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April 2021 Design Thinking Breakfast with Edson G. Cabalfin and Lesley-Ann Noel
Friday, April 30, 2021

This workshop is a casual conversation between Lesley-Ann Noel, Ph.D. and Edson Cabalfin, Ph.D. They talk about decolonizing design in and out of the classroom.

Presentation Materials

About the Hosts

Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel smiling and sitting in front of trees.

Lesley-Ann Noel, Ph.D. is the Associate Director for Design Thinking for Social Impact and Professor of Practice, Lesley-Ann Noel will teach design thinking courses for the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Minor and build Taylor’s capacity for design thinking education through facilitations, consultations, and trainings.

Before joining Taylor, Noel was part of the 2018-2019 Ocean Design Teaching Fellowship, a cohort of fellows that brought deep experience in design, ocean science and international policy. The Ocean Design Teaching Fellow program is co-hosted with the Stanford, where she also served as a lecturer. In her professional practice, she draws on the fields of design, anthropology, business and education to create product development and business strategy with stakeholders. Her research practice is guided by an emancipatory philosophy. Noel focuses on developing design curriculum for non-traditional audiences and promoting the work of designers outside of Europe and North America. She has exhibited work at design exhibitions in Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Brazil, Germany, France and the USA. She has presented peer-reviewed papers at design conferences in the Caribbean, the US, the UK and India.

Noel completed her Ph.D. in Design at North Carolina State University in 2018. Her Ph.D. research focused on design thinking at a rural primary school in Trinidad and Tobago. She also holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of the West Indies and a bacharelado (equivalent to bachelor’s degree) in industrial design from Universidade Federal do Paraná. Lesley-Ann is a former Fulbright Scholar and a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago.

Edson G. Cabalfin, Ph.D., is an educator, architect, designer, curator, and historian. He is the newly appointed Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the School of Architecture at Tulane University, where he concurrently serves as Director of the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Program and Professor of Practice in Design Thinking.

In 2017-2018, He was the Curator of the Philippine Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale 2018. He received his Ph.D. in History of Architecture and Urban Development from Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) in 2012. Under a Fulbright Fellowship, he obtained his Master of Science in Architecture degree from the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH) in 2003. Edson’s research in the last two decades has focused on the interdisciplinary and transnational intersections of architecture history and theory, cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial theory, Southeast Asian studies, spatial justice, public interest design, and heritage conservation. In the last five years, Edson has been involved in various social innovation and design thinking projects and initiatives. At the University of Cincinnati, he organized a foreign-study program in Southeast Asia with a design studio focusing on typhoon Haiyan disaster recovery in Leyte, Philippines. From 2016 to 2018, he was faculty fellow at Live Well Collaborative, University of Cincinnati’s design thinking-based and multi-disciplinary innovation center, leading projects on health, wellness, and aging-in-place. He was a consultant with the non-profit organization Village Life Outreach Project conducting participatory design thinking workshops with three rural villages in Tanzania. He also conducted several design thinking workshops with faculty and administrators of Sycamore High School and Winton Woods High School of the Cincinnati Public School system.

A licensed and registered architect in the Philippines, Edson also runs his design consultancy Talyer Kayumanggi/Brown Workshop, based in Cincinnati and Manila, with projects in architecture, interior design, set design, costume design, fashion design, exhibition design, graphic design, and design strategy in North America, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Middle East in the last 25 years. You can find more information about his professional work by visiting

Woman smiling wearing a white shirt.

Niesha Ford is a second-year graduate student at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Niesha works with multiple organizations committed to causes such as: providing services for people experiencing homelessness, encouraging positive racial perspectives, and working with historically marginalized groups to combat the current COVID-19 pandemic.



Niesha Ford

Alright, so today, we have two guests, which I’m really excited, for this is the first time since I’ve been hosting DT breakfast, that we’ve had two guests.

So I will introduce them very briefly and then after that they’re going to introduce themselves.

So for our first guest, this morning we have Dr Edson Cabalfin. He’s an educator, architect, designer curator, and historian. He is the newly appointed associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the School of Architecture at Tulane University, where he can currently serves as the director of the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship program and Professor of practice and design.

Dr. Cabalfin’s research in the last few decades have focused on the interdisciplinary and transformational intersections of architecture, history, cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, post colonial theory, South East Asian studies, spatial justice, public interest, design and heritage conservation.

So that’s just a little brief you know bio about Edson. I’m next going to introduce our second guest, which is Dr. Lesley Ann Noel, who’s the associate director of design thinking for social impact and Professor of practice Dr 12 teachers design thinking courses for the social innovation and social entrepreneurship minor at Tulane and her professional practice she draws on the fields of design anthropology business and education, to create product development and business strategies with stakeholders. Dr Noel focuses on developing design curriculum for non traditional audiences and promoting the work of designers outside of Europe and North America.

She has exhibited work at design exhibitions in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Brazil, Germany, France and the United States.

And she has presented peer reviewed papers at design conferences in the Caribbean, the US, the UK and India so Those are our amazing guests this morning i’m really excited to see what they do and now I’m going to pass it on to them Thank you everyone for coming.

Edson Cabalfin (he/him)

Thank you so much Niesha. I’ll be starting off with the my very brief thought and and afterwards Lesley and I unless we also have been presented, Lesley and I will be having also a brief conversation but we’ll have more later on, so let me just quickly.

Just start off, by just just share my screen for a moment.

Can you see my screen?

Niesha Ford

I can see it.

Edson Cabalfin (he/him)

Thank you. So I think like what the what I’ll be trying to do just this very quick presentation is just to provoke present questions and provocations and then really maybe just define certain terms I’ll talk about colonialism and its connection, of course, with decolonization to set up possible then discussions also later on about design and decolonizing design.

We, this will not be exhausted, and this is not going to be comprehensive and I’ll also be speaking also primarily as an architectural historian coming from the Philippines and then contextualizing colonialism, also in reference to that. So I’ll start off with just what is colonialism, you know, because these are sometimes, these are terms that are very loaded and also very abstract in certain cases, but by colonialism, I mean as a practice of domination, which involves the subjugation of one people to another.  Colonialism can also refer to the process of European settlement and political control over the rest of the world, especially as it affects the Americas, Australia, and parts of Africa and Asia so it’s a it’s a process that has been happening for centuries.

But then later on, also, that have impacted a wide area of the world. And I also speak from this important point in time, because a couple of days ago, the Philippines also commemorated the battle of the island of Mactan, which was considered in the Philippines, of course the first act of resistance against colonizers. Because this year, 2021, the Philippines is commemorating 500 years of the coming of Christianity to the Philippines.

So this is so timely that we’re talking about colonialism and decolonization when this was also, then this is happening, also in terms of commemoration. The battle of the island of Mactan, shows the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan you know coming to the Philippines and then eventually being killed by the local chief then Lapu-Lapu.

And so, in terms of colonialism and the process of colonization, we always see very similar tropes or very similar operations, including dominating, subjugating ,segregating, creating hierarchy, but paternalization, eradication, assimilation, and surveillance. And while these are very abstract terms, sometimes it feels like these are very abstract terms, they’re actually, these are palpable operations, we feel this and again this because I talk from the point of view of an architectural historian.

I’ve studied, a lot of these operations, especially as it relates to the built environment. And I’ll show you a couple of examples of what I mean. For example, here is a plan of Manila in the 19th century. The walled city on the right is Intramuros, which is the walled city that was established by the Spaniards 1575.  There was a Muslim settlement there when these Spaniards arrived and they eradicated and they killed off the local natives who were living there, and established on top of it, they’re walled city and then the one under right shows, I’m sorry, the one on the left shows you, the suburbs that eventually emerged from the city, because only Europeans were allowed to live inside the walled city here under right. By the mouth of the river and then over across the river we’re all of the other suburbs, where natives, like the Chinese, the Japanese and then native Filipinos were only allowed to live.

This is the very end, which is a Chinese quarter right across the river, and so the natives and other Asians and non Europeans for basically segregated and isolated away from the city. Spain with regression ization as i’ve said coming to the archipelago, built churches and so the churches, for example, were signs and symbols of Christianization, but also were dominating figures across the landscape all across the archipelago. When the Americans came in at 1898, and the Philippines, then becoming an American colony, there were military, American military presence at the beginning, and later on education and the civil design civilizing mission was was through different efforts, such as healthcare, sanitation, education,

and then also through architecture and civic city building, such as when Daniel Burhan came and we planned the city of Manila in 1905.

And then later on, also other structures across the islands we also, colonialism was then also felt, evident as the Americans also built neoclassical buildings, and other civic structures all across. So in other words, you know all of these different efforts were about or the idea of colonization was also deployed through the built environment. The other part that also was sort of used during the colonial period was the idea of hierarchy and how Filipinos were then portrayed as inferior to the Americans or Europeans.These are exhibits from the 1904 fair, where there were villages that we’re building this was part of my research,

And then how Filipinos then were portrayed often as primitive and exotic through not only their their sort of clothes, but also through their architecture, as it was set in contrast with some of the crystal palace’s, and white palaces in a lot of these Expositions.

So colonialism is palpable, it manifests in many different forms, it’s also not homogenous also it varies from from contexts and places. But one of the things that is also then critical to think about colonialism, is how its legacies in fact continue until today, even though the Philippines, for example, similar to other countries have become independent after 1946, so part of Chatterjee an Indian, philosopher says, for example, says that “even our imaginations must remain forever colonized.”

So then, how do we decolonize and how do we look at colonialism and decolonization can be thought of as a process of questioning, challenging, and dismantling the operations, practices, systems and legacy legacies of colonialism. So we can look at these contacts and it’s a very complex, because the colonialism as a system, is also not one single thing. But we can also think of decolonization as liberty as a form of liberation and emancipation from the control, the domination and the subjugation of the colonizers even after maybe colonialism has already been or officially, colonialism supposedly ended. Or that then countries have become sovereign already from the former colonizers.

And so to look at again some of these operations of colonialism, we can also think of the colonization as a process by which then, we can begin to maybe liberate, we emancipate, we integrate, we create equality, we empower, we thrive, we include and then practice self determination. So this this could be, then the shift that could happen from colonization to that of decolonization. So then what’s the connection then potentially with design right,  like whoo out of the blue your design comes in. Well because design can be thought of also as part of these operation, and also part of the process of colonization and so therefore there’s a possibility, by which then maybe we can also decolonize design as a process of this liberation and emancipation.

And and i’m just suggesting certain ideas, this again by no means, these are comprehensive thoughts in terms of what they are, but just to kind of let propose again provocations, decolonization to design my mean a shifting the power and privilege away from the European Western patriarchal, heterosexual wealthy, abled male kind of perspective. Because that has been the dominant perspective, not only designed, but in other in many parts of our society and our thinking.

Decolonization in design can also mean expanding examples, identities and context in the design studio beyond mere tokenism. For example, in writing history books are looking at history again because i’m a historian, we can look at many more examples beyond let’s say the white male European examples that have dominated again our textbooks. And this is also beyond mere tokenism just because you added a Japanese designer and just because we added let’s say an African designer, doesn’t mean that you’re already achieving or expanding the examples. And then decolonization in design might also mean, including voices of historically marginalized communities within the design process.

For example, indigenous peoples who have been eradicated as I’ve said, or you know have been removed from their lands or been taken out of their homeland, for example, we need to be able to include them in the design process and allow them to actually co-create the process for us, and for society. And then also, then I think part of it, and then ultimately may be the goal of decolonization in design is to rethink design and how to make it more equitable, more diverse, and then more inclusive, so I would like to just end with the I get a question in terms of again, because this is not, this is just a provocation, but but also think about like you know how might design become a libertating and emancipator process, process and then practice, and so I end with this quote from Bob Marley.

You know, when I say earlier about part of Chatterjee saying that are in that you know must our imaginations remain forever colonized, and then I think they respond to that it’s Bob Marley saying “you know emancipate yourself from mental slavery none, but ourselves can free our minds.”

Thank you.

Lesley-Ann Noel

Edson, thank you um you know, that was an amazing presentation. I knew that Edson would not disappoint us. And you know, Edson and I, we think, in very similar ways and we come from maybe slightly different backgrounds and perspectives, so I knew that it would start with ahistorical perspective, which he could do much better than I can, and then I decided that I was going to talk about what could this look like in action. You know I’m a person from a former colony, you know I grew up in a time just after independence, so it meant that I grew up you know in Trinidad, I’ll date myself, in the 70s, and I was hearing then a lot of like just, decolonial language all around me. And I think that significantly affects the way that I work today, because I grew up in a time when people were just pushing back on everything, you know and saying well you know, Edson talked about like removing, you know some of the connection to the colonial powers, that’s the space that I grew up in, in Trinidad.

So I’m also going to start sharing my screen.

All right, and let me put it into the presentation. Okay, are you sure are you seeing my screen okay? All right great. So this was actually, so this is not my image, this is from a decolonization movement, but this was actually my profile photo on Twitter for many years.

Just, I guess, this is the philosophy that drives a lot of the things that I’m doing you know, I’m always trying to push back, right.  And that’s part of the decolonizing process and I like this quote from  Fanon, from the wretched of the earth “Decolonization which sets out to change the order of the world is obviously a program of complete disorder”, you know, as a self proclaimed anarchist, I liked what seemed to be kind of justification for disorder and chaos and anarchy, you know by somebody from, like Franz Fanon. I actually bought Wretched of the Earth because of this quote and in mind version actually the quote is completely different, so I have to go to the French version and see what is it that Fanon actually said.

But you know, I think that this quote helps us to see that maybe decolonization isn’t going to be comfortable. It might not make sense, but it is us seeing what raw and us pushing back and changing things. So I wanted to move to this other quote, from I’m a lurker on a list called the DesignUser Research and recently, the DesignUser Research group, it’s a Google group and recently there was a lot conversation about decolonization and I’ll share the link to the slides so that if you want to see the original conversation, you can, but I loved this quote and I reached out to the author Rachel Yim to see if I could quote her she had this long list, like her own manifesto of what decolonization means, and I share her list at the end of the slides, but I thought that this was really significant, “to decolonize means exploring Paris from the vantage point of Dakar; declonize means analyzing Dakar in the ways that don’t center Paris.” You know so some of us think that, you know Edson refered to tokenism you know we add two people from the brown part of the world, and then we are decolonizing. It’s actually much more than that it’s more about  decentering and changing perspectives that might not look comfortable etc.

So to continue the conversation, you know what is decolonization or decolonial ality, which is another word that I use, which is from Walter Mignolo, what is this when we move from theory to action, because some people stay in the theory and I wanted to show what could it look like in action. And I’m going to use some examples from our work at the Taylor Center over the last two years, but before that i’m going to pull up these, a section of the decolonizing methodology by Linda Tuhiwai Smith and she talks about these 25 indigenous projects, where she looks at the themes that ran through indigenous projects. Decolonizing projects throughout the world.

And she talks about claiming, I’m not going to read all, testimonies, storytelling, celebrating survival, remembering, indiginizing,  critical reading, envisioning, returning, democratizing, networking, protecting discovering the beauty of our knowledge. So decolonial work, decolonial research, will look different- maybe because we have these different aims. You know when we look at the work that people are doing from this decolonial perspective, it might be pulling in these types of themes, you know where where,

we’re not necessarily dominating someone else through our research, we could be celebrating survival, we could be sharing, you know there are other aims in the work, when it’s done through a decolonial lens.

So, to now bring it back to some of our work at Taylor, I wanted to highlight some of the decolonial thread in our disorderly, design experiments, you know disorderly using Fanon’s word, you know, so we did this project, about two years ago, when we used to meet in-person still, where we looked at the design process and we did this really critical reading, and we started to think okay what’s wrong with the way this is presented now, we analyzed critically, and then we decided to propose new ways of working, radically pushing back against the establishment.

So this is writing and theory-making, reframing, and discovering the beauty of our knowledge and knowing that okay, our knowledge is good enough and we’re going to put it out there, righ. And this work was done by me, Molly Hafun and Rafe Steinhauer.

In our design thinking breakfast, yall are here today, you know, what are we looking at, we are rewriting and recreating new connections and design. We’re bringing people together to talk about design thinking and we are, maybe you have not realized this, you may have been a guest here before. We do this in a really intentional way, we’ve been centering the experiences of women, people of color, people from the south of the United States, and people from the global South. People from outside of the main design thinking hubs, and this is us than trying to kind of push back on the establishment and, you know, sharing testimonies, sharing stories, connecting people, networking, and again discovering the beauty of our knowledge. And you know sharing working together, you know it’s a different kind of practice, when it’s done through a decolonial lens.

Another project, that I’m sharing that was done, you know, through a decolonial lens and you know we did this workshop with the police department, of all places, right. Not directly the police department, the Crescent City Core, but in this kind of challenging we were we said, okay, can we use design and the future to build shared experiences,  and we brought together the police and the community and laid down the conditions of this work together. So we would only bring the police in, if we had an equal number of participants. All of the participants were people of color, you know and the police wasn’t allowed to use their to wear their uniforms and it could not be, we didn’t want that identification of, we were removing the power from the police in the workshop actually and it was a very transformative workshop, you know, both for the members of the police, who came in, you know and the residents.

Sso this is about connecting, envisioning, negotiating. Democratizing research methods through something like design thinking gumbo, which is us taking these methods that might be, kind of normally pristinely away in an academic center you know or a design studio, and then bringing this stuff out to the world, so that we can kind of flatten the interaction, again removing hierarchy, this is about creating, discovering the beauty of our knowledge, sharing, and then transferring power.

The leaders, the heroes of the design thinking gumbo are the graduate assistants, and I mean you never saw me at design thinking gumbo, but this again is us working in this kind of decolonial, different kind of focus, less on hierarchy and more about flattening.

Hello from the Pluriverse. It’s about us rewriting design textbooks. So sharing testimonies, storytelling, discovering the beauty of our knowledge again, sharing again, you know, so this is the kind of challenge that I would put out to other people. If you want to think about decolonizing design what’s the textbook that you think is missing, and can you write it? Right, or can you get together a group of people and write it, you know we have to break some of these, these principles that I’ve been driven into our heads that, okay design is about the bauhaus and that all of these all the information comes from this space.

We can rewrite this work and so just to share a little bit more about this podcast. The students interviewed about 30 something designers from all around the world, so when you look at this, image, you have a New Orleanian designer who lives in Austin, you have a Brazilian designer who lives in Canada, and then you have Rafe Steinhauer who is our form of visiting assistant Professor.

And so what did we do? We asked them all the same question, people from all over the world, and then we’re able to, it will be an ongoing process where we will be able to analyze and kind of move design away from that very pristine space or design history, away from that very pristine space.

All right, I’m looking at my time, running along. Alright, so you have to check that out, and then our another one of our big projects Pivot 2020. Pivot 2021 is coming up and i’ll be hosted by OCAD University, but we achieved so many of, in the two ways thats themed, you know in this kind of work.

So you know sharing all of this, all sorts of provocation to other people, in designed to see , okay, what are you actually going to do in design it to decolonize the space?

Lastly, this other project that we did about math and you know, trying to see how could we make math more accessible to ordinary people. And I know decoloniality is not everything, you know, people, some people will look at these projects and say, well, how could all of this be around decoloniality? But it is this, it’s the same theme that’s driving the way these projects are executed.

So my own kind of terms around decoloniality and action, and you know it’s about decentering, recentering, pluriversality ,criticality, emancipation. It is chaotic, it’s equity centered, it’s inclusive, accessible. That’s what it should be experimental, questioning, challenging, resilient, resistance and unapologetic.

So I’m going to stop there, but I’ll share the slides and there are additional slides at the end of this part of the presentation so. I guess, we are going to entertain like a few questions before we go to you know we’d like to go into kind of group activity afterwards.

I don’t have anyone has, let’s see if we have anything in the chat that we, and if not, I guess, I can start to pull up the activity. Niesha and Edson yall could also watch the chat to see if anyone wants to jump in.

Edson Cabalfin (he/him)

I think Lesley maybe I can also ask a question as a way to also then connect like what we were talking about, because like as you had pointed out that you know you’re you’re coming from Trinidad and coming from the Philippines, I think what a lot of people are also thinking is that okay is decolonization only, possible or only the work of people who were formerly colonized? Right, and so some people would think that Oh, you know, then maybe decolonizing is not necessarily for us because you know i’m not the i’m not a former colonized.

And so I wonder what you think about that in terms of, because I think that’s what we’re also trying to do is that we’re trying to expand decolonization, and not just simply a process that is experienced and also that needs to be done by the former colonized, but it is actually a task that needs to be done overall, right?

And I wonder like what you thought about that, and then you know because that’s also something that I hear a lot in terms of like who, who does decolonization and and who, who is responsible for decolonization?

Lesley-Ann Noel

Gosh, that is a hard question but it’s everybody, you know, like i’m going to push back more because I don’t see myself represented in spaces, but people who are from identities, you know backgrounds that are maybe closer to the former colonizers or also have to do this space of pushing back you know because everybody, I mean this sounds like this will sound very kind of kumbaya and you know but everybody benefits from these it’s like, like how racism affects everybody. You know if we let these colonial structures or if we let these spaces perpetuates, everybody’s affected, you know, by not being able to fully participate in, in the world.

Edson Cabalfin (he/him)

I agree, you know, and I think like what also reminds me often about what you just said is that the idea that, by decolonizing and, therefore, for example, of expanding the voices and identities that are also being included, I think like one of the things that strikes me also is that you know, this is not a zero sum game right? And I think a lot of people think they’re like oh, just because we’re decolonizing then somehow, we’re already sort of taking away the rights let’s say of the white male, you know I mean that’s always sort of the discussion right. But it’s not, you know and and you’re right like it’s about creating a larger space for everyone and and I think that’s sort of the goal of that and liberation is not just for one right like it’s liberation, in fact, like for everyone.

Lesley-Ann Noel

Yes, and and you know one thing that we should emphasize as well you know that decolonization is different things to different people.  You know, like, there is the so, you know as up is from a former colony, I have a specific experience around decolonization but you know decolonization in, for example, a Native American context, really is about the land. Or not only is about the land, but you know, there may be other themes in different places, as it moves around, it’s not this one monolithic concept it’s going to look different for different people you know, like.

Last summer, I was going to give a talk about decoloniality and someone wrote back to me and said, but your talk is not about the land, so we don’t want it to use that term. And I was horrified at like , what do you mean I can’t use this term? You know this is part of my experience, you know so there’s also that kind of policing, that that sometimes happens, you know of people who are talking about this.

But we have to remember that it is different things, and it’s described differently in you know in different kinds of logic here, but the question is, the question that I posed to people is what are YOU going to do? Okay, you know what is the action that you are going to do to bring around this liberation emancipation change, etc.

Edson Cabalfin (he/him)

And then I think also that because and again also kind of like the conversation about like well you know, like, there’s no more you know colonialism doesn’t exist anymore right? Like supposedly you know politically countries have become free but that’s also not necessarily true in some cases right in some areas of the world.

And, and also the kind of argument that you know, for example, what I was mentioned, and part of Chatterjee early on, is that then. For me, like also that the struggle and for a lot of like post colonial society, is that it’s it’s legacies are affecting even until today. That, and i’ll just give you an example right the ideas of beauty right, like, for example in Asia, like a very popular cosmetic product are whitening.

And I know this also exist in other parts of the world right where where because the standard of beauty is about the fair pale skin, which is brought about by kind of the colonial experience that exists until today right. And so that’s why the work doesn’t end, you know it hasn’t ended yet, and that it needs to continue and, as you said, you know, the action needs to happen and continue to happen until today, and even until the future right.

Lesley-Ann Noel

Yes, so, DT breakfast always involve some action. So i’m going to show you what this action is, and we’re going to move you into breakout rooms for a few minutes. Please don’t disappear if you if you’re worried about breakout rooms, you don’t have to disappear, yet, but we’ll explain what the action is right.

What are we doing.

You know one thing I didn’t mention it as like a decolonizing stance is it didn’t come up as a theme in Tuhiwai Smith’s book, but co creation, I think, is also connected to a different worldview, and I really enjoy using co creation in projects, because I think that I think that Western in quotes ideology really focus on individualism, but it’s important for us to move to this co creation space for us also to push back on you know what’s considered the hedgamonic kind of practice.

So we have created this Mural where we are going to be looking at co creating decolonial principles, you know, asking people were looking, what are you going to do? Okay.

So we’re going to put you into some groups. I didn’t tell Niesha how many people, but he she’ll figure it out, maybe about five people? She’s an expert at this already, the question is, you know how might we using this design language, decolonize design or your discipline if you’re not coming from design?

Discuss in your groups and see if your group can add three to five principles to our shared manifeststo in Mural. Okay? And you can add more post its if you need.

How do we use Mural, if you click, i’m going to share the the link in the chat. If you just click on this, you can immediately start typing and your comment will come up. When you enter mural you’ll have to put in a name, you’ll have to name yourself and then, if you are struggling with Mural, someone else in your group can probably be the recorder and put your post it on the mural for us, if necessary, if you run out of Miro, of Post It notes, because you know we have this big group.

If we run out of Post It notes though, you can just click next to any Post It notes, double click on it and you’ll get another another one that you can add. If you want to be really fancy, because we are chaotic, you can change the post it note to the color that you think represents decolonialality for you.

We’re going to just put you into groups for a few minutes, to discuss the question and then add some principles I’ve said three to five, but actually if your group is really excited, and you want to add 10 principles or something like that you can go right ahead and do it. Okay?

So i’m going to put the link in the chat and Niesha, when you’re ready to break open the rooms, you can break us at us in the breakout rooms and I look forward to seeing everybody soon.

Niesha Ford

Okay, so I’m going to open up the breakout rooms, again I put in the chat, but if you do need the interpretation services, please let me know.

Alright so I’m going to open up the rooms now.


Lesley-Ann Noel

Hi again.

Let me open up my chat.

I forgot to, my apologies, everyone. I was going to share before people went into the breakout rooms, I was going to share the Google Doc with the additional slides that I forgot, well, but I knew that I wouldn’t finish within, Edson and I were supposed to talk for seven minutes each, and I had like 3000 slides, but you can see then some of the other points in the manifesto that Rachel Yim created that you know, like even for me to cite Rachel, you know who is maybe an almost unknown designer, researcher in public health in California, a woman of color, that becomes like a decolonial type of act as well you know who was knowledge, are we going to push forward and celebrate.

I cannot see Edson anymore. Okay, yes, I see you now. So, how was that experience for people? and I know that we’re going to share, but I just wanted to check in with people. That chaotic experience of co creating this Mural, worked? Worked maybe?

Okay, all right. Um i’m going to share screen again. Oh, where did you disappear to. I’m going to share screen but i’m going to actually have to move from right. Okay, so you should be seen again right alright, so our manifesto has changed in the last few minutes, which is cool and we see here, you know in our decolonization we’re going to give land back to indigenous people. We will be inclusive of different cultures, I’m just going to skim so that we have like a few minutes, just to chat again at the end. Focusing on community and social impact. Look at issues of positionality with awareness. Challenge the status quo in hiring processes.

Nice red protests, decolonial Post It’s here about epistemic disobedience. Oh how exciting. Asking critical questions about knowledge and, so you know, this is an exciting co created document that I hope that maybe you know we will send this out to you. We will clean it up and send it out to everyone.

So I’m going to stop sharing again or actually I could ask, let’s see I can’t see people, Edson I’ll ask you, because I could see you now. What’s your feedback, take on this activity? Or yeah we haven’t you on the discussions ago.

Edson Cabalfin (he/him)

Yes, I think. I thought that we had a great discussion also in our in our small breakout room, and what I appreciate it also is that then we  have different voices, you know, in the room. And then somebody actually also pointed out just looking at the participants and what struck with also then I didn’t realize immediately that, most of the participants in this DT breakfast are women. Which is great, you know, because then it made me think also about like okay, so do men, don’t need to think about decolonization?  Which, I think, then, points out to what I was highlighting earlier, you know about kind of the shift from kind of a very patriarchal, male, centric point of view, but you know if something that struck me so and so I think this is great, this is great that we’re discussing this.

Lesley-Ann Noel

That’s a really great point Edson actually. I’m going to stop sharing for a bit, so we can see each other. And I know we have like just a few minutes so i’m going to, as I said, stop sharing and see if we could get some people in the audience to comment on what they added to the to the manifesto and any any comments that people want to add. Anyone wants to raise their hand and chat?


Katherine Setser

Thank you, we weren’t able to work out the technology to add to the manifesto, so I wanted to mention that. I have a background in academia and so one of the things we were talking about is that the academic challenges to pushing the notion of decolonization. So, for instance, in many of your earlier comments thinking about you know textbooks and rewriting the history. One of the challenges i’m running into as I am coming up for tenure, is that co creation is some not thought of as being particularly academic in the research.

So, for instance, I have a couple of chapters in a book that I’ve worked on that have 23 authors. 23 very distinct points of view and it’s really being challenged and tenure process going forward because co creation is not what the academic realm is looking for. And so, you know, as we’re talking about this issue and co creation is such an important moment in this process, you know, how do we begin to change the the to use Edson’s words, the operations, the practices, the systems, that are in place that are stopping some of that wide dissemination?

Edson Cabalfin (he/him)

Kathy Thank you so much for sharing that and I think what you point out is really the you know when when we were saying earlier about like, Okay, you know we don’t need to decolonize because it doesn’t affect us or that we’re not. But that’s exactly also the challenge is that then systems like education, knowledge, you know production, is embedded in ideas of modernity of enlightenment, which are you know and and we know we didn’t really talk about the this kind of intersections between capitalism,

Modernity, and colonialism right but, but that is, that is a good point that’s why it’s such a large such a larger, more complicated problem as well you know, because then it’s that yes, you know worth pointing out that the system is not just changing one thing right it’s changing a larger system, which is not easy to do right.

Lesley-Ann Noel

Yeah, I’m just going to give like a brief comment you know one reason why this is work at Taylor is you know, why was why we were able, I should see why maybe I was able to be so experimental is because it wasn’t tied to tenure. And you know, then the work could be experimental and it could be seen and that you know, then maybe it’s maybe if it was seen and validated, you know within a regular tenure process because it’s already been seeing now, it will be accepted, validated.

But yeah it’s just a big, we just have to kind of keep pushing back a little by little on the system.

Katherine Setser

And that’s maybe why centers like yours exist. Center exists because it can’t exist right now in on its own within the academic system, it has to be a hybrid entrepreneurial process right? That allows shifts and and quick moves and thinking about that, which is something that often the academic environment doesn’t allow. So centers like yours, become an incredibly important, in this this process right, because you can speak with another voice that others can respond to.

Lesley-Ann Noel

Yeah. Laura?

Laura Murphy

Hi I’m on behalf of my breakout group we had Mercedes who is working in an industrial color lab. And that was interesting how do we decolonize an industrial color lab and I was thinking about who gets to choose the colors that are made in chemical labs that then color your keyboards and toilets seats as Mercedes was explaining. So, that was interesting and then Laura Stargell with EPA who does environmental impact assessments and so at a community, more community stakeholders and environmental impact assessment.

And thank you. This has all been great.

Lesley-Ann Noel

Okay, thank you.

Sam? Samantha?

Samantha Fleurinor (She, her, hers)

Yeah, I think um during, in my group, I was expressing how I have like a very hard relationship with the decoloniality. I often dislike it. I like to focus more on liberation and I think one one quote, that I found really powerful by day oh my God I can’t remember her name right now she’s, the co founder of girl track Morgan Dixon, yes.

She was saying when, when someone was asking how are you decolonizing or dismantling certain spaces around public health, she was like i’m not. I, it’s not my job, I didn’t create the spaces.

I’m more interested in creating and carving out libaratory  like spaces, so people can thrive. And I think what’s really interesting is that decoloniality is so closely tied to a positionality.

So you know i’m, I am not decolonizing spaces that are oppressing black folk, but I can definitely be doing that, when it comes to like, my CIS genderedness. So like really decolonizing spaces where trans people are not being centered or ableism, so I think like really, often, when I think about decolonization I think about black people and then i’m just like, I’m uninterested in doing that.

And they’re definitely spaces where decolonization is really important, but I can’t think past it, because I work at a predominantly white institution and that’s what as a forefront of my mind.

Lesley-Ann Noel

Thanks Sam.

Edson Cabalfin (he/him)

Yeah, it’s really and I always say also that if we had a really achieved decolonization that we’re we’re not going to talk about this and that’s why we’re still talking about it because it hasn’t been achieved yet right? so that’s why the fight still content and the work still needs to be done.

Lesley-Ann Noel

Yeah and I think you know some of the work looks similar. There’s a really famous paper that says decolonization is not a metaphor, but you know kind of talks about where there’s some of the similarity. And so like in Trinidad I might talk more actively about decolonization and in the States I talk more about anti racism, I suppose.

But some of the work is similar you know about decentering hegamoney.

Yeah, the establishment. I know we’re at time so i’m going to just hand back over to Niesha for any of our last announcements, Niesha.

Niesha Ford

Well, thank you so so much to our guests, for you know coming out and doing this amazing presentation. I just want to say, because I saw some comments in the chat, that links, presentations, videos will all be posted on the Taylor website so you can see those things again.

So I just wanted to give a special thank you to our interpreters, to our captioners, but also a really, really special thank you to Dr. Lesley Ann Noel and she will be leaving the Taylor Center. So she will no longer, I know cry, she will no longer be our co host, my co host for future design thinking breakfast is, but we do have you know, the future design, my future co host here today, Dr Julia Lang so you will start to see her face more during this summer.

But yeah I don’t know Dr. Noel if you wanted to say any kind of last words and also you, Dr. Lang if you would like to introduce yourself, but thank you so much for coming I did drop Dr Noel and Dr Cabalfin’s LinkedIn in the chat so please feel free to connect with them, and thank you.

Flora (she/her)

Also there is going to be another Design Thinking breakfast in May, so I’m putting that link in too Niesha if you want to talk about that more.

Lesley-Ann Noel

You’re on mute Niesha.

Niesha Ford

Yeah, thank you so much Flora.

Lesley-Ann Noel

I just want to say you know, thank you to everyone who joined us on this, you know, like why I like Fanon’s quote is that, okay, you know, sometimes you in the process, people would say, I think, people didn’t actually say, but I think that the work might have looked chaotic, sometimes, but it is chaotic. You know, and so I want to thank people who joined me, on this two year chaotic, experimental, journey and I look forward to remaining connected to people at the Taylor Center and Tulane, as we move on, as I move on.

Julia Lang

Yeah, thank you everyone and really Niesha is the one that is leading all the breakfast. She’s the one that has recruited the are incredible speakers already for the summer. She has them all slotted and i’m just really excited to be her co-pilot but really just support her and the amazing work that she’s doing bringing in so many incredible voices that can share their perspectives about their work in design.

So, Dr Lesley Ann Noel will be very missed, and she is going off to do incredible work in a tenure track position so she will say close to our hearts, even though she will not be directly working with us in the Taylor Center. So I look forward to seeing everyone during the summer DT breakfasts.

Thank you for being here and continuing to be part of this community.

Laura Murphy

Thank you.

Niesha Ford

Thank you.

Lesley-Ann Noel

Thank you.

About Design Thinking Breakfast

  • These casual events will be moving to an online format until further notice … and breakfasts will be BYOC – ‘Bring your own coffee’.
  • The goal is to learn from each other. The format will evolve as we learn, together, what might be most valuable (and enjoyable!) to us all. Breakfasts will include both time to mingle and one or two quick activities to foster knowledge-sharing or community-building.
  • The DT breakfasts are open to all. No DT experience is required.
  • Come with an open heart and mind and prepare to learn and share with others in the local, regional, and international DT community.
  • Please invite anyone who would enjoy both sharing with and learning from other practitioners and educators in the greater New Orleans area, the Gulf South, and connecting with other people in the local, regional and international design thinking community.
  • When: One Friday each month.
  • Cost: Free
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