Today we’re introducing you to a new monthly feature highlighting the work of our colleagues at SecondMuse (2M). We begin with Roxann Stafford. Roxann links human needs with technological solutions. Her background in mechanical engineering, business, and psychology combines the analytical rigor and empathy necessary for sustainable systems design. Roxann has worked on SecondMuse projects around Internet Freedom, National Day of Civic Hacking and New York’s Next Top Makers among many others.
1) More and more companies are turning to open innovation challenges to help solve real-world problems. What is open innovation and why is it relevant in 2015?
Open Innovation is a collaborative process particularly cued into the fact that innovation can come from anywhere and as a result focuses on how to set-up the right conditions to create, incubate and accelerate effective and impactful solutions. Empathy is at the heart of this innovation process and as a result it is carefully designed to be inclusive yet avoiding the trap of being inclusive for inclusion sake.
It is relevant because the challenges the world faces require everyone to participate, everyone to bring their unique talents and questions. No man is an island. The way we structure our open innovation programs is to increase the reach and understanding of institutions just as much as everyday people/citizens. This is important because we are in the business of building community resources and the capacity of others beyond just a project engagement. Participating in a hackathon or incubator may make the difference in a person feeling confident enough to apply for a new job or to set-up a volunteer program or to accompany another entrepreneur on their journey.
2) You have a background in mechanical engineering, how do you apply that to your work at SecondMuse?
Engineering is about understanding systems – what are the forces at play, what’s the role of materials and various other actors, how can we do something given the dynamics in the world that are at play? How will your idea exist in the ecosystem? What are the effects of your idea, product, concept on that ecosystem?
In Product Design we talk about the power that objects have on creating scripts in people’s lives that influence their behavior and their view of the world and other human beings. That is a lot of responsibility beyond trying to make something that is cool, to make something that works, to make something that solves a problem requires system thinking and collaboration.
In the work I do at 2M I’m constantly thinking about the dynamics at play, how to set-up the right environment so diverse thinkers and doers can succeed and bring their best “to the table” in order to solve a problem and create empowering solutions.
3) Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and ways you hope to make an impact this coming year?
That’s a tough question. Opportunities to learn and study deeply. Thinking about creative pursuits that lead to a more just world and accompanying people on that journey. More opportunities for me to practice openness and compassion in working with communities. Improving my personal craft around storytelling, design thinking, ideation and facilitation. Continued commitment to bringing together the arts and technology to social justice causes. Working on some personal storytelling projects. Lots of laughter and fun as I continue to grow as a world citizen. May be a puppy or creature