Sunday, October 16, 2011

Up to Some Things

Every once in a while I like to write a little list of the stuff I'm involved with. Somehow it helps me to put it all down in one place so I can try to find a pattern or thread that runs through it all. Here we go: A STUDENT AGAIN. I'm enrolled in the Executive MBA program at RIT and I'm taking three courses at present: Leadership, Accounting, and Statistics. As you can imagine, I love my Leadership course. We have a lot of great readings and discussions about how to be more effective at work. I've been trying out the techniques as they are introduced in class and I find it really interesting. Accounting class has probably taken me the farthest from my comfort zone than I’ve ever been, but I'm okay with that. While the content is interesting on a conceptual level, like why certain firms make certain accounting decisions, I find it difficult to grasp the basics. So I've had to combine the text book with other sources and force myself to talk about accounting with experts. I think it's getting better. Statistics class is a challenge with all of those formulas, but with the help of my study group and minitab software, I'm doing all right. I look forward to integrating my design skills with our group project, in which we have to visualize some data.
STILL TEACHING. I'm in the third year of teaching Design-thinking and it continues to change and grow as we work with different clients. This quarter (which is over in four weeks!) we've got three clients: 1. Good Food Collective, 2. Mud Creek Farms/Small World Bakery and 3. FreshWise Farm-to-School Program. The students are doing relatively well. I've given them a lot of freedom to find design problems that interest them. They go out and tested their first prototypes this week and I'm sure they will learn a lot from that. Next quarter, however, I think we'll work with only one client so I can keep a closer eye on all the teams.
FOOD-SYSTEM INNOVATION. My interest in our local food system continues to grow. I've been focused on the producer side of things and will continue to follow that path as I think consumer demand for this stuff is reaching a tipping point, so much of a tipping point, in fact, that I worry about the farmers keeping up with the demand without running themselves ragged. From my field research so far, I'm finding that the farmers could use better farm tools, more opportunities for food processing, and more opportunities for sales. Additionally, I've met a few administrators at RIT who are very interested in this project, not only the business side of it, but in those aspects of it that promote food justice and that promote farming as an educational tool. So I plan to meet every few weeks with these administrators and I hope something comes from those meetings. If nothing else, we’ll exchange some knowledge.
TEDx ROCHESTER. I'll be a speaker at the third annual TEDx Rochester, which is an independently run TED event. The title of my talk is "Make Better Stuff: the rise of social business and distributed manufacturing." This title is also the title of a book I'm researching, so this event is a great opportunity for me to get some feedback on the topic. I'll post the transcript online once it's over, so you can chime in too. And I’ll post the video too, if it comes out okay (I'm a little nervous about it). SXSW. Andrea Hickerson and I submitted a proposal for SXSW Interactive (South by Southwest). I have NO idea if our proposal will be accepted, but if it is you'll be hearing more about that soon. If we do get in, I feel that my participation in SXSW combined with my TEDx talk and 2010 MakerFaire exhibit will comprise my geeked-out version of an EGOT.
EDITING AND PUBLISHING. I haven't been editing and publishing, well not much at least, but I did work with an editing and publishing course at Ithaca College last week, Professor Catherine Taylor’s course. In it, the students are writing book proposals and manifestos (so great) and, in teams, starting their own magazines. I worked with the teams on how to think of their magazines as tools for starting movements. Luckily I had a copy of MAKE with me, which is a fine example of a quarterly magazine that is just one piece of a very important maker movement. The workshop was a lot of fun and I look forward to tracking these new publications. What an empowering exercise, starting a magazine. Great.
LOCAL FOOD POTLUCKS. We had a local food potluck in the RIT Innovation Center this quarter and it went so well we've decided to host one every quarter. The next one will be on Jan. 17, 2012 from 12-2 p.m. Details are still being worked out, but we know that Nabil Nasr will be our guest speaker. Bringing a dish-to-pass will be more of an option this time and less of a requirement, and we're still thinking about how to add another "sharing-economy" activity such as a clothing swap or wisdom swap. Not sure yet.
FELTING. This one is purely for fun. I went to AmVets the other day and picked up as many wool sweaters as I could find. I've thrown them in the wash to shrink them and am now working on re-purposing them. So far I've made a hat that I really like and several neck wraps. In addition to these, I plan to make mittens, coffee cup cozies, and perhaps some toys. I don't know what it is about wool, but it's *my* material. It really speaks to me. Well that’s all for now. Still looking for that common thread. It’s probably made from wool. 
The photo above was taken on Comfort Road just outside of Ithaca, NY.

Monday, October 3, 2011

RIT Locavore Potluck

In September, the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) issued a call for "Locavore Potlucks" across New York State. Since my students and I are working with organic farmers this quarter, we rose to that challenge and hosted a local-food potluck in RIT Innovation Center on 9/29. We had a great turn out, about 30 people, and enjoyed some incredible dishes made from locally grown ingredients. We also had some great conversation with folks from the RIT community and the Rochester food economy about how best to support the people at the heart of the local food movement, our small-to-mid size organic farmers. Support them not only with consumer dollars, but with innovations like developing affordable tools for tillage and food processing and better channels for sales and distribution of their products.

The potluck turned out to be a great venue for knowledge sharing and it was also a lot of fun. We're planning to do it again on January 17 from 12-2 so save the date and keep your eye on the RIT events calendar for details. (Worried that you won't be able to find local food in January? Never fear, just sign up for a winter share from the Good Food Collective).

The photos above were taken by one of my very talented students, Blayke Morrow. To see more of her work, go to this link: