About Cecily Sommers

Cecily Sommers

Cecily Sommers is the Founder & President of The Push Institute, a non‐profit think tank that tracks the ideas, technologies, and people that will, to quote its mission statement and push the future in new directions.

Cecily speaks, writes, and consults on the practical value of all that big thinking, particularly as it relates to building brand-specific, future-focused innovation portfolios. She is a semi-regular contributor to Public Radio’s All Things Considered , was named as one of “Twenty‐Five Women” to Watch by the Business Journal, and selected as one of Fast Company’s “2007 Fast 50 Reader’s Favorites.”

Latest Posts by Cecily Sommers

Making a case for a Vo-Tech Revival

July 9, 2011 by  


The State of Education
Via: OnlineEducation.net

What does it take to grow our way out of crippling debt? Jobs.

While the formula for increasing jobs is a little complicated, it’s actually not very hard. In order for the U.S. economy (or any, really; the principles hold true for all countries) to recover, there are four policy areas that must be addressed:

  1. Infrastructure
    Businesses have to trust that they can plug into a system (communications, transportation, electric grid, etc) that is reliable and up-to-date.
  2. A business environment that has little bureaucracy and attractive incentives.
    Both are important to getting new businesses off the ground and growing fast.
  3. Transparency in government.
    Except for those who curry favor with people in power, corruption kills economic growth like nobody’s business. Unfortunately, that means nobody has a business.
  4. Education
    Simply put, you’ve got to have the workers to match the needs of industry. Other than creating a path for an elite few to go from Wharton to Wall Street, the U.S. ability to connect education and jobs is abysmal.

Which is why we need Vocational schools to come back.

We’ve spent the last generation saying that all students should be college-bound. While the intention of creating a more egalitarian system, that believes in every person’s potential to do great things, is attractive, the result of putting all students on the college track has been a failure of great consequence to our whole society (Wall St. execs execepted). During this time our society has become more stratified, not less. Overall achievement in education has gone down and the drop-out rate has skyrocketed upwards. We’ve been distracted by hype about a creative class and a knowledge economy that idealizes a “new economy” that is open to everyone’s contribution, that spurs entrepreneurship, and that is equally open to all people. It’s sheer bunk, and we bought it.

All of this fed a delusion that America was to become the creative engine of the world, that we’d “own” innovation and creativity, while outsourcing all the technical, vocational jobs. The result: a growing number of chronically underemployed, unskilled workers, and an economy that sold itself out by creating favorable conditions for Wall St. and very few others.

It’s painful to hear the debate over how to create job growth get stuck in a shouting match over taxes. It’s even more painful that so many people believe it and cling to ideologies, on both sides, that got us into this mess in the first place. Incentivizing the private sector to invest in vocational training could be a smart and easy start to getting back on track.


Markus Kayser Takes 3D Printing to the Desert Where He Turns Sun and Sand into Glass

June 27, 2011 by  


SolarSinter Project 2011: In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages, this project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance.

In this experiment sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process, that combines natural energy and material with high-tech production technology.

Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world’s most efficient energy resource – the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.


Ingenious! The video is gorgeous too (super high production value).

Using Nature to Depict Nature

June 25, 2011 by  

via sarahillenberger.de by Sarah Illenberger


Stefan Eckert -3D Holographic Show “Space Blues Symphony”

June 24, 2011 by  



Sarah Illenberger: A Knitter with Intestinal Fortitude!

June 23, 2011 by  


A knitter with intestinal fortitude!

Ahh, the Aroma of Newsprint: Tobias Wong’s The Times of New York Candle

June 22, 2011 by  


Tobias Wong’s The Times of New York candle
Various Projects

The designer-artist Tobias Wong, who passed away in 2010, thought of himself, more than anything, as an observer. With a clever wit and ingenious clarity, he honed in on the icons, obsessions and desires of contemporary culture and appropriated them in objects that are both resonant and beautiful. One of his last concepts was The New York Times candle. Within the current fascination with scents and, especially, experimental scents, Wong proposed producing a candle with the fragrance of newsprint inspired by The New York Times, an institution he greatly admired and with which he had a longstanding relationship. This project, though in progress, was never actualized.

Various Projects and Josée Lepage of Bondtoo were close collaborators and friends of Wong’s. We have realized his Times of New York candle in a limited editon of 1000.

The scent of the candle is newsy, with hints of guaiacwood, cedar, musk, spice, with “a powdery note and velvet nuance,” meant to mimic the aroma of black ink on newsprint.

Preserving traditional, sensory associations in the digital age. – Brilliant.

SO cool! Afghanistan’s Amazing DIY Internet

June 22, 2011 by  



The Afghan city of Jalalabad has a high-speed Internet network whose main components are built out of trash found locally. Aid workers, mostly from the United States, are using the provincial city in Afghanistan’s far east as a pilot site for a project called FabFi.

It’s a broadband apart from the covert, subversive “Internet in a suitcase” and stealth broadband networks being sponspored by the U.S., aimed at empowering dissidents, but the goal isn’t so different: bringing high-speed onilne access to the world’s most remote places.

Residents can build a FabFi node out of approximately $60 worth of everyday items such as boards, wires, plastic tubs, and cans that will serve a whole community at once. While it sounds like science fiction, FabFi could have important ramifications for entire swaths of the world that lack conventional broadband.

FabFi is an open source project that maintains close ties to MIT’s Fab Lab and the university’s Center for Bits and Atoms. At the moment, FabFi products are up and running in both Jalalabad and at three sites in Kenya, which collectively operate as an Internet service provider called JoinAfrica. Inside Afghanistan, FabFi networks are used to aid local businesses and to prop up community infrastructure such as hospitals and clinics.

FabFi is funded primarily by the personal savings of group members and a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The technology used to create FabFi networks seems like it leaped out of an episode of MacGyver. Commercial wireless routers are mounted on homemade RF reflectors covered with a metallic mesh surface. Another router-on-a-reflector is set up at a distance; the two routers then create an ad-hoc network that provides Internet access to a whole network of reflectors. The number of reflectors which can be integrated into the network is theoretically endless; FabFi’s network covers most of Jalalabad.

The reflectors can be built out of wood, metal, plastics, stone, clay, or any other locally available product that the metallic mesh can be attached to. FabFi also designed their devices to run on power generated by an automobile battery, which means the networks an also go “off-the-grid” if necessary.

Afghanistan is also a focal point for One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), which is currently working in Jalalabad, Kabul, Herat and Kandahar. OLPC’s Samuel Klein noted that locals are being introduced to Wikipedia for the first time, which resulted in an amazing image of an Afghan family viewing Wikipedia on OLPC laptops (right). Wikipedia has a robust Pashto-language version.

The director of the Jalalabad FabFi project, Amy Sun, says that Internet access is just one piece of the puzzle for Afghanistan:

Fab Lab/Fi doesn’t solve everything. It’s only one piece: the rest have to develop at the same time. Infrastructure like roads, power, water, schools, teachers, and systems maintenance as well as the user terminals (laptops and computers), people who use them, and the content they’ll consume. It’s crazy to think that there was no cell phone service in the country in 2002 and now it’s pretty solidly working in every major population center (at least when the tower isn’t turned off or bombed). From roads to power to water, the task at hand (officially U.S. or not) was to set off a program that could go from zero to servicing 30 million people in a few years. Imagine deciding to colonize Mars and sending 30 million people first, ahead of the infrastructure.

However, FabFi has brought a scaleable model of low-cost broadband Internet access to one of the most war-torn regions of the world. Networks of the type created by FabFi operate independently of government control and can be deployed by anyone anywhere where local infrastructure will not permit a conventional network. What works in Afghanistan can also work elsewhere.

[Images: Courtesy FabFi]

Robin Rhode’s Street Art + Viewer = Some Kind of Beautiful Theater

May 7, 2011 by  



Working predominantly with everyday material like charcoal, chalk and paint, Rhode started out creating performances that are based on his own drawings of objects that he interacts with. He expanded and refined this practice into creating photography sequences and digital animations. These works are characterized by an interdisciplinary approach that brings aspects of performance, happening, drawing, film and photography together. Rhode often returns to his native South Africa, creating work in the streets of Johannesburg and continuously registering the traces of poverty and social inequality. An outstanding characteristic of his works is his addressing of social concerns in a playful and productive manner, incorporating these issues into his practice without simplifying or judging them.[1] Website: perryrubeinstein.com

Table Of Contents


Yo – Yo

Wheel Of Steel

Empty Pockets

Snake Eyes

Pan’s Opticon




He Got Game


Robin Rhode is a South African artist, born 1976 in Cape Town, South Africa, now based in Berlin, Germany. In 1998, he obtained a diploma in Fine Art from Technikon Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, followed by a postgraduate program at the South African School of Film, Television and Dramatic Art in Johannesburg.


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