Jen van der Meer is an innovation ecosystem strategist, business modeler, and professor. At Reason Street, Jen advises boards, CEOs, and executive leaders on strategic flexibility and adaptability. At Parsons School of Design at The New School, she advances a relational practice of entrepreneurship and the design of organizational forms and governance structures.
In her early childhood, Jen mucked around the cattail-surrounded ponds of the Connecticut River Basin, the original home of the Munsee-Lenape people. Her experience was deeply influenced by her grandmother, a botanist and high school science teacher who tracked the ecosystem health of various bogs, frogs, and moss.
Jen sought meaning in urban spaces and global travel, embarking on a polymath journey. Her career in economics and finance began with a role as a research analyst at the Japan Development Bank. This experience laid the foundation for her understanding of global financial systems and technology markets, but from the perspective of an organization committed to long term views. It also included a small role in the seminal Netscape IPO, marking our era of tech-driven business model speculation.
At Organic, Inc., and Frog Design’s New York office, Jen’s leadership roles underscored her interest in how design-led methods can ignite creative cultures. These experiences reflected the early stages of her understanding of complexity – not just in nature, but also in business and technology. Jen’s shift to sustainable design, health, and wellness was a reconnection to her early lessons by the pond. Her work with Designers Accord and o2NYC, focusing on sustainability within creative communities, signaled a shift from point technological solutions to a networked ecosystem approach.
Jen’s first forays into teaching focused on sustainable service design and life-cycle assessment methods at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) and the Products of Design MFA at the School of Visual Arts. At Parsons School of Design, Jen focuses on nurturing innovation, sustainable business models, and solidarity approaches to entrepreneurship through systems change, echoing her childhood learnings about the interdependence of natural ecosystems. Jen’s scholarship and practice culminate in her advocacy for shifting from designing isolated technology solutions to designing comprehensive ecosystem governance. This perspective is not just about solving problems but about strengthening relationships and creating governance models that are adaptable and resilient.
Jen’s advice for developing design principles in collaboration with ecosystem stakeholders is a call to action. It reflects a belief that the best way to address complex challenges is through collective effort, crossing sectoral and disciplinary boundaries.
Jen earned an MBA from top-ranked French business school HEC and a BA in Comparative Religion from Trinity College.
Follow Jen’s course development: Teaching
See Jen speak:
Who Owns Your Hospital’s Future? at Mayo Clinic Innovation Summit
NYU, Business Models, and Entrepreneurship on Channel 5 NYC Fox News
Seeking Design Leaders at SVA’s Products of Design
Two Kinds of Startups at Strata Ignite