October Interrupted

Sometimes, opportunities throw open the door, turn over the furniture and still manage to get you to come running after them.

I left my full time job at a Think Tank to come work for a start up in possibly the most chaotic field possible. We are working on technical and data support products for the Ebola crisis in West Africa. I am spending my days simultaneously figuring out how to build a business, work through organizational steps, networking, learning everything I can about Ebola, technology for contact tracing, medical procedures for an epidemic, public health, information mapping… and just about everything else you could imagine. And I love it.

It’s been a juggling act to get through the homework for my UX design course, learn this job and produce good work on the job, figure out when/how I would like to return to school, talk to mentors, attend all the lectures and things I enjoy going to… and have friends… but I like it. I’m also trying to get through the final rounds of edits for my TEDxMunich talk this fall. But this is where I am supposed to be right now.

I hope to be able to share more success stories from this end soon, but just wanted to leave a brief update for now.

New York City at Dawn

I peeled myself out of my apartment this morning to join the group down at Pier 40 for this morning’s halloween themed Daybreaker party.

Daybreaker is a party series organized by some New Yorkers who wanted to offer an early morning, substance free dance party to the city. The crowd changes with every event, people are there to have fun, be completely un-self-conscious and welcome the dawn with upbeat music and happiness. The DJ this morning kept chanting “we love life” and that really feels like it embodies the spirit of the event and the crowd.

Not to mention the completely breathtaking views from the boat this morning:

Tribeca just before Sunrise
Tribeca just before Sunrise
Tribeca as the sun peaks over the horizon

We wandered around between the decks and the different rooms on the ship. Sometimes dancing near two guys in a siamese twin costume they had created, a glowing dinosaur, a guy dressed up as lady gaga, a series of tigers, and a zombie hot dog.

What a great way to start Thursday morning! I am surprised there aren’t sober early morning dance parties at TED… maybe it’s time to start them!

Live music, happiness and DJs at Dawn in the harbor

TEDGlobal: Recap

A week later, and still revealing in how amazing TEDGlobal was this year.

The experience for me at TEDGlobal for the last few years has changed a little each time. Last year, I went to give a talk on Best Practices for a New University Level TEDx. It was great to spend time with other TEDx organizers from all over the world. I keep in touch with many of them, and have run into organizers from Egypt, Pakistan and all over the US in my travels to various countries. It brings a lot of great content and thinking into my inbox all the time, which is a gift.

This year, I was attending as a TEDUniversity speaker and was able to think about and produce my own content. I remember walking onto the stage after practicing some Amy Cuddy power poses in the hallway (they actually really helped!), took a deep breathe and felt myself grinning. The talk flowed out of me, just like I had hoped it would. And it was real and it was my own. I learned a lot about getting feedback, editing mercilessly and drafting from this experience. I realized how very important it is to find editors and brainstorming partners that you really trust and respect. The TED team was fabulous throughout the process — and when it was finished, they were the first people I heard from and hugged.

For the rest of the event, I wound up having the most interesting conversations about my field, technology and maps.

One evening I talked through data visuals to explain my mapping ideas for the informal economy with a software designer. We talked about the future of cities and software.. and he gave me some ideas to help clarify my work and objectives.

A long time mentor sat me down and gave me feedback on my lifestyle (read: totally crazy, doesn’t sleep and desperate to learn as much as possible… sometimes at the expense of sleep/health/social life). We talked through my goals and the work I want to accomplish… and I left with clarity knowing where I need to go and feeling centered for the first time in a while.

I talked to a series of infrastructure designer and builders about cities and informal economies. As it turned out, they each had a very different and interesting perspective into the wild world of city planning and economies. They pushed me and gave me things to read and encouraged my work. I have endless respect and awe for this particular team and cannot wait to see what else they accomplish all over the world!

In essence, the TEDGlobal conference was like being at an endless dinner party with smart, obsessive researchers, creative minds and artists, designers changing all of the experiences around us, and people that I am humbled to call friends. I am one of those people who somewhat frequently feels alone in large rooms of people, and that was never the case at TED or TEDx events.

On a side note, Other exciting follow-up from TEDGlobal news: I was asked to give a talk at TEDxMunich in November! It was be great to be back in Munich. I have not been able to visit since I was an exchange student in nearby Ulm in highschool…

I am still processing a lot of what I learned at the event and what I am taking away from it as I determine my direction for this and next year. I will post more soon.


You Like It? Thanks, I 3D printed it!

I love artists doing sculptural work with different types of materials. In New York’s outdoor markets, this means I find a lot of interesting jewelry designers.

I really love collecting excellent, creative work by people working in great, experimental materials and forms. I really love having a unique collection that adds to the visuals I work with. Especially when a lot of New York tends to drift towards “uniforms” for work, it’s really great to find things that can make a conversation or experience interesting right from the beginning.

I like to wear things like the Petri Dish necklaces by Stern Design Works. This couple brings together concepts from science and the natural world  (the bacteria plates, aerogels, mushrooms, tea, etc.) and develop designs around it. They create beautiful little capsules that display the colors of aerogel, the structures bacteria colonies form in labs, and the natural beauty of blue flowers from Earl Grey Tea in their pieces.

From the Stern Design Works collection page

I’ve actually had them make a few things as gifts before — including the pair of Bacteria Plate inspired cuff links for my biotech-loving father.

They also work with a 3D printer and love to take on very challenging structural ideas. Right now, I am wearing one of their 3d Printed designs in the form of a “Diamond.” My Diamond necklace is a larger model of the relationship between atoms in the Diamond’s atomic structure. It’s really cool and people are generally transfixed by it when I am talking to them. I know I was when I first saw it.

Another artist I really found and love is Britta Boeckmann, who works with wood and resin combinations that play with light and texture in wonderful ways. I was reading about Marcel Dunger‘s work and admiring the colors/texture combinations of the work, when I stumbled across a link to her Etsy page.  Each one is completely unique, which I really appreciate.


From Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/listing/204191303/modern-oval-pendant-necklace-handmade?ref=shop_home_active_17

I’m always looking for creative and clever work, like these pieces! If you’ve found any, let me know!




Feast on Good Blog: Development through Stock Exchange

A new form of investment may be ushering in a new era where we can weigh investments based on financial returns, impact, and transparency. In response to the growing demand for more companies that have a triple bottom line, financiers and social entrepreneurs are working to provide you with this new option for investment, called Retail Impact Bonds. Retail Impact Bonds will help investors and entrepreneurs to start comparing returns on your investments through not only financial data, but also impact..

Shujog, a company based in Singapore that identifies and reviews social enterprises, works with them to scale their businesses, helps them develop strategies to measure their impact, and instructs them on better ways to reach their audiences, and its sister company IIX are trying to change the landscape for social entrepreneurs. Their impact measurement system aims to provide more transparency to an industry as we compare key players in fields like sustainable agriculture.

IIX is the stock exchange that lists Asian Social Enterprises and sells Retail Impact Bonds to investors who want to issue capital to business working industries like clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and education. IIX is clear – it is not collecting donations: these bonds are still financial tools intended to return capital to the investor while improving access to capital for social enterprises. These bonds give social entrepreneurs access to capital to help scale their businesses, and investors are promised returns on their investments as well as clear information about how this company functions and measures its impact.

Social stock exchanges are intended to be more than points of sales or trades for financial tools. They are also meant to give the public better access to information about social enterprises, see what issues are being addressed, and allow the public to support these businesses through conscious investment decisions.

Besides IIX in Singapore, the U.K, the U.S. and Canada also have their own social stock exchanges. All of these platforms seek to provide a better platform for social enterprises to reach interested investors and improve outreach towards potential volunteers and supporters.

While there is currently interest in building these sorts of platforms and improving access to capital for social enterprises, each of these stock exchanges is struggling to define its priorities, develop financial tools that will keep these programs sustainable and keep attracting investors, and have social enterprises register their companies. Social enterprises have different reasons for wanting to preserve their privacy or they may have trouble navigating the regulations necessary to list themselves. There are also major concerns that the return on investments for the stock exchanges might not be enough to go through the trouble of getting a social stock exchange up and running.

Social stock exchanges are not the only programs having trouble recruiting businesses; a number of new national stock exchanges demonstrated low registration rates. In many countries, there are significant hurdles for businesses to prove that they are reputable, including a company’s limited access to clear financial data or hesitation to release financial data publicly. Cambodia, for example, launched its stock exchange in 2011 and by June 2014 only had two companies listed.Sierra Leone launched its stock exchange in 2009 and also has trouble getting companies to list publicly, despite substantial investment in the iron and other natural resource driven industries, because many companies are hesitant to disclose financial statements.

One major barrier to entry is that these exchanges need to establish their businesses and financial tools as legitimate investments. Canada’s exchange and the U.K’s exchange both benefit from significant government support as they seek to establish themselves. It will take further interest and support from the public, for both social enterprises with enough resources and growth potential and the social stock exchanges themselves to get the programs to grow and operate independently.

These programs are certainly novel and offer promising direction for social enterprises seeking funding and support. While Shujog and IIX have developed one proposal for measuring impact and comparing social enterprises with different functions/goals, another challenge all of these groups face is how they can present “impact scores” along side financial return data.

The Retail Impact Bond may be the first serious proposal for socially minded financial tools. As an investor or interested supporter, would you purchase a bond that may promise lower returns, but also promised capital towards a cause like clean energy research and transparency in the impact your capital had within an organization?

By Diana Enriquez

Diana studies informal economies, social enterprises, and economic systems at Locus Analytics. She spends a lot of time exploring new neighborhoods, especially in Latin America.

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