Studio [y]

Training in design thinking

Studio [Y] focused on building skills in leadership and innovation for social impact. It followed a framework of Discovery, Design, Delivery, and Evaluation/Storytelling phases. During the eight months of the program, I took courses in Systems Mapping, Design Thinking, Entrepreneurship, Data Analysis, and Critical Thinking.

The program allowed us to pursue subjects of interest on an individual basis and also through group work. 

My independent project during that time was wholly focused around developing Loonskin Labs. Whle working on this project at MaRS I received mentorship from CEO Ilse Treurnicht.

My group project took on the Future of Energy, and we assessed problems in the Ontario Energy Sector. We mapped out the energy system through interviewing a variety of people involved. We identified leverage points and brainstormed solutions. Our work culminated in a consultative project for Earth Day Canada (see below).

One of the greatest experiences I had in the program was to travel to Moose Factory. That story is captured in the following slideshow.

empathy building in ontario

Studio [Y] Quest: Fellows are supported to travel and live among people who they would not normally meet and share experiences with. 

I traveled mid-winter to the southern tip of the Arctic Ocean to live with a community of James Bay Cree on a small frozen island called Moose Factory. The purpose of the trip was to get to know people that I would not normally meet in my life. I chose to travel to the most remote and isolated community I could reach, for one week. It was an 18 hour trip north, on bus and the Polar Bear Express passenger train. When I arrived I slept in snow drift dugout and later in a quincee in the yard of the Cree Cultural Center. I became friends with Anne, Mark, and Kim, employees who keep the center running year round. They lead fascinating lives, and allowed me to learn from them every day during my stay. They taught me some traditional skills, like how to trap rabbits, and track other wild animals. They taught me how to snowmobile and shoot a rifle, and I snowmobiled over James Bay for ten hours to help maintain Mark's hunting camps, as in the spring they leave the island to scatter around the bay for the goose hunt. I learned about the grossly overpriced fresh produce and heating bills in excess of $700/month during the winter. Their access to energy is limited, despite the fact that the James Bay area is rich in hydroelectric power developments. Additionally, the mouth of the Moose River has powerful tides, but this area has yet to develop tidal power generating systems. I was very lucky to live among such resourceful people. Anne, formerly a truck mechanic from Cochrane, Ontario, can sew tough deer hide into moccasins, bake bannock, trap rabbits, and hunt moose. I was constantly in awe of the level of self-reliance and resourcefulness of the people I met in Moose Factory. 

It was on the frozen icicles radiating from the hub of a bus wheel that I drew my inspiration for GROWING WHEELS. 

consulting for earth day canada

Future of Energy Team

We were tasked with applying the social impact leadership skills from our training to the energy system of Ontario. We began by canvasing the streets of Toronto, visiting Universities and High Schools, conducting interviews of young people to get a sense of what their level of knowledge and engagement with climate change is. We found that despite the fact that youth felt concerned about the state of our energy system, they had little to no idea of what they could do to change it. We consulted for Earth Day Canada and Tom Rand to create an intervention. We ended up producing a series of four short videos on climate change that no-one watched

A Lesson from Failure

Our team had set out to impact the energy sector in Ontario. We did not accomplish this goal. Our process began by mapping the system, identifying key leverage points, and brainstorming interventions. We came up with several exciting avenues to pursue, but in the end our work was redirected by our client. We learned that as designers, we needed to stick to our training, follow our research, and occasionally push back against what the client thinks they want. 


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