In “The Site of Memory,” Toni Morrison describes her process of writing in juxtaposition to Black authors during slavery. She details how white aristocrats would only legitimize and buy stories written by Black people that were factual and objective. More often than not, this meant that the abusive and violent sides of slavery never were detailed in these stories. Morrison says that people at the time were drawing an “image from a text,” and specifically a text that did not detail everything it should. Readers did not see every side, and rarely ever saw emotional expression in these works. If people were meant to draw a picture of slavery from these stories, more often than not they would draw positive images of slavery. Using this parallel, Morrison says she writes to fill in these gaps those writers were forced to leave out. She draws “a text from an image,” using the power of imagination and creativity to envision a new world.
This process of imagination and exploration is how I chose to lead the students I worked with during this summer at CUBE. When working in the world of social ventures and entrepreneurship, people need to have a thorough understanding of what systems influence the world and how their idea intends to tackle it to some degree. This often means challenging the mainstream narratives of issues. Students may want to develop a new product or organization, but how often do their assumptions develop from misconceptions? My main goal this summer was to have these students not derive an image from a text, as in I did not want them to take things at face value, and instead encouraged them to create and manifest a text from an image. How do they want to see the world? How well do they understand the problems they are dealing with? These questions guided our small group discussions this summer.
I was able to work directly alongside seven students within our program. We had a small group where I served as someone they could immediately go to if they had questions or concerns about their venture or summer modules. Last summer, I was able to create 10 summer modules that teach tenants of social entrepreneurship. I was excited to see even more students utilize them. One of the modules is focused around the concept of Human-Centered Design. Essentially, it just means building your venture based around the ideas, comments, and questions that your target demographic has. This is where the idea of drawing a text from an image is important, because it requires finding all that pieces to that image. I was able to revamp this module by including a piece we read for GLBL 450 with Dr. Osterweil. The piece by Kenneth Bailey called, “Ideas, Arrangements, and Effects” served as our new framework for this approach.
A problem social entrepreneurship runs into is it quite often butts heads with the white and male dominated circle of mainstream entrepreneurship. The questions in this circle are not critical of the system, but more often than not focused on profit and an obsession with innovation. Branches of these ideas can fall into social venture circles too, such as white saviorism. When I previously built the modules last summer, the case study we included for Human-Centered Design was one that focused on rebuilding sewage systems in villages in Uganda. Looking over the case study a year after I approved it, I was able to find problems that I couldn’t see before. We then decided to replace this example with one that Design Studios for Social Innovation has. Not only was it a domestic example, it got to the root of what design being human-centered meant. It showcases constant conversation with people who worked and benefitted from the venture, and made sure that the prototype of the idea was as helpful as possible.
While Toni Morrison’s prose were not a part of my summer internship, I found the way she saw the world to be a guiding light for me. Additionally, I was strongly influenced by Dr. Osterweil and the readings we had for GLBL 210 and 450. They allowed me to talk through the problems with global supply chains and the concept of development with many of the ventures. Ultimately, I am very grateful for the Global Studies Summer Award, as it brought me peace of mind financially so I could better focus on applying concepts learned in the classroom to my real life experiences.