American Designers visit Mexico to Bridge Divide

Ashley Lukasik (right) with IIT Strategy World Tour participants at  the <a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.unam.mx" target=
Ashley Lukasik (right) with IIT Strategy World Tour participants at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)

Ashley Lukasik is the Director of Corporate Relations, Communications, and Marketing of the IIT Institute of Design. They recently held their Strategy World Tour to Mexico City, and Ashley accepted an interview to tell us more.

Can you explain what exactly is the IIT Institute of Design Strategy World Tour?

The Strategy World Tour is a curated journey into the near future. Participants are designers, researchers, business innovators, strategists, and students--an intimate group of about twenty per city--facilitated by the Institute of Design. The Tour explores emerging domains--like the maker movement, the advent of social innovation, the gig economy, and artificial intelligence--in cities undergoing transformation. Every aspect of the tour from food to accommodations to the stories shared by the technologists, policymakers and entrepreneurs whom we visit is designed to make the content as tangible and experiential as possible.

Historically, the Institute of Design (ID) has pioneered the development of new methods and frameworks for contending with emerging technology and complexity. The Strategy Tour invites selected participants to consider ways in which the field of design ought to evolve and respond to new conditions globally.

Why exactly is the tour important? Why was Mexico chosen as a destination?

We face a constant barrage of information and noise through digital channels, yet enjoy less deep, visceral engagement with content or conversations with other thinkers. At the same time, we are confronted with epic challenges from the environment to volatile political systems to traditional economic models and social infrastructures under duress. All of these require new approaches and nuanced, multi-disciplinary and creative perspectives.

Part North America and part Latin America, Mexico City deeply embodies the current cultural moment, and the political, economic, and social implications of a global economy. We can see plainly both the challenges and truly creative problem solving--innovation, malleability--that stems from instability. The constant need to adapt imperfect systems with minimal resources to meet diverse needs leads to a certain flexibility and savviness that mature industries in developed countries struggle and rarely manage to achieve. Hence our theme "adaptive growth". The rest of the world has a lot to learn from Mexico.

What were some key things learned from the trip?

We focused a lot on the importance of identity and storytelling in Mexico and saw several unique examples of how that plays out in different contexts: food (Francisco Ocaña), urban planning (Laboratorio de la Ciudad), and business (Fondeadora, Mexico's Kickstarter, and its sister org for crowdfunding social enterprises, Donadora).

Pixza is an amazing example of how a compelling story and keen awareness of identity can be incorporated into a business model that addresses a complex social problem. This is a really a systems approach with the aim to scale through a networked model--or ecosystem--of local businesses.

What did you enjoy most about your visit to Mexico?

The hopefulness that was palpable in so many of our visits. For example, we attended a performance in a prison through the Foro Shakespeare's Teatro Penitencario in which the inmates enacted a modern version of Shakespeare's Richard III. The actors were among Mexico's most desperate, vulnerable, outcasted from society in a notoriously corrupt legal and prison system. Yet, they were incredibly talented, thoughtful, with a deeply felt sense of purpose and agency. I expected to confront more anxiety and conflict related to current Trump rhetoric (ie. "Build the Wall), yet was uplifted to discover that most people seemed unaffected at least within the day to day interactions between people.

Also the wifi was pretty poor in most of the locations we were in and just generally traversing the city so that kept me--and others--off our phones and engaged in our surroundings and conversations with one another.

What is the strategic goal for future developments based on this trip?

I hope to see more exchange between global designers and Mexico's business ecosystem. This is something that design consultancy, INSITUM, our alumni partners and co-hosts for the Mexico City Strategy Tour, are already doing across Latin America.

I'd love to see structured design planning and strategy support some of Mexico's best emerging business models, especially those in the social impact sector, like Pixza.

There are possibilities for delivering design education, or complementing the curricular strengths of existing design educators, in Mexico City.

I want to thank Ashley for the time to conduct this interview and i also want to thank her for the invitation as an observer on the IIT World Strategy Tour that was held on February 26 to March 1st in Mexico City.

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