About Me

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Currently the Director of Operations for Design for America (DFA) and a lecturer at the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University, I am a San Francisco native and passionate about the intersection of design education and local/social impact. My studio, students' projects, and DFA have been discussed in publications and blogs such as Fast Company, Chicago Tribune, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Core77 and more. I have been fortunate enough to have spoken and given workshops at TEDx, the NE IDSA Conference, Better Word by Design Conferences, Fulbright Seminar, and given workshops at college campuses across the country. I earned my BFA in industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design where I received RISD’s Community Service Award and the Rachel Carson Award upon graduation. I am currently working on a masters in learning and organizational change at Northwestern University. At the start, I founded and taught the advanced studio, Design for Social Entrepreneurship at RISD, Design Futures at Pratt and worked with nonprofits such as Design that Matters and GreenBlue.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Designing Change


Updated! The published article is here!

A couple of months ago, I was asked to write an article for RISD Views, RISD's alumni publication, on the shifting role of design.  

There are many good definitions of “design,” which have been expanding, shifting, sifting and most of all changing rapidly, along with the rest of the world. But how is industrial design, in particular, changing, and what is happening both at RISD and within the design profession itself?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Environmental Justice!




Today, I attended the EJ League of RI's first community meeting. The aim of the event was to get the community, people from all parts of Rhode Island, together to talk about our concerns within our environment. And our environment being where we: live, work, play, and pray. 

By the end of the discussion, we were able to walk away with 3 main topics to focus on:
  1. Healthy Food
  2. Healthy Homes 
  3. Green Jobs
The 2nd one is of special interest to me, because I'll be working with high school students on a healthy homes project this summer with a pilot for a home re-decorating show for families shouldering environmental burdens. It was great to connect with some community members and talk about the idea and what role design can play in making healthy changes in our lives. ... but more on this project later! 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fulbright Seminar





This Friday, I had the honor of sitting on a panel, From Vision to Action, discussing social entrepreneurship to a group of Fulbright students for their seminar here in Providence. 

I was accompanied by my buddy Alan Harlam, Director of Social Entrepreneurship at the Swearer Center who moderated the conversation along with: 

Clay Rockefeller- Founder, The Steelyard
Lorne Adraine- Founder, National Neighborhood Day, along with other successful corporate ventures.

It was great meeting and getting to know Clay and Lorne more over this time and getting to hang out with Alan, who is fantastic. The student audience asked some great questions primarily concerned about: 
  • Time Management
  • Ego- and how to keep it in check
  • And deciding whether or not to do social entrepreneurship on the side or a full-time jig
All really important questions with no simple answers. We talked about following what you are passionate about and humbling yourself to work as a team collectively with the community you are working for. 

It was a very humbling experience to speak to a group of driven passionate students who are already doing amazing things in the world. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rockefeller Workshop



Photo Credits: Heath Fleming of Catapult Design

After an invitation last month from my friend Manuel Toscano, Principle of Zago Inc, this Monday I finally got to step into the beautiful Rockefeller building on 5th Avenue in New York to join Manuel and other design, business, and nonprofit thought leaders for a two-day workshop discussing business models to sustain design for social impact projects. 

Design for Social Impact and nonprofit partnerships have become an increasingly popular subject among designers with IDEO's work, and the workshop held by DContinuum in Bellagio, Italy last year. But the question lingers as to how to make this work financially sustainable?

This was the topic of discussion for the workshop.  

Attendees of the workshop included: 
Manuel Toscano- Principal, Zago LLc
Alexander Osterwalde- Ph.D in Business Models and workshop leader
Heather Fleming- CEO, Catapult Design
Deb Johnson- Director of Sustainability at Pratt & Design in Kind Founder
Danny Alexander- Method Designer, and soon to be BoPreneur in moving to Argentina
Bill Drenttal- Partner, Winterhouse Institute & Design Observer 

And myself!

This being the first stage in the process, we made a general matrix of design and nonprofit engagement strategies with variable spectrums looking at: 
  • non-profits with and without funds
  • non-profits who do and do not already believe in the power of design
  • designers at the beginning of their career to the more experienced
All of these require a different model. With the sticky map created above, we hope to expand each note with a full on business model, written contracts for partnerships and case studies as proof of concept. 

Should be exciting and I'm sure you'll be hearing about it more in the near future!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

DevEX Shout Out

I randomly came across this article, "INNOVATIVE DESIGNS, BETTER DEVELOPMENT" from DevEx, by David Lapeska  talking about my class! To quote: 

"Academia has begun to tap that market. Last year, Sami Nerenberg launched an immensely popular Design for Social Entrepreneurship course at the Rhode Island School of Design, where students are putting together fascinating developing world ideas. "

Woohoo!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

NCIIA Conference- Investing in Change

I just attended NCIIA's 13th Annual Meeting that seeks to "advance education, invest in change," with a focus on Social Entrepreneurship held in Washington  DC from March 19-21.

The conference was primarily tech and engineering centered, but I was proud to be there inserting little seeds, reminding people that designers are a part of this movement as well. I saw presentations on a couple of other great courses including Leslie Speer's course that she used to teach at CCA/UC Berkeley and now brings to San Jose State. 

I noticed the type of presentations primarily given. And when I say "type," I mean literally "type." Most of the presentations were head to toe covered in words. I asked myself, "Where's the story!? Where are the people!?" This is certainly something designers can bring to the table in focusing on people and telling the story. 

I met some fantastic people including Paul Hudnut whose helping to lead the Design Revolution 100 with Paul Polak, Leslie Speer, Jill Bamburg, co-founder and dean of Brainbridge Graduate Inst, James Barlow CEO of Scottish Institute for Enterprise, a couple of fellow young female social entrepreneurs from CSU and finally got to catch up in person with my buddy Francisco Noguera from WRI, and editor of Nextbillion.net! I felt these people really spoke my language and it was great to connect!

Fun fun! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Proud Moment



It was a proud moment to watch my students present their Pink Rides project at Providence's first ever Pecha Kucha. Nate Phipps, who I worked with last semester, is a charismatic and incredibly humorous presenter, and Maddie Mcgarri, who I am just getting to know is a fireball of energy, creativity, and flat out funniness. Thanks to Stephanie Gerson for putting on the event! 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What is Good Design Now?


This months issue of Metropolis Magazine is a special product issue titled What is Good Design Now? After my interview with journalist and now friend Ken Shulman, I was quoted in the Products for a New Age article (p.96-99). When asked about my recent studio Design for Social Entrepreneurship at RISD I replied:

"There is a real hunger to work on these projects. Two years ago I was part of a minority at RISD interested in these issues. Today students are looking at our economy, looking at where consumerism has led us. They want to shift away from producing excess and do something that makes them feel useful."

Metropolis Magazine being my favorite design magazine, I was THRILLED to be quoted and just as excitedly, Design that Matters had a full two-page spread!

I'm in Love






This building, which used to be the Bootleggers club in the 90's is sitting abandon at the tip of India Point Park in Providence, RI. It has an amazing view and an incredible space. I just day dream of the possibilities of what it could become, like a community center or incubator space!... it makes my heart sing... <3