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DEED: A Case Study for Meaningful and Socially-Engaged Design Education

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The past decade has seen an increase in design curricula focused on social and economic development such as designMatters at Art Center and University of Florida’s Design 4 Development. Since 2007 Parsons The New School for Design has been engaged in DEED: Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Design, a multi-disciplinary university-wide program that brings together students and faculty of design, management, and development. In DEED, teams of students are prepared on campus for international fieldwork during which they work with artisans in emerging economies and local professional designers to support the artisans in establishing sustainable income-generating opportunities through craft-based services or products. This paper provides an overview and discussion of the beforementioned programs and focuses on DEED’s successes and failures as a case for social collaborative projects. It specifically looks at the student experience in this kind of work and, through surveys and conversations with DEED students and alumni, discusses the long-term educational value of such collaborative and social projects. This paper argues that institutions must offer these types of experiences to better prepare their students to position design, not with products as the end goal, but as a process for innovation, collaboration, and social change.
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Cumulus Paris 2011
Conference
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DEED: A Case Study for Meaningful and Socially-
Engaged Design Education
Lawson, Cynthia
Assistant Professor of Integrated Design, School of Design Strategies, Parsons The New School
for Design (United States of America)
LawsonC@newschool.edu
Abstract
The past decade has seen an increase in design curricula focused on social and economic
development such as designMatters at Art Centeri and University of Florida’s Design 4
Developmentii. Since 2007 Parsons The New School for Designiii has been engaged in DEED:
Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Designiv, a multi-disciplinary
university-wide program that brings together students and faculty of design, management, and
development. In DEED, teams of students are prepared on campus for international fieldwork
during which they work with artisans in emerging economies and local professional designers to
support the artisans in establishing sustainable income-generating opportunities through craft-
based services or products.
This paper provides an overview and discussion of the beforementioned programs and
focuses on DEED’s successes and failures as a case for social collaborative projects. It
specifically looks at the student experience in this kind of work and, through surveys and
conversations with DEED students and alumni, discusses the long-term educational value of
such collaborative and social projects. This paper argues that institutions must offer these types
of experiences to better prepare their students to position design, not with products as the end-
goal, but as a process for innovation, collaboration, and social change.
Context
The Design for the Other 90% exhibition website quotes Paul Polak from International
Development Enterprises stating that “Of the world’s total population of 6.5 billion…90%, have
little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted.”v This
statistic offers a responsibility and an opportunity for educational institutions to specifically
engage students in collaborations that will ameliorate this statistic. There has been much
engagement from the disciplines in the Social Sciences, particularly around social and economic
development, but art and design institutions have not, until very recently, started to understand
the positive impact design can have in underserved communities. Case studies, such as those
documented by UNESCO, have also demonstrated that design can play “an important role in
encouraging environmentally sustainable and economically viable models…of marginalized
groups.”vi
Universities, and in particular design schools, have taken on the challenge presented by this
larger global context. Motivations range from academic research, to actually promoting social
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change through design, to wanting to create exciting learning opportunities for university
students. What is clear is that in all cases, the intentions are always good, and as long as the
programs are structured correctly, both the university and the community partners benefit.
Although not discussed in depth in this paper, the trend of social entrepreneurship across
campuses is also important for the context of this article. Broadly stated, this field connects
business practices such as entrepreneurship with a priority around social change. Business
schools across the world are offering this approach to profit-making, with organizations such as
AshokaUvii offering infrastructures, exchanges, and conferences to strengthen knowledge and
relationshsips across campuses.
Structure
Research amongst design universities in the United States surfaces three principal models
for how design programs are connecting with the mission of promoting social change. First, and
the most common, is faculty members who take this goal as a primary objective in their individual
courses. Raul Cabra, an adjunct faculty at California College of the Arts, leads one such course.
In his case, the “Interdisciplinary Studio: Oaxaca, Mexico” is “three weeks of experimental work,
bringing together artists, designers, and artisans in the city of Oaxaca. The goal of the class is to
investigate and define new methodologies for the use of design, art, and creativity as tools for
social change and cultural engagement.”viii From documentation found online it seems that the
focus of this course is for students to learn from artisan craftspeople, and discover how to
incorporate centuries-old techniques into their own art and design practices. A faculty member
familiar with the project confirmed that, in addition to this exchange, students are paired with
artisans, to develop products that neither party would have developed in isolation. These third
line of products, are therefore result of a true collaboration between design students and artisans,
who each end up producing work that moves their practice into a third, and hybrid space.
University of Florida’s Design 4 Development (d4d) is a course started by faculty member
Maria Rogal, and is now positioned as a larger initiative. Housed in the College of Fine Arts’
Graphic Design program, d4d has been offered as a course, that partners with a community of
artisans in Mexico, with the goal of designing “creative, innovative, and sustainable solutions for
social, cultural, economic, and environmental problems.”ix Student teams work more in a design
consultancy capacity to create brand identities for entrepreneurial local activities in Mexico.
Art Center College of Design’s Designmatters (Dm)x is uniquely structured since it functions
both as a Department and a college-wide curriculum and has at least one dedicated staff person,
Director Maria Amatullo. Dm is self-described as “an educational magnet and research division”
overseeing projects as well as an undergraduate concentration. The center also functions as the
central body for “social impact educational projects led by students, faculty and alumni.” And
finally, it focuses externally on building partnerships that will take full advantage of “art and
design education as a tool for positive change in the world.” Their online portfolio features over
40 projects in the areas of global healthcare, public policy, social entrepreneurship, and
sustainable human development. The advantage of having such an initiative centralized as a
Department, is their potential ability to engage students and faculty from a broader base, than if
it’s one faculty member (or a small group of faculty) supporting this kind of work as part of their
own research portfolio.
The New School (TNS) and Parsons The New School for Design offers yet another model
with their cross-university research project Development through Empowerment,
Entrepreneurship, and Design (DEED), which this article’s author directs. DEED was founded in
2007 with a single donation from American philanthropist Sheila C. Johnson to both Parsons and
CARE, an international humanitarian organization. A multi-disciplinary group of faculty from
across Parsons, the graduate program in International Affairs (GPIA) and Milano The New
School for Management and Urban Policy (Milano) were brought together to form DEED’s initial
activities (at the time, known as “The CARE Project” because of the partnership and “The
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Guatemala Project” because of the location in which the project launched.) These three areas of
the university continue to be represented in DEED, which has now taken the form of a research
lab, centralized through Parsons’ School of Design Strategies (SDS). DEED has a very specific
mission and structure, different from the beforementioned models. The objectives of the project
are twofold. Multi-disciplinary teams of students and faculty work with groups of artisans and
professional designers in emerging economies to support artisans in building sustainable craft-
based income-generating opportunities. The goal is to promote sustainable development through
empowerment, entrepreneurship, and design via small-scale collaborations with communities in
need. The second goal is to create diverse immersive hands-on ‘real world’ learning opportunities
for students and faculty across TNS, and to position students as teachers, as “experts” and as
agents of change.
In terms of structure, DEED is a research lab that offers on-campus courses, runs
international fieldwork experiences for students and faculty, and whose faculty publish and speak
about design, craft, education, and development to academic audiences. The full experience for
a student is to take the pre-requisite course, which will be discussed in detail later in this article,
followed by an international fieldwork experience. During that time abroad, teams of students
lead the on-the-ground activities, implementing participatory methodologies learned in the pre-
requisite course, to engage groups of artisans in learning and prototyping in the areas of design,
business, marketing, and technology. What activities are structured and in what areas depends
on the artisans’ skills, interests, and needs. Figure 1 depicts the workshop series offered in
summer 2008 to Ajkem’á Loyá (AL), an artisan association in San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala
and with whom we still work, as well as the workshops AL offered to students and faculty (in their
indigenous craft skills and techniques.)
Fig. 1: DEED Workshops Schedule, Guatemala June 2008
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This workshop schedule was drafted based on AL’s stated interests to establish themselves
as an artisan cooperative and export their products to the United States, and on the need the
faculty team had identified in providing a variety of skills for AL to be able to run as a sustainable
small-business in the long term. To contrast this schedule, in summer 2010, with Ixoki A’J ru xel
Quiem, another women’s artisan group with whom DEED collaborates, the university team was
much more focused on supporting their existing efforts to attract tourists from nearby Antigua
(Guatemala) to their village of Santiago Zamora. Students redesigned and translated a flyer they
already had as well as gave them feedback and pointers on the activities for the tourists once
they were in their community. How long students and faculty are on-site has been determined
mainly by funding and secondly by faculty availability and interests. DEED’s shortest trip was five
work days, in spring 2011, and the longest was two months, in summer 2009. What has been
common to each experience are the rules of engagement faculty and students agree upon when
traveling abroad. These rules are
1. No monetary exchange. Once someone on the DEED team purchases an artisan
product, the team is no longer a partner, but a tourist and a buyer – therefore
compromising the potential for true collaboration.
2. Do not make any promises. There have been issues with students growing attached
to the artisan collaborators and not following through with promises to send back
money or godparent one of the children.
3. No gossip. This rule has significantly improved group dynamics. It is not allowed to
talk about anyone if they are not present, and if there are issues to address, they are
discussed in the daily debriefing session.
4. Always keep in mind why you are here. This is an encouragement for students to
know they are constantly learning things about the culture which they can leverage
when working on the project. They are asked to use DEED's framework as a lens to
absorb everything they’re observing.
5. Be mindful and respectful of people's reaction when taking pictures, and refrain from
using cameras in the first meeting with the community since it might affect group
dynamics. This is an important rule so as to not expand the gap between “us” and
“them” and encourage students and faculty to not observe “the other” but to also be
observed.
Fig. 2: Students meeting members of Ajkem’á Loyá, Guatemala summer 2008
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What is common to all three approaches is the presence of an external partner (ranging from
large international organizations to small groups of local communities) with whom students and
faculty work. All modes are inherently social, but what seems to vary is how collaborative each
approach may be. Whereas the projects in d4d, for example, position the partner more as “client,”
in DEED, the approach is fully collaborative to the point where students are designing very little
with communities, and instead are facilitators for the partners to become designers.
Preparation for Fieldworkxi
Since most social design experiences happen during a session, and as a course, it seems
that few, if any, require students to prepare beforehand. In a recent Civic Engagement Workshop
at TNS (Workshop on Civic Engagement and its Impact at The New School, April 8, 2011), an
interesting discussion took place around this issue of preparation. While some university
colleagues who teach graduate civically-engaged courses stated relying on their students coming
to the course with previous experience (such as Peace Corps in the case of many Milano
students at TNS), most had not considered what such a preparation course would be.
From its beginning, DEED has had a prerequisite course, Designing Collaborative
Development (DCD), offered each spring, on campus, and a requirement for students interested
in the international fieldwork experiences (although the fieldwork is not required for students in
the course). DCD is a course that began in spring 2008 when the university received the initial
donation that launched DEED. At the time, the course was proposed as a way to prepare
students for the intensive summer fieldwork in Guatemala and therefore was a semester-long
study of the artisan group with whom the team would be collaborating (Ajkem’á Loy’á, a Mayan
weavers association in the town of San Lucas Tolimán) as well as an introduction to the cultural
and political context of the country. The author of this paper has, since 2008, worked on the
course (as curriculum co-developer and co-teacher with Fabiola Berdiel from TNS’s graduate
program in International Affairs) to expand it from a summer fieldwork pre requisite into a robust
seminar/studio elective. This multidisciplinary course brings together students from programs in
international affairs, management, and design (in spring 2011 the course had three
undergraduate BFA Integrated Design students, one undergraduate BBA design and
management student, two graduate MFA Trandisciplinary Design students, three graduate MA
Design History and Theory students, one graduate AAS Interior Design student, two graduate MA
Urban Policy students, and seven graduate MA International Affairs students) under the premise
that there is not a single expert but different knowledges that complement each other and can be
exchanged through collaborations.
Preparation for experiences such as DEED focus on particular practitioner skills, as well as
students preparing for unexpected challenges, to be resourceful and reflective of their practice,
and responsive to the user and the context. The classroom in DCD, therefore, becomes a
simulation space for the real world, with students engaged in an environment that is in constant
transformation. The course includes practical scenarios in which faculty and students role play
what could be expected on the ground. The uncertainty serves as a catalyst to train students to
find opportunities in challenging situations, to think on their feet and leverage their resources, to
expand their collection of practical knowledge, and in the process, develop their confidence and
empower them to become agents of change.
DCD prepares students to be reflective practitioners. Donald Schon's notions of “reflection-
in-action” and “reflection-on-action” discussed in The Reflective Practitioner were influential when
designing the pedagogical methodology of the course and the international program. In DCD
students are trained to 'think on their feet’, which is an invaluable skill when working in developing
countries, particularly with communities in need because their situation is ever-changing. As
mentioned previously, the simulations and prototype phase of the course prepare students to
improvise in unpredictable situations by constantly building new understandings. As Schön
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describes it, “The practitioner allows himself to experience surprise, puzzlement, or confusion in a
situation which he finds uncertain or unique. He reflects on the phenomenon before him, and on
the prior understandings which have been implicit in his behaviour. He carries out an experiment
which serves to generate both a new understanding of the phenomenon and a change in the
situation.xii Through refection-in-action and reflection-on-action, students, community
collaborators, and educators are constantly connecting to their experiences and constructing new
frames of reference to inform their actions in a situation that is constantly changing.
Fig. 3: Student-led activity, Designing Collaborative Development course, Spring 2011
The pedagogical methodology of the course is inspired by two key philosophers in informal
and experiential education, Paulo Freire and John Dewey. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed Paulo
Freire proposes a philosophy of education based on dialogical relationships between learners
and educators, which lead to a process of empowerment and awareness-raising. All participants
are engaged and responsible for constructing knowledge together. “Through dialogue, the
teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges:
teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches,
but one who is him/herself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught
also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.”xiii
Complementary to Freire's dialectic and dialogical philosophy of education, John Dewey's
Democracy and Education emphasizes the importance of cultivating democratic communities
through education, communication and shared goals.xiv Dewey viewed communication and
common understanding as the foundation for a democratic society and “education in its broadest
sense, [as] the means of [the] social continuity of life”xv . Therefore, if education is the means to
achieving and/or maintaining society’s values and aspirations, it is though education that a new
society and a new type of citizen can be created. Based on this premise, Dewey focused on
developing educational opportunities, which fostered students' civic engagement. He believed
that students needed to be engaged and challenged by real-life situations.xvi
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It was Dewey’s belief that exposing students to real life situations facilitates the storage and
carriage of practical experiences into the future. When learning by doing, the past connects with
the present in order to create an experience that is meaningful and memorable. Students use the
past as their framework of reference for processing the new experience, maintaining continuity
while constructing a palimpsest of practical knowledge.
DCD offers students the opportunity to gain an understanding of key concepts and skills
essential to become global consultants for small business enterprises focusing on social
innovation, empowerment, and community development through design. Students are prepared
to work with marginalized populations (women, indigenous groups, rural and urban communities)
by developing sustainable business models through needs-based capacity building, product and
project design and development, and by establishing networks of collaboration.
Learning in a multidisciplinary classroom of graduate and undergraduate students, poses the
challenge of creating an equal field of questions, skills, and knowledge to which all participants
(students, faculty, and community collaborators) can contribute and from which all can learn.
During the first half of the semester students examine and practice skills in the areas of
sustainable development, social entrepreneurship, microcredit and microfinance, business,
marketing, media communication and documentation, design of products as well as community
development models, and workshop facilitation in informal settings. Case studies of marginalized
groups exploring the possibilities of using market-based approaches involving innovative design
and media as tools for development are also studied in the early part of the semester.
There are three principal course deliverables: a paper or publication, a prototype, and a
workshop plan. The paper (for students following the course as a seminar) asks students to
individually design a project plan based on either an imaginary or an existing project that they
want to improve. In either case, the project should promote social and/or economic development.
The outline of the paper is given and includes 1. Contextual narrative, 2. Goals and objectives, 3.
Framework for how design, sustainability, collaboration and development are addressed in the
project, 4. Design of needs assessment, 5. Monitoring and evaluation plan, 6. Curriculum:
Content and methods of delivery, 7. Role of media in the project, 8. Marketing plan, and 9.
Fundraising strategy. The publication (for students taking the course as a studio) is intended to
be a workbook that can actively engage a specific audience (children, development practitioners,
designers, etc.) with the concepts covered in the course (see Figure 4). This is a creative way for
our students to synthesize the various topics covered into one useful, and designed, format.
Fig. 4: “Publication” by Sven Augusteyns, design student, DCD course, Spring 2011
In week 11 (out of a total of 15) students engage in prototyping a model in which they put into
practice everything they have learned - testing and enacting the thoughts, assumptions, and
ideas that have been generated in the first half of the semester. The prototype phase allows
students to develop a wide range of ideas and considerations (see Figure 5) to pull from when
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working with the artisan or community groups in the international program. It has also proven
useful to introduce the concept of prototyping to non-designers as a way to move away from the
theory and be able to test ideas before one is in collaboration with a community. The notion of
prototyping is introduced as an iterative methodology and one that continues throughout the
collaboration with the community (in the case of DEED, it continues during international
fieldwork.)
Fig. 5: From prototype by S. Goli, S. Katz, M. Kobori, J. Wallace, A. Whipple, DCD course,
Spring 2011
Through multi-disciplinary learning the course promotes problem solving and problem setting
through the lens of a wide variety of points of view and differing levels of experience and
education. A diverse student body engages with each other in developing a common language of
understanding. Social sciences, management, and design frameworks are explored side by side,
resulting in innovative multidisciplinary approaches to theory and practice, project and product
design, needs assessment and human-centered design, program and curriculum development,
project implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of processes, products, and services. Of
particular interest is how students, through interdisciplinary on-campus courses followed by
intensive international fieldwork experiences learn skills that would never be possible in a
traditional classroom setting, and how interdisciplinary groups of students can holistically
approach problem-solving.xvii
An important goal of the course is to empower students to activate their knowledges in the
field as teachers, as well as activating the knowledges of the communities they collaborate with
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by functioning as facilitators. The course ends with students become the educators, and
developing a curriculum for a community engagement. They prepare workshops and activities to
be taught to the community for whom they were prototyping. In the case of students who go on to
participate in the DEED fieldwork, they facilitate the workshops in the classroom in New York
prior to teaching them to the artisan communities. This process allows students to test out their
ideas, challenge their assumptions, and reflect on their practice in order to improve it. Informal
education, in this instance, is also used as a vehicle to translate proposed prototypes to
collaborations (as a way to avoid imposing ideas and instead making sure they surface from the
needs and interests of the community.)
Student Learning
Student learning in DEED is formally evaluated at two points – at the end of the DCD course,
and at the end of the student’s fieldwork experience. Recently, and for this article, DEED spring
2011 participants, as well as alumni, have additionally been asked to respond to an online
anonymous survey. With the participants in the spring 2011 fieldwork experience in Colombia,
the survey’s focus was to understand what students are learning in these international immersive
experiences, and how prepared they felt during the trip. Of the seven students who traveled, six
responded to the survey. Of these, two are undergraduate design students and four are graduate
in either the international affairs or urban policy MA degrees. The following table summarizes
some of the survey’s results. Numeric answers in both surveys are providing an average of the
responses, which were 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest.
Overall trip experience
How would you rate your overall experience in
the trip?
4.83
How would you rate your overall learning
experience in the trip?
4.5
How would you rate your experience working
as a team?
4.5
Additional comments:
“Very useful and knowledgeable experience.
Definitely learn[ed] a lot of about team work
outside of the classroom.”
What did you learn during the trip? (Sample responses)
“I learned what questions to ask, what to look out for, to have a completely open mind, how to
process and evaluate, and how to collaborate as a team.
“My notions of a developing country are inaccurate, and in many ways, I felt Colombia was more
advanced than parts of the United State[s], especially in regards to sustainable behavior.”
Learning
How well did the Designing Collaborative
Development course prepare you for the trip?
3.67
Additional comments:
“The group would not have been able to
function collectively had we not all been on the
same page. We were to approach the trip
critically based on readings and previous
course work. With that being said, I do believe
that the individuals who chose to attend the trip
have had some previous experience or interest
in humanitarian work.”
How could the course have better prepared you? (Sample responses)
“There's no way it could have better prepared me. As long as you pay attention during class time,
read the class material, and listen to the instructors, that's as prepared as you're going to get.”
“I would have liked more background on the socio-political background of Colombia, and would
have liked to have taken an "On-the-Go" Spanish course.”
Recommend / Repeat
How likely are you to recommend a DEED-
related trip to a fellow student?
4.83
How likely are you to want to travel on a DEED-
related trip again?
4.5
Additional comments:
“I've already told people about the DCD class,
and how it's my favorite class on campus. It's
great to have such a diverse mix of students
coming from grad and undergrad programs,
and all different schools in New School.”
Do you think an international fieldwork trip such as the one you attended should be mandatory for
students at The New School?
Yes
50%
Maybe
33.3%
No
16.7%
Additional comments:
“I would not like to participate with students
who were ‘made’ to go. It could ruin the
experience for the students who felt a sincere
connection to the project and wanted to attend.
Although, I do think that a lot of students,
especially young designers from Parsons with
no real world experience, could really benefit
from learning about the possibility of making
money while doing good. Pretty soon it will not
be an option for designers to think in small
terms due to the fact that any man-made
change affects the world on a global scale. It is
ability to evaluate one's impact that will make a
designer valuable in the future.
Do you think that what you learned during the trip can be learned on campus?
Yes
0%
Maybe
0%
No
100%
Additional comments:
“You learn from experience, and you can't be
told what an experience is like, because it is
different for everyone. I learned more in that 1
week trip to Colombia, than I could have in 5
weeks of another course. Nothing compares to
first hand experience.”
“In the field one learns not only how to deal
with unexpected situations, but more
importantly what to do when something doesn't
go as planned.”
“I think a lot of what we as students learn from
trips like these is how to interact with people
from different countries and backgrounds. That
can only be learned through practice.
Do you have any suggestions on how the DEED project can better support students?
(Sample responses)
“I don't know if this is already in place, but it would be wonderful if students could participate and
continue to be an active part of DEED after they graduate from the New School.
“Funding.”
“Give better background information about the project”
Do you have any suggestions on how to better support international fieldwork for students?
(Sample responses)
“GIve it more press. A lot of students may not know what international fieldwork is all about, so
more lectures given on the topic, as well as more classes being offered.”
“Institutional support, both financial and programmatic. Educators at TNS are leading
independent initiatives and should be recognized and supported for their efforts.”
“Small groups are good.”
The survey sheds light on interesting opportunities and challenges for DEED and the course
DCD. Students clearly see the importance of these experiences in higher education, and foresee
the shift that could occur once valuable experiences are made mandatory. There is also
agreement on the value of fieldwork opportunities since all respondents stated that what they
learned during the trip cannot be learned on campus. On the DCD course there is clear tension
between running it as an elective course for any student interested in participatory development
versus really using it to prepare students for one specific fieldwork experience, since some of the
suggestions indicate including country-specific material in the course. To summarize suggestions
for DEED and international fieldwork, first, it’s to receive much more information beforehand –
both as press on campus as well as preparatory materials. Second, funding was emphasized as
a key hinderance for more student participation. Finally, there were interesting comments about
the team, celebrating a small team size when traveling internationally. The faculty who traveled in
spring 2011 with DEED agree with this last point, having observed that seven students was an
ideal size to encourage both individual roles as well as team work.
With the alumni (students who have participated in any of the previous international fieldwork
programs, and therefore also enrolled in DCD), the survey seeks to understand what the value of
social collaborative projects, like DEED, are in the larger spectrum of higher education, and what
impact, if any, it has in future life experiences. Out of the forty students contacted, eleven had
responded to the survey in mid May 2011. Of these, six had traveled with DEED in summer 2008
(most for one month), two in summer 2009 (one for two months and the other for just one) and
three in summer 2010 (for ten days).
What comes to mind when you think back on your DEED fieldwork experience?
(Sample responses)
“One of the most gratifying hands on educational and training experiences in my educational
career”
“The idea of helping a community through our skill sets and knowledge was the most rewarding
part of the fieldwork and to hopefully see them carry it forward.”
Learning
In comparison to other learning experiences at
The New School, how does the DEED
fieldwork experience rank?
4.91
In comparison to other learning experiences at
The New School, how does the Designing
Collaborative Development class rank?
4.18
How much have you used lessons learned
during the DEED fieldwork experience, in your
life?
4.27
How much have you used lessons learned
during the Designing Collaborative
Development course, in your life?
3.36
Please describe which lessons learning during the DEED fieldwork experience you have used, in
your life: (Sample responses)
“I started a new company with Peruvian Artisans.”
“I also now have a very real understanding and dedication to the plight of women in developing
countries where access to education beyond grade school is limited.”
“How to adapt to your surroundings. Importance of challenging your perceptions and
preconceived notions. Benefits that can be achieved from positive and supportive teamwork.”
Please describe which lessons learning during the Designing Collaborative Development course
you have used, in your life: (Sample responses)
“There is great benefit to rigorous study of both development and design before you have
interaction in a collaborative project. It's a necessary testing ground for ideas and projects which
may or may not execute well in the field and important to examine assumptions and expectations
which will affect the project. From the class I developed a further interest and commitment to
sustainable design practices which I continue to use in my design work today.”
“The curricula had too much theory and designers where in the same classes as marketing
people” pointing clearly to the unsucessful cross-disciplinary nature of the classroom for that
particular student.
Do you think experiences like the DEED international fieldwork should be mandatory for
university students?
Yes
36.4%
Maybe
63.6%
No
0%
Additional comments:
“Study in the field is truly a transformative
experience not matched by classroom learning.
Yet, I think students need to be incredibly
dedicated and open-minded in the process of
learning in the environment of international
fieldwork.”
Do you think an international fieldwork trip such as the one you attended should be mandatory for
students at The New School?
Yes
45.5%
Maybe
36.3%
No
18.2%
Additional comments:
“I would not like to participate with students
who were "made" to go. It could ruin the
experience for the students who felt a sincere
connection to the project and wanted to attend.
Although, I do think that a lot of students,
especially young designers from Parsons with
no real world experience, could really benefit
from learning about the possibility of making
money while doing good. Pretty soon it will not
be an option for designers to think in small
terms due to the fact that any man-made
change affects the world on a global scale. It is
ability to evaluate one's impact that will make a
designer valuable in the future.
Do you think courses like Designing Collaborative Development should be mandatory for
university students?
Yes
36.4%
Maybe
36.4%
No
27.2%
Additional comments:
“A course like Designing Collaborative
Development is extremely necessary in the
design curriculum of the future.”
“In my opinion the course did not demand
enough of the students nor did it prepare us for
the real life challenges and limited impact we
could possibly have in only a months time in
the field.”
Have you worked on any projects or participated in any experiences that were inspired by your
work in DEED or Designing Collaborative Development?
Yes
54.5%
Maybe
9.1%
No
36.4%
Additional comments:
“Since finishing my education with the New
School i have launched a Fair Trade fashion
business based in NY”
“I draw on my experience working with the
women in Guatemala all on the time now that
I'm doing development work in Peace Corps
“My experiences have also translated to every
class, and work experience I have had since,
altering how I approach the world, its problems,
and potential solutions.”
Generally, alumni remember DEED as an extremely positive experience, with the majority
feeling that it ranks highest in their learning experiences at TNS. As with the students, the alumni
also express learning in a variety of areas – from the specific fields with which DEED engages
(design, craft, development) to more general lessons as lifelong learners (empathy and
sustainability.) Furthermore, it is an added bonus to learn that over half of the alumni polled
indicate working on projects or experiences inspired by either the course or fieldwork experience.
When DEED was launched, the faculty certainly considered the long-term impact the work would
have on communities but had not explicitly thought of it in terms of students’ life experiences.
Comments on the course are less consistent. While some speak quite eloquently of its value in
their education, others were explicitly critical of its shortcomings.
Conclusions
In the surveys, design students and alumni celebrate the DEED fieldwork experience for its
collaborative as well as social aspects. It is thrilling to read how transformative the experience is
for thems as practitioners and as human beings. However, a course that will prepare students for
such experiences is still in question. DCD is a popular course on campus that fills up very quickly,
yet, when paired with the fieldwork in evaluation, it is not precisely preparing students for
experiences such as DEED’s international fieldwork opportunities. This may point to the fact that,
as many alumni state in the survey, the fieldwork does bring up too many unexpected challenges
for students which cannot be thoroughly covered nor planned for. As one student stated,
“international fieldwork provides students with experiences that cannot be replicated, and
challenges them in ways that go beyond the classroom's reach.”
It is clear, not just from the surveys, but also from the work coming out of DEED and similar
projects, that educational institutions must offer these types of experiences to better prepare their
students as designers in a world that is more globalized and with urgent needs. Furthermore, it is
important that students experience real-world scenarios (in which they will face major challenges
and through which they understand the very direct impact their work can have), while still within
the safe umbrella of academia. More art and design schools should consider how they can also
engage their students in social and collaborative work. This article suggests four ways of creating
such learning opportunities, and perhaps there are more models to explore and even invent. In
the same way that social entrepreneurship promotes profit and social good, academic
institutions, should perhaps be committed to a two-purpose goal: education and social good.
i Art Center College of Design (n.d.). Designmatters. Retrieved from http://www.designmattersatartcenter.org/
ii University of Florida (n.d.). Design 4 Development. Retrieved from http://designshares.com/share/
iii The New School (n.d.). Parsons The New School for Design. Retrieved from http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/
iv The New School (n.d.). DEED: Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Design. Retrieved from
http://deed.parsons.edu
v Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (n.d.). Design for the Other 90%. Retrieved from
http://other90.cooperhewitt.org/
vi Craft Revival Trust, Artesanías de Colombia S.A., UNESCO. 2005. Designers Meet Artisans: A Practical Guide.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
vii Ashoka (2010). AshokaU. Retrieved from http://ashokau.org/ s
viii California College of the Arts (n.d.). Summer Abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico. Retrieved from
http://www.cca.edu/academics/abroad/oaxaca
ix University of Florida (n.d.). Design 4 Development. Retrieved from http://designshares.com/share/
x Art Center College of Design (n.d.). Designmatters. Retrieved from http://www.designmattersatartcenter.org/
xi This section was co-authored with Fabiola Berdiel in “Designing Collaborative Development: Lessons from
interdisciplinary teaching and learning,” presented at the virtual conference Global Interaction in Design (GLIDE ’10) in
October 2010
xii Schön, Donald. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner. How professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith.
xiii Freire, Paulo. 2005. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
xiv Dewey, J. 1916. Democracy and Education. An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: Free Press
(1966 edition).
xv Ibid, p.5
xvi Ibid, chapter 25
xvii Lawson, Cynthia. 2010. “The New School Collaborates: Organization and Communication in Immersive International
Field Programs with Artisan Communities.” Visible Language 44(2): 239-265.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Under the umbrella terms of "humanitarian design," "social design" and "social responsibility," educational institutions and specifically design programs are more and more searching for opportunities to engage their students in critical and hands-on learning via collaborations between students, faculty, communities in need and non-profit organizations. Such active learning is rich and meaningful for all parties involved, but the challenges are rarely discussed and yet compromise the collaborations' sustainability and potential for activating local change and development. This article uses the first two years of "The New School Collaborates," (TNSC) an ongoing project between The New School's divisions of Parsons (design), Milano (non-profit management and urban development) and General Studies (international affairs) in New York, several external partners and groups of Mayan artisan women in Guatemala, as the central case study for the abovementioned type of work. Of particular interest is the central role that organization and communication play in immersive international field programs. This article argues that the key to a successful collaborative process includes a clear and transparent partnership upfront, with a clear understanding of the roles and opportunities for each 2lt{) /visible language ltlt.2 organization involved and a communication infrastructure that is sensitive to participants' skills and resources. The article refers to, and includes, documentation from specific experiences from two years of courses on campus as well as in Guatemala and the overall process and evaluation of this particular case. Of particular interest is a reflection on challenges faced and how an active and thoughtful analysis of them can lead to a more appropriate, and in the long-term more sustainable structure for this type of work.
New School (n.d.). DEED: Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Design
  • S A Artesanías De Colombia
  • Unesco
i Art Center College of Design (n.d.). Designmatters. Retrieved from http://www.designmattersatartcenter.org/ ii University of Florida (n.d.). Design 4 Development. Retrieved from http://designshares.com/share/ iii The New School (n.d.). Parsons The New School for Design. Retrieved from http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/ iv The New School (n.d.). DEED: Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Design. Retrieved from http://deed.parsons.edu v Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (n.d.). Design for the Other 90%. Retrieved from http://other90.cooperhewitt.org/ vi Craft Revival Trust, Artesanías de Colombia S.A., UNESCO. 2005. Designers Meet Artisans: A Practical Guide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. vii Ashoka (2010). AshokaU. Retrieved from http://ashokau.org/ s viii California College of the Arts (n.d.). Summer Abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico. Retrieved from http://www.cca.edu/academics/abroad/oaxaca ix University of Florida (n.d.). Design 4 Development. Retrieved from http://designshares.com/share/ x Art Center College of Design (n.d.). Designmatters. Retrieved from http://www.designmattersatartcenter.org/ xi This section was co-authored with Fabiola Berdiel in "Designing Collaborative Development: Lessons from interdisciplinary teaching and learning," presented at the virtual conference Global Interaction in Design (GLIDE '10) in October 2010
The Reflective Practitioner. How professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith. xiii Freire, Paulo. 2005. Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  • Donald Xii Schön
xii Schön, Donald. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner. How professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith. xiii Freire, Paulo. 2005. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.