Lawson, Cynthia. 2010. The New School Collaborates: Organization and Communication in Immersive International Field Programs with Artisan Communities. Visible Language 44(2): 239-265.

Under the umbrella terms of “humanitarian design,” “social design,” and “social responsibility,” educational institutions and specifically design programs are more and more searching for opportunities to engage their students in critical and hands-on learning via collaborations between students, faculty, communities in need, and non-profit organizations. Such active learning is rich and meaningful for all parties involved, but the challenges are rarely discussed and yet compromise the collaborations’ sustainability and potential for activating local change and development. This article uses the first two years of “The New School Collaborates,” (TNSC) an ongoing project between The New School’s divisions of Parsons (design), Milano (non-profit management and urban development) and General Studies (international affairs), in New York, several external partners, and groups of Mayan artisan women in Guatemala, as the central case study for the abovementioned type of work. Of particular interest is the central role that organization and communication play in immersive international field programs. This article argues that the key to a successful collaborative process includes a clear and transparent partnership upfront; with a clear understanding of the roles and opportunities for each organization involved, and a communication infrastructure that is sensitive to participants’ skills and resources. The article refers to, and includes, documentation from specific experiences from two years of courses on campus as well as in Guatemala, and the overall process and evaluation of this particular case. Of particular interest is a reflection on challenges faced and how an active, and thoughtful analysis of them, can lead to a more appropriate, and in the long-term more sustainable structure for this type of work.

humanitarian design, social design, social responsibility, sustainable development, artisanship, craft, international education, collaboration

Journal article: The New School collaborates | 2010 | Publications | Comments (0)

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