ERG Colloquium: Pierce Gordon: Investigating Innovation Practice: Cross-Disciplinary Studies in International Development

Colloquium | August 29 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 126 Barrows Hall

 Pierce Gordon, PhD Candidate, Energy and Resources Group

 Energy and Resources Group

Over the past decade, the field of innovation practice has become more accessible to development professionals and amateur designers alike, and is treated as a silver bullet that easily addresses issues of global poverty. However, due to the field’s growing popularity, debates began to arise about the field’s utility and place in society, which revealed how little knowledge is collected about how practitioners conduct innovation practice in the first place. To learn about the activities, benefits, methods, and obstacles of beneficial development-focused design practice, I apply lenses of analysis: participation, evaluation, and ethics, to innovation narratives to reveal how various collectives of self-determined innovators actually practice their craft - in Botswana and abroad. These lenses of cross-contextual analysis reveal how the amorphous, evolving field requires innovators who are responsive and respectful of the contexts in which they are situated. Instead of offering simple solutions for good innovation, his dissertation suggests tools in any designer’s toolbox to ensure they navigate complexity in order to collectively create a better world.

As an NSF GRFP Fellow, Chancellor's Fellow, and InFEWS Fellow in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG), Pierce investigates frameworks, methodologies, and contexts for investigating innovation for social change, and characterizes best practices for developing novel products, agnostic of geographic, temporal, or cultural context. His expertises include innovation and design pedagogy, history, and evaluation; innovation and history in international development, ethnography, and qualitative and quantitative innovation analysis methods. He has facilitated design thinking courses on healing, communication, and homelessness in Oakland, and has taught evaluation and design practice at the Botswana Innovation Hub and the University of Botswana. In a past life, he completed the Dual-Degree Engineering Program while obtaining summa cum laude degrees at both Morehouse College and the University of Michigan, in Applied Physics and Aerospace Engineering., 510-642-1640