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2023 UIF Global Meetup in California

Meeting a global community of changemakers

Silicon Valley Meetup

On March 24-26, the UIF Sophia team attended a global meetup at Stanford's with over 300 students and faculty from around the world. The event highlighted the significance of a diverse community that fosters creativity and collaboration. The 3-day meetup included 20+ sessions led by instructors, Stanford professors, and UIF Fellows. Activities ranged from embodied leadership experiences to design thinking workshops, enriching our understanding of innovation, entrepreneurship, and self-awareness.

Apart from sessions, the UIF Silicon Valley Meetup encompassed icebreakers, talks by past UIF Fellows, and an "unconference" where fellows led self-organized sessions based on shared interests. Engaging with participants and hearing their changemaking journeys was eye-opening. The experience underscored that design thinking is a lifestyle that teaches us to value diverse perspectives, to embrace failure, and to continually iterate upon our ideas. Moreover, we learned the importance of building a supportive community and mutual accountability in embracing the lifestyle of a design thinking together.

To learn more about the Meetup, read Vol. 1 of our report on Find Sophia.

Exploring Stanford's Nexus of Sustainability, Science, and Design

Before the UIF Meetup, our team visited the Jaramillo Lab at the Shriram Center for Bioengineering & Chemical Engineering, as well as the Environmental Geochemistry Lab – both part of the recently established Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. Visting the labs gave us a glimpse into how sustainability challenges are being tackled and solved through cutting-edge research. From advancing energy optimization to devising systems for carbon sequestration, the labs showcased a genuine drive to confront the pressing issues of our time.

Through these visits and our conversations with people we met in the labs, we came to better understand the crucial role that design plays in STEM settings. Design isn't just about creating technology; it's also crucial for explaining new ideas to more people. When design thinking is applied in STEM education, it helps make complex scientific concepts easier for the public to grasp. This insight highlights how combining design with STEM fields in addressing sustainability challenges is important in maximizing the potential of solutions and extending their impact for positive transformations.

Visiting Stanford's Harmony House

The day after the closing of the Silicon Valley Meetup, our team spent the afternoon with psychologist and professor Dr. Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu at Harmony House (the center for Stanford’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts). We engaged in heartfelt conversation and mindful activities on gratitude and the meaning of life with one another. It was an enriching experience that deepened our bonds as a team. Dr. Murphy-Shigematsu’s lesson on “heartfulness” made us realize the dire need of finding new ways to create authentic human connections and promote empathy in this ever-changing technological world we live in.

Visiting Hobelab and IDEO San Francisco

On our last day in the Bay Area, we visited two organizations practicing design thinking for social change: Hobelab and IDEO San Francisco.

UIF Sophia dedicates itself to not only design thinking and innovation as a tool to bring change, but to also creating a safe space and a strong community. Visiting Hopelab, a company that applies design thinking in the achievement of creating a safe space for youth, was very inspiring for all of us. Hopelab’s office environment and recent project highlighted the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth. It was an eye-opening experience to see how design thinking, mental health, diversity, and inclusion could come together.

Later that day, we had the special opportunity to hear three designers with backgrounds in journalism, chemistry, and nursing share about their work at IDEO and their careers as design thinkers. Apart from getting to hear valuable insights on what design means for them and how they use it as a tool for good, they showed us how important and powerful it is to work with a team of people with diverse backgrounds and skillsets to be able to design products, services, spaces, and organizations that empower communities.

We grew both as individuals and as a team through this stimulating trip to California. To learn more about our visits to various places before and after the UIF Meetup, read Vol 2 of our report on Find Sophia.

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