Honoring my childhood hero

On June 28th, 2016, my childhood hero, Pat Summit, passed away.

When I read the news, I instantly burst into tears. My own reaction startled me and it took hours to unpack how my distant, childhood idol had influenced my world.

I was inspired to write this medium article in my reflection.

As we pass the first anniversary of her death, I am reminded, yet again, to give thanks to the strong, inspiring, hardworking people in my life who are radically influencing my work today.

This week, I’ll be taking a deeper look at my current idols and how they’ve changed as I have grown as a professional over the years.

Who are your idols? How have they changed over the years?

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Coworking – A love story

I’m not from Minnesota. Except that it’s the homeland of Prince (may he rest in power), before moving to Minneapolis in January of 2015, I didn’t know much about the bold north.

What I did know was that I wanted to be a part of a growing community of social entrepreneurs dedicated to a better future. I feel in love with the Impact Hub global network and had the privilege to join the Founding team of Impact Hub Minneapolis St. Paul. But that was just the beginning.

Read more about my love for values based coworking and the local community here.

Designing Edges

In its fifth year, TEDxMonterey is celebrating what emerges when we embrace the edges: discovery, invention and transformation.

We often find ourselves at our most creative, willing to take a risk or leap into the unknown when we are at the edge. Whether at the edges of our knowledge, relationships, or society, it is out here where our limits are tested and we are challenged to reimagine ourselves and our world.

“TEDxMonterey ”Edges” took place on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

My role: Experience Design! Here are a few photos from this awesome experience.

The process:

Bottle caps Bottle Sorting and Washing

 The stage installation


The final product:

Upcycled Art  Upcycled Bottles

Check out the great talks!

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A Better Me

Let’s be honest.  At first glance my resume does not scream “experience designer “or a “creative”.  I’m what you might call a creative imposter.  I feed off the energy of collaboration and group dynamics, I try and fail repeatedly to create my own original designs but do a pretty decent job with a mimic and innovate approach.  I’ve been working in higher education for the past two years, and I have a degree in social change.

Adaptive? Check. I thrive on a steep learning curve and although I have some work to do in order to hang with the likes of Youngmihn Kim or Ben Lamm, I’m quick to assimilate and easily relate.

Ergonomic? Check. I harmonize with my team to help cultivate a high functioning environment and I’m your biggest fan when you need a pep-talk or inspiration.  I’m easily excitable, full of energy, and obsessed with brainstorming.

What’s that you say?  I sound like the other 80 million millennials working to enhance their career in a way that satisfies their altruism and personal passions?


But here’s the thing, I’m a devout believer in “fake it until you become it.”  And right now, I’m helping people make better.

Better decisions.  Better systems.  Better experiences. Better impact.

How can I help you make better?

How might we….



The Design Thinking brainstorming methodology that explores potential answer to “how might we….?” is one of my favorite tools in my toolbox.  Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to facilitate the brainstorming for several challenges using this tool and have truly enjoyed watching the process evolve for each group. Check out my portfolio to see a few examples.

The Ayni Project Process

Design in Development

Heather Fleming started as a product designer out of Stanford, but a few years into it, she realized there was another opportunity for her to bring together her love of design and her passion for helping those in need.  With that drive, she started Catapult Design, and has been inspiring development ever since.

Here is one of her talks about the role of design in development at CUSP 2011.

I found this talk quite inspiring and have to say I couldn’t agree more.  As development workers, we are inherently designers.  Everything from our intervention planning to our evaluations are based in design.  I have admired the work of companies and organizations like Catapult Designs and for a while now, and I look forward to the time when development by design is the standard, and no long the positive deviant.

Design Thinking for Leaders

I often talk about my view of leadership as an opportunity for balance, collaboration, and adaptation.  This past weekend, my enthusiasm for leadership in the 21st century was reinvigorated with the opportunity to internalize the relational importance of leadership.

Orbital Leadership

Füsun Akarsu, of Istanbul, Turkey, spoke to a group of Monterey Institute students about her newest ideas regarding leadership.  In that workshop, we had the opportunity to not only hear a lecture about the three relational concepts utilized by leaders, hierarchical, orbital, and organic, but we also had the opportunity to embody them.  A group of twelve students played the ‘same’ game three times, with three different scenarios.

Each game had a leader who was instructed to lead the other 11 students through a simple obstacle course.  The ‘followers’ had their eyes closed in all the games, but the way in which they interacted with the leader changed each game.

After each game we discussed how we felt by telling the stories of our journey as followers and leaders and as observers (for those not playing).  It was really interesting to see how people felt about the different types of leadership, not only because of how they interacted with their leaders, but also how they interacted with each other.

Hierarchical Leadership

This exercise in leadership, relationships, and connections sparked reflection on how leadership is intertwined with design thinking.  In each of the games, the leaders had to use different methods of communications to help their followers traverse the course without bumping into desks and chairs.  Essentially, the leaders were designing the experiences of each of the individuals based on the limitations of the relationship.

In the hierarchical game, students at the end of the line were so disconnected from the leader, they were forced to make independent decisions, creating small groups of collaborators who acted separate from the group.

In the orbital game, each person was touching the leader.  The leader was responsible for ensuring every single person took the right step at the same time.  This process was the least efficient and most claustrophobic.

In the organic game, the leader also had their eyes closed, so the leadership actually rotated depending on who was interacting with the priority obstacles at any given moment.  The leader in this game acted more like a facilitator by asking important questions and directing the group’s attention to the priority areas.

The leaders in each of the games utilized different methods of communication, defining the problem areas, acquiring information, analyzing data, and find the solutions.  In each of the situations, their were pros and cons.

Organic Leadership

The first was more efficient as far as getting from A to B, the third made the participants feel more comfortable and trusting, while the second forced the leaders and followers to more clearly articulate the problem and solutions.

Our conclusion was that leaders and their followers may need to be willing to institute any of the three concepts within one problem, depending on what is most appropriate to the problem and the goals.  It was a great physical reminder why leaders need to be flexible and open-minded in how they structure their relationships with their colleagues and followers.  The ability to be fluid and amorphous to the varying structures could prove to produce the highest efficiency and greatest outcomes, but also enhance the overall experience of all the participants.

Read more about this Hands on Leadership event!