#BeyondCOVID Town Hall - USA 04
Updated: Oct 14, 2020
#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.
Rick Bell - Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University NYC
Matteo Bologna - President at Mucca
Melissa Cullens - Founder & CEO of Charette
Dan Formosa - Designer at Dan Formosa!
Lynnette Galloway - Visual Designer at Apple
Turi McKinley - Global Practice Lead and Executive Director, Org Activation at frog design, Inc.
Eddie Opara - Partner at Pentagram
Ronnie Peters - Creative Director at 360 Design & Hyperloop Transportation Technologies
Sean Rhodes - Executive Creative Director at frog
Jay Valgora - Principal at STUDIO V Architecture
The 13th, dir. Ava DuVernay, on Netflix
'Many people don't know the difference between equality and equity' - Eddie Opara
[Equity is] 'the real opportunities that you're providing, the aspects of real fairness and the idea that you're going to lift up people from their particular troubles and from social economic issues and challenges based on aspects of race' - Eddie Opara
[African American communities] 'They're not all the same, at all. We're always treating them like everybody's the same' - Eddie Opara
'It's time for 28th amendment' - Mark Bergin
'In this idea of equity is an idea of ownership…black people don’t have ownership in their own communities' - Lynnette Galloway
‘Let's give them [black people] ownership in their community, you're not going to destroy what you feel like you own, or what you feel like you really have a voice in, right?’ - Lynnette Galloway
‘You can reinvent the service, but if women still don't feel like money is a thing they can have they're not going to come to the service at all’ - Melissa Cullens
‘[Women] don't have a problem with money, money has a problem with [women]’ - Melissa Cullens
‘Having a lot of money does not mean that you have good ideas’ - Melissa Cullens
‘If we can invite more people to the table who have had different experiences of life, we might have a real crack at actually solving this' - Melissa Cullens
‘Are we asking the right questions? Are we asking the right people? Are we building enough empathy?’ - Turi McKinley
‘We are designers, we have the power of our ideas’ - Sean Rhodes
‘People must understand that we're actually clamping the economy by not creating equity’ - Mark Bergin
‘Nothing bad happens when women have more money. I don't know where we got that idea. And nothing bad happens when black people have more money’ - Melissa Cullens
‘Design should be for everybody. It should be accessible. Design for all, don't exclude anyone’ - Dan Formosa
Mark Bergin 0:00
Hi and welcome to the fourth USA Town Hall from DRIVENxDESIGN and Design Exec Club. I'm joined here by a panel of incredible minds and we're going to be talking about- This is like the second episode for the US. When we look back at what we we're doing with #beyondCOVID we were talking about 'well what's your life beyond COVID?'. After we recorded the second USA Town Hall, a couple of days later, we then saw that the Black Lives Matter movement began to raise raise and absolutely cause fury over another death in the US. The last time that we caught up was the third us a town hall. I then asked a bunch of people to help me to understand what that meant from an inequity perspective so we could get some shaping around it. What's interesting, that's also then being amplified not only in the US, but it's happening in the UK, throughout Asia and also in Australia. I reflected on what are the levers that are seeming to be actually helping us to move forward. And it looks like there's social equity, the idea of a sustainable environment, and also a thriving economy. And those three things fight with each other. So our experts are going to talk a bit about that. The first thing I'm going to do though, is go across to you Eddie Opara and actually ask you to help me with some some definitions and help me to understand, because in the pre conversation that we had Eddie brought up a very interesting thing about the difference between equity and the idea of equality. Equity and equality aren't exactly the same thing. So help me understand a bit more about that and also about the shapes of community because I think if we don't understand the shape of need, we can't necessarily get there.
Eddie Opara 1:57
Thanks, Mark. Well, I mean, this has been a very sort of interesting thing that's been on my mind. I fully believe that many people don't know the difference between equality and equity. And the fact is that, you know, with with the idea of equality, you're trying to treat everyone the same, right? And have potentially the same opportunities. But equity has a lot more aspect towards it. It is the real opportunities that you're providing, the aspects of real fairness, and the idea that you're going to lift up people from their particular troubles and from social economic issues and challenges based on aspects of race. I feel as though many do not fully understand the effect that that has, especially within the aspects of community and community building. And so, you can take an aspect of, of gentrification, for example, where gentrification is really the means of - you could say from the point of view of economic means - changing a large area of space majority in a city to change it into your own vision, right. You may think that you are providing a better school or better resources towards the community that was already there. But you're actually not, you're really changing it for your own sake and your own economic value. So you could say, look, I'm not a racist, I'm not a supremacist, I'm in your neighbourhood, I'm living with you, I'm equal to you, but yet you actually literally changing that. You're making it harder for those people to live. Now, I've got to say, I was part of that as well, to be absolutely honest. I moved into Bedford-Stuyvesant, I bought a place, I did it up, I wanted things to change, but then I sort of started realising that you know this is not good. And the fact of the matter is that if we don't fully ascertain the idea of what equity can actually achieve, were at a major loss. We weren't talking about communities, also African American communities, being different. They're not all the same, at all. We're always treating them like everybody's the same. You know, it's like the same profile. It's a little bit like the police. It's like, well, you look like the guy down the road that was running away from us, so we'll go grab you and crush your neck. The fact of the matter is that we cannot treat communities in the same line, there is a diversity within that, within the overarching African American community. And that is an important factor. And so where does one start? Well, you know, you start with the aspects of education. And I'm not going to say I'm jumping here, because it's not so much of a jump, we have to sort of look at things in a very research manner - we need to have targets and indicators to change the way that we're dealing with certain things. So we should actually start to look at the likes of UN sustainable goals, and how the UN sustainable goal system actually tries to really identify the right target, and then indicate the sense of change. And really tackle those things. So if you look at it from the point of view of community, let's say education, right, America can take that as an example: making America sustainable goals. Literally there is an organisation called Future Now, or America's Goals that actually is trying to achieve this. It's not on party lines. They believe that both parties believe in the same principles. So for instance, if you're looking at, I think it's number four on the the sustainable goals list - the 17 sustainable goals in the UN - education or equity of education, right, is incredibly important. And I think that there are five to six steps in regards to achieving that. How does one actually do that? Well, what they're trying to do is ensure and promote the lifelong effort of learning, and uplift communities in this particular way, but at the same time they're doing that they're trying to uplift people out of poverty and figuring out how to do that - targets and indicators. The research is there, right? But we just haven't seen it from the UN. Right? We haven't gone and taken it and utilised it for our own communities, UN has actually laid it out for everybody around the world that this is what we've got to change. There are certain initiatives that are trying to do that, but we're not saying it with one voice. And that is a very, very difficult situation. So if we look at it from the point of view of education, and what education actually means, to many and the diversity of community, we can really move the needle here a long way.
Mark Bergin 8:40
So you've highlighted a really important thing there, which is evidence based practice. Evidence based practice is so important. We know with science that you know, all science has to be evidence based, it has to be peer reviewed.
Eddie Opara 8:59
Yeah but in America right now with Dr. Fauci, nobody really believes him so, you know-
Mark Bergin 9:06
Well, yeah... I am fascinated with the the human behaviours of people who seem to have a greater bond to non-evidence-based simple answers than they do evidence-based complex answers. There's a campaign I'm running which is around 'it's never simple', but what we want in life is that we want to have really simple answers to complex circumstances, it gives us comfort. Comfort food is actually really simple food but actually if you look at it, you shouldn't be having it every day, it should be almost a treat because generally it's stodgy food which is actually just storing a bad fats basically. So, the idea of evidence based practice is really important. But there's another thing behind it, which is that we haven't gotten into the imaginations of people that know uplift is necessary. It's almost from the idea of abundance. Abundance isn't actually the mindset because when things are abundant, you don't mind actually saying 'yeh take a bale of hay for me, I've got lots of them, have some of my oats, I've got lots of them, have some of my education, we've got lots of it'. When you're abundant, you actually don't mind sharing. It's when you don't think that you've got abundance that you wind up actually saying, well, there's reasons I won't give you this. I think that's what we see in every catastrophe or survival movie as people get into this scarcity of I'm just protecting me in mine, rather than we as the greater good there. Dan Formosa I want to throw across to you because you've been a rebel for a couple of decades, I think. I went there one count how many back, but help me out: why do you think that we haven't actually seen more momentum? And that this has been a big idea? What? How come it hasn't changed from the 60s when you would have been marching in the streets and seeing protest? What do you think it is?
Dan Formosa 11:23
Yeah, that topic is fascinating to me that in many ways things have not changed. So many things have over the last 60 years, but some things haven't, and one of those things is attitudes towards race. It is mind boggling that it still exists. It's 60 years later, well longer than 60 years later, 60 years in my lifetime, maybe. But it's mind boggling that it exists. And that itself is a pretty interesting topic. I think the topic there is that we're talking about evidence based approaches, and it's interesting that ideology overrides evidence: a scientific base. Now this is true with religion, right? If you believe in creationism, right? It's so much easier to think oh, yeah, the world was created in seven days, I get that. I don't know if it has something to do with our lack of understanding of science, are we science-phobic or math-phobic or is it just too complex for our brains to to process? That topic itself is totally fascinating. We're looking at lots of pictures of riots and upheaval to the US in the last few weeks, but, boy, you can go back to newsreels or films 60 years ago and it's not a whole lot different.
Mark Bergin 12:54
I'm thinking back to when I saw the rioting squads during the Arab Springs. When they when they got into the parliament houses and they'd overrun the regime and they got into the space that they were trying to bang on the door and say we're going to take over the parliament. But they had nothing to do when they got there. It was almost embarrassing. The only thing they could do was trash the place. And the same thing happened in Hong Kong only a couple of years ago. People had this momentum like, yeah, we've got to go and fight against the wrong, and when they got there, they didn't know what to do. And and I wonder if we're seeing the same thing happening with these, with these outbursts of energy in the protests, because I think actually my take from a fire is that there's been more protests in the last month than there has been riots. And so the riots might have been an initial energy release, but the protests about Black Lives Matter... is there a next Chapter? That to me is very interesting because I think to what Eddie was speaking about, there's a difference between equality and equity. There's a difference in the communities. We came together with the energy of 'something's not right'. But do we know what to do next? That to me is the missing part is what do you do next? Has that been kind of a pattern Dan? That you're seeing these protests run out because they don't have a direction of what they're trying to achieve?
Dan Formosa 14:27
I think so. I think there are a lot of movements that don't have a step two. There is no longer range plan, other than let's change something, but the strategy of how to change that, or what to do next, boy, I think you could probably go back and list a whole number of movements, like maybe Occupy Wall Street, or nuclear disarmament and just see where it went. Just the whole peace movement, is there a longer range plan that beyond the protest?
Mark Bergin 15:04
Okay, to help us frame what we're talking about here, I want to go put a step two in there. It's actually the idea of 'it's time for 28'. It's time for 28th amendment. I don't actually care what's the 28th amendment, but it's time for 28th amendment because we kind of know the 13th sucks, I think that's the technical term. You know, the 13th amendment is just broken. It doesn't apply for today. It's actually at the root of many of the issues that we're seeing. So, as a group, how many steps are there to get to the idea that there's a 28th amendment? In my mind you've got to turn around and say, well, we need some politicians to go actually vote, and it's got to get through Congress and the Senate. Before that, they have to draft it before that they need to know that they've been elected to do this, which is referred to as a mandate in most parts of the world. Then you need the people to go vote. Before that you need them to understand that they have a voice. And before that, they need to understand that there's a big idea that they need to get some momentum behind. As a set of designers, you know, there's five stages in there, and if you don't get it done soon, you've got to wait another four years until you get another crack at this. And I find that really interesting, because then we've got a temporal aspect and we know that great projects have time constraints. We also know that there's an identified objective, it's not party bias, you've got to have both both sides of the political spectrum to actually support an amendment to go through otherwise you don't get your 75% together. So as we get further in the call, I want to actually see if that focus can help us to work out how to get that significant uplift to make sure that we're getting rid of something which is just broken, and that it also might be causing some of the inequality that exists. If we look at healthcare, there's so much effort now put into things like pancreatic cancer or breast cancer or prostate cancer. But that's actually a 1% health problem. The way that we stopped 90% of the people who were dying in the world was we had sanitation, we taught them how to wash hands. It's interesting, basic sanitation has done more to save lives than cancer treatment ever will, just because of numbers. I think the idea of actually correcting that 13th amendment gives an indication of this wholesale uplift that we get. Then we have to get into, as Eddie was indicating, the different stratas - there's different groups in the communities, and we might get down to some of the smaller percentages which are equally as important as cancer research in cancer solutions. Lynnette I want to get across to you because last time we spoke you were in San Francisco and now you have a couple of months in Chicago?
Lynnette Galloway 18:05
Mark Bergin 18:06
Southside of Chicago?
Lynnette Galloway 18:11
South suburbs of Chicago, yeah.
Mark Bergin 18:13
Okay. So the southside of Chicago. I think I saw a couple of smiles there and I think I've just triggered something like, 'oh, that Australian doesn't understand southside means something in particular, but that's okay'. So, I'm going to tell you a little story about about my experience in Chicago. I was staying out in one of the suburbs and I was driving to the McCormick Center, and I saw on the map that I could take a shortcut. So I took the shortcut, got off the expressway, and then all of a sudden, I'm surrounded with a police car in front of me and a police car behind and they're on their loudspeaker saying 'do not get out of the car! We will guide you out of here.' I'm going, what the hell, where am I? Okay, I'm not feeling particularly safe now. That was twenty years ago and we know that there's been some economic prosperity there. I want to focus on this because there's also the pace or haste of the economic uplift that's taking place in the Southside of Chicago. Later on, I'm going to go talk with Jay Valgora about what's happening in some of the projects that he's working on, which are actually about giving economic uplift and restoring communities. Because one of the inequalities is that maybe we talk about Chicago improving but it might be improving at 20 miles an hour, whereas the projects in New Yorker are going 100 miles an hour, just as an as a comparison, and the same in Detroit. But you're there within an environment where you've seen how it has evolved. When we have our pre conversation, you spoke very fondly like 'yeh, things are moving, things are changing.' Are they changing fast enough? Or are they actually changing at a rate where there is some comfort but it's not necessarily getting to the equality where everybody's actually in the same bracket.
Lynnette Galloway 20:06
Yes. So one of the things that has been kind of pressing on my mind, just even listening to Eddie talk, in this idea of equity is an idea of ownership. I think that one of the things... I'm just thinking about how Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in America, you know, we have our north side, which is mostly whites, Southside which mostly black, East-West, and then you know, you have your suburban areas. Because of that a lot of the institutions are crafted to deal with people in their areas, right? So, Southside you're gonna get a lot of cops. I've certainly had four cops come up to my car, after coming from a dance party one time for no reason but the fact that I had like dark windows. I'm also reflecting on when the riots started, when the marches started, when the looting started, and a lot of people here were very upset because they felt like people were destroying their own community. And I remember watching this girl and I remember her name, I think it's Kimberly, who went on kind of a rant, and she was talking about the fact that black people don't have ownership in their own communities. And so one of the things, I think Eddie mentioned something about gentrification, right? So there's this idea, I think, that most black people are from the inner city. I'm not from inner city, not all blacks- it is sort of like that's where we're always placed - 'Oh, we always come from the inner city', and gentrification is really about bringing white people in and making it all better, rather than really appreciating black people for the culture that they bring to their own community, giving them the resources or even allowing them to create their own community. I think about Tulsa, Black Wall Street, how that was destroyed, you know, here you have thriving black businesses, these people certainly invest in their communities and develop restaurants and shops and all of this, and get it gets destroyed. So it's kind of like if you don't give people the resources to get the education that they need, or have the money that they need, the economy that they need, or the police thing that happens in their community is really about putting them in their place, rather than being part of that community - that's part of the issue with the police right now, they're not part of the black community. They don't want to really work with us, they want to just put us in our place and make sure that we stay in line. That's not helping us, again, to have ownership in our own spaces. So I think that when we talk about these communities getting better in Chicago, my thought is well, let's give them ownership in their community, you're not going to destroy what you feel like you own, or what you feel like you really have a voice in, right? You're gonna want to keep it up. You know, just like your own home, when you own your home, you want to keep that up. If you're in somebody else's house, you may trash it, you know, I'm at home with my mother right now, like my room may not be as clean but you better believe in my place in San Francisco it's pristine. So how do we really uplift people in these communities to really feel like they have a voice and they are part of the creation of their own community and they have ownership in it. And it's not about just putting an Obama library there, which is great, it's beautiful, but that doesn't solve the problem. That's just like another statue, another institution. Allow them to really have ownership in their spaces and really drive their own economy. That is my thought.
Mark Bergin 24:04
So Melissa, I'm gonna try to you very quickly here. I'm interested in when you were at Ellevest where you worked on what happens when women have more equity in the investment and financial products. What happens to a woman when she actually goes to own her own home rather than turning around and just renting her home? What happens in the economic cycle there?
Melissa Cullens 24:34
I just became a homeowner and for sure Lynnette, everything you just said is exactly right - Ownership changes your mindset. And there's another aspect of the work at Ellevest that we did where we really were working to change. Yes, the investment system was not created by any women at all, so reinventing what that looked like and how that felt, I think made it more inclusive by by virtue of just simply having women at the table making decisions, offering perspectives, bringing their lived experiences in, was a big part of reimagining that. In terms of changing, you know, you can reinvent the service, but if women still don't feel like money is a thing they can have they're not going to come to the service at all. There was a lot of work, really just around saying, you know, 'you don't have a problem with money, money has a problem with you.' And I think that is such a big opportunity for us in terms of getting to equity, to really understand that not every person is coming to the table with the same background, with the same information, with the same wealth. By providing the resources and systems that enable ALL of the great ideas to be able to come to fruition to succeed in the world, I think we are reminded on a daily if not hourly basis that having a lot of money does not mean that you have good ideas. So if we can get more of that wealth and more of education into more hands, into more different experiences. There's so many leaders who have so much to offer who have lived in these different lives than than the people who are making so many of the big innovations in the world. I mean, I love amazon prime as much as the next person but is free two day shipping really like the most innovative thing we've got? I think we can do better. And I think if we can invite more people to the table who have had different experiences of life, we might have a real crack at actually solving this.
Mark Bergin 26:49
I do love that idea of inviting more people to the table. I'm not sure if any of you have heard the Camper story about every every meeting that Camper Shoes, has, they have an empty seat at the table and that's to remind them that they're there for the customers who don't have a voice in that form. And I think that's really interesting. Imagine if we were thinking that there's a couple of empty slots here on this Town Hall, and that they're the voices that we're talking to. To go back to your point, Eddie, that would mean that we'd have to have half a dozen different voices for the personas of those different types of community. And we're still being inconsiderate when we go to do that. But I do want to then move across to Turi, because Turi, I know that you and I have had conversations before about your life journey when you were at MIT, and you did some fantastic projects, but what he realised was that the design came a little bit too late in the project. There were these brilliant, brilliant innovations that people had been involved in, but design came too late in the equation and so the things stalled or stumbled because of that. Help the rest of us to understand why that's important to go get those values about being human-centred to actually get the design perspective in early.
Turi McKinley 28:09
Oh yes, that was a good conversation Mark. I think this idea of when design should come to the table is one that we've actually talked about a lot in design, around design's ability to frame the problem well, and use empathy to see where before something's built, what the gap might be between those who are building and those who are using might be. The example from way back when that got me into design was kind of realising the pain of trying to fix that interface when design has been brought in too late. I think fundamentally the value that design brings to the table is both that ability to frame the problem in a way that reframes the need, much like Melissa, you were saying about how there's something kind of fundamental about having women involved in the design process for financial services. But that isn't enough, you need to get to that moment where you ask 'what is the problem we need to reframe so that there is access?'. And then you know the value that design also brings to the table is not just the reframe, but the ability to take the reframe out of just words and thoughts into something that's tangible, into action, into something that might be built, made or experienced. But I had a conversation actually, earlier today around the question of human centred design and the idea of empathy that kind of underlays much of what we're talking about when we ask how can we reframe the problem to look at it in a new way. There's kind of an assumption that we are able to do that, to look and to understand people in a new way and use that understanding to make something better, to reframe the problem in a way that will let us take effective action. And I think the thing that I got out of the conversation I had earlier, around this current environment that asks us to look at that sort of fundamental hope or belief that we have around the expertise that we have just designers may have built in design, and ask ourselves, perhaps to Eddie's point, are we asking the right questions? Are we asking the right people? Are we building enough empathy? As a design consultant, we tend to talk to very few people in order to build empathy. But are we perhaps needing to open the aperture of what we're asking? You know, Mark, you brought up earlier in your question about the 28th amendment right? You referenced 13th, the Netflix documentary? And what did that do for you? That opened your eyes to something new. So perhaps, if you said there are five steps, perhaps the 13th is the first step because it built a broader understanding it built some awareness. I think for myself, I still believe that design needs to come in early into the process, but I think it becomes important for us to look at the methods and the expertise that we've built and that we kind of rely on our own underlying assumptions about how in order to do this better.
Mark Bergin 32:05
So what I want to do now is I want to throw across to my Matteo and Sean and I want you both to come and try to help me here. I've got the idea that I've got the 13th - so thank-you Turi that we've got there a lightning rod, there's a starting point - and I want to go and see if we can get people to love the idea. We need the public to go do three things: We need them to actually get the big idea; We need them to understand their voice; we need to get them to vote. And then we hand it over to the politicians. When they've got the vote, they've then got to go and actually get across the line and get themselves elected and then I have to go make sure that the 28th comes around. So Matteo and Sean, help me out here, we need to turn around and get people to watch the 13th and understand that their voice matters and that they can make a difference. Matteo is just a nice logo and some type that you're doing here is a more thinking behind this?
Matteo Bologna 32:59
Of course. There is current custom typeface that you decide to make for that project, and that's it!
Mark Bergin 33:08
No, no, we need to get deep, because I know that with Mucca that you've actually had great- listeners and viewers here, Matteo and I did a podcast, we'll put a link in, where he talks about his own journey from turning-in to actually looking at creating even more value out of a brief. So let's get into the more value out of the brief.
Matteo Bologna 33:29
Yeah, it's very difficult, the distance between the moment that you go to vote until something happens, it's so big that the question is, there must be some answer on how to convince the person tp vote now and see that there is an effect in the future. I think is the same problem that you have when you start thinking about your diet, it's so far away the result, the ending, that you need to try to make it tangible. So probably you have to figure out some smart idea, maybe some kind of like old fashioned advertisement, like they were doing in the 60s where there's some kind of pay-off or some slogan that really makes you think, oh, wow, if I do this, actually, there's a result.
Mark Bergin 34:37
Okay, so I'm going to see - and I can see Eddie you're smiling here, so your mic should be open and Sean I want your mic open. Come on, let's be brave and show you how we actually make the sausages here. So we've got to go give people an idea. We know that Melissa said that Amazon Prime delivery in two days is fantastic. I think there is an Amazon now as well, which was delivery even before you thought of the order, how do we get people excited? How do we get them to go and actually say, I want this thing? Is that we have to go polish it up and put it in front of them, or do you think the idea is big enough or is it just too hard?
Sean Rhodes 35:14
I'm going to quote a guy, a brilliant man who said that his slogan is, and I can't remember specifically what it was, but 'it's not that simple'. Didn't somebody really smart say that recently?
Mark Bergin 35:27
I think I did. Yeah.
Sean Rhodes 35:29
But you know, I think you know, it is a layered problem. It is really complex when you're when you're moving into thinking about impacting spaces like this. And similarly, I think to Matteo's journey, I had a very similar journey. Thinking about my role as a designer - I'm trained as a graphic designer - and saying, well what do I want to do with my time, my energy in the world? Creating beautiful things is wonderful, creating business value out of that is really important to me, but is that enough? And that's part of what drove me to frog. We were definitely commercial enterprise, and not to say that we aren't, but social impact work is a big part of what we do and we really fight hard for those projects externally because we're very competitive. And then when we win those projects, the fur really flies for people participating in them. We've worked with the UN, we've had the opportunity to work with organisations like MasterCard on economic equality throughout the world. But I think one in particular that I always come back to is local. And we're working with Robin Hood, not the app that Melissa was referring to before, but the Robin Hood nonprofit, which I think is famously taken from the rich of Wall Street and gone and twisted their arms to donate and eradicate poverty within New York City. We had a really amazing opportunity to work with them. And they were really focused on a part of their fund, it's called Fuel and it's really focused on educational development. We engaged with them to help us design research, to use co-creation, to help them figure out how to better orient their investments inside of communities in New York, in places like the South Bronx, in places like Brownsville, like Bedford Stuyvesant. We went in and we worked with community organisations and parents in those places to figure out a couple of things - what are some of the underlying issues that we could affect and what are the parents' and families' perspectives, so that they could be co creators in that process? And we found two major things and one of them is not rocket science, but I think it's important and worth saying: a big part of the fundamental struggle for people in those communities is it's not about parenting, it's about poverty. Poverty is a much bigger, all encompassing thing and it's the context that needs to be considered. Then I think the other piece was really being able to work with those families, those individuals to understand what their their goals were for parenting. Similar to I think, in financial services, the goals-based perspective was really helpful. So by working with Robin Hood and their investment fund, by using some of the co-creation and design research activities that that we do to figure out good ways for Robin Hood to direct their investment, I think it was a really successful effort and really eye opening and helpful for us. I think another thing that we took away is, you know, we really challenged oursleves. We found ourselves being challenged to think about design, to think about the context that we were designing in, from really tactical stuff to thinking about how mainly very privileged people that have been able to go to university, who have been going been able to go to design school, who have worked in a corporate context, are coming in as designers and collaborators with people of colour in those communities and collaborating with them collaborate with those community organisations. We did a lot of things that were not that great, right? We learned a lot from it and we were really challenged through that process. Even things like when we were recruiting families and participants to join with us, we were really struggling using some of our typical methods and someone had a great idea, it was in the middle of summer, they realise that at New York City pools, they shut them down for an hour to do pool cleaning and that many of the families that are in there go and stand outside and wait to come in. So our design teams went and that's how they met people, that's how they start to build those relationships, and build the trust to engage some of the folks in those communities. So I think things like that are really inspiring and they connect the dots through a lot of different levels. You have an organisation that's deploying capital to drive change, you're working with community groups that cover the broader swath at a municipal level, and then you have individual families. I think that ability to connect through all those levels, made that situation successful. I think Mark, similarly, if we want to get the the American public excited about something, moving and making policy at the federal level, we would have to work through a similar kind of altitude, you know, much bigger because we're talking bigger than New York, but how do we activate and create through all those levels?
Matteo Bologna 40:48
Mark Bergin 40:50
Starting local, yeah, okay. So what's really interesting here is as we've begun to dig in, we've begun to look in, and Sean, that's fantastic, there's a message there, there's some tactics there, there's a campaign, it needs to have some capital behind it, it isn't just the idea. If I think about the music industry, the music industry would say, look, we've got a feeling this beat style is going to come through, but we'll give it to 100 artists and we'll see which one goes to the top of the charts. I think if we go think through the design community it is going to be Matteo, as you said, starting local, it's actually having people actually start to go put a similar message into the community. But it needs to be an idea that's worth following. In Australia, we have actually what was referred to as a peaceful revolution in the early 70s. And the campaign behind that was 'Its time'. And that's all it was, was it's time it's time for change. It's time for whatever you actually are dissatisfied with. It's time that they've stopped. It's time that we actually move forward. It was interesting, because it was a universal hook that people get into. It wasn't It's time for Black Lives Matter. It wasn't It's time to stop gun violence. It's not it's time to go and put in our candidate. It's not time to get rid of the other, the other candidate, it just was, it's time. And it was a big idea that actually galvanise people together. And you know, if you're thinking about trying to excite the imaginations of people, the best thing is that you can actually use their imagination and put your concept on top of it. So what I do want to do is go across and have a chat to Jay, we are just going to shift gears here a little bit. Jay I wanted to talk to you about some of the master plan projects and the site, the reimagining of the built space if you've been involved in, because what interests me with that is you've got to go and actually deal with people who are in the top 10, top 20% of that of that project, which is actually where there's a lot of profit. That profit is then used to go and actually help support the lower 20% to make the economics work for the project. So you're not just building sites which are just for the well to do. You've also got the social and inclusive housing that's in there. So help me understand about how do you get an idea like that to float? I think some of it comes from legislation that is a mandatory requirement. But some of the developments you're involved in actually that the expert in creating community, I think a story or is one of them. There's a couple of others that you've got, helped me understand a bit about that.
Jay Valgora 43:20
Sure well I feel lucky with our firm STUDIO V, we're really attracted to and we work on all the leftover spaces of the city. We tend to get hired when people have an edge, and unoccupied place, an abandoned place, something next to a highway, a waterfront, a ruined industrial site, abandoned buildings. So what's exciting for me is, and these sites are often large, they could be multiple acres, they could be really prominent, many of them have problems, and so when we come in, we have the opportunity to build whole new sections of the community, to reconnect communities that are often divided by infrastructure by misguided efforts by urban renewal, by highways or other things that actually divided communities back in the 60s and 70s, old Robert Moses projects, abandoned in the street and so forth. So in that case, we're lucky that we're not really just coming in as we were talking earlier, and kind of gentrifying a neighbourhood but we have this place where we can make a big impact, where we are not displacing people. And then as you said, a lot of times there is an opportunity where often we're hired by developers, they want to make money, just going to be honest about that. They're not hiring us because they want to do social good, although even they've been affected by what's happening in New York, and they feel it and they feel the sea change, and they're engaging too. So then we work with city agencies, we work with public groups, we work with the community. Like Lynnette was saying, we have to engage with the committee, we have to work with them, they have to tell us what they're interested in in their community. And so we're trying to work between these things and one of the funny things about architects, I mean Rick would know this, we all think we can change the world because we're designing stuff. As designers we all want to make the world better. But we can only do what we can do, given our circumstances. But, it feels like for us, for our firm, we feel lucky that we're kind of in this interesting place now, where suddenly you have developers that have money, they want to deploy it, but they need help. There's really and a feeling of change right now. You have city agencies who have legislation that are promoting things like, if we're going to rezone a site, and we're going to create wealthy housing, we also are going to create social housing. And now suddenly, we find ourselves even though we don't have any power at all - we are designers, we have the power of our ideas. Suddenly, we find ourselves in negotiating between these forces where we are saying listen, guys, you're not going to get your project approved unless we're going to build a public park. You've got to give up part of your land for a school, a public school. We're going to build 30% social housing, but how are we going to build that? Do we need senior housing? Do we need lower income housing? Do we need housing for homeless people? Because there's a lot of different constituencies even for social housing. Or do we need workforce housing, you know, for people that are just working regular jobs. And by the way, for each community there's a different debate. There's very different desires, whether it's South Brooklyn, or Astoria Queens, or Dumbo, or Coney Island, very different desires from each of those communities. They're not the same, even though they're all in New York City. So we find it pretty exciting, suddenly we're negotiating between these different parties. We have to really listen to the community to find out what they want, and to do our best to kind of bring that to life and create a vision that actually unifies these groups, that in fact are often fighting with each other or have competing agendas and give them something to rally around. That's a big part.
Mark Bergin 46:42
So I'm some really interested there because what you've gone and described fits into where Eddie was talking about the idea of different communities and different needs. We can't talk about it as a homogenous idea that it is something which- Eddie I think you need to go, You have another meeting. Great to have you on the call. We'll talk about you now that you're going to leave. Okay, great to see you. SoI think that's really interesting about the idea that there is different shapes and those different shapes are really important because it's different in every moment. And Matteo, you talked about going into the idea of local, and in local it's going to be slightly different. But if we get it right- I'll go back to the Amazon Prime idea. Amazon Prime is a universal message, which is actually applied in 100, or 1000 different ways to go Rachel are different targets. That's what a good campaign is about. And so the idea that you've got a big idea that will excite people's imagination, and most people's imagination isn't going to be about the 28th amendment, to focus in on on the focus of this conversation. It's actually going to be about 'It's Time!', or it's something similar - change is needed. That's what they want. What they want to see is momentum in change. But that's got 1000 different executions. They think the 28th amendment- all of them are pretty bad if you go read them, it's like, it didn't give me everything so they're not going to be satisfied with that. And I think Jay with the idea when you go look at those building projects... if you go look at them, you can always find the part of them that's wrong. The role is to actually explain the part of that project that's right for people. And that's why I find it really interesting having a mix of people who are doing large scale, economic uplift in architecture with people like Jay and Rick. We've then got the transformational side that Melissa has been involved and Lynnette that you're doing there with Apple, and then we've got people who are involved with how you actually stitch these projects together in the panel here. It's never simple and to me that's actually something I'm going to keep reminding everybody. But actually, it's eloquent when you get to the right solution. Ronnie, I think as you've been working at Hyperloop with some of the projects, you've got this massive technical challenge, which is can we go make a vacuum tube which goes through 1000 kilometres? Can we then go put some humans in a capsule and can we fire them between two cities at 1000 kilometres an hour or 600 miles an hour? And can they have a great experience and think that it's better than going to Disneyland? There's just so many technical challenges there. Then you've got to get me to the point where I want to go in a capsule, which is no different than going in an aeroplane, but it feels different to me. And that's interesting, that we can say 'Oh, yes, it's no different to going on the aeroplane' but it's not the aeroplane, it's different. How to get me to change? Which is such an important thing, because all of this is actually about how do we accelerate change? You know, Melissa had an innate need with the project at Ellevest where there were women who wanted to actually get an outcome. They connected a service that actually said, 'we're going to help you with some of those unmet needs in your life'. There's magic that happens there because you're serving an unmet need. How do you actually turn around and say to people, we've got an alternative which may not even be a need that you know that you have.
Ronnie Peters 50:27
I mean, if in 1910 if we had told someone that we're going to put them into a pressurised aluminium tube and send them 30,000 feet up into the air at 300/400 miles an hour, they would say I would never do that, that's way too dangerous, it's too futuristic, it's too far out there. But look at where we are today and how quickly we moved with flight and we don't think twice about it, or we didn't think twice about it until the current pandemic of getting onto an aircraft, it just became so normal. And so one of the things that we're doing is through communication starting to get people to think about and normalise the concept of Hyperloop. That actually it's much safer than getting into an aircraft. It's much safer than getting into a train. There are no crossings. You don't leave the ground, well you do by about 10 centimetres, but you're essentially at ground level. And the fact that you're travelling that fast in a very controlled environment really becomes a secondary part to the story. And yesterday, TUV SUD just released the first safety regulations, which is a huge step forward for us, which now legitimises and validates Hyperloop. This is one of the steps that we're taking towards what you're talking about, where it's really starting to become normalised and people hopefully start to be introduced to the concept of it and think that it's just going to be a very normal way to get around.
Mark Bergin 52:01
Congratulations on getting the TUV SUD certification because that's a major confidence step with underwriters, with government authorities, a whole range of people. But, there's a need for Hyperloop to communicate this because there's a prize at the end of it which is in the billions of dollars. For Black Lives Matters, and for the idea of social equity, we need to identify that there's a billion dollar, if not trillion dollar prize, otherwise, people aren't going to be motivated to do it. If I go think about the project with you Jay: if if it wasn't understood by the developers that there was actually leverage for them, they wouldn't have got involved with some of those social inclusion and social equity aspects. I talked at the beginning about the idea of an economic lever, an environmental lever and an equity lever. We need to show that both the economic and the equity levers go forward. That is such an important message that we get out, that people must understand that we're actually clamping the economy by not creating equity in there. Now, Rick Bell, help me out with the reference... my memory was it was a Jeanne Gang project, that looked at prison systems and incarceration, was that in Chicago was that in New York,
Rick Bell 53:34
Both her research project, if you will, was called POLIS and it was in the first Chicago Bienalle, but it was also based on work that Studio Gang did at the 10th police district in Chicago. And maybe Lynnette knows that more specifically than I do, but I went to visit that site with folks from our office and it became very well known because of the basketball court that was in the parking lot, which was an effort suggested by the architects working with people in the community, to bring people together, to bring police officers who didn't live in that neighbourhood together with people who did, even over something as simple as a pickup basketball game. Subsequently, that was picked up by the New York City government in the Blasio administration, with a different architect working on a police station in the South Bronx, receptive to Studio Gang's ideas about trying to take a cookie cutter police station in Chicago, they're all the same, and make it more of a community resource. But what I would really like to talk about in that context and what her firm is particularly good at as architects and and what some politicians are better at than others, is bringing people together. You know, I think if there were four questions posed that get to the heart of what you're trying to achieve, Mark, you know, there are so many things to say, but Eddie started by asking 'what determines community?' You asked 'how do we get from an idea to making something happen?' Jay, I'll make it a rhetorical question, you asked 'how do we create a vision that brings people together, that unites people?' And Mark, you just asked a moment ago 'how do we accelerate change?' And of course, there are no simple answers. You talked Mark about the 28th Amendment, which for me is not simple, but it talks about money. In New York, we talk a lot about money. It talks about getting rid of big money in the electoral process, not the first time people have talked about that. In 1976, the year I graduated from architecture school, there was something called 'All the President's Men' and the phrase 'follow the money', actually it was never said quite that way until the movie but at the Senate hearing, Bob Woodward said something like "The key was the secret campaign cash, and it should all be traced" to Sam Ervin.' And what do we have more recent than that, you know, things don't change, in 2015, again, popular culture, i'll call it 'the Zoom Where it Happens', updating it a little bit. Interesting lyrics, 'no one really knows how the game is played, the art of the trade, how the sausage got made', you've use that word once before or twice before. 'We just assume that it happens, but no one else is in the room where it happens'. So what I think the answer is, or the partial answer is, is fiscal transparency - knowing how the budget is made. While we're sitting here, I just googled the New York City budget because we've been hearing a lot about cuts as a function of the pandemic and lost revenues and greater expenses for this, that and the other thing. There's been a lot of attention paid, good and bad, to the cuts in the city budget in general and cutting a billion dollars from the New York Police Department's budget. And what does that translate to? Well, 1163 police officers not being hired, at least not through that mechanism. There's a lot of suspicion that the money really won't be cut, it'll just be shuffled around. But, you know, I stopped to think because they didn't know until a little while ago, 1 billion out of how much you know? What are the numbers, you know, follow the money. The police department budget in New York City, fiscal year 20, which is July 1 of last year to this year, was approximately 6 billion, or a little over. So 1 billion is a pretty significant percentage. Not enough according to many who've commented. By contrast, the Parks Department budget was a fraction of that. I have the number here somewhere and forgive me for not finding my notes from memory. But I think the park land in New York is something like 14% of the total landmass of the city and represent the city budget for parks which is 542.9 million in fiscal year 20 being cut this year, represents 0.6% of the total budget. You know, 6 billion for the police department in fiscal year 20, 542 million for the parks department. When people are crying out for more park space, not just for good environmental reasons, but with the effect of the pandemic. Fiscal year 21, the year we're entering now, the budget was just under discussion. It started July 1. The proposed cut to the parks department was $61.3 million out of a budget that was only $542.9 million last year, so more than a 10% cut when more was needed. I think Bette Midler did a blog post today, talking about how could you close the East River Park across from Barush House on tthe Lower East Side? All along the area of social housing on the lower side, how could you close that park for five years? Necessary work to make it safe for the next superstorm, next hurricane, if it comes exactly the same way as it did before, and I'm not criticising project, I worked on it when I was at DDC. It's necessary, it's gonna happen. But why does it have to happen all at once was her question. I don't know. I look at the numbers and I think that the one other interesting number in the budget, talking about fiscal transparency, is something called Participatory Budgeting. Brad Lander and three other council members started that a few years back, now something like majority of the city council in New York, 33/52 council members are playing along with it or participating in it or sharing it. What does participatory budgeting mean in New York? A total of $35 million. That sounds like a lot of money, but it's nothing when you're looking at a city budget that was at $88.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, this current fiscal year, down from $92.5 billion for fiscal year 2020, last year's approved budget. $92.5 billion - $35 million is determined by people directly in neighbourhood association meetings and neighbourhood assemblies. So, I suggest that we increase that.
Mark Bergin 1:00:38
So that brings me totally back to what we were talking about with Lynnette about Chicago and the uplift that's happening there. Is it tokenism or is it actually substantive? And I think Rick, your indication from a percentages perspective that participatory budgeting is tokenism? The optics are that it's being done, and that those optics are then, in some ways, countering the people who are saying it should be done more because their comment was, 'it needs to be done', it wasn't 'it needs to be a certain percentage'. And I think Melissa if I go back to some of the conversations that we've had, it's actually 'how do you go get the equity from a percentages point of view?' and was I right that it was something like 170 years for women to reach financial equality if the rate of change stays as it is now? I know it was some ridiculous number.
Melissa Cullens 1:01:35
It's worse than that now. I think it's over 200, it's actually gone backwards in the last couple of years. So that's the thing, nothing bad happens when women have more money. I don't know where we got that idea. And nothing bad happens when black people have more money.
Lynnette Galloway 1:01:56
Again, it goes it goes back to the idea of ownership. It's this idea that if if women or black people, whoever, once they get those resources, once they get that money, I'm scared that they're going to just go ahead and basically own stuff and so that takes the control of a lot of institutions that people are fighting against right now. That's part of the fight to say, 'we don't want to be institutionalised anymore, we want to be co-creators, we want to have ownership, we want to have that voice, we want to create our own space', instead of having you dictate to me how much money I can get, where I live, what I buy, how I act basically, you know, we want our own space.
Mark Bergin 1:02:45
And having a piece of the game is so important. I'll put a link in the resources to the changes that happened in Bhutan. It was a roundabout the 70s, the Prince of Bhutan went off to the UK to school. He was at a school with other kings' and queens' kids, a very interesting space. But he came back and he then brought a modernity to Bhutan, which was a financial modernity, a public health and an education identity. And the story is phenomenal. But basically everybody was given a piece of the country so that they had ownership and they had interest in the game. He understood how important that was. And then the metric that they use was Gross National Happiness, not Gross National Product. And it's very interesting so I'll put that resource in. I'll also put in the link Modern Monetary theory, and there'll be a link into Donut Economics as well. These framings are there you know, we've got the SDGs - the Sustainable Development Goals from the UN, we've got Donut Economics, which actually measures how the social impact fits in. But Lynnette if we don't get people to go have their piece and their ownership and their franchise, that's a really important thing. When I go look at a project and I think Jay you're doing some work in the Rockaways area. Rockaway to me is really interesting. I'll see if I can find a reference to the National Endowment for the Arts for the placemaking that they did there. Because when Superstorm Sandy went through, it wasn't the people who actually had ownership that had the, say, better community behaviour, it was actually the people who were in the projects, who had actually done some work where they actually got to know each other. Their behaviour was exemplary, they supported as 'we', whereas the people who had the freehold of their houses, actually got their guns out and they were focused on 'me'. So I don't think the panacea to this is just about ownership. It's an important thing, that franchise that everybody gets access to, but it also has to do with community making in there. And so I'll add some of these resources in so that we can continue the conversation. Also in the next in the next month, I'm going to actually go get a facilitator Jordan Waid to put together a workshop. I'm going to invite you guys into it, to see if we can work out how to get some momentum and a campaign behind this. Because, it's lovely that we can talk, it's lovely that we can provide some thought leadership, but we also need to be able to go deliver and get some momentum behind it. So I'll definitely be asking you into that. It's been fantastic to have your time. Before I wrap up, is there anybody that I haven't actually grabbed the really important thing that you actually want to get across? Or have I been able to go stimulate your minds and help you to go get out what you wanted to say?
Jay Valgora 1:05:50
What was the Australian you know, you had that phrase that they use, what was that you mentioned?
Mark Bergin 1:05:56
Jay Valgora 1:05:59
You know, I don't know what you guys think, but I feel like there is a little bit of an 'it's time' thing going on here. Maybe this is my optimism. You guys correct me. I'm in the middle of New York, where you guys are all in different places everyone's feeling it. The process is out my front door, it walks down my street at night. You know? Like, it's very real. We're staying right in the city, my kids are protesting, we're going out doing stuff. My clients are all talking differently. The boards I sit on are all asking questions. I'm on the phone with the Dean of the college that I went to, talking how can we change stuff with education? I kind of feel like it is time. I don't know what you guys think? And I know that to your point earlier, there are waves, things change, things peak, what's Plan B? That's all true because things do change over time, but I feel like there's something different happening now and a lot of different people are starting to look at it differently. I don't know if you guys feel differently. Maybe I'm just being optimistic or swept up in this, but I feel that.
Lynnette Galloway 1:07:02
Yeah, like I said last time, I feel like COVID really exacerbated a lot of that. I feel like there are a lot of people who kind of feel like they're on level ground right now economically. There's a lot of sadness, there's a lot of people just trying to figure out what their next step is. How can they figure out a new job path or just trying to figure out a lot of stuff. And so they kind of understand a little bit of a struggle a little bit more. But, you know, the other thing that has been on my mind is this feels like a big accessibility problem. I think we've thought about accessibility, in a way, or we've addressed accessibility in a way of people with handicaps, right? With disabilities or blindness, whatever. But now we're kind of in this new space of accessibility with politics, with health care. Everything just seems to be broken right now and it feels like everybody is sort of at a handicap. That's almost like you're starting block to start to build off of the fact that everybody now, whether it's economically, whether it's with their job, or you know, whatever it is, they have a handicap that needs to be addressed and we need to think about accessibility in a whole new way. Especially on the job front. I just think it is an interesting new challenge that we kind of have right now.
Mark Bergin 1:08:32
And it's interesting, this is a behaviour that I've seen in the States that I don't see in other countries, where one of the beautiful things in the United States is that there's a codified language, and it helps get you to scale, where a particular term means something absolutely. And I now I found myself tripping over things, because I was using terms like 'economic uplift' and thens someone said 'Oh, you can't talk about that, because that's coded language for doing the wrong thing to minorities'. And then it's even the word, if we go look at 'equity'. Equity, it means something in the States, which has some half life residual about it. So, Lynnette, you're referring to it there about accessibility. Well, accessibility is about not getting to an equitable position. That's all important because if you're trying to go land a conceptual home run with people, you need to actually make sure that you're not clouding it by something which is going to get them through a previously traumatised state to go off on a tangent. And so it's really important to get the messaging right, which is that you've got a clear path, that whatever term it is that's being used, and that as Matteo was talking about the local side, that probably means that there's different messaging and different language around the same campaign and the same motivation in different communities. And that's where to me it gets very complicated. I know Dan, with some of the work that you've done in the past where you've been trying to go do this universal solution that moves across various countries, that moves across different age brackets, that moves across different socio economic brackets, we fall back to using iconography to do it. Now, I don't know about you, but I've seen some icons that I can never work out what they mean. That was what the design team said that was like the compromise. We need to have bullets that are landing on people, which is if accessibility is the right term that's going to work for you and your cohort Lynette that you're thinking of then awesome, that's the right one. If Ronnie's got a different one, he's saying I'm looking at some people who actually have these needs and these interests and for Turi the same. We need to make sure that there is multiple parts of language and what I find becomes problematic is the objective winds up becoming a singular, or simplified, but actually it's a complex problem. It needs to have lots of layers and lots of parts that it's trying to get through.
Dan Formosa 1:11:09
Coming up through the late 50s and the 60s and looking at all the civil unrest that was going on there, the civil rights movement and women's movements, it gave me a thought going into the world of design, that design should be for everybody. It should be accessible. Design for all, don't exclude anyone. Design, I may have mentioned this last time too, design is a medium of segregation. You can alienate or exclude people through design. It's the person who has changed the design, whether it's the environment or whether it's reading material, whether it's products, anything, it's really is the environment that determines who's in and who's out. So my goal has been, or my thought about design, was let's use design for social change and let design have social impact. And that was not a popular concept back when I first started saying it, but I think it's a lot more believable now, it's a lot more acceptable now.
Ronnie Peters 1:12:25
I wanted to add one thing that Melissa brought up last time and Matteo, you've touched on it, Lynette too, that after watching The 13th, realising that some of these companies, some of the perpetrators in all of this are actually publicly traded companies, and that anyone who's an ambassador has the power to actually vote right now, not wait for any kind of election, and don't invest in these companies or divest and all of these companies that are part of the system,
Mark Bergin 1:12:58
And Ronnie, that'd be really useful as the de-investment is such an important thing, if you've got some resources there send them across and I'll make sure that we're sharing them with people. Again, everybody, thank you for your time. I'm always humbled to go actually have access to your minds because it's when they come together that we go make something fantastic. I look forward to actually seeing you in a workshop. Again. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.
Hosted by: Mark Bergin
Podcast production: Pat Daly
Show notes: Lucy Grant