Energy and Resources Group – Fall 2018 Colloquium
Energy and Resources Group
DATE: Wednesday, August 29, 2018
PLACE: 126 Barrows
Investigating Innovation Practice: Cross-Disciplinary Studies in International Development
Innovation practice is a transdisciplinary field that aims to create a better world out of an existing one by pooling methods and mindsets of inquiry and creation. Over the past decade, the field has become more accessible to a much broader collection of amateur designers. Development professionals treated design thinking and related fields as a silver bullet that could easily address issues of global poverty. However, due to the field’s growing popularity, debates began to arise about the field’s utility and place in society, which revealed how little knowledge is collected about how practitioners conduct innovation practice in the first place. To learn about the activities, benefits, methods, and obstacles of beneficial development-focused design practice, I detail three studies that apply lenses of analysis to innovation narratives to see how various collectives of self-determined innovators actually practice their craft. This colloquium synthesizes narratives from a variety of innovation communities, from human-centered development practitioners to Botswana innovation institutions, to learn about the dynamics, obstacles, and aspirations of innovation practice. These lenses of cross-contextual analysis reveal how the amorphous, evolving field requires innovators who are responsive and respectful of the contexts in which they are situated. Instead of offering simple solutions for good innovation, this dissertation suggests tools in any designer’s toolbox to ensure they collectively create a better world.
As an NSF GRFP Fellow, Chancellor’s Fellow, and InFEWS Fellow in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG), Pierce investigates frameworks, methodologies, and contexts for investigating innovation for social change. By understanding how socially-minded organizations integrate, support, and channel innovation-incentivizing processes to generate value for target beneficiaries, he characterizes current best practices for developing novel products, agnostic of geographic, temporal, or cultural context. His expertises include innovation and design pedagogy, history, and evaluation; innovation and history in international development, ethnography, and qualitative and quantitative innovation analysis methods. He served in a litany of organizations on campus, including as president of the Black Graduate Engineers and Science Students, and co-founded Reflex Design Collective, a consultancy operating at the nexus of design practice and social justice in the Bay Area. He has facilitated design-thinking courses on healing, communication, and homelessness in Oakland, and has taught evaluation and design practice at the Botswana Innovation Hub and the University of Botswana. In a past life, he completed the Dual-Degree Engineering Program while obtaining summa cum laude degrees at both Morehouse College and the University of Michigan, in Applied Physics and Aerospace Engineering.