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SFIP’s Microgrid Systems Lab (MSL) recently took a significant step toward fulfilling the goal of integrating creative problem solving techniques with challenges and processes in other domains. The following post originally appeared in the MSL news blog on May 5, 2014:

In support of its human factors work on the DOE-India microgrid pilot feasibility study, MSL convened a cross-sector workshop of a dozen experts drawn from a broad range of  relevant disciplines and on-the-ground experience. The highly successful workshop was co-facilitated and hosted by the Santa Fe Art Institute (an affiliate of MSL partner institution the Santa Fe Innovation Park) and its director Sanjit Sethi, an expert in “design thinking” and its application to many problem-solving settings. It featured a user-centered design approach to the Human, Social, and Cultural (“HSC”) factors bearing on successful technology and energy projects in rural community settings. Joining Sanjit in leading the session were MSL General Manager David Breecker, and Christian Casillas, who recently completed his Ph.D. at the Energy and Resources Group of the University of California, Berkeley. Christian did his field work in community participatory energy planning in Nicaragua, and also has practical experience in India. Read the rest of this entry »

SFIP’s Place Sourced Impact Investing project is now moving into implementation; and given the problems plaguing the financial sector, and its apparent inability to create true prosperity, this partnership with the Story of Place Institute may come at an opportune time. To quote Pavan Sukhdev of Corporation 2020, the market-centric economic model “…is recession-prone, leaves too many people unemployed, widens the gap between the rich and the poor, creates ecological scarcities that affect water and food, and generates envrironmental risks such as climate change.” We can do better.

Building on last Spring’s preparatory work, the PSII implementation strategy has two major components. First, it calls for the selection of a small group of pilot projects and social entrepreneurs, with whom we’ll work very closely to maximize their ventures’ potential returns across a broad range of capitals (e.g., financial, social, human, built, and natural), at the community scale.  Read the rest of this entry »

The St. Michael’s Corridor Revitalization Initiative

SFIP is pleased to lead the renewable energy component of Santa Fe’s RE:MIKE initiative, under its Microgrid Innovation Lab. This initiative, which is designed to catalyze the revitalization of a “Central Santa Fe” district, kicks off with “a participatory festival-style public event on September 21, 22 & 23: A pop-up previtalization of Central Santa Fe.” The RE:ENERGIZE component will feature pop-up renewable generation and infrastructure; an “Energy Village” with displays, electric vehicles, and passive efficiency techniques; a Smart Home demo; and an exploration of what a future “neighborhood energy network” might look like. A fuller description from the initiative’s website follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Some recent readings have conspired with the launch of SFIP’s collaboration with artist Sydney Cooper and the Portray.It project’s design phase, to make us ponder the essential role of the imagination in deep innovation.

Let’s start with the magnificent Marina Warner, one of our most profound scholars of and thinkers in the realms of magic, myth, and mystery. In her new book, “Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights,” she offers the following observations (emphasis added):

“Magic is not simply a matter of the occult or the esoteric, of astrology, Wicca and Satanism; it follows processes inherent to human consciousness and connected to constructive and imaginative thought. The faculties of imagination — dream, projection, fantasy — are bound up with the faculties of reasoning and essential to making the leap beyond the known into the unknown. At one pole (myth), magic is associated with poetic truth, at another (the history of science) with inquiry and speculation. It was bound up with understanding physical forces in nature and led to technical ingenuity and discoveries. Magical thinking structures the processes of imagination, and imagining something can and sometimes must precede the fact or the act; it has shaped many features of Western civilization. But its influence has been constantly disavowed since the Enlightenment, and consequently misunderstood.” Read the rest of this entry »

Those of you following our Microgrid Lab project know that we’re interested in supporting the United Nations Foundation on the U.N.’s “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative, one of the most important efforts imaginable. As described on its website:

Energy is central to nearly every major challenge, and opportunity the world faces today. Be it jobs, security, climate change, food production or increasing incomes, access to sustainable energy for all is essential for strengthening economies, protecting ecosystems and achieving equity.  Read the rest of this entry »

One of SFIP’s programmatic interests, under its transdisciplinary problem-solving theme, is the idea of “artist-driven innovation.” Due to their singularity of vision, passion, and imagination, artists and designers often drive achievements in other synergistic areas to new levels that mere mortals can’t imagine (think Frank Gehry and his custom CAD software, for example).

So we’re especially pleased to announce our first artist-driven innovation project, We the People, in collaboration with Santa Fe artist Sydney Cooper and leading Santa Fe design studio Anagram. Click through to the Project Description to learn more, and join the project crowd-funding effort on United States Artists.

Having so far weathered the Great Recession (and even benefited from it in terms of being forced to think very carefully about our core mission and value), SFIP recently revised its strategy and business plan from top to bottom. Many of these changes are already reflected in the content on this site, but we want to elaborate a bit here for our community of interest. We call this SFIP 3.0 because there have been two prior iterations, but also because 2.0 already sounds so old hat these days. Onwards…

The Problem with Problems

We all know that local, national, and global communities face critical challenges in areas such as energy and climate, healthcare, public education, environmental degradation, and sustainable economic development. But despite the massive resources we devote to these problems, in many ways things are getting worse instead of better.

A new approach is needed, one that moves us from incremental tweaks to systemic transformation, and scales to address the global challenges of our time. Read the rest of this entry »

This post, by SFIP advisor Saul Kaplan, originally appeared on his blog at the Business Innovation Factory, where Saul is Chief Catalyst. BIF is also a valued SFIP institutional alliance member. Saul’s observations capture the essence of SFIP’s transdisciplinary process, and the role of the arts, design, and creative fields so well that we’re offering it here for the SFIP community:

From STEM to STEAM

I’m a sucker for any event promising an interdisciplinary experience and an opportunity to dive into the unknown between silos.  I was fortunate to attend, Make it Better, a recent symposium at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) on art, design, and the future of healthcare. It delivered. I was reminded of the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials. You got your art in my science!  No, You got your science in my art!  Art and science, two great tastes that taste good together. It amazes me in today’s always on and connected world we still have to be nudged, or for many, blasted out of our silos to experience the magic of interdisciplinary thinking and doing. The timing couldn’t have been better for a participative conversation about combining art, design, and healthcare.  There is growing recognition that our US health care system is unsustainable. The imperative is to transform from our current “sick care” system to a “well care” system. We need to go from an institution-centered approach to a human-centered approach. We need to go from tweaks to transformation. Art and design can be key enablers for transforming health care. Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama’s recent State of the Union address featured “Winning the Future” as its theme, and innovation as an organizing principle. This rhetorical device was a great success in terms of framing a set of complex issues in terms that can appeal to a wide swath of the public and their elected officials, which is surely necessary to advance an urgent agenda in many of the areas he discussed (education, energy, infrastructure), and we applaud the effort on that skillful basis alone. Obama also succeeded in generating an aspirational sensibility and an appeal to self-sacrifice, both needed remedies for our current malaise. If only the progressive wing could do this better, and more often.

But the devil of real tangible achievement will most certainly be in the details, which are worth looking at carefully. So let’s ask some challenging questions. Read the rest of this entry »

In 2006, Colin Beavan decided he wanted to do something about climate change, U.S. oil consumption, and its military campaigns in the Middle East.  And if that’s not systemic enough, he also decided that (as a journalist) simply writing about it was not going to do any good.  Instead, in his own words, “I wanted to find a way to engage Americans  who were not typically interested in politics. For this reason, I wanted to draw people in through the power of story instead of polemic.”

So he and his family lived for a year in the middle of Manhattan in such a way as to cause as little impact as possible, which yielded surprisingly  popular blog posts, a book, and a documentary film.  The “No Impact Man” recently summarized the lessons he learned about how (and how not) to engage people in the climate crisis, a set of learnings so creative and interesting we’ve reproduced them here: Read the rest of this entry »

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