Change Labs at Stanford University’s

April – June 2013


I was a member of the teaching team for a class entitled “Collaborating With The Future: Creating Interventions for Massive Change” led and developed by Banny Banerjee, with 23 students from various Masters and PhD programs at Stanford University. It was a project-based class where students worked on real world challenges with project sponsors, in teams of 2 or 3. Students designed interventions which they presented at various stages of development from concept to prototype, throughout the quarter. I lectured on need finding and systems theory, and coached student groups weekly during class working time. The assignments led toward making the initiative real, and aimed to equip students from a methodology  and theory perspective to launch an initiative designed to scale fast. Several projects continued after the class, and one, ATÖLYE Istanbul, a co-working, co-fabrication, co-learning and innovation space, is in full swing.

The premise of the class is that the world is in dire need of large-scale transformation. The scale and urgency of that need are indicative of how poorly our current ways of approaching global issues have fared in creating balanced systems. We approach issues with rubrics bound in disciplinary boundaries but meanwhile, the real nature of the challenge is played out in the interplay between the various domains. Large-scale challenges fall into the category of the “wicked problem” with deeply integrated interdependencies. Hence, initiatives for large-scale transformations require integrated approaches. When large scales are couple with urgency, then the diffusion mechanisms need to be built into the innovation itself. Scaled interventions will need to simultaneously satisfy social needs, environmental needs, business viability, and governance systems as well as possess inbuilt means for diffusing rapidly.