Erica Dorn |Transition Design Doctoral Candidate, Carnegie Mellon University | Dissertation Proposal | May 2020

Photo collage by Ken Kinoshita


Places, like people, move; they are made up of constellating material and human trajectories that are in constant motion and relationship with other places. But this understanding of place is mostly absent from formulas for designing sustainable and equitable futures. Instead, calls for relocalization as a means to mend the effects of globalization can often perpetuate systemic inequity through isolationism. This research develops and advocates for an understanding of places as relational and locomotive, and develops design processes that can better distribute wealth, in its many forms, amongst places.



Humans are distance-enabled and in constant exchange through physical and virtual…

A Multi-Level Perspective covering the ‘wicked problem’ of homelessness in Pittsburgh (and in an era of COVID-19).

Transition Design Seminar, Carnegie Mellon University
a. Sánchez, Erica Dorn, Xuehui Zhang, and Sanika Sahasrabuddhe


In this post we explore the wicked problem of Homelessness in Pittsburgh through a Multi-Level Perspective Mapping process (MLP). The MLP is a framework for looking at longer time horizons and the various levels in which events take place and move up and down systems-levels to affect transitions. The MLP Framework outlines three levels where events occur — the micro level of Niche, the meso level of Regime…

Understanding the wicked problem and stakeholder relationships of homelessness in Pittsburgh

Transition Design Seminar, Carnegie Mellon University
Team Emergence:
Xuehui Zhang, Sanika Sahasrabuddhe, a. Sánchez, Erica Dorn (Assignment 1a+1b)

Homelessness affects us all

Homelessness — Framing the Problem

Homelessness is on the rise in the United States, 500,000 people living on the streets is considered a low estimate. Pittsburgh’s share of the homeless population may at first seem insignificant compared to cities like San Francisco, or D.C., however it is estimated that in this city of 300,000 residents, there is an estimated 750 homeless residents in Pittsburgh.

The roots of homelessness in Pittsburgh are connected to cycles of mass…

+Imaginative Labyrinth as Homing Device

Humans are increasingly displaced and distance-enabled. Without a sense of connection, knowledge, and commitment to geographically-bound places over longer periods of time, we design out of context and relationship, abstracted from the direct experience and consequences of our actions.

Design for social innovation often seeks to make systems-level change towards more sustainable and equitable futures. However, longevity and embeddedness in a place is often absent and projects are left un-stewarded towards their long-term intended aims. …

Recently on WNYC, I heard that if we totaled the global debt, accumulated by all people and countries and divided it by all humans on earth, we’d each be in debt by about $85,000. It occurs to me that, this amount of debt may well be equivalent to the level of extraction and debt we have accrued with Mother Earth. However unequally amassed the debt may be, all species are paying the costs.

Humans have been part of an extractive human paradigm that has flourished and accelerated the depletion of our planet, this began roughly 10,000 years ago during the…

Reflections on designing and developing a bioregional learning community

How can a reimagined business education contribute to the regeneration and equity of our places? What are the skills, wisdom, and connections needed for humans on earth today?

The following are some of my process reflections after designing and facilitating an alternative business education program, as a bioregional learning community in New York’s Hudson Valley. I wrote these after a 3+ year journey serving as Managing Director of the Good Work Institute and before leaving on a cross-country bike trip. …

Ideas and Approaches for Developing an Intergenerational Community of Practice

Donna Schaper and Erica Dorn at Good Work Institute

I gravitate towards elders. I crave the way time seems to slow down in their presence, I notice that there is less to prove and more to learn. And that because of society’s obsession with glamorizing youthfulness, many generations are missing out on one of the greatest gifts, the ability to be in a intergenerational community that honors and values all of the ages.

This post shares some ideas and approaches for how to begin an intergenerational community of practice, a community that engages in work together in your place…

Erica Dorn

Erica is social choreographer and doctoral student in Transition Design at CMU— she locates with her itinerate play about Last Chance, CO.

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