ADIM Conference 2019 : Breaking Boundaries

The Academy for Design Innovation Management invites an international community of scholars and practitioners to share their stories from the frontlines during the June 2019 Conference on Research Perspectives in the Era of Transformations. As a both a faculty representative and Elab Founder, Rhea Alexander participated in the Conference along with several colleagues, students and Alumni from Parsons and the Elab as part of a track review committee for Case Studies from the Frontlines of Design Innovation Management, submitted two case studies as well as presented them in London in June 2019. The submissions were chosen in a double blind review process.The two papers submitted were:

Breaking Boundaries: A Unique Inter-University Program Addressing the 21st Century Skills Gap

Co-Authors: Rhea Alexander, Matthew Stewart and Shane Snipes

Publication Number: ISSN 2632004-5 (online)

Keywords: Human-centered Design; Education design; Design education; Innovation; Entrepreneurship


According to the World Economic Forum 2020, some of the most critical skills needed to thrive in the future economy will be the ability to collaborate in multidisciplinary teams, build diverse networks, and be human-centered problem solvers. However, many university students have limited exposure to interdisciplinary problem solving and tend to build connections within their bubbles (socioeconomic level, college, the field of study).

In this study, we’ll review Innovate NYC (iNYC), an extracurricular program addressing these skills gaps. In three cohorts between 2016-18, 50 students from 12 New York City colleges, collaborated in multidisciplinary teams to solve real-world problems using innovation methods like HCD (Human Centered Design) and lean business strategies. The challenges were provided by partners like NYCEDC (NYC Economic Development Corporation) and other locally focused non-profits. However, did it the program achieve what it set out to do and how might we apply the learning? In this study we aim to: 1. assess the strength and diversity of social connections between former iNYC participants, 2. identify any effect the program may have had on their career pathways, and 3. assess their continued use of innovation methods. To do this, we will examine the structure and delivery of the program, as well as review qualitative exit surveys and longitudinal survey results.