Pi’Ikea Clark, a Hawaiian talks about designing from the roots

In the frame of the summit on Design-anthropology and culture-centered innovation held in March in Italy [where Design for Social Innovation and other 18 around the World individuals and initiatives where invited]. I was lucky to meet Dr. Herman Pi’Ikea Clark. I asked him about which is the advice he would give young designers and researchers looking at indigenous knowledge as a source for innovation. He is an associate professor of the Indigenous University: Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi in New Zealand. He works at the school of Education and undergraduate studies. Pi’Ikea, how he likes to be called, is original from Hawaii [cousin culture to the Maori].This is what he answered:Pic: Hicker

“It is important that you know whom do you want to design for. What do you want to really affect. Which is the community you want to affect, advance, enhance… There are so many people that are talented and skilled but people can just become too much oriented to what their tools allow them. It is really important to know WHO YOU ARE in this”.Pic: Pi’Ikea playing ukulele [CM]

Building a Design Curriculum is not something easy, and it is less easy when there are so many expectations hooked with the idea of indigenous learning.  “Basically, every student I have is Maori (more…)

April 14, 2011 at 2:03 pm Leave a comment

When does social entrepreneurship start making more harm than good?

Pic: PF
A big part from working with social issues is to understand the pitfalls that these convey. Pablo Fernández a business-management alumni from PUC Chile and Master student from Stanford places upfront the controversy on “first world” NGO’s trying to solve some foreign problems. He reports from Kenya:
“I just came back from Nairobi, Kenya, one of the poorest countries in the world (147 of 182 according to the UN within the countries with data), where we had the chance to visit two of the biggest slums in Nairobi; Mathare and Kibera. People told us that in Kibera there are more NGO’s than toilets. Although this may sound funny, it is completely true; there is almost one or two NGO (more…)

April 6, 2011 at 1:07 am Leave a comment

Informed consent to do ethical design research

Pic: Informed Consent [CM]
Around April 2010, there was an e-mail sent to the PhD Design List about if Designers should go through the IRB [Institutional Review Board or “Ethics Committee” in a University] process before engaging into a research. “‘I’ve heard that some think that we design researchers shouldn’t request that because we are looking at the interaction not at the human behavior.” Should we? Should we not? In a time where we are teaching our students to go out to the field and engage in systematic field research [acquiring qualitative research methods, normally coming from the Social Sciences] , to answer some interaction design questions [for service, architecture, information, product, graphic design] , it seems imminent that we talk about ethics to our students, at least, about the “informed consent”.

Informed consent is often viewed as the central piece of subjects’ protection. It’s main goal is to ensure that people understand what is to participate in the research and until which extent will they choose to. It is extremely important to let them know that they have the opportunity to decide freely to engage or not in the research. In the case of participant observation techniques, it is important that the researcher gets informed consent from the participants, as well as an authorization to disseminate the information in ways that are not endangering their integrity in any way. Anonymity is optional, sometimes individuals want to hide their identities. Sometimes, not.
Pic: Students G.Warner & N.Cristi making some visual data collection in the field

Some professional organizations in the US and Europe do talk about ethical practices in design. (more…)

September 24, 2010 at 6:13 pm 3 comments

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

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