A shipping container

Page – 6: Born Rich – Cruise to the luxury lifestyle

How do you like the idea of living inside a shipping container? Kinda weird? But that’s not the case with the Adam Kalkin’s prehab homes made from shipping containers. The architect makes container homes that are good looking, transportable and recyclable. He isn’t the only architect to make shipping container homes, but what he creates is exceptional and luxurious. The best examples that explain his creativity are the Bunny Lane, his own home built with a 19th century clapboard cottage inside an industrial hanger, and the Push Button House, which takes just 90 seconds to expand to reveal a five-room home. Anyway, Kalkin charges $150-$400 per square foot for his container homes and the cheapest of his creations sells for $50,000.


Participating in the construction of the student’s design projects

I sat in the context room and waited for the students, who had chosen me, to arrive. They came in one by one till there were 17 of them. This was the first day of class and we had just done face-to-face balloting, and asked students to go off into the rooms of their chosen tutors. We began talking and I heard about their project areas one by one. Before the end of the class I knew with certainty that I would have a big challenge in front of me in tutoring such a disparate group of students. I made notes and attempted to put the projects into either my research interests or into categories which could be my general competencies. Later that day I was to wonder at where the large number of sustainability projects I had helped students shape had gone, and if they were still doing those projects. To be fair two of the projects I was hearing did look like sustainability projects.

It has since taken me a week to arrive at an understanding of my task of tutoring the fourth year students in my group. In this period I have met the students on two occasions and have read their proposals. I am approaching my tutoring task from a learner centred perspective and this has two key aspects to it. One, I centre the learning process away from the content of the project into the development goals of the student, and two, I work on the expressed intent of the students, as in their proposal text, to clear away the unnecessary or the high-sounding prose to arrive at the core of the interest of the student. The first goal is a focus upon the ability of the student to function as an Industrial Designer in a product development context, and the second goal is the articulation of a project that can sustain the student’s interest and would motivate them to deliver their best. In my reading of the proposals and in the conversations with the students I did encounter a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about the essential nature of the Industrial Design profession, and this became a theme in my communication with the students. Significantly I saw the students privileging the rational, design looks like engineering, and the prescriptive, design looks like policy making, in their articulation of goals. Half the students wanting to do vehicle design seemed to have a cultural cringe about confessing to a desire to do car design, and when confronted with the fact that their text seemed to be going in circles, confessed to the cringe. Similarly other students, whose projects looked like product design projects, were not comfortable saying so in plain terms. This is probably a cultural issue with the program and I ought to address this in the Research Methods course next year.

The crux in essence is that Design has to be reinstated at the centre of the project, and issues of concern for populations, the environment and passion for manufacturing have to relocated to the periphery. The composite design thus looks like an onion with design issues at the core, and the successive rings being the passions and ideologies; corporate greed, consumerism, sustainable transport systems, ethical issues, poverty, war, development, food miles and so on to name few. We need to reinvoke the purpose of design as being the improvement of the quality of life of people.

I have been looking at students who have all come in to the studio to work on areas which are neither about the campaigns I am working on nor do these topics easily overlap with any of my projects. In effect my supervision of these students will be in areas quite different from my current research focus. First there are seven students interested in vehicle design and this is not my area of expertise. I am quite happy to dabble in vehicle design at an upper pool level where the focus was not upon vehicle styling so much as visualizing models of car sharing and designing propositions for vehicles that could fit in car-share systems. Therefore my supervision of these students would benefit from the assistance of an expert such as Bernie Walsh, a former Ford-Holden employee with 20 odd years of experience.

Among the other six students, two did not come into fourth year with a proposal for a project. The four others on discussion turned out to be interested in working on projects that engaged people and their practices with some showing a significant focus upon the home. Reading into the proposal text I kept finding references to individuals and micro-events and there seems to be a unifying interest here. These projects are yet to be completely worked out – but early indications are that they could go in the direction of product design with either a sustainability, or a cultural and aesthetic focus.

Today I spent some time with each of the students and talked to them about their projects. This was a process of cleaning up their intentions and goals. I am keen to ensure that students do not undertake projects where the risk of adequate delivery of outcomes exists. I therefore asked students to write a reflective essay about their skills and abilities in design. Called ‘capability statements’ this was an assignment they undertook after class in week 1. My intention here was to focus the student’s attention upon their own design practice so that they could conflate their dreams – life goals and notions of design practice – with their final projects. Additionally I would use their capability statements to look at their presentations in week 3 where they explain their project plans.

I am motivated by a principle that I can best tutor students and support them in areas I have a depth of knowledge and expertise in. I believe the final year is where the significance of Industrial Design is made manifest, therefore I am focussed in this year not on a solution delivery by students but on the delivery of a sophisticated and refined design. This necessarily means I work in areas where I can claim expertise. This is crucial for the students as they are working upon a project that will last a year – and will have a refined outcome. They will in this period look upon me for guidance that is consistent and deep in knowledge. I am therefore thrown back to reflect upon and list my capabilities for supervision which informed the content of the feedback I gave students today.

  1. Expertise in: (a) Product Design and Development, (b) Sociology of Objects,  (c) Design Theory
  2. For Vehicle Design: (a) Can do research plus strategy, (b) For designing I need external support
  3. For Product Design: (a) Can do research plus project construction, (b) Can do form development, (c) Can do prototyping

Two Streams

There seem to be two streams emerging:

  1. Vehicle Design: There may be a critical mass of 6 students who are showing an interest in Vehicle Design. In this lot only two are speaking of car design in the context of the industry. The other four are either hiding their intentions (cultural cring about car-design?) or seem to think the right way to design vehicles is to treat them as products. Now there is a long history of design students/ programs doing vehicle design as product design – and so is something that can be done by bracketing problems to be addressed. But if Vehicle design is treated as a specialist area then the outcomes can be more focussed – plus we can get a special person/ a specialist to interact with the students. This last will raise the bar of expectations and will be better as a proficient vehicle design project. So will all the students like to focus upon car design? Suppose the answer is a yes then the stream can be titled – car of the future (1) and engaging with the propositions/competitions (2). And the project can be a form one, and the intellectual project is one of a journey into aesthetics and history of styling. The inquiry becomes one of ‘form’ (form development – ways and approaches) and ‘ways of styling’ (on method and techniques/tools) – thus making the project inquiry led and propositional. With this last the project is a year 4 level project. I have  to add a caveat that it is possible to go down the path of ‘no private ownership’ as a Campaign. But as treating the project as focussing upon ‘form’ – I allow for a professional grounding – which satisfies
  2. Product Design:  I class the other set of projects as Product Design – These are projects that have a product outcome. For example – the study of ‘micro activities’ – towards the goal of water conservation promises an exploration into peoples practices. The study of ‘peoples practices‘ – how people wash, say – constitutes an inquiry. The study offers a tool set for the research – and offers a theoretical body of work to back up the study. This class of project sits well both as a formal and aesthetic exploration as well as the potential for a “design for manufacture” project. Examples of projects in this category could be: (a) the design of artefacts for responsible use of water, (b) the visualization of a system/ kit for retrofitting towards a closed system (of energy, water and waste), (c) the design of a drinking water fountain series to encourage a minimization of the sale of bottled water, (d) the design of an object, series, for the home that is ‘socialized’ and culturally sensitive, (e) similarly the design of a non-object for the context of the home of the ‘elite’ in the way of jewellery/ collectible.

At thi point I am setting aside my current passions for Social Innovation and Service Design to revert to my past preoccupations – 1994 to 2003 – with (a) Vehicle Design, and (b) Product Design. The significant aspect in that framework was my complete absorption with form and aesthetics. In time this focus shifted and deepened to become theoretically grounded (about peoples practices – food, gifts, myths – and aesthetics) and politically aware. I was teaching stuents who were going into the auto Industries – Daewoo, Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha, Ford, Toyota – in large numbers. They were also being recruited by firms like Timex (watches), Titan (watches and jewellery), Whirlpool, Electrolux. The Industry focus required the students to be ‘form’ experts first – the manufacturing thinking was done by engineers, the market thinking was done by marketing, and the ‘innovation’ was in the project of ‘redesign’. The other category of students developed projects – clocks, lamps, chairs – that worked well for their future potetial as designer-makers.

In my move to Australia – one thing changed: there was no campus recruitment of students by big Industry. Students left uni without jobs.So the job in a big firm did not come into uni to define the kinds of projects that students would do. Or so one thought – till I realised that in the absence of real industry something else took its place- the phantom of ‘what industry wants’ and the notion of industry itself was used for anything from a consultancy to one off installation. I tackle this – obliquely of course – in a paper – ‘taking on Australian ID etc’.

In addition a few other things were different – car design was frowned upon (as lo brow), and form was not a preocupation. What I saw was a huge focus upon skilling up for doing models and CAD – both of which in India in those days were downstream functions and hired out skills. The students came with their own peculiar notions of design – its all about problem solving, its all about manufacturing, its all about chairs – which stayed unchallenged in them till they graduated. ‘What is design at its core’ – was not a visible part of the conversation.

So we got a few categories of practice – which let us say are not central, though valid ways of looking at design but often neglecting form, history or culture.

  1. Design-Engineering: Focus upon the making of things.
  2. Design-Management: Focus upon strategy and branding.
  3. Design-Art: Focus upon making outcomes that fitted the ‘art’ label.
  4. Design-Research: Explorations of unique phenomena.

At this point I did up a typology of practice – what designers do when they leave and take up work – to check how well these trainings work with that picture.

I then realised that – the final year has one meaning for me: that of addressing the needs of students. The project of supervision then becomes one of getting the students to reflect and take stock of their capabilities and aspirations. And the  project they construct has to be one that takes heed of their passions and their abilities. Two things!

You dont have a specific Topic

I was on the phone with a student and I was hearing that my fourth year tute did not have a specific theme. This is an interesting comment.

I will explore this in this post. Later.

Big Picture TV › Video › Sustainable Cities

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The System of Objects

If you are looking at the Object – products as we call them – then you would be well advised to look at the critiques of consumption. In this Baudrillard is particularly significant – both his categories of objects and the notion of the object as a sign.

Jean Baudrillard – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In his early books, such as The System of Objects, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, and The Consumer Society, Baudrillard’s main focus is upon consumerism, and how different objects are consumed in different ways. At this time Baudrillard’s political outlook was loosely associated with Marxism (and situationism), but in these books he differed from Marx in one significant way. For Baudrillard, it was consumption, rather than production, which was the main drive in capitalist society.

Baudrillard came to this conclusion by criticising Marx’s concept of “use value.” Baudrillard thought that both Marx’s and Adam Smith’s economic thought accepted the idea of genuine needs relating to genuine uses too easily and too simply. He argued, drawing from Georges Bataille, that needs are constructed, rather than innate. Whereas Marx believed that uses genuinely laid beneath capitalism’s “commodity fetishism,” Baudrillard thought that all purchases, because they always signify something socially, have their fetishistic side. Objects always, drawing from Roland Barthes, “say something” about their users. And this was, for him, why consumption was and remains more important than production: because the “ideological genesis of needs”[11] precedes the production of goods to meet those needs.

He wrote that there are four ways of an object obtaining value. The four value-making processes are as follows:[12]

1. The first is the functional value of an object; its instrumental purpose. A pen, for instance, writes; and a refrigerator cools. Marx’s “use-value” is very similar to this first type of value.
2. The second is the exchange value of an object; its economic value. One pen may be worth three pencils; and one refrigerator may be worth the salary earned by three months of work.
3. The third is the symbolic value of an object; a value that a subject assigns to an object in relation to another subject. A pen might symbolize a student’s school graduation gift or a commencement speaker’s gift; or a diamond may be a symbol of publicly declared marital love.
4. The last is the sign value of an object; its value within a system of objects. A particular pen may, whilst having no functional benefit, signify prestige relative to another pen; a diamond ring may have no function at all, but may suggest particular social values, such as taste or class.

Baudrillard’s earlier books were attempts to argue that the first two of these values are not simply associated, but are disrupted by the third and, particularly, the fourth. Later, Baudrillard rejected Marxism totally (The Mirror of Production and Symbolic Exchange and Death). But the focus on the difference between sign value (which relates to commodity exchange) and symbolic value (which relates to Maussian gift exchange) remained in his work up until his death. Indeed it came to play a more and more important role, particularly in his writings on world events.

What are my Capabilities I wonder

Welcome to Soumitri’s class. This class, for those of you who have not been in one of my classes, is about you. It is about your project and your opportunity to deliver a truly amazing or endearing project – being an intellectual tour de force or a culturally sensitive outcome. Such a goal can be daunting and quite paralyzing. I come into the picture here as my main task is to help you deliver on your goal. You may have seen some of that today, where the discussion was all about ‘getting our goals in order’ before we started off on our journey.  I would like you to see today’s class as a preparation for the journey.

I have asked you to go off and write up your capabilities statement as a way to align your project goals with your life goals. It is my belief that you can deliver best when you are completely honest and totally committed to the project as the preferred course of action. Often we do projects where we feel its ‘the right things to do’ and often we do the ‘right thing’ at the cost of the ‘thing we would rather be doing’. Take the case of humour and affection; how many of you think these values have a place in your design?

If you think they have no place then you probably also think that design projects ought to be serious. Now consider the proposition that the companies that make consumer products are a form of evil – that these companies make products just to make money and at the core would be quite happy to make anything that sells. The reason it is difficult to find these kinds of companies is because they spend a lot of money to develop a public image that shows them as ethical and good. For concrete examples to argue this point for yourself go and look at the texts on the history of advertising or films such as Erin Brockovich. If you then end up becoming convinced that all corporates are evil what would your design response to them be? Would you still design products to entice people to buy the or would you design their products with a subtle message? We enter in this way into ‘design as life’ where you do not take anything as a given, much less subjugate your values to that of a corporate. In the realm of design as life you allow into your work humour and many other emotions and curiosities that enrich our lives.

If there exists a category such as ‘design as life’ would would the other categories be?

Because of its roots in art design has some really fascinating values, which unfortunately we forget when see it as something else – as often design begins to look like engineering (where we focus strongly upon making it work technically), or management (where we focus upon strategy and making laws), or environmental science (where we focus upon quantitative asessments of eco-impacts). Now all these are good projects – and it is good for you to do them – only they are better done when you are enrolled in another discipline, especially when you may be looking to do a masters, which provides you with the theory and tools, and then in time gets you a job doing such things for a living. Designers are creative people and it is good to remember who we are by asking our near and dear in our families. If you ask your mother who a designer is you will get an answer that is common wisdom and you probably ought to make it right in your fourth year by checking to see why you are not becoming atleast that. Look at the work of Max Lamb (http://www.maxlamb.org/) and let me know what you think about it.

Imagine a situation where like a plumber you are available for hire in other words you wish to respond to an add inviting industrial designers to respond. The question for you is – are you employable? At the very least you may need to check if your sketching abilities are okay, if your CAD skills are okay and if you have work to show to prove that you can function as an Industrial Designer. Years ago I was on the 7th floor in the Kokubunji studios of Hitachi in Tokyo confronting a similar moment. I was 30 years old, I had an offer to stay and continue working in Hitachi, and was feeling good that I had found what in those days in Japan was a job for life. Seen another way this was a validation that my skills and problem solving abilities were okay, or probably a bit in demand as I do stand out a bit, especially among japanese people. I left and went back to India months later, that had to do with matters of the heart, and for years have idly wondered what life would have been like if I had stayed designing products and trains (that too). It was to turn out that I was not one for corporate environments as my passion is teaching and changing lives, usually of unsuspecting students, in small ways.

I know to most people it looks like I work in the area of sustainability and so ought to be doing all this eco-design stuff and other stuff all these other people are doing. The miss the point for I am flying the flag of a future world or making a critique of designing objects for rich people, which you dont need to do for you haven’t been touched by poverty in the same way as I have been, or just being provocative. I did run a waste business for almost five years, see video at soumitri.blip.tv, but I did not do any technical stuff or even any environmental science stuff in that project. The project was a design project which became two social entrepreneurship ventures but I was primarily motivated by my desire to prototype my solution. In fact in the UNEP meetings in Paris the others who were all often working on policy I was the chap who ‘prototypes’ his ideas and this resulted in my relationship with Carlo Vezzoli of Polytecnico in Milan.

Infact one of my abilities I am quite comfortable with is my ability to work with people. I actually seek out projects where there are people and I argue for designers to be more in tune with peoples thoughts – which I do by listening to their faint voices.

As you can see I began to do the assignment I had set for you. But have to go now.
(now thats about 1100 words)

If I have ti improve this text I will go back to it and break it up into different arguments and put subtitles. The I will mark the points I am making and then figure out a way to prove my claims.

Tinkering with monks: cardboard automata on Vimeo

Cardboard automata is tinkering activity developed by the PIE institute at the Exploratorium. In it, participants are asked to build a mechanism of their choosing, using simple materials, to animate a kinetic vignette. It is an exploration of mechanical movement and artistic expression at the same time.

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A future led by corporate projects

Good on you Peter Jones. So well put. I will push for a more radical position – but ‘led by corporate’ is a damning statement. You slave you, designer you. You are part of the problem – but do go there (below) and read his words. And if it works for you – I will be glad.

Design Leadership for Problem Systems

Yet in the gritty reality of everyday work, the vast majority of working designers and design educators are training for, skilled for, and planning on a future led by corporate projects. Many of us owe our livings in a creative, dynamic profession to the overabundance of producing new things and marketing those things and services via every channel of media available. We might accept this reality as yet another dichotomy among those of our modern values systems, which indeed it is. Many of us love and enjoy the constructive and skillful work we do, but may not love some of the outcomes we are making happen. Yet I say we can find new ways to motivate and lead by asking questions, presenting alternatives, and designing social opportunities as we might create artifacts.

Sync Facebook photos with Apple’s Address Book

I dont have a facebook account anymore and I also dont have Plaxo. Now Plaxo, when I had the account, did this syncing and even today I have profile photos of all the plaxo contacts in my iphone.

So when someone from my old plaxo list cals I see their photo. Cool.

But now you can do that with address book. See below.

Sync Facebook photos with Apple’s Address Book – Download Squad

Back in the day — OK, 2007 — there was a spiffy little OS X app called Facebook Sync that pulled down your friends’ contact info and added it to Address Book on your Mac. This was especially brilliant if you used iChat, because screen names would be imported so you could chat with most of your Facebook friends before there was a Facebook Chat. But Facebook Sync turned out to be too good to be true when Facebook decided it violated their Terms of Service. Address Book Sync partially fills the void by allowing you to bulk-add your FB contacts to Address Book — minus the contact info.

What good is it if you can’t sync screennames and email addresses? Well, you can still sync photos and birthdays, and at least you’ll have an Address Book entry for each Facebook contact. Also, if you already like the photo you have in your Address Book for one of your friends, you can uncheck a box to have Address Book Sync leave it alone. If your phone can sync contacts with Address Book, this is also a fast way to have people’s photos show up when they call you. Address Book Sync works brilliantly and doesn’t violate the terms of service. Now, if I could just figure out a way to add contact info to all these new entries …


Word Spy – SPIN

adj. Relating to the dense cultivation of vegetables and other crops on small plots, particularly in urban settings. [From the phrase Small Plot INtensive.]

Example Citations:
Some cities, most notably Vancouver, have websites that match urban landowners who don’t care to garden with those who have no space but want to immerse their hands in soil. Here and elsewhere, a few entrepreneurs, engaging in SPIN, or Small Plot Intensive, agriculture, rent backyards — several at a time — to grow produce for sale.
—Peter Gorrie, “In gardens, a design for the city,” The Toronto Star, February 22, 2009

John Taylor is tending Swiss chard, arugula, collards, spinach, turnips and herbs this fall. The crops follow a summer bounty of tomatoes, string beans, peppers, cucumbers, okra, eggplant, sunflowers and other goodies.

Located not in New Jersey farm country or even a suburban backyard, Taylor’s farm project is brightening a fenced-in half-acre in downtown Newark. It’s a neatly arranged quarter-acre garden that uses some principles of small plot intensive, or “Spin” farming, a concept Canadian farmer Wally Satzewich turned into a company after his experiment in downsizing proved fruitful.
—Jennifer Weiss, “Farm fresh, in the city,” The Star-Ledger, October 9, 2008

A Diabetes Mentor in Your Cell Phone

» A Diabetes Mentor in Your Cell Phone – DiabetesMine: the all things diabetes blog

For most people, the cell phone is one of the only gadgets everyone understands and uses every day. There are several companies that have utilized the wide world of iPhone applications, but new-kid-on-the-diabetes-block WellDoc, a Baltimore-based company, has created a new mobile product designed for any phone, called WellDoc’s Diabetes Manager.

The WellDoc demo (which you can watch here) describes a scenario of John, a type 2 diabetic, and Dr. Smith, an endocrinologist. John has “poorly controlled diabetes,” with an A1C over 9, and only sees Dr. Smith for 15 minutes every few months. (Sound familiar?)

For the patient, the WellDoc Diabetes Manager system acts as a mobile CDE / mom:

– It reminds you when to test
– It receives blood glucose readings from a bluetooth-enabled meter or from manual input
– It analyzes the data and provides real-time feedback
– It provides a food database to prevent over treating hypoglycemia
– It asks questions about what caused low or high blood sugars and suggests areas of needed education
– It alerts when you need to retest

Change your meter color depending on your outfit or your mood

» “Designer” Mini Glucose Meter Coming in March – DiabetesMine: the all things diabetes blog

Recently I wrote about an amazingly compact new glucose meter called the Glucocard, from Japanese manufacturer Arkray. Now it seems that the company is going designer ultra-mini with a tiny new meter that will be the first-ever to feature interchangeable face plates, “so users may personalize the look of their monitoring system.” The GLUCOCARD® 01 (as it’s inexplicably named; 01 tells us nothing) received final FDA clearance in early February, and will be launched next month.

Interest repayments are tax deductible on owner-occupied loans in the US

Home Loans: Tax deductible home loans – RateCity.com.au

Housing Affordability; it’s the catch-cry of the year. It seems we can’t go a day without hearing the words, especially when used in conjunction with the other latest slogan; “mortgage stress”. Even politicians have entered the discussion with the idea of making the interest repayments on first home-buyer’s mortgages tax deductible to try and ease this affordability crisis.

In the United States, interest repayments are tax deductible on owner-occupied loans. Currently in Australia however, only the interest repayments on investment properties can be used as a tax break. It would appear that our current system favours those with the capital to invest but if we were to adopt tax deductible repayments for first home buyers to try and even the playing field; how much could they save?

Home mortgage interest deduction – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A home mortgage interest deduction allows taxpayers who own their homes to reduce their taxable income by the interest paid on the loan which is secured by their principal residence (or, sometimes, a second home). Most developed countries do not allow a deduction for interest on personal loans, so countries that allow a home mortgage interest deduction have created an exception to those rules. The Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States each allow the deduction. The standard justification for the deduction is that it encourages home ownership. Countries that tax imputed income on home ownership may allow the deduction under the theory that it is no longer a personal loan, but a loan for income-producing purposes. Standard criticisms are that it does not significantly impact home ownership, that it allows taxpayers to circumvent the general rule that interest on personal loans is not deductible, and that the deduction disproportionately favors high-income earners.

Where can we find the billions to relieve students of their debt?

President Obama–Forgive Student Debt. – BusinessWeek

I just came from a discussion session of Parsons’ students working on their research projects for my lecture series, Design at the Edge. They are amazingly smart students. They’ve broken up into groups of five or six. Each group is about to do ethnographic research on their own Gen Y generation and create a design brief for a project/service/experience that will help their cohort get through these tough times.

In their early discussion, one of the most dominate and defining themes is the enormous amount of tuition and debt that defines their generation. They worry about how this debt will limit their future choices and reduce the amount of risk they can take. There are all kinds of differences between the Boomer and Gen Y generations but debt load is one of the most striking. Gen Yers are paying much higher tuition than the Boomers and their debt loads are much, much heavier. Yes, I realize that many Boomer parents are paying the tuition for Gen Yers, but it is amazing how responsible, if not guilty, their children feel about this burden. And for a huge percentage, borrowing is the only way they can get through school.

So why not have the federal government take on the debt of these students. We’re breaking all the rules at the moment to survive, why not do this and help the American, Korean, European and all the other kids studying at US colleges and universities? Declare a debt holiday on our college students.

Where can we find the billions to relieve students of their debt? Start with the billions of tax-payer money that was transferred as bonuses to Wall Streeters. That should come to around $20 billion. Throw in the $70 billion in the Senate Stimulus bill for the AMT—Alternative Minimum Tax. It gives upper income middle income tax payers money back on federal income taxes. In other words, it’s a tax break for Boomers. Better to give the break directly to Gen Yers. They are, after all, the future.

Smile Train Trip To Haiti

Brian Mullaney

Smile Train – the world’s largest cleft charity visits Haiti to expand its free cleft surgery programs and help the more than 20,000 children in Haiti who are suffering with unrepaired clefts.

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The Smile Train: Brian Mullaney Biography

Brian has been involved with The Smile Train since day one and was part of the original Founders who came up with the idea and most importantly, the unique strategy of empowering local doctors in developing countries. Brian has been working on The Smile Train since April of 1997. In June of 2002 Brian assumed the role of President and today he is responsible for all Smile Train operations worldwide. Luckily, Brian has an incredibly dedicated and talented staff that make him look good and keep this train on the right track!

Today, The Smile Train is the world’s largest cleft program with thousands of partners and programs in 70+ of the world’s poorest countries. Each year The Smile Train provides free cleft surgery for more than 100,000 poor children who would otherwise never receive it. In as little as 45 minute and for as little as $250, these children receive not just a new smile but a second chance at life.

With thousands of Smile Train programs and partners in over 70 countries, Brian travels extensively to make sure our existing programs are going well and to develop new relationships and open new countries. Brian has been involved with children’s reconstructive surgery charities for more than 16 years and is a former Board member of Operation Smile.

Brian is a graduate of Harvard College and resides on Long Island, New York with his wife Cricket and three small children.

Better Philanthrophy – ideas wanted

So this past week I raged about the ‘putting pipes in the ground’ approach of a corporate-philathrophy project. I realise what I need is for these City Councils in Australia not to keep putting money into ineffective ‘feel-good’ and ‘look good in report’ projects – but to smarten their act and participate in genuine and sustainable change.

I am a designer and as such a member of a community that for fifty years (looking just at the post war boom in the total design economy) has lied to itself that it was doing good. I have little respect and faith in justification that claims design makes the world a better place. If that was the purpose of design – it would have done things differently.

But before I get sidetracked too much let me point you to a project that changed ‘operation smile’ (sure it benefits people – but is just not good enough, we can do better) in to ‘smile train’. So instead of building rooms in slums in India – wha would you do? Give that some thought and if you ahve any ideas I would love to hear about them.

Meanwhile take a look here (below) and at Freakonomics – which sparkles with brilliance.

Freakonomics – The Money Issue – Philanthropy – Wealth and Affluence – New York Times

Mullaney helped conceive a plan. Instead of using Operation Smile’s hard-raised millions to fly doctors and equipment around the world for limited engagements, what if the money were used instead to train and equip local doctors to perform cleft surgery year-round?

And ….

Smile Train works as a charity because it is run like a business. Fixing a child’s cleft lip or palate is a relatively cheap procedure with outsize payoffs: cleft children in many countries are ostracized and have a hard time going to school, getting jobs and marrying, and the surgery reverses those disadvantages. Indeed, when pitching a reluctant government, Mullaney refers to cleft children as “nonperforming assets” who can soon be returned to the economic mainstream. He fights bad incentives with better ones: when Smile Train learned that midwives in Chennai, India, were being paid off to smother baby girls born with cleft deformities, Mullaney started offering midwives as much as $10 for each girl they instead took to a hospital for surgery.

Smile Train has also harnessed technology to create efficiencies in every aspect of its business, from fund-raising to charting patients’ outcomes. It developed surgery-training software that helps educate doctors around the world. There are high-tech quality-control measures: using digital imaging, a Texas cleft expert grades a random sample of operations performed by Smile Train doctors around the world, in order to know which surgeons in, say, Uganda or China need more training. These are the sort of innovations that likely make Smile Train one of most productive charities, dollar for deed, in the world. Over the last eight years, Smile Train has performed more than 280,000 cleft surgeries in 74 of the world’s poorest countries, raising some $84 million last year while employing a worldwide staff of just 30 people.

Australians who live on slumdog millionaires’ row – and love it

This is amazing.

Consumer detox ... in their bedroom-sized home.
Australians who live on slumdog millionaires’ row – and love it | smh.com.au

MARK and Cathy Delaney don’t need to see the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire. The Brisbane couple experience slum life in India every day.

For 13 years they have lived in the shanty towns of the Indian capital, New Delhi, raising their children and sharing their lives with the locals. Their two sons, Tom, 12, and Oscar, 7, were born in India and have lived most of their lives in slums.

The family home, in a neighbourhood called Janta Mazdoor Colony, is about the size of a typical Australian bedroom. They have no running water, no TV, no fridge and no washing machine. Two mattresses, used to sleep on at night, double as a “lounge” during the day. Meals are eaten sitting on the floor and they share with neighbours a squat toilet in a small bathroom.

But the Delaneys are not complaining. For them, living in a slum has been deeply enriching.