Schuyler Brown. That’s why.
Among other things, Schuyler Brown is a brand and communication strategist with a background in consumer research and cultural anthropology. And she teaches the Global Guest Lecture Series at DSI.
DSI: How would you explain design for social innovation?
I would first unpack the term social innovation. What I love about the term, is the underlying idea that we are evolving socially. The one big human family is innovating, and interested in looking for leaders and people who are skilled in innovating. I feel that all the time in my life and work, that we’re evolving, and the talents and skills that we need for that evolution are new to us. They’re sort of just being codified now. The design piece, for me, is taking the skill of the artist or the designer and applying those talents, or that unique way of looking at the world to this process of human evolution.
DSI: What would you like to tell potential students about DSI?
I would tell them that this is something I often wish had been around when I was coming into my career. I think the program is super cool, which may sound silly, but what I mean by that is it’s really creative and very real at the same time. It will not be a waste of time. It will only enrich their life and experience.
DSI: Could you talk a little bit about the guest lecture series you facilitate?
My objective every semester is to choose a diverse group of speakers who bring a little something for everyone. My hope is that every student will connect with at least one speaker on a profound level. The students are so diverse, so that means the speakers have to be pretty diverse as well. From a practical standpoint, I want to bring in people that represent the corporate world, non-profit, entrepreneurship, innovation, and invention from the ground up. I also think of a good representation of men, women, young, and old — I want people to be able to see themselves in the speakers.
DSI: What do you think is most exciting about the diversity of people who lecture each week?
There’s an element of surprise. It keeps it really interesting for me. There’s no getting bored in this class. I mean, you might get bored with one speaker’s particular speech, but walking in…every class is fresh because it’s a different chemistry, a different set of dynamics depending on the topic, the person presenting, the students, and the mood we’re in. Every Wednesday I’m really interested to know what’s going happen. I think that’s unique.
DSI: Can you talk a little bit about your background and the work that you do outside DSI?
I’d say I’m a strategist, a brand and communication strategist. I have a background in consumer research, cultural anthropology. Trend forecasting and insights are sort of my trade, getting to the bottom of the situation. What makes my work interesting to me is clarity. I help companies reach a real clarity about what they’re doing, especially in the world of marketing communications. I feel like there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in the world of marketing. There’s a lot of persuasion, misinformation, and propaganda in the business of sales, and I try to eradicate that.
I have a strategy and design firm called Sightful. We answer big questions for brands. The brands can range from big technology companies like the Facebooks and Microsofts of the world, to individuals and entrepreneurs who are looking to clarify their vision around what they’re building or making.
DSI: Another thing that you’ve talked about in class is connecting to people and its importance in the world of social innovation; can you talk a little bit about that?
I think that’s one of the reasons I’m doing the guest lecture series. I have always believed in the importance of community. It’s kind of funny. New York City is a great big community to me, and I think the world is a great big community. I really believe in what we’re doing here, which is why it’s easy for me to convince people to come speak. I really believe…this is a sales person’s position, I believe that the experience is going to be as enriching for the speaker as it is for the students.
We’re building a community here. Every time someone comes here we want to make them feel at home, we want to be hospitable. We want to count on each other. I think we’re building bridges here. Every time you interact with someone, you have a chance to build a bridge.
DSI: Could you offer some advice to people entering the world of social innovation?
My advice would be two words; courage and love.
The courage of your convictions, to take chances, to experiment, and not get it right the first time. I think much of life is constantly overcoming the fear of being small, or being in someone’s way. Whatever it is, just have courage. Change is so hard and we’re not talking about status quo in this department, we’re talking about change so you have to be a courageous person.
Love, I mean in the biggest sense of the word. That’s what it’s all about. Just a hippie moment. Love what you’re doing, and love each other. Even tackling challenges from a place of love is going to get a better solution. That would be it.