I am a cartoonist-turned-designer. My passion for cartooning started young with crumpled Calvin and Hobbes books and grew into design when I realized that designing something great can make more people genuinely smile than the punchline at the end of a strip. And it’s not just about smiling, it’s about improving the quality of life for everyone. Design is powerful like that. I love karaoke, video games, cartooning, traveling, and risk-taking. Speaking of risks—I graduated from Carnegie Mellon and lived abroad in Japan for a year. はい、日本語を話せる! (Yes, I speak Japanese!) Living in Japan completely changed the way I looked at human relationships and what I thought was “normal” by American standards. I currently work as a UI designer for websites. In my spare time, I run a cartooning club in Austin called Koumori Comics and make video games with my intelligent and amazingly supportive boyfriend, Matt. When I first walked into AC4D, I felt like I was charged with the same electric shock when I stepped off the plane in Tokyo. It was a mixture of anxiety, excitement, and a voracious desire to learn and do everything in this new and incredible place. I have a dream to change the world and myself for the better, and I think AC4D is where that is going to happen.


Reflections

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@chostett: Looking forward to seeing the swatches of fabric I designed on @Spoonflower! I’ll post the final designs + the fabric once it arrives.

@chostett: RT @taniaishungry: @BlackGirlsCode is looking for creative, dedicated, engaging, and innovative folks in the #BayArea + #NewYork http://t.c…

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Recent Blog Posts

 

Graphic Recording: Hunter Sunrise @AC4D

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Hello Again, World: A Reflection of Post-AC4D Life

Hello, everyone.

After almost two months out of AC4D, and after meeting some of the new students who are going to be in the next year, I’ve collected my thoughts (albeit messily) on what it has been like post-graduation. This post is intended to educate the new students going in, to connect with AC4D alums, and hopefully to give comfort to the folks in my class who are still probably going through their own processing.

I’ll be the first to admit it, I was terrified of graduating. The last time I graduated from an educational institution, I had a serious disconnect with reality and fell into a depression. I actually recorded this story for RISK! podcast during my time at AC4D, and it was fresh on my mind when I graduated.

This time was different. Instead of feeling unprepared for the “real world” post-college, I felt incredibly prepared. I had productive thought patterns and artifacts and a killer portfolio and contract work; I had GANTT charts and efficiency to tackle even the most complex of problems. It feels amazing to be doing the work you’ve always wanted to do with the people you want to do it with. Without AC4D, I wouldn’t be doing what I love today.

On the flip side, I was entirely oblivious to how my year in the program had changed the relationships around me. There is something for me about the creative process that naturally distances yourself from others in its observation and analysis. I wondered if in the search to become closer to others by making and doing I was ending up alienating myself. I’m currently a terrific designer who is growing and establishing bonds with clients—where exactly was my passion in doing the same thing with my friends and family?

That, I currently don’t have the answer to, but like every question I ask that’s a wicked problem, I’m currently whiteboarding it out. I’m setting constraints. My fiancee will not let me make a GANTT chart to track the progress of our relationship (though I tried), and I don’t need or want to have that kind of predictability. I’m getting used to setting my own structure and pace in my own life, and what’s good for myself and those around me who I care about.

My year at AC4D seems like such a blur. I vaguely remember the emotional highs and lows, but every once in a while, I pick out a memory that I truly cherish, like first time I saw Alex’s baby over Skype. It was late and we were both bone tired, and Alex was holding his newborn baby and calling out design ideas over Skype to me. We both laughed at how ridiculous it was to have a kid in the middle of an intensive program, but I also remember having a deep well of respect for Alex for taking on possibly the two most trying moments of his life at the same time. I still have that respect for him.

My only piece of advice for students going into the program is that it is going to be possibly the most intense, exciting, infuriating, and empowering year of your life. You will feel all of these emotions, sometimes all at once.

Record it. Take pictures. Don’t trust your memory to remember it all because after this year is over, you’ll be thinking “what the hell happened to me?” It won’t feel real, but once you see a photograph or a video, you’ll remember again and know that you achieved something amazing with the help of some amazing people.

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queery: Connecting the queer community, one person at a time.

Hello, everyone!
Chelsea here, at the end of this quarter to sum up our journey with queery throughout our time in AC4D and beyond. I admit, this will be a bittersweet blog post for me. We’ve grown so much and learned a lot in this past year, and looking forward to the future is a simultaneously exhilarating and frightening exercise.

First, let me tell you a story. When I was 16-18 years old, I came out as queer to my friends and family. There wasn’t a lot of questions; in fact, there were no questions. I had this overarching sense that no one really wanted to address it; it was an elephant in the room.  It was what one of our participants called being “unsupportive in a passive way.” They said,

“I don’t care who you make out with, but we’re all equal.” That’s coming from a kind place, but often it is incredibly dismissive of what it’s trying to support. The feelings of otherness is so much bigger than who we kiss or what bathroom we use. It’s so relentless.”

As we worked with the trans* and gender-variant community, I realized that while our experiences were completely different, we did share this feeling in common—the feeling of being alienated from our friends and family and the subsequent fear of rejection when we came out.

One of our participants, Emily, talked about her experience as she was “walking the plank” both with her identity and her social interactions.

After synthesizing the stories of the many participants in the trans* community, we realized that there was a circle of rejection, retreating, and reinforcement that the community experienced.

Rejection was in the form of people ignoring them, people verbally or physically abusing them, or people cutting them out of their lives outright. There was then a retreat to safer, online spaces where they could be themselves with others, but through online media and their own experiences (like the story of this trans* student being suspended just for using a gendered bathroom), there is a continuous reinforcement that people do not accept or care about them, and then they feel rejection anew.

We made queery to break that cycle.

queery is a service that allows members of the queer community to meet based on interests for one-on-one networking. Users choose their interests, their location, and schedule, and queery pairs them up by what they want to talk about.

We’ve also considered the fear of being outed (or indicating to someone that you are queer before you are ready to tell them)—we don’t want to be like Google Plus, who accidentally outed a transgender woman to her coworker. Because of that, we have a commitment to the privacy of our user’s data, and also a handy way of people to find one another in a coffee shop without outing themselves, where folks hit the “I’m here” button on the reminder pop up, and the screen will turn green and vibrate (thus alerting the other person that you are there, but not calling too much attention to yourself).

We’re very cognizant of the feedback we’ve received around keeping our user’s data safe, and because of that, this has changed the way we’ve thought about making queery a sustainable business to continue providing value to the queer community.

When we thought about adding in the additional challenge of maintaining queery through a stream of revenue, we wanted to make sure that the queer community knew that they own queery. That’s why we propose to do a yearly pay-what-you-want subscription (minimum $10) for the community. The idea that is you can pay into the community to help out other members in the community, or if you don’t have a lot of cash on you, can still access queery for a minimal fee.

When we projected this out with growth over three years, we realized that we would most likely be profitable in 2017 and be able to continue to provide value for the queer community by adding more features and partnering with other local LGBT and trans*-specific organizations to throw parties, get people to know one another, and get people connected.

In this quarter, we have been piloting with the local queer community in Austin, and the feedback we have received from the community that encourages us. One participant said,

“[When I met the other person,] I felt connected [to the queer community] again, and that felt awesome. I hadn’t realized how cut off I felt.”

However, there is more than just encouragement—we learned through the pilot that the intent of queery was not as well-explained as we’d hoped.

“It was a little bit unclear to me what the purpose or the end goal of this was except to meet people and possibly make a friend.”

Indeed, queery’s purpose is to meet and make friends, but I think we wrongfully assumed that people would have the same mental model as we did around the importance around friendships, and so in future iterations, the importance of making friends will be better explained.

We also found that the network effect extends beyond queery. Emily and Robert, two participants, met through queery, and later recognized one another at a party. Emily invited Robert over to hang out with her and her friends. If queery had not been present, Robort might have never received that invitation. We were overjoyed when we heard about this.

I also realize that if queery succeeds, we might be planning for our own obsolescence. If the queer community is already well-connected, wouldn’t that mean that queery is no longer needed?

Maybe. I’d love to live in a future where when someone comes out, it is not looked at as an elephant in the room, but celebrated with open arms and love. I’d love to see, and have seen before, queer communities rally around their members for support. And I hope that queery is another support for the queer community to lean on one another when they’re going through rough times.

I want to work collaboratively with other LGBT organizations from an angle of being queer-first; a unique angle for those of us who don’t want fit the mold, don’t really care to fit the mold, or those of us who ware figuring out what the hell is a mold.

I plan on continuing my work with queery and will continue to reach out to the communities that we have built ties with in the past year. Without their help, I don’t know where I’d be.

And if you’re interested in getting in on queery’s next steps—contact me. We need folks to pilot, and we’ll be seeking out more and more folks from the queer community in Austin to help me make queery something great.

Signing off,
Chelsea

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The Maturation of Discourse around Social Entrepreneurship and Wicked Problems

Social entrepreneurship is a new concept; as I experienced in our readings for theory class, there are still arguments being had about what defines social entrepreneurship. That should give you an idea of how new social entrepreneurship is today.

Today, I’m going to talk about the maturation of the discussion around social entrepreneurship and how it applies to the understanding of what a wicked problem is and how it functions. My hypothesis is such:

The more we understand social entrepreneurship and its effects on the world, the better discourse we can have about the appropriate actions to take around wicked problems.

When I talk about “wicked problems,” I am referencing first and foremost Rittel and Webber’s article Dilemmas in a General Theory of PlanningTo understand this argument better, I suggest you read it—it’s a great working definition and one of the first definitions around wicked problems.

The main three definitions around wicked problems that I will be using are that wicked problems are systemic, are fundamentally changed through any action upon them, and require that the problem-solver take accountability for the consequences of his or her actions.

When I talk about maturity of an argument, I will be using a metaphor around bees and their growth. First, the bee is deposited as an egg in a honeycomb (which represents the acknowledgment but not full understanding of a wicked problem), and then grows into a larvae (which represents testing hypotheses and gathering information). Then the larvae turns into a pupae (representing a deeper understanding of the wicked problem and its many facets), then growing into an adult bee (which are actions that fundamentally change the wicked problem).

Each author can be defined in one of these spaces—in this argument, I exclude all of the authors from falling into the “Actions that affect and fundamentally change the system” camp, because while the discourse around social entrepreneurship has matured greatly, it has yet to reach a defined process to tackling wicked problems.

Karnani represents the hypothesizing and testing phase of the argument around social entrepreneurship. Karnani’s argument that “The only way to help the poor and alleviate poverty is to raise the real income of the poor,” is straightforward and prescriptive, but according to Rittel and Webber, is not a complete answer in and of itself. According to Rittel and Webber,

“Does poverty mean low income? Yes, in part. But what are the determinants of low income? Is it deficiency of the national and regional economies, or is it deficiencies of cognitive and occupational skills within the labor force? If the latter, the problem statement and the problem “solution” must encompass the educational processes. But, then, where within the educational system does the real problem lie?”

While Karnani’s hypothesis about simply increasing the poor’s income to alleviate poverty is true in some facet, it will not in and of itself alleviate poverty. There are many more facets to poverty that expand beyond income, and these must also be considered as solutions as well.

Wyatt represents the deeper understanding of the societal threads around social entrepreneurship; in her article, Design Thinking for Social Innovation, she talks of a woman who purposely does not buy water from a treatment plant, even though it is close to her village. Why? Because the water treatment plant requires her to fill a 5 gallon jug of water, which she cannot easily carry, from the plant to her house (roughly 3 miles). Other women who have other family members to help them can buy treated, healthier water, but she cannot due to the fact that her family members work out of the village. She urges for a more systemic view of the wicked problems social entrepreneurs are trying to solve and says, “Design thinking—inherently optimistic, constructive, and experiential—addresses the needs of people who will consume a product or service and the infrastructure that enables it.”

What she does not address in her article, however, are what the consequences are even of design thinking now that the water treatment plant has irrevocably changed the nature of the problem (the problem was access to clean water, and now is access to someone who can carry the clean water). Rittel and Webber argue that,

“With wicked problems, however, every implemented solution is consequential. It leaves “traces” that cannot be undone. One cannot build a freeway to see how it works, and then easily correct it after unsatisfactory performance. Large public-works are effectively irreversible, and the consequences they generate have long half-lives. Many people’s lives will have been irreversibly influenced, and large amounts of money will have been spent–another irreversible act.”

So, where our our consequences in thinking about the idea of social entrepreneurship. The person who has built the most comprehensive definition of social entrepreneurship is Dees, who says that by definition, social entrepreneurs are:

  • “Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission.
  • Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning.
  • Exhibiting a heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.”
Compared with Rittel and Webber who state that wicked problems are:
  • Have no stopping rule.
  • There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.
  • The solvers of wicked problems are liable for the consequences of their actions.
The parallels are clear; both Dees and Rittel and Webber see that because wicked problems have no stopping rule, social entrepreneurs must be relentless. Wicked problems have no immediate and ultimate solution, and so social entrepreneurs must be consistently innovative. And finally, they both agree that social entrepreneurs carry with them the weight of accountability on their shoulders for their actions in regards to wicked problems.I have created a diagram outlining more in detail the other authors and their positions as the discourse around social entrepreneurship and wicked problems deepens and matures.

See the full PDF here.

Social entrepreneurs and wicked problems are inextricably linked; we cannot talk about social entrepreneurs without referencing the complex social problems that they are taking action on.

As our understanding of wicked problems deepens, so does our understanding of what it means to be a social entrepreneur; we realize that while our business may not “solve” a wicked problem, it will surely change it in an intangible way, and that the best way to “solve” wicked problems is to have many social entrepreneurs working on issues and collaborating to address all of the multiple facets of a problem.


Posted in Social Innovation, Theory | Leave a comment