It started with a single question that delved into the mechanics of scaling empathy, and expanded into an extensive research journey. As a tech startup founder and an innovation design strategist, I transitioned into an exploration of how we might overcome cultural, political, and economic obstacles to more effectively share experiences, information, and resources across silos. Here are a few highlights.
How do we radically change the way we engage with each other and the world around us to create a global network of sustainable empathy?
Xuntora Labs was dedicated to the discovery phase of empathy-related research and community-facing solutions that activate empathy. This period of intentional seeking introduced me to amazing people who taught me how to ask better questions, exciting new concepts that challenged what I thought I knew, and incredible communities that modeled how to exist in different ways. These are some projects.
Wisdom Hackers brought together fifteen leading young thinkers (entrepreneurs, literary talents, leading artists, culture hackers) from across art, design, technology, and innovation to deeply explore a burning question that touched on themes of human agency and ancient wisdom applied to modern contexts.
Over an 8-week period, began process of initial reflections around what it might mean to create self-sustaining empathy feedback loops.
Synthesized findings into 5000 word essay that was published as a compilation – Hacking Wisdom – by UK-based Pigeonhole Publishing (released Nov 2014).
Number 68 Project // DC
Number 68 Project united nationally-recognized writers, artists, journalists, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and policy makers with some of Washington DC’s top fine dining chefs and mixologists for a 9-week integrated cultural, culinary, and conversational experience that promoted meaningful and productive dialogue around the dinner table.
Originating in London, I was brought on as a Co-Founder and Cultural Director for DC. I overhauled prior efforts with new concept development, mission, experience design, public-facing communications, and event facilitation, as well as tapping into my networks across DC, NYC, and LA for speakers, guests, and partners.
“Functioning within the normal context of the ‘public’ dinner party trend and combining the notion of the traditional dinner party, No. 68 playfully interlaces the two to reveal that classic ideas can still remain innovative.” – Kat Popiel, PSFK (Apr 12, 2011)
7 sold out evenings with almost 300 participants, raising $70,000 in ticket sales and sponsorships.
Speakers included Eric Weiner, Martha Raddatz, Robert Egger, Nick Galifianakis, and Kokayi.
Featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, and other local tv, radio, digital and print media.
TABLETRIBES was a social platform designed to build micro-communities for spontaneous conversation-based experiences around media content.
To build a technology-based solution that would augment how people authentically engage and build trust in the real world, I first organized 100+ in-person conversation opportunities that brought together 1000+ people across different formats and group sizes to deconstruct our most fundamental communication tool: the face-to-face conversation.
The results – combined with best practices in cross-cultural facilitation, evidence-based conversation design methods, and a foundation of empathy feedback loops – helped to build frameworks for consistency around elements like network diversity, productive group dynamics, collaboration potential, and most importantly, event/topic/partner relevance.
TABLETRIBES can coordinate conversations for focused engagement around current events and issues.
Radius Project centered around discussions from an art exhibit responding to the urgency of a newly emerging Black Lives Matter movement. TABLETRIBES collaborated with the curators to extend the reach of these powerful conversations by bringing together artists, experts, and community leaders across silos – starting in DC, and eventually including SF, NYC, and Philadelphia – around topics such as race, politics, and religion.
TABLETRIBES helps create sustained relational organizing infrastructure.
Civic Hall // NYC
Civic Hall is a collaborative innovation center that advances the use of technology for the public good. It was built on the idea that together – technologists, government officials, community organizers, researchers, makers, social entrepreneurs, change-makers, hackers, academics, journalists, artists – we can build and scale solutions to civic problems.
Selected as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence to explore application of TABLETRIBES in political organizing and civic innovation contexts. Presented findings at “Empathy and Tech” showcase event.
Broadening perspectives to tackle interlocking global challenges results in better, more relevant solutions from new lines of inquiry.
RSA (The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is a London-based global network of 30,000 Fellows committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Former Fellows include Stephen Hawking, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, and Benjamin Franklin. Fellowship experiences are conducted within a volunteer capacity, and have allowed me the opportunity to test some hypotheses with institutional support.
How do we harness the power of 30,000 social innovators and their networks around the world to coordinate progress on a global scale?
Global Fellowship Council
Washington DC Ambassador
Selected to represent the US on the Global Fellowship Council, a 30-member governing body that represents the interests of Fellows.
Regularly convene and facilitate key multi-stakeholder conversations, identify and develop relationships for aligned opportunities towards shared social impact goals, and drive strategic alliances that connect local, national, and global social innovation experts and influencers.
Designed the RSA US Fellowship orientation guide, a synthesis of the vast RSA ecosystem to help with the onboarding experience.
To move towards a more sustainable future, we need to embrace a more inclusive political economic order.
Traditional approaches of promoting financial empowerment in low-income communities have focused on “financial literacy,” with personal skills-based approaches such as learning how to manage a household budget or apply for loans. While important, they don’t address the foundational issue of systemic economic oppression.
Street University seeks to reverse the destructive cycle of economic extraction targeting low-income/low-powered demographics through “economic literacy.” By democratizing access to high-level knowledge of economics, political advocacy, and social movements, more people can be empowered to actively participate in discussions shaping economic policies and practices in their local areas.
Assembled a team of university professors, community leaders, and experts in finance, economics, social innovation, community organizing, and political history to co-design a pilot project and an introductory “economic literacy” curriculum.
Conducted early stage user interviews with potential participants, city officials, and community leaders to gauge interest on “economic literacy” skills and potential for broader social impact if more people can help shape their community’s economic future.
Developed a strategic roadmap from initial concept to 14-week curriculum design.
In order to coordinate towards a shared vision of progress, we need new frameworks relevant to today’s social change efforts.
Art of Change
The RSA has been at the forefront of progressive social innovation for over 260 years. Today with 30,000 Fellows around the world and with countless more allies working to drive transformation in society, we want to pause and interrogate assumptions and common myths around how we make change in society. Art of Change work supports Fellows in providing key insights, tools and analysis into the art and science behind sustained impact.
Curated a group of 30 high-level grass-top and grassroots leaders across government, community development, technology, philanthropy, education, and the arts to share perspectives on the mechanics of social change-making for the 21st century.
Designed a one day workshop together with key RSA staff. Coordinated all event logistics in partnership with Eaton House DC and other vendors.
Created a microsite compiling results and participant interviews from the day.
Insights from the event have been integrated into RSA Lab’s model for creating enduring social change.
Innovator-in-Residence // SF
Eliminate blind spots
Automated anti-bias impulses built into product development tools could help anticipate risks and mitigate harm emerging from flawed human assumptions.
InclusionVentures was a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultancy with clients like Twitter, Salesforce, World Economic Forum, the Omidyar Network, adidas, and some of the world’s largest global philanthropic organizations. Like most of the DEI industry, they’ve traditionally focused on organizational culture and hiring practices.
Building back doors
People can’t build solutions for problems they can’t see. Even if we assume best intentions, issues around racial and gender bias continue to plague products and services, perpetuating societal inequities from seemingly inconsequential actions that scale. As we wait for cultural attitudes to progress, how might we indirectly shift power even when we’re not there?
Frustrated by the inability for organizations to resolve internal obstructions, I wanted to investigate alternatives to current DEI efforts by moving beyond staff trainings (education) into the production cycle (process). Recognizing this was a departure from typical practices, I approached InclusionVentures about incubating my exploration.
Conducted user interviews with product managers about potential process interventions.
Piloted workshops at the EuroIA conference for designers across Europe to begin co-designing collaborative bias mitigation models relevant to technology product development.
Created strategic roadmap with possibilities for short to mid-term solutions that can be quickly deployed within pre-existing product development practices and the current cultural landscape.
Founder Amy Lazarus is continuing to test these initial explorations as a member of the Responsible Innovation team at Facebook.
I share expertise and resources with other socially-minded ventures.
Life before 2011
In a prior life, I briefly dabbled in entrepreneurship, media, marketing, branding, public relations, and ad agencies as a copywriter/creative director in New York, LA, and London. I learned the art of how to construct reality and shape cultural perceptions, particularly in the fashion, entertainment, hospitality, and lifestyle industries.
My background in the humanities taught me how to analyze the artifacts of civilization. A design education gave me the tools to reverse-engineer them.
Johns Hopkins University // Baltimore, MD
English Literature, Art History, Film & Media
Art Center College of Design // Pasadena, CA
Environmental Design, Advertising Design
Central Saint Martins (UAL) // London, UK
Graphic Communication Design
Reach out if you’re interested in specific findings, potential collaborations, or learning more about what’s next.
I navigate through the world at the intersection of social innovation, experience design, and technology, and speaking engagements have included discussions on power, empathy, race, and social cohesion. My projects have been featured in the Financial Times, Fortune, Forbes, Washington Post, and the New York Times. I am currently based in Switzerland.