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Q+A with Erica Dorn

Instructor, Community Canvas: Products of Community

Tell us something about your summer course we might not expect based on its course description.

In the process of learning to build a strong and meaningful community around a product, experience, or service, students will also learn about tools and methodologies that they can apply to systemic and relational changes at every level and stage of their process and work. These tools and methodologies will help students get to know people better, support the relationships and trust they’ve already built, and structure them in actionable ways. Anyone building a product or service and dealing with customers or employees will be able to use them in a multitude of ways.

What will students be making or working on in your class this summer?

They’ll develop strategies that will allow them to build a thriving community around products, experiences, or services. They’ll design the structure, experience, and identity that will create a space to bring people together and collectively move towards a co-created goal. I say strategy but this is definitely a hands-on class where design thinking, as much as prototypes and experiments in the real world with real people, is integral to what students will be doing.

Erica Dorn photo 1
Erica Dorn

Got a good book or article recommendation for people interested in the course?

Oh do I. Too many! Community touches so many aspects of life and the suggested reading might vary depending on what you consider the crux of a given community. I was quite surprised to find a whole chapter in Yuval Noah Harari’s most recent and great book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century about community under the heading Humans Have Bodies in chapter five.

This course comes with a wide and long reading and resource list for anything and everything related to community building. I also invite students to join the global virtual community on Facebook.

The recently published Better Work Together is a great book, examining how individuals can collaborate and co-create better. Incidentally the book was co-written by a group of people from Enspiral, a community-focused group. This article is a great introduction to the philosophy behind their work. And then there is Peter Block’s book Community: The Structure of Belonging – a community-building classic. For shorter reads, the Together Institute, a community building organization, publishes great short articles.

Aside from the Summer Intensive, what are you excited for in NYC this summer?

Doing everything I can to help preserve the last remnants of coastal Ecuadorian rainforest through Third Millennium Alliance, on whose board I serve. I am starting with getting my friends to offset their carbon by preventing clear cutting of the perimeter forest around the current reserve.

What are you working on these days?

After working in NYC for the last 13 years in local economic development and regenerative business education, I am transitioning to begin my PhD in Transition Design at Carnegie Mellon University. I also recently completed a community-building workshop and capacity building training in Barranquilla, Colombia’s fourth largest city. It was fascinating because the local Chamber of Commerce initiated the project after reading about The Third Industrial Revolution, a concept explored by Jeremy Rifkin in his bestselling book. The Chamber then contacted me to help them understand their constituency, what they needed most, and how they could build their community.

Intrigued? Spend Tuesday evenings with us, exploring community building through your product work this summer.

Follow Erica Dorn on Twitter for updates on her work.

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