A fistula is a hole that develops between a woman’s birth canal and her bladder. Without treatment, she becomes incontinent and is often abandoned by her husband and rejected by her community. Caused by extended labor (sometimes lasting a week or more), or traumatically as an act of war, a fistula can be completely cured through surgery. The money you donate will be used to provide surgery to women who are suffering, giving them and their children their lives back.
Sponsorship goes by how many of the 108 sun salutations I complete, and that’s like 108 yoga push-ups… so let’s be honest. I’ll probably make it through about 50. So if you want to, I’d love for you to sponsor me. Even a dime per sun salutation is totally great! To donate, just click on the link and type my name in as the yogi you’d like to sponsor.
I end up on this same small, windy and super trafficy street in a Hassidic neighborhood. I do everything I can to avoid it— but somehow I always end up back there. It’s the link between me and Flushing, and I can’t seem to get around it. Usually I count myself lucky and able to avoid major confrontation because I’m a girl, but not today. Someone laid on the horn behind me for two blocks solid because there wasn’t enough room for me, the oncoming traffic (that was coming into the lane ahead of me to avoid a double parked car on the left) and all the families getting in and out of their parked cars on my right.
Well, too bad! I’m not going anywhere, and all your honking can’t ruin this beautiful day.
So, I went to see the Dot Dot Dot Lecture on entrepreneurs last night, and unfortunately, most of the speakers did the same thing: talk a lot about their start up. Granted, they all had accomplished something really amazing with their organizations … . but showing me 12 slides on all your logos and your super fancy plated food (you know who you are, Blue Hill Farm lady) doesn’t help me figure out as a young person with no money how to go about starting something up.
The fourth speaker in the line-up made the night worth it though. Robert Fabricant from Frog came in and gave a brief presentation on how all the designers he knows these days want to be entrepreneurs. And not just entrepreneurs, but social design entrepreneurs. That design for a social need is infact the highest aspiration of our profession, and often the most satisfying. And then he went on to address the 8 things that seem to get in our way. I would list them all out here, but I left my notes at home so I’ll just talk about the ones that have been getting to me lately.
First and foremost: social aid takes time. There is a reason the peace corps is a 26 month program— it takes at least a year for the strangers you’re infiltrating to even trust you, let alone agree to let you help them in some wacky way that makes no sense to them. It also takes at least that long for you to have an even somewhat ‘authentic’ and ‘meaningful’ perspective on what those people might need.
And therein lies our biggest problem: most designers aren’t terribly patient people. We like new and hip and must have it—see it—do it—RIGHT NOW. We live for projects with tight timelines and visible rewards. And from the little experience I’ve had, the pay off for social entrepreneurship takes years. Years of diligent and relentless commitment with a high ratio of failure while you figure things out. The worst part? The solutions aren’t the perfect, neat and tidy packages we all love to create.
And now for a moment of selfish honesty: I like where I live and how I live. I’m not willing to give that up right now, and I’m not sure if I will be down the line. To really do the kind of good in the places that need it, I’d need to submerge myself in the environment, and that requires giving up a lot.
The good thing is I don’t think that’s the death nell for my pursuit of social activism. Because here’s the thing I think we’ve all forgotten: all those folks who are good enough to give their lives over to these causes are still there! It seems like sometimes we think we’re the only people trying to think creatively about social problems— the ‘design thinking’ buzzword will be our end if we don’t practice some humility and learn from the people who have been doing this for years.
So here’s a thought— maybe we come at this whole ‘save the world’ thing from a more pinch hitting perspective.
Robert started the talk reminding us that our ideas aren’t the best in the room, and especially not when you’re sitting down with someone who has a real, time tested understanding of a situation. Rather than bulldoze in with a grand plan and a bad habit of skipping town when something more interesting comes along, let’s listen to those perspectives. Maybe our place is in more of a consultancy— we can help arrange existing information in a way that might simplify things, or think about the problem from a fresh perspective without trying to do it all ourselves and realizing that we have a lot to learn.
We don’t have a magic wand, but we do have a different set of tools, and applied the right way we might be able to offer what we’re best at without trying to become what we’re not.