We Can Design the Future of Wearables for Social Good

“The best way to predict the future is to design it.” – Buckminster Fuller

Image: keoni101/Flickr

There is a future for wearable technology beyond the Apple Watch, and it can be for social good. On March 31, 2015, nearly 40 participants came together for Technology Salon New York City where we discussed the future of wearables in international development.

Here are my two summaries of the thought-provoking discussion: 

We Can Design the Future of Wearables for Social Good, Huffington Post

Development, data, and ethical design for our wearable futures, Wait…What? [co-author with Linda Raftree]

As we wrote, “The rapid evolution of technology urges us to think about how technology affects our relationships with our body, family, community, and society. What do we want those relationships to look like in the future? We have an opportunity, as consumers, makers and planners of wearables for the international context to view ourselves as stakeholders in building the future opportunities of this space. Wearables today are where the Internet was during its first five mainstream years. Now is the perfect time to put our stake in the ground and create the future we wish to exist in.”

Proudly Sharing Failures Next to Successes

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On a recent trip to Morocco, we stopped by the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh. The mosque stands next to ruins of its previous iteration. The mosque was originally built with a slight mistake in the orientation for prayer. The decision was made to rebuild the new mosque, identical to the original but with the correct orientation, right next to the original, which has since deteriorated.

What I love about this story is that nobody tried to hide the mistake. Instead, the mistake is proudly displayed next to the success. It reminded me of the Celebrating Failure series I worked on in India, which asked social entrepreneurs to share their lessons from failure.

What if start-ups, businesses, individuals, shared their failures right next to their successes? The logo that wasn’t chosen next to the one everyone knows. The original app template that tested horribly with users accessible via the new one everyone loves. The original business plan that never worked shared along with the current successful one. The wrong answers on my economics homework compared side-by-side with the right answers. Why do we hide our failures, when we and others can learn from them? In the case of the mosque in Marrakesh, it remains a memorable visual lesson for all of us.

Two Killer Methods To Tell a Social Impact Story

Originally posted on CauseVox

The social impact story you tell in your CauseVox crowdfunding video is critical–both for success in raising the most funds, but also in the message you are sending about your cause.

An unfortunate trend in social impact storytelling is something known as “poverty porn.” You know it when you see it–the sad music, dehumanizing photos, simplification of issues, and an infomercial-style plea to “make a difference.” And you’ve seen it in campaigns like KONY 2012.

The problem with social impact storytelling, especially when it comes to photos and videos, is that even if your cause will really make a positive change, the way you tell your story impacts the perception of your organization, and it could portray the people you’re working with as victims, or your work as ill-fitting for the cause.

Luckily, below are two great examples of videos and tactics to tell your social impact story in a way that keeps human dignity and the integrity of your work and cause intact. (more…)

Journal Publication on Empathy in International Security

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The latest issue of The Journal of Culture, Language and International Security includes an article by me on Cultivating Empathy and Internal Awareness for International Security Actors. As Robert Jervis said, “The ability to see the world and oneself as others do is never easy and failures of empathy explain a number of foreign policy disasters.”

Check out the issue here (PDF) and learn more about the Journal and Institute for the Study of Culture and Language here.

The things I read that transformed my year

Photo Credit: The Guardian

I haven’t found much time to write, but I’ve luckily still found time to read. There were many things I read this year that transformed the way I think about the world and the way I wish to act in it. Here are some of my favorites:

Books: 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander

Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla by David Kilcullen

Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman

The Fundamentals of Design for Social Innovation by students of MFA Design for Social Innovation

Essays and Articles: 

Nature’s Metropolis – Jacobin

The Questions We Share – New York Times

Stop Trying to Change the World – Unreasonable.is

The Case Against Sharing – Medium

Is For-Profit the Future of Non-Profit? – The Atlantic

We Aren’t the World – Pacific Standard

Why Students Need More than Grit – MSNBC

Zosia Mamet on Why She Won’t Lean In, Thanks – Glamour

12 Things White People Can Do Now Because of Ferguson – Quartz

What’s Wrong with Sentimentality – The Atlantic

The Power of Exponential Community – Medium

In the Name of Love – Jacobin

Let’s Rethink Social Enterprise: It’s a Framework of Values

LJIZlzHgQ7WPSh5KVTCB_TypewriterThis blog post has been sitting in my drafts for almost two years now. I keep coming back to it every few months–questioning its relevance, comparing it to the rapid evolution of thinking about social enterprise that has taken place since I first wrote this, asking friends for feedback, and then deciding I’m not comfortable sharing it. While our thinking about what “social enterprise” means has certainly evolved over the past few years, there is still room to question its meaning and trajectory. More and more, I’ve been gravitating towards the notion of “organizational values” and away from entities and missions. I wrote a bit about that here, but I wanted to FINALLY share this post below, as a draft, open for feedback and improvement.

Readers: What do you think? What’s missing? Is this even relevant? Are organizations adopting these values, and would those that don’t traditionally think of themselves as social enterprises want to advertise themselves as such if they aligned with the framework below? Add in the comments or message me. I really want to hear what you think and have your help in shaping this concept further. 


“That’s a non-profit, it’s not a social enterprise.” People make this comment all too often. The definition of the term “social enterprise” widely varies, but what is often most misunderstood is that social enterprises as entities can be for-profit, non-profit, or a hybrid, and I argue in this piece, even governmental.

We should separate the legal formation of social enterprise from the values and goals of social enterprise. Let’s think of social enterprise as a set of values for an organization. In this sense, social enterprise is a framework of values for change, and we can encourage all organizations to adopt this framework.

What is the social enterprise framework of values?   (more…)

Nonprofit Fundraising Tips from CauseVox

Over on CauseVox, a crowdfunding platform for nonprofits and teams, I’ve been writing fundraising and marketing advice. Check out a few of the articles below, with more to come.

The Indispensable Guide to Nonprofit Donors (e-guide)

Two Killer Methods to Tell a Social Impact Story

How to Convert Donors Into Longtime Supporters

9 Nonprofit Experts to Follow on Twitter

5 Must-Know Tips In Selecting a Nonprofit CRM

4 Traits to Hire for in a Fundraising Professional 

Using Nonprofit Crowdfunding for General Operating Expenses