Venture Lab Inaugural Cohort

I’ve been working on a social impact curriculum and program at Parsons The New School. We asked student venture teams to apply to a course called Venture Lab, designed for launching potentially scalable ventures. We’ll also be studying the larger question of entrepreneurship inclusion, and how young ventures can develop, validate, and articulate their social impact vision.

Looking forward to Spring’s cohort!


We are delighted to announce the 2017-2018 Venture Lab Winners!

In alphabetical order 


Broke Broadway

Broke Broadway, a newly-incorporated non-profit organization, intends to open a performing and fine arts facility that will be called “Mom Mom’s House” outside Newark, New Jersey. Their mission is to make performing and fine art resources accessible and available to all.

Tasneem Nathari, Dramatic Arts (BFA), College of Performing Arts
Lisa McCree, Social Worker,  Broke Broadway Team Member
Dante Bailey, Video Director/Photographer; Broke Broadway Team Member

Entryway Design

Entryway Design works to serve communities that are threatened with symbolic or physical displacement by developing and implementing several prototypical models that combine design, design thinking, and social advocacy.

Ilya Benjamin Washington, Strategic Design and Management (MS), Parsons School of Design Marisol Cantu, Entryway Design Team Member
Arlene Thompson, Entryway Design Team Member
Haluk Oz, Entryway Design Team Member

ESL Works

ESL Works strives to build a more diverse, efficient, committed, and skilled workforce for the American food industry by designing and delivering English language training and professional development opportunities for employees who face communication barriers. As they expand, ESL Works plans to develop online training tools that will provide affordable resources to individuals who don’t have access to on-site classes.

Rachael Nemeth, Founder and CEO, ESL Works; TESOL (MA), School of Public Engagement 
Robin Burger, COO, ESL Works; Economics (BA), Vassar College

Leadership Institute for Global ChangeMakers
Leadership Institute for Global ChangeMakers provides professionals of color in the nonprofit arts and culture sector with leadership development opportunities that promote active, deep, and authentic personal development for racially and culturally diverse people at the emerging and mid-career stages of their career.

Anthony D. Meyers, Founder, Leadership Institute for Global Chang Makers; Organizational Change Management (MS), Schools of Public Engagement
Sandra Stollar, Counseling Psychology (BS), Schools of Public Engagement

Leform is a peer-to-peer platform that aims to democratize learning by connecting young professionals and college dropouts who want to develop career and life skills with real world practitioners at an affordable cost.

Sundar Subramanian, Strategic Design and Management (MS), Parsons School of Design
Abhishek Nair, Strategic Design and Management (MS), Parsons School of Design
Jennifer Hsieh, Strategic Design and Management (MS), Parsons School of Design
Victoria Ka Wai Chan, Strategic Design and Management (MS), Parsons School of Design

Modesty Group

Modesty Group is a fashion brand that aims to transform the relationship women have with the beauty and fashion industry by designing simple, elegant and comfortable women’s clothing at affordable prices.  Their enterprise started in Senegal, however, they are currently seeking to expand to France and the United States.

Ndeye Aminata Dia, President, Modesty Group; Strategic Design and Management (MS), Parsons School of Design
Fatymatou Dia, Senior Associate, Boston Consulting Group; Global Affairs/African Studies (BA), Yale University
Mouhammad Fall, Financial Economics, (BA) Columbia University
Rokhaya Ndoye, (MS), ISM Dakar, Senegal
Mame Aminata Diambo, ESP Dakar, Senegal

Nightingale Farms

Nightingale Farms seeks to tackle poverty, environmental, and socioeconomic issues in an effort to restore degraded ecosystems in the Jamaica Blue Mountains that are caused by unsustainable practice of conventional coffee farming.

Cheryl Bennett, Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management (MS), School of Public Engagement 
Ralph Olacio, Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management (MS), School of Public Engagement


In India, personal feminine hygiene is considered a taboo subject, and 95% of India’s sanitary napkin market uses harmful chemicals known to cause Urinary Tract Infections. Nora is creating awareness about the importance of personal feminine hygiene by creating affordable and quality made feminine hygiene products. Their first product will be sanitary napkins made of 100% organic cotton.

Nagasai Adama, Founder, Nora; Strategic Design and Management (MS), Parsons School of Design 
Kalpana Parvathaneni, Doctoral Candidate, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences  
Nandan Reddy, Co-Founder, Swiggy; Physics (MSc), Birla Institute of Technology and Science  

Original Kids

Original Kids (OK) is a community that encourages creative expression among children and adults. Through the lenses of neuroscience, mindfulness, and the arts, OK provides opportunities and tools to develop the emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and resilience needed to thrive in the 21st-century. They plan to do this by collaborating with co-working spaces to design learning experiences, programs, and tools that inspire people to live creatively.

Carolina Corseuil, Transdisciplinary Design (MFA), Parsons School of Design
Alice Cardoso, Psychologist; Neuroscience and Education (MA), Columbia University
Isabel Salgueiro, Business Consultant, London College of Communication

Spirus Breathing Mask

Spirius Breathing Mask is an attempt to address the deteriorating air conditions in cities globally by designing a breathing mask that will be reusable, aesthetically pleasing, and has the ability to filter out air pollution.

Chien Lo, Strategic Design and Management (MS), Parsons School of Design 
Wei Li Lo, Strategic Design and Management (MS), Parsons School of Design
Hao Zheng, Strategic Design and Management (MS), Parsons School of Design


Uput is attempting to develop a way for millennials to broaden their understanding of diverse viewpoints and perspectives about current events. They plan to do this by creating an online news platform where people are encouraged to debate current world issues and comment on content from a range of sources.

Allison Pinz, Strategic Design and Management (BBA), Parsons School of Design
Gusztav Simon, , Strategic Design and Management (BBA), Parsons School of Design
Elizabeth Morrocco,  Strategic Design and Management (BBA), Parsons School of Design

Business Model Myths in the Circular Economy

Today at 11 EST I’ll be giving an online talk for the virtual Circular Economy “Dif” Festival put on by the Ellen MacCarthur Foundation.

What was planned to be a thorough analysis of common business model mis-conceptions has changed in light of recent events.

We will discuss:

  • Equitable outcomes.
  • Ray Anderson.
  • Circular economy. Business model myths.
  • People-centered capitalism.
  • Business model innovation as the strongest tool for survival and resilience


Join us online at 11,



Designing for Climate Action

Join me and my students from SVA’s Products of Design Program at Design for Climate Action @svaPoD for an evening of open innovation. Inspire a group of students who have the skills we need to start pushing the right levers of change (systems thinking, design, programming, communications, everything that I should have learned in grad school). Wednesday, September 30th, in NYC.



Get Tickets Here ($10)

Event Description: Designing Climate Action is an open-innovation forum for entrepreneurs, designers, scientists, and activists to collaborate to accelerate climate action. Through an iterative and participatory workshop hosted by the Products of Design community, the event will bring together industry leaders with activists to foster inter-disciplinary partnerships and seed endeavors. Select ideas generated during the event will be developed by Products of Design masters students throughout the fall semester, and publicly presented in December 2015 to align with with COP21 proceedings. Products of Design is a Masters degree program at the School of Visual Arts.

Who should attend: Designing Climate Action calls for participation from entrepreneurs and business leaders building new more sustainable economies, designers and communicators creating movements to mobilize consumer action on climate and social justice, scientists working to foster urgency on climate change, and community activists whose stories should be front and center in the climate conversion.

A call to action: For the workshop please bring your challenges, ideas, and opportunities which can only be achieved through collective action. By pulling together this network of experts and activists, the Products of Design community hopes to create a forum to collaborate with you and/or your organizations to realize projects with high potential to galvanize action on climate change, by incubating them throughout the fall before releasing them to the public.


Looking forward to the multiple disciplines being convened at the Biofabricate conference – and the chance to thread environment impact assessment, health impact, startup ethics, and the precautionary principle.

‘BIOFABRICATE’ is the world’s first summit dedicated to biofabrication for future industrial and consumer products. Biofabrication comprises highly disruptive technologies enabling design and manufacturing to intersect with the building blocks of life. Computers can now read and write with DNA. This is a world where bacteria, yeast, fungi, algae and mammalian cells grow and shape sustainable new materials.

My slides are here:


Bodies and Buildings NYU ITP Syllabus for 2014

Bodies and Buildings
Fall 2014 Syllabus
Instructor: Jen van der Meer
jd1159 at nyu dot edu
Mondays 6:30 – 9:25 PM 721 Broadway at Waverly

Generative Spiral

Why is it so hard to care for our planet and ourselves? We seem hungover from a century of prosperity and ingenuity, unable to invent economic models that create jobs, improve health, and restore the earth. Eager ITP students are better equipped than MBAs to envision and hack our way out of this trap, but often lack an understanding of the mega forces of business, regulation, and bad cultural habits that keep us from saving ourselves. But don’t despair! We’ll get busy, and make things again – but also provide you with conceptual scaffolding upon which to build your world changing ideas.

Our tools of understanding include deep design thinking, and systems thinking. By focusing on two systems in particular: human bodies, and the buildings that humans make, we will examine the environmental and social impacts of the economic systems. Bodies are in trouble right now – despite reaching the peak of productivity the US now leads the world in the rampant growth of chronic diseases that lower life expectancy, and reduced life quality. Buildings are not in enough trouble – they account for the largest source of both electricity consumption (68% of global use) and greenhouse gas emissions (48% of global emissions) in the world.

In this course we will discover what Dana Meadows calls “leverage points” as places to intervene that would transform the system as a whole.


This is a lecture course, and the syllabus is built to provide students with a systems thinking approach to problem solving. The objective for the final presentations is for students to generate a concept that can be applied to improve human health, building health, or both. The goal is for students to articulate a solution, and argue persuasively for ideas to become reality (vs. moving straight to working prototype in usual ITP fashion). Assignments will involve in person class presentation, and class participation is required. The course is structured to provide iterative opportunities to build and strengthen ideas – rooted in user-centered design, grounded in the realities of sustainable cost models and growth plans, validated by lean and iterative solution development, and strengthened by students’ ability to stand up and tell their stories.


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