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. Over Winter 2019, we involved graduate students with an interest in design thinking and social impact to create 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 alternative methods. The problem with lead pipes in Flint is also 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.
Our Impact Studio class will be offered as a course in Fall 2019. If you have an interest in design thinking, leave an opening in your class schedule for it. The class will be open to Masters students from Ross and across campus. Read the full draft syllabus (.pdf) of the Fall 2019 course.
In addition to capitalizing on this unique 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.