NYU-Poly Students Lead in NYU's Global Idea Exchange Challenge

What do you get when you add 1,570 Global Idea Exchange participants, 362 inspirations and 122 ideas? The answer is 18 bright and creative program fellows who will be headed to Shanghai over spring break to bring their top ideas to life with support from NYU professors, domain experts, and consultants from the award-winning global design firm IDEO.

NYU’s Global Idea Exchange, known informally as GIE, had its genesis in early 2012, when a team at NYU Shanghai began brainstorming about ways to demonstrate the power of a global network. NYU Abu Dhabi was preparing to graduate its first class, NYU Shanghai was slated to open in 2013, and the New York campuses had long been hotbeds of creativity and ingenuity. Would it be possible to get people scattered around the world to harness their collective resources and collaborate on solving a problem of global proportions?

At NYU-Poly, Anne-Laure Fayard, a professor in the department of technology management and innovation, had been using OpenIDEO, an online platform that facilitates collaboration, in her class. The platform had been developed by IDEO and used to pose public challenges around such topics as maternal health in the developing world and the revitalization of inner cities. Along with representatives from NYU's portal campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, and schools such as NYU Tisch and NYU Wagner, Fayard and Kotch set about the task of connecting NYU students around the world to collaborate on an unprecedented scale, resulting in a tangible manifestation of the school’s global network. The OpenIDEO student chapter at NYU-Poly who was familiar with the OpenIDEO platform and the design thinking process helped run workshops for students in all NYU schools and take on the role of community managers on the platform.

On October 1, 2012 NYU’s Global Idea Exchange was launched with the challenge question: “How can we activate the potential of cities to ignite a modern Renaissance?” The project took off immediately. “Seeing students galvanize around an idea was extremely gratifying,” Jerllin Cheng, an NYU Shanghai administrator, said. “The process looked like so much fun and was so exciting that I began participating myself!”

In December, six ideas out of the many that had been proposed were chosen to be explored further. These top ideas include: sustainable community-owned centers at which people can gather to collaborate on problems of social importance; fostering industrial symbiosis so that waste from one industrial process can serve as the raw materials for another; a technology whimsically called “the platform professor” that would enable riders to learn something completely new between subway stops or on the platform; a move to reclaim city sidewalks as a medium for artistic expression and communication; a reexamination of the concept of time and how we use it; and unlocking public infrastructure so that low-income families can access untapped resources in order to succeed.

The eighteen fellows chosen to travel to Shanghai are dynamic and interdisciplinary representatives of the NYU population: Jessica Aguirre (SCPS), Sara Albassam (Tisch ITP), Gilbert Aning (NYU-Poly), Jean-Claude Cantave (GSAS), Charlotte Evans (CAS), Dina Gold (Gallatin), Katie Hood (Steinhardt), Bertha Jimenez (NYU-Poly), Coby Kalter (Wagner), Sanyu Kisaka (Abu Dhabi), Laura Manley (Wagner), Nilufer Polat (NYU-Poly), Stefania Siciliano (NYU-Poly), Mastewal Taddese (Abu Dhabi), Will Thomson (GSAS), Remington Tonar (SCPS), Shirley Wu (NYU-Poly) and Pablo Zadicoff (Stern). Congratulations are due to all of them as well as to everyone who participated and made the Global Idea Exchange such a rousing success.