Following the scare and concern of the last couple weeks over the health of the hives, this week each of the three hives I have are bustling with activity. Early in the week I took a trip to Merrimack, NH to visit Hillside Apiaries run by Allen Lindahl. The hives are reaching a critical mass and thus is time to expand their condo by adding another hive body (box to hold frames). Allen is a charming New Hampshire man running a small beekeeping supply store from his home. He has 21 years of experience and thus a tremendous amount of knowledge. He is very friendly and encourages any beginning beekeepers to call him with questions: 603 429 0808 or Allen@hillsidebees.com.
Natural comb production on the inner cover shows the necessity to provide more living space for the bees.
Worker bees secrete wax from a gland on the front side of their abdomen. A drop of wax is released from the body and hardens when it comes into contact with air. This wax is thin and resembles a fish scale. From the abdomen, the bee moves the wax with her legs passing it forward where she masticates it, mixing in saliva and softening it for use in construction. Above is a picture of a worker making comb.
Today we saw the neighbor working in his garden and decided to bring him a little treat.
The bees had a little feast when we opened the honey stores.
While visiting with Kevin, the neighbor, we had a conversation about the use of pesticides on his Hibiscus plant that had been attacked by worms. He said that it was his instinct to use a common pesticide from Home Depot to treat the plant but worried about the bees. He still had the product he was planning to use so we decided to check it out.
Sure enough, in bold type face in the information on the back of the bottle:
Luckily Kevin hadn’t sprayed the plant yet and passed along an organic and CHEAP! method of treating the plant’s worm infestation. Here is the recipe for Hot Pepper Spray:
Soak 5 hot peppers and 5 cloves of garlic in 1/4 cup of water for 30 minutes. Blend this mix into a paste and add 1 teaspoon of dish soap, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Blend together and combine with 1 quart of water.
Also, found this great poster of the life of the honeybee at Hillside Apiaries. It clearly shows the different classes a worker bee will go through during its life as well as nicely illustrating the developmental stages of the queen, worker and drone from egg to emersion.
Last week I ranted a little bit about how I still don’t know how to deal with the question “what are you doing this summer?” (even though I’m already going into Week 7 – oof). So I thought it would be worthwhile to write a bit about some things I have actually been doing.
As you may remember, I’m working with the law firm DeLuca and Weizenbaum in their efforts to launch a new public interest law center in the state – the RI Center for Justice. In its beta year, the center will be focused on housing broadly defined. This could encompass landlord-tenant issues, evictions, code enforcement, discrimination, homeless rights, etc. This year, there have been several community meetings to start conversations about what housing issues could be addressed, and one of the areas that came up as a potential focus was utility shutoffs.
As a design researcher embedded in the early stages of the law center’s formation, my big picture research questions include: 1) How do individuals currently deal with their particular housing issues? 2) What are people’s current points of housing-related interaction with the legal system? But in order to focus my activities in the short amount of time I have, I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about the experience of energy insecurity.
This has brought me to the George Wiley Center (GWC), an agency that organizes for policy change on issues including utilities. Though they reach people from across the state, their office – marked by the giant affordable energy lightbulb in the window – is in downtown Pawtucket:
Though their core mission is organizing for policy change, the GWC in April began holding twice weekly “utility clinics” with a new consumer advocate from National Grid. When people call in with an urgent situation, they can now come meet with the National Grid representative face to face to try to work something out.
The folks at the GWC have been really accommodating in letting me observe the work that happens at the center. I’ve been sitting with Roxanne – the woman from National Grid – at the utility clinics, listening and watching during the clinic’s half hour appointments. I’ve also had some great conversations with the GWC staff and their community organizer, Camilo Vivieros, on topics ranging from utilities, the tension between direct service and policy change, and capturing people’s stories for advocacy.
I’ve been trying to challenge myself to visualize what I’m observing and learning, so over the last week I’ve been working on creating a journey map to plot the experience someone goes through when their utilities are shut off. I’m hoping this will be a valuable tool for talking both with the GWC and the law center team. In making this journey map, I’ve thought through more questions and am sure there are things I’ve missing – but it’s a good step in starting to discuss people’s access points to services and where the law might fit in.
This coming week, I will be going to interview a woman who recently contacted the GWC. After having her gas shut off for a few months, she’s now at risk for losing her Section 8 voucher. She needs legal help in her corner, but I really don’t know what will happen with her situation. It’s an incredible privilege to be invited into someone’s home…and I’m hoping that capturing and sharing her story will help the law center help others with similar situations in the future.
This is a bit of what I have actually been doing – more to come soon.
This Sunday we had the first of our bi-weekly community meetings. This was a chance for us at Adhyayan to interact with about seventy senior members of the community including community leaders, the local political representative and the parents of the students at Adhyayan.
Though I had been exploring the neighborhood and talking to people on my own these past weeks, this allowed us all to collectively meet and communicate, as well as for us to show the adults some of the work the children had been working on and engage them in an experiment whose success lies in the active collaboration of the whole community and not just kids at Adhyayan. We have been lucky to secure space in the community hall Chaupal, which will serve as the venue of our meetings, screenings and exhibitions in the neighborhood.
Through the meeting, we explained some of the goals of our project – making the neighborhood more accessible and safer for any outsider, from a guest to a potential customer and business, and thereby breaking some of current stereotypes and prejudices that Zamrudpur village faces. By introducing the adults to the initiative, we hope to involve them in the upcoming weeks’ work in which we’ll take to the streets – painting, installing and scattering graphic markers throughout the neighborhoods.
Most importantly, the aim was to address the urgent and immediate issue of community ownership and neighborhood pride in the form of tackling the garbage and hygiene issues in the area. “We ourselves are the perpetrators and we ourselves have to live in the conditions that we create. Why is that we understand the importance of cleanliness and hygiene and thus take great pains to clean our homes, but don’t recognize the street outside as being the forecourt, the ‘aangan’ to the home.” Instead of us trying to preach about systematic cleanliness, we showed the children’s’ work where their capture of the everyday conditions from watching their own parents throw out trash to their choice in mapping the ways to their homes showed their astute observation and impact of the actions of their parents.
Movement through street submerged in water because of clogged drains, health concerns brought from unhygienic conditions and the loss of potential business from neighborhood communities due to unfavorable conditions harms the residents themselves. Therefore addressing the issue has direct and immediate consequences on their own lives and livelihoods.
An important consensus that came up was the need to include the shopkeepers in understanding the potential of our project in directly affecting their businesses. “Why is that kids from neighboring schools and Lady Shri Ram College don’t just walk up to their stationary and sweet shops? Why don’t residents of the next-door Greater Kailash and East of Kailash colonies frequent their grocers and corner stores? All of them harbor certain biases and instead choose to walk or drive a greater distance in another direction.”
The food and party afterwards was a good way to chat with some of the ladies who seem to have finally stopped eyeing me as a suspicious outsider and for the amazing kids to have an afternoon of fun. There’s nothing like samosas to get us Indians in a good mood!
Though we received a positive response from the community, there wasn’t an impulse for active participation from the adults yet. I hope that in the coming weeks, once people start seeing the installations come up in the streets, that there will be a greater interest and engagement.
by Hannah Koenig
I’m happy to finally report that last week was my first full week of work at the Collaboratory! On my first day, I successfully navigated the maze of buildings associated with the U.S. Department of State (DoS) in the Washington D.C. humidity and was officially sworn in as a Franklin Fellow. This was a pretty cool experience, as I took an oath to the U.S. Constitution itself alongside another Fellow. Here’s a nerdy picture of me (middle, trying not to mess up the words) by the American flag taking the oath. Three cheers for public service!
My team at the Collaboratory surprised me by showing up en masse to my “onboarding,” which is DoS-speak for swearing in and first-day-of-work paperwork. They also decorated my cubicle (which I’m trying to treat as a studio space) and threw me a surprise welcome/birthday party at our daily team meeting. This, I’m learning, is par for the course at our shop, where we operate according to a people-first principle that is particularly prominent on team member birthdays.
My time so far has largely been spent doing research and data-gathering, where I’m getting up to speed on the work and culture at the Collaboratory, the ECA Bureau, and DoS at large. I’m swimming in an alphabet soup of acronyms; for example, depending on the context, PD may mean Position Description, Professional Development, or Public Diplomacy. I’m getting to know my team and interviewing them individually to understand their experiences, goals, and portfolios as users working within the Collaboratory. I’ve begun consulting with a long list of other people working at DoS to understand their experiences and interactions with the Collaboratory as well.
The Collaboratory can be a little difficult to understand at first, and that’s partly because it is iterating so quickly that its self-understanding is sometimes changing month to month. In November 2013, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) announced the launch of the Collaboratory, a new shop that was to be focused on virtual exchanges. ECA runs the Department’s 150+ cultural and educational exchange programs for Americans and foreign nationals, of which one of the most famous is the Fulbright program. This is part of a larger mission of public diplomacy, where education diplomacy has been a major focus and strategy to reinforce mutual understanding across cultures.
In this context, the Collaboratory quickly grew from a team dedicated to virtual exchanges—which use technology to augment in-person exchanges by connecting people virtually—to a team equally interested in collaborative techniques and innovative approaches to government. The Collaboratory also wanted to serve as a network, connecting people within ECA to one another, to other bureaus at DoS, to other government agencies, and to organizations outside government, like NGOs, tech companies, and higher education institutions. Today, we are active on all of those fronts, and continuing to grow and “rewire,” as my boss frequently says.
Prior to my onboarding, the Collaboratory team (of which I am now the sixth member) drew a chart to express their latest take on their mission within ECA. It’s in all of our workspaces (you can see it in mine below) and also in our studio, a former conference room built from big dreams, donated decor, and no budget. This is where we run virtual programs, hold meetings, and brainstorm new ideas on a variety of fronts. The post-its on the wall are crowd-sourced ideas for an Education Diplomacy Toolkit that will be sent to posts (embassies and consulates) overseas to help them build their education diplomacy initiatives.
Over the coming weeks, I’m eager to begin compiling and sharing insights gained from my interviews with the Collaboratory team as we begin to think about refining our brand and visual identity. I’ll be jumping in on some ongoing projects and begin training on connective technologies for virtual exchanges. My quest for Creative Suite software will progress. I’ll also continue to accumulate design thinking resources—books, articles, videos, websites, etc—to share with my team and add to our cumulative reading list for our Tuesday reading period. I’m lucky in that my team is excited about design thinking and eager to know more. We are definitely the odd ducks in federal government, but hopefully not for long!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the U.S. Department of State.
We kicked off our first Resiliency Speaker Series event on Monday. We had a great turnout with over 60 attendees. Susanne DesRoches (Assistant Chief, Resilience and Sustainability) came to speak from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey along with John Boule (Vice President) from the engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff.
The speakers gave engaging presentations and answered dozens of questions from the audience. The discussion ranged from the effects of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey to resilient strategies for Boston and Massport facilities. We heard about Sandy’s disruptions to New York’s PATH Transportation System and ongoing complications that include salt’s pervasive and corrosive effects. Over 30% of our audience completed Speaker Series Surveys, giving us some great feedback as well as an average success rating of 4.4 out of 5 for this first event.
The event was a success, but it wouldn’t be an internship experience if it went off without a few bumps. The highlights included me barging into someone’s office while looking for a storage closet and accidentally leaving some of our guests languishing at the security desk before the event began. This was a problem because the doors, stairwells, and elevators on the first floor are blocked by security checkpoints. You need to scan your badge and your fingerprints to get through. It’s like something out of the Bourne trilogy. As a result, guests from outside of Massport have to be escorted through the building.
Unless, of course, you’re Jason Bourne…but I haven’t seen him in East Boston yet.
As the summer reaches its peak my colonies of honeybees continue their diligent work, building new comb, rearing new brood, and storing surplus honey for their upcoming winter. The warm New Hampshire days encourage them to not only continue consuming the sugar syrup in their hives but also to forage for pollen and nectar in the clover and wild flowers blooming around the hives.
There was a set back in the last two weeks. Two of the three colonies had lost their precious queen. Having the initial inclination to allow these colonies to rear their own new queen I allowed them to start develop queen cells. However, after speaking with Master Beekeeper Erin MacGregor-Forbes, I was encouraged to introduce a northern raised queen before the colony could finish creating their own. With this advice I visited Chris Rogers in Windham, ME (backwoodsbeefarm.com) and purchased two queens raised in Vermont. It is suggested that hives in the north east have a northern raised queen as she is more likely to be able to handle the drastic temperature changes than the southern raised queens that come with the original package of bees.
The queen comes in a small wooden box with a screen over it. The white square at the end is made of sugar and serves both as a food source for the queen and her attendants as well as a wall to prevent her from being exposed to the colony too quickly. When the new queen is introduced to the colony she must stay inside her cage for a couple/few days to allow her scent to become familiar. If she is introduced too quickly, the colony will kill her. Before introducing these new queens the cells that were being built needed to be destroyed. This is done so the colony has a higher likelihood of accepting the new queen. Queen cells are built on the bottom of the frames as they are irregular in shape, needing to be longer to accommodate her larger size. Removing these cells is quite intense as they have soft white larvae enclosed inside that burst and ooze white liquid when scraped from the frame. Killing infant queens is messy.
Of the fifteen or so queen cells that were destroyed in the removal process, I was able to save four from being ruined. I froze these four to allow for dissection. Opening these enclosed cells shows the metamorphosis the bees are undergoing from a larva to a mature honeybee.
The northern queens are now out of their boxes and laying new generations of larvae with genes suited for our geographical location. The colony will build comb where ever there is space and needs to be inspected every couple days to prevent them from using energy building comb in undesired locations (like this one on the inside of the cover).
- Allison Wong
Being thrown into a new environment (the law) has forced me to think a lot about communication, specifically – how to talk about design. As one of my mentors from the NuLawLab, Dan Jackson, was telling me today, it’s probably an extreme environment in which to practice talking about design, because for lawyers, words are really, really important.
As you can probably imagine, I am frequently faced with situation inside and outside of my internship:
Other variants of this question: What are you doing at a law firm? So what are you actually doing? You’re studying design – so what do you want to do with that?
Although I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable about design and practiced in bringing design to different contexts, this question and the subsequent conversation still tend to make me stumble. It’s been especially hard since a lot of my work so far has been trying to define a set of parameters for what I can actually accomplish. And I still have a lot of questions about the role of design in law. If I was more quantitatively-minded, this internship would be a great opportunity to collect some hard experimental data about successful communication. What words work? What explanations leave people confused? How frequently are certain questions asked? Nonetheless, it has been a great testing ground for me to hone how I talk about design: what am I doing, what is the role of a designer, why should anyone care.
Why should we care so much about language? Isn’t the product of our work – its physical existence in the world – the only thing that matters? While words are superficial, I’ve learned the superficial can be very important. Striving for clarity is important in itself, but language can easily turn people off. As a first entry point into deeper discussion, surface explanations can either make people excited and invested in hearing more – or confuse and alienate.
Especially since design has become so visible in popular culture, the risk of using design buzzwords is substantial. It’s great that a wide range of people have heard about “design thinking.” I love when people ask me, “Do you know about IDEO?” However – while I think designers should capitalize on this excitement for new approaches, I’ve learned firsthand – through Design for America – that it can be really hard to earn someone’s trust and respect if you aren’t communicating on the same wavelength. Buzzwords get in the way more often than not, but they can be very hard to avoid.
So, what AM I doing this summer? Here’s a version of the words I’m currently testing out (it’s a work in progress):
I’m bringing my point of view as a designer to the formation of a new public interest law center in RI. As I see it, designers are skilled at understanding how people interact with the man-made world around them: services, products, systems, and institutions. We discover what’s not working, look at what’s working well, and think creatively about how things could be improved to better work for people. To do so, we try to deeply understand people’s needs, desires, and experiences.
In the context of the new law center, I’m hoping to do research that builds a greater understanding of housing related needs (the law center will be focused on housing in the first year). To do that, I am observing community work and legal proceedings already taking place, and I will be having conversations with individuals about their experiences. My work can inform the future work of the center and show a process for how similar work can occur in the future. I believe this kind of design approach can create a legal system that is more responsive and accessible.
Here are some of the key things I’ve been learning so far about communication:
1. Tailor to different audiences.
If at all possible, relate what you’re doing to the experience of the person you’re talking to and gauge how much they already understand. For some people, I have to start by explaining what industrial design is. For others who already somewhat get design – but might be confused about the legal context – I like to throw out something like: “So it’s become a popular thing to put designers in hospitals to come up with creative solutions to making the hospital a more patient-centered place that works better for humans. What do patients see when they arrive? Where do they wait? How do they take home information? Instead of designing for health care, I’m looking at how the legal system can be a more responsive environment.”
2. Use concrete examples whenever possible.
Most people will not understand when I say “observational design research methods.” They will understand if I say, “I’ve been sitting in on utility clinics held at the George Wiley Center. Individuals who are falling behind on utility payments come in to meet with a woman from National Grid. I’m watching and listening to learn more about people’s experiences with utility issues – how they arrived at the Center, what other issues they’re dealing with, and where they’re directed to go after. Are there similar opportunities for me to observe the work of your organization to better understand the needs of the people you work with?”
3. Design is not new.
Some people get confused because what you’re describing has been happening for a long time – but just hasn’t been called design. Perhaps it is a new application of tried methods, or a new bridging of people who didn’t used to work together. But people have been engaged in creative problem solving for forever, and it’s important to respect that when communicating. It might look more like policy, or ethnography, or public health – but we need to consider where our practice fits into a history of people who understand, challenge existing structures, and critically make. In being passionate, optimistic innovators, we risk sounding like we think we can use design to solve everything fast, or that design is always the right answer (it’s not).
Though I’ve been thinking a lot on this matter, I think social design as an emerging field still has a lot to work out about language and framing. I certainly, am no expert. When I worked on A Better World by Design last year, I helped plan a panel titled “Beyond the Buzzwords: Examining the Limits of Social Design.” Clearly, you can see a lot of people were as excited about engaging in this topic as I still am -
If you’ve conquered the design jargon pitfalls, mastered the way of communicating elegantly about design within other sectors, have other thoughts on this topic, or just want to ask me what I’m doing this summer, drop me a line! I’m always down to talk about talking about design.
It isn’t enough to design spaces that operate efficiently under ordinary conditions—we have to consider their ability to weather extraordinary conditions as well. The keys to resilient design include seemingly contradictory concepts: both diversity and redundancy. A resilient system should include a variety of spaces or structures, but it also needs enough of them that they don’t fail all at once during a disaster.
The first, and perhaps most obvious solution, is to elevate anything built near a shoreline. Raise existing buildings, put everything on stilts, and be sure that new construction includes a first story parking garage or an open public space. This makes sense: we should be designing spaces that are meant to flood, rather than fruitlessly hoping we’ll be able to keep water out during a storm.
But designing to ensure the resilience of a single structure doesn’t solve the problem. What about the houses next door? The rest of the town? The state? One answer lies in working with the landscape. Designers and city planners are widening beaches, restoring marshes, and constructing wetlands: they’re letting the landscape act as a buffer zone. These constructions offer active public spaces during nice weather, and wetlands are incredibly diverse ecosystems that can also filter runoff from urban areas.
I took a stab at designing such a space during an advanced architecture studio this past semester, and it was this project that led me to the Maharam S.T.E.A.M. Fellowship and my proposal at Massport. The studio was focused on developing proposals for the Greenway Connector, which is a series of public parks and paths in East Boston managed by Massport and the Boston Redevelopment Authority. My proposal was sited in the Wood Island Marsh, directly across from Massport’s Logan Airport runways. The idea was to create a space that celebrates the marsh’s existing conditions while protecting it from future erosion. During nice weather, the space acts as a public park and is designed to partially flood at high tide. During poor weather, the marsh acts as a buffer zone and absorbs storm surges before water can reach the MBTA tracks that run along the site’s periphery.
To see the full project, click here.
I arrived at Porvir through my uncle’s work with a school on the outskirts of São Paulo that encourages learning by doing. Projeto Âncora (which means “anchor”) is an experiment where students meet learning benchmarks by putting their questions to the test. Their educational model is focused on creating a stronger connection between what is taught in the classroom and real-world applications. As a part of my internship at Porvir, I am visiting schools around São Paulo that propose alternative education models. I want to learn about pedagogical styles that engage students in different ways than the traditional classroom model. My first visit was to Projeto Âncora.
My visit to Âncora last week was refreshing and enlightening. I was able to experience an education model that is unlike traditional schooling, yet students seem even more engaged in what they are doing. In a project-based curriculum, students define their own learning goals and develop separate projects in order to accomplish them. This is very similar to RISD’s approach, as skills are taught through individual projects, and students must manage their activities according to priorities. This method also encourages collaboration, as students realize that many endeavors might require assistance—and also that other students might also be interested in learning the same skills.
Âncora’s next step in its education model is to integrate more computer-based skills into the curriculum. In the world of education innovation, this is called “blended learning,” where students mix online resources with physical interactions and experiments. They are currently developing a website where students, educators and parents will have access to track the progress of each project.
Something remarkable about Âncora is that even during their vacation, students wish to come to the school’s campus to continue doing research for their projects. Âncora has no tuition fee, and they offer invaluable resources to students who may otherwise not have access to schools. With this experience in hand, I am able to imagine the application of alternative education models in various situations. With schools like Âncora popping up all around the world, it is important to document experiences and learning outcomes in order to take each initiative to its full potential. For those opening new schools, documentation of existing projects such as this one is key to creating “unique but reproducible” experiences.
Projeto Âncora is definitely a candidate for the 100+ list, which is in the works here at Porvir!
Check out Projeto Âncora’s website HERE!