John Cary, the founding editor of PublicInterestDesign.org, launched the Global Public Interest Design 100 last week and LowDO was honored to be included among such amazing designers and advocates doing such important work world-wide. In March we presented at the Harvard African Development Conference on a panel with Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ and Chelina Odbert of Kounkuey Design Initiative. And next month we'll be presenting at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Capetown, South Africa.
The program for AIMS, like most conferences, includes networking prominently between events. All this got me thinking about the power of a network and of networking. (Yes, I've done that before.)
I've met John Cary in physical space only once. It was at Systems for Inclusion 7 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (SFI is an annual conference organized by Design Corps in partnership with architecture students.) He had chaired the planning committee for SFI6 the year before, and Ryan Bollom and I were about to organize SFI8 at Harvard GSD. A group of us took over a wing of a conference hotel and discussed design, agency and the future late into the night. Since then, he has gone on to do some pretty rockstar stuff.
At LowDO we've spent the last five years making and building kakraa kakraa (step-by-step) to help realize the change we want to see in the world. That approach derives in part from those late night debates, when we decided that -- unlike architecture's past -- the only way to be radical in the 21st century, is to build.
The HADC conference was a dynamic interdisciplinary event organized by students across all of Harvard's schools. And it was especially encouraging to see that the Graduate School of Design now has an AfricaGSD student group (which organized the architecture and urbanism panels).
But some of the most influential discussion came after the panel...over burritos with Heinrich Wolff.
Picture thanks to Caroline James
Sometimes people characterize networking as meeting people and making contacts. To a degree that is true, and may get the job done for MBA types. But in the world of design, increasingly networking seems to be perhaps more about linking the creative efforts and capacities of different people and groups into projects of co-creation. That means, in part, borrowing the wiki spirit from the web and applying it to the physical world.
And if you're curious, here's the etymology of the word "network":