Impact Studio

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Introducing the Impact Studio

The Impact Studio is a new initiative at Ross aimed at translating insights from faculty research into practical solutions for the world’s challenges. For Winter 2019, we are involving graduate students with an interest in design and social impact to design solutions to address lead contamination in the Flint water system, drawing on Ross Professor Eric Schwartz’s research.

Schwartz has created a machine-learning algorithm that uses municipal and other data to determine which houses are likely to have lead pipes at a far lower cost than alternatives methods. The problem with lead pipes in Flint is pervasive in cities across the eastern United States. But what’s the best way to get this technology into the hands of those who can use it? Patents and licensing? A for-profit business? A non-profit? Creating open-source software, like Linux? Moreover, how should one address the potential conflicts between impact (the safest water for the most people) and profit? This is the design problem that the course will take on. The main deliverables will include a set of well-developed alternative pathways for developing Schwartz’s technologies.

In addition to taking on this particular opportunity, the course will serve as a pilot for an Impact Studio to be launched at the Ross School of Business in Fall 2019. The Studio will be both a physical studio space at Ross and an ongoing course intended to equip students with design tools to translate research into impact. Unfortunately, the space will not be completed until next summer; fortunately, the experiences of this pilot will inform what the studio will look like and how it will operate, as we anticipate that future participants may not all have prior background in design.