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October 26, 8:30am • WeWork Mass Ave • part of a series on Honesty

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We’ve been nominated for Bostinno’s 2016 50 on Fire, which recognizes the city’s innovators and disruptors. Now in its fifth year, the awards show will be hosted at the Moakley Courthouse on the night of Dec. 7th to celebrate the finalists and winners. Interested in attending? You can buy tickets here (use the promo code CreativeMornings for a 20% off).

Gautam Narula’s Guide to Activism

May’s speaker Gautaum Narula is the award-winning author of Remain Free, a memoir that documents his friendship with death row inmate Troy Davis. He has compiled a list of resources for education and action around the criminal justice system. 


  • Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson gives a great broad overview of the problems in our criminal justice system. ­­Stevenson is a lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that provides legal representation prisoners who may have been wrongfully convicted, given unfair trials, or cannot afford legal representation. The book goes through a series of cases Stevenson worked on in the past three decades that highlight the kind of injustices (particularly against the poor and racial minorities) that continue to occur today. 
  • The first season of the Serial podcast follows the story of Adnan Syed, a high school student questionably convicted of murdering another student and sentenced to life in prison. Not only does it provide a personal look into a potentially wrongful conviction, it also highlights some important problems: the increased power of prosecutors via plea bargaining, the effects of poor legal representation, etc.
  • It would be remiss of me not to shamelessly promote my own book, Remain Free, which follows the Troy Davis case and discusses the death penalty, how race and socioeconomic status affect outcomes in the justice system, and the personal toll our justice system takes on the people and families involved. All the profits from sales will be donated to the Innocence Project (see below), and the book can be read for free online at
  • The Innocence Project is a non-profit that works to free wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing, and has information on their website about what causes wrongful convictions. They also discuss the policy and legislative work they do (in addition to providing legal representation) to prevent innocent people from being convicted in the first place. 
  • For those specifically interested in the death penalty, Amnesty International’s Abolish the Death Penalty campaign is a good starting point. This campaign transformed Troy Davis from an unknown death row inmate in Georgia to the most well-known death row inmate in history. 


  • Donate to the organizations mentioned above. 
  • Volunteer: Amnesty International is particularly good place to volunteer, because at its core AI is a volunteer organization so they’re built around volunteer action. You can start by getting in touch with your local field office (in this case, the one in Boston) and Amnesty Local Group (Amnesty 133 in Cambridge/Somerville). There are lots of friendly people in AI who will be happy to help you get started if you’re new to this. And if you’re into rallies and protests, AI can get you into that too. 
  • Lobby government officials: Massachusetts is definitely ahead of the curve (compared to the rest of the states) on these kinds of issues, but there’s always room for improvement. Stay educated and aware of any bills relating to law enforcement and criminal justice, and make your voice heard if there’s something you don’t like. If you have friends or relatives in other states that aren’t doing quite as well as Massachusetts in regards to criminal justice reform, encourage them to call their elected officials to pressure them to change the laws. Amnesty International, The Innocence Project, etc. will often have petitions you can sign as well.
  • Share the knowledge you’ve gained with as many people as you can. The most enduring change occurs from the bottom up, and that means writing about these issues and talking to people about them. That’s why I wrote Remain Free and speak to awesome groups of people like the folks at CreativeMornings Boston!


You can follow Gautam on Twitter and on his personal blog.

Zombies & Climate Change: a Follow-up from Shawn Hesse

Comparing climate change to a zombie apocalypse is a lot of fun, but can sometimes have unintended consequences of leaving people focused too much on fiction rather than fact. Zombies get the headlines, but they are the Trojan horse for the main content; the point is that there is urgent work to be done that will help to reduce the causes of climate change, and also help us adapt to the changes we are seeing from it.

Sometimes in the fan-fiction world of zombie stories and apocalyptic futures, the reality of what we are truly capable of can be lost. Here’s a recap of some of the climate change and community building solutions that I highlighted in my CreativeMornings presentation:

  • Living on current local income – using only the sun that shines and the water that falls down on us for free to meet our needs. Our firm emersion DESIGN has completed multiple projects that begin to implement these strategies to create buildings, communities, and entire college campuses that generate all of their own energy needs on site from solar panels, and projects that capture rainwater for reuse in irrigation and plumbing.
  • Community gardens, urban farms, and farmers markets all create access to locally grown food that is less dependent on the massive infrastructure of more commercially produced food. There are no shortage of example programs from the Green Bronx Machine, to the Urban Farming Institute of Boston, to organizations like GreenWave in New Haven that are looking at ways to sustainably farm from the sea. All of them provide ways that we can shift our communities towards locally sourced food.
  • Preparing a community for emergency situations is a critical component of much of the planning work being done around Boston, and the world. Thinking about the resiliency of our community and our infrastructure during potential storms, hurricanes, droughts, floods, and other emergencies, helps to ensure we can bounce back better than we have been in the past. Organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program are providing funding, and comprehensive frameworks to help city leaders and planners study the critical vulnerabilities and opportunities in their community.
  • Building equity is one of the most difficult challenges that we face, in part because it is not as easily quantified and calculated as much as carbon emissions, or sea-levels, and in part because it is an uncomfortable and unfamiliar conversation for many. However, there are many examples of initiatives and programs specific to the built environment that are working to build equity into our communities. The JUST Organizations label from the International Living Future Institute is a transparency label for companies to disclose their policies and performance across multiple social justice and equity indicators, and we are currently engaged in work with the US Green Building Council to integrate social equity indicators into the world’s most widely adopted green building certification program, LEED.
  • The most critical challenge facing us today, and into the future, is how we come together as a community, as a city, state, nation, and world.  The Paris climate agreement is the first time countries around the world have committed to a set of common goals to mitigate climate change, and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The agreement marks a key moment in the story of how we have responded to climate change, signifying that the actions we each are taking as individual countries, need to work together with the others to reach a common goal. The same is true even down to individual actions like biking or walking, recycling, using less energy, and eating local food.

The only way we can really solve the problems of climate change is by taking action together… just like surviving the zombie apocalypse.



In March we celebrated our last month at WeWork/General Assembly and listened as our favorite lifestyle coach and man about town Dillan DiGiovanni gave us some much needed motivation. For years Dillan has been spreading a message of self-love and acceptance to help others grow and find clarity. So it was only fitting that he gave the audience a breakdown on change, and how we can stop getting in the way of it. For those of us who hate “the process”, Dillan is the spirit guide/Beyonce we want on our side: who knows when to hand-hold, when to real talk, and when to show his crocus tattoo. 

Dillan’s journey is an inspiration - one that the CreativeMornings community will continue to draw from. And because we love to spoil you, here’s EVEN MORE wisdom from DD, to help you live long and prosper:

What is the one thing you want everyone to know about you?
​That I’m perfectly imperfect. I’ve learned many things about good health habits and how to change your life and how to be a better person but I do them all irregularly and imperfectly. I sometimes say unkind things. I’ve had dark thoughts. I’m insecure and confident in equal amounts. I eat less sugar than I used to but more than I should. I both crave and fear being loved for who I am. Ultimately, I’m just a regular person who has a lot of wisdom and tools and I learn more every day how much work I still have ahead of me. But that’s what life is for! To learn and practice. Rinse and repeat.

What is your advice for someone who feels stuck - in their career, or in their relationship or in their body?
​My advice is to get honest with yourself. People usually feel stuck because they are more worried how other people will respond to a choice they make–whether it’s a job change or coming out or shaving their head. We live within these limits we set based on fear and it’s all unnecessary. Think big. Live outside the lines. Trust your instincts. Make choices that serve you, but with kindness and respect for others. Start with small steps and specific actions that get instant results because you will be more motivated to keep going. Don’t try to fix all the things at once or plan too far out ahead. And the source of all of this is taking impeccable care of yourself with healthy habits because when you feel REALLY GOOD physically and emotionally, you feel like you can do literally anything.

As a lifestyle coach, how do you balance listening and sharing? How can one learn to be a better listener? (Asking for a friend)
​This is a great question. It IS a constant balance and I always need more practice!! What works well is to make listening my default and asking if sharing would actually help the person who’s talking. We interject from habit but it’s not always useful. Asking if someone just wants to be heard or if they actually want or need advice helps you offer something truly useful and they will be much more open to receiving it. ​Listening is a gift you give but you also get SO MUCH from it, because it’s such an intimate experience of real connection. It’s available to all of us if we just get out of our heads and self-preoccupation and really get curious about what other people are dealing with. ​Learning to be a better listener starts with listening to ourselves better. What we need and want, how we feel, what we think. When we learn to create that space for ourselves, it’s easier to make room for other people and truly listen to them.

Is life all green smoothies? Do we need to love kale to find inner peace?
No. Life is all coffee and bacon and donuts. haha. ​I don’t think we
need to love kale but it certainly helps ME find inner peace. Dark, leafy greens of any variety cleanse our blood and our gut and make us look and feel healthier from the inside out: Less bellyaches and headaches, fewer mood swings, clear, shining skin. If that doesn’t create inner peace, I don’t know what does.

Do you have a pump-up playlist? I NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S ON IT!
​Yaaaaaas! This is my current running/biking mix and I listen to it on the regular:


*(1812 Overture is not a joke - the last 3 minutes of this piece KICKS MAJOR ASS! It makes me cry every time I listen to it)​


You can keep up with Dillan on Twitter and Instagram, as well as his website.

Photo courtesy of The Danger Booth

Fungai Takes February by Storm

Fungai Tichawangana humbled the CreativeMornings Boston community last month with compelling stories of young innovators and entrepreneurs from his home country of Zimbabwe. Fungai, Harvard University’s Nieman-Berkman Fellow for Journalism Innovation (can you say that five times fast?) gave voice to a generation of creators when he founded ZimboJam - Zimbabwe’s leading lifestyle, arts and culture website. 

Fungai opened a window into Africa’s creative and innovation communities for us and it was downright inspiring. We were so lucky to get even more magic from him for the blog, so read up bb!

As a master multi-media storyteller, how do you evaluate which stories to tell, when to tell them and how to tell them?
One of the things I try and do in my work is tell the stories of young people doing amazing things in spite of great odds. If we can place these stories on the same pages as stories about well known people who drive lots of traffic, then we help create new audiences and support structures for young innovators.

Has your time in Boston changed you as a storyteller? If so, how?
My time here has enabled me to step away from daily deadlines and meetings to refocus, learn new things and meet some great journalists and digital media innovators from all over the world. I feel invigorated to go back and share what I have learnt and try new things.

Accountability was a recurring theme in your presentation. What do you think is the most effective way to create accountability for leaders?
It starts with how we educate our children. Unfortunately, too many of us were educated to always say yes to those who lead us, to believe that because someone dresses better than us or has more money than us or is from a different social class then they have all the ideas. Constructive dissent and critical thinking are not encouraged. Accountability belongs as much to the person asking for it as the person giving it. If we do not relentlessly seek it, we will not get it.

One of the lessons from young Zimbabweans you highlighted is “keep learning.” What’s the most valuable skill you’ve learned in the past year? What are you looking forward to learning this year?
The most valuable thing I learnt last year was actually not a skill. I learnt that it’s important to work hard, but it’s just as important to get to know people. Like they say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I’ll also add, “It’s how you know them too.” Americans are masterful at leveraging relationships to get things done.  This year? I’m currently learning about trans media documentary at MIT and it’s opening up all sorts of doors in my mind. 

How can the creative community best create opportunities for others?
I have found that simple things like sharing links to resources online, can make a big difference. A friend of mine calls it ‘voting with your click.’ That’s one place to start. Another way is to create communities and groups that meet face to face and not just online. Human interaction is the stuff of magic and the more we can bring people together to share ideas, argue, ask questions and spark each others flames, the better. 


Check out Fungai’s website for updates on his current projects and watch our video if you missed out on the OG magic.

Photo courtesy of Dan Powell

Adam Connor Gives Good Vibes

Happy February, creatives! We hope you had just as much fun as we did at last month’s event. We could not have been happier to kick off the new year with a sold-out event, new swag, a kickass speaker and, of course, donuts (RIP #whole30). 

Adam Connor of Mad*Pow gave the community an instructional on how to find harmony in the feedback process, AND luckily we had stunning notebooks to write down every word. Or doodle. Or play hangman with neighbors. 

We did some more Q&A with our bearded hero for you, because we know you just can’t get enough. 


One of the most interesting points you mentioned in your presentation was about practicing critique. How can eager humans like myself practice? Does writing Yelp reviews count?

Sure. Yelp reviews can count. Whenever you think about giving feedback, you can think through the four elements of critique:

  • intent or objectives of the creator
  • related aspects of the thing(s) you’re analyzing
  • the effectiveness of those aspects
  • and why they are or aren’t effective

But perhaps more importantly is to remember that the best critique comes in the form of a dialog, both parties–the giver and the receiver–are able to ask questions and gather more information. To that extent, it’s important to look for ways to practice that provide opportunities for discussion. Ask someone for 15 minutes of their spare time to look at something with you. Try asking different kinds of questions in meetings and reviews to see what happens. If you’ve got a local design community like UXPA or IxDA, try using that network or it’s meet-ups.

What’s the most memorable piece of feedback you’ve ever received?
In my first year of film school, there was an end of the year film festival. Students from all four years were required to show their final projects in an auditorium full of film students, faculty, friends, family, and students. After each film, the student was required to stand at the podium in front of the auditorium and take questions and comments. My film, “World’s Finest,” was about two friends debating over who the better superhero is: Batman or Superman over the course of a day. It was effectively an homage or ripoff  (depending on whether you like me or hate me) of Kevin Smith’s films. After it ran, I nervously walked up to the front of the room and waited. After a brief silence, one professor decided to take the allowed 5 minutes of comment time to berate me and trash the piece. I honestly can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was full of expletives and questions about any possibility of me ever making a worthwhile film. I was lucky in that, another professor later took see under their wing and taught me what critique really is. I later dropped out of school for a brief time and then enrolled at another school in a different major. I don’t attribute my leaving film school to that incident, but I don’t doubt that it made the decision to do so a little easier.

You spoke about the lack of honesty in work environments today. Is there such a thing as too much honesty?
Yes. Humans are emotional beings. Critique is an analytical process. It involves logic, rationality and inductive reasoning. If that was all humans needed in order to take action then the world would be a very different place. The fact is that we need more than that, we need motivation, and very very often, motivation is closely tied with emotion. And emotions are so embedded in our cognition that most of us can’t separate them. This is why emotionless characters in films and stories tend to stand out to us.
Understanding where there might be too much critique or honesty has to do with sensing where it is becoming counterproductive by demotivating someone. Helping someone understand where their idea needs additional work is great, but if it has the side-effect of leading them to give up on doing anything with their idea at all, then is it really worth it? I talk a lot about the importance of designers separating themselves from their creations. And it is hugely important, but I don’t think it’s really possible to do it completely. And I think that there are benefits to the attachment as well. Finding the balance between detachment, honesty, and motivation is not easy, and it really only comes from practice, both on the part of the recipient as well and the person or people giving the critique (and often collaborating with the recipient).

Empathy seems to be a buzzword at design and tech companies right now. Is there a right or wrong way to instill empathy in workplace culture?
The classic designer answer of “it depends” applies. The most common challenges I encounter with teams around empathy have to do with balance in one way or another. For example, empathy – typically emotional empathy – can often be a catalyst for action. When we feel pain or discomfort because of a situation someone else is in, our empathy can cause us to take action to try to improve the situation. It doesn’t sound like a bad thing on the surface, but sometimes the actions we take may end up being detrimental. Think of how many stories you know from your own past with friends and family, where someone was just trying to help but ended up making things worse. This is a situation we hear about often in health and financial industries. Emotional empathy needs to be balanced with cognitive empathy, and both need to be balanced with an understanding of the various “systems”, contexts, and constraints of a situation in order to find the most effective course of action.

Who are your mentors? How have they shaped your approach to work?
My greatest mentor outside of my parents is Jennifer Fabrizi. Jen and I worked together at MassMutual for years where she was my manager. I was pretty young, stupid and had a bit of an attitude problem, especially in my early time there. I had a tendency to get overly frustrated at business and IT partners who just couldn’t see things the way I saw them, and the processes, infrastructure, and legal hoops that made things feel like the were slower than molasses drove me crazy. Jen taught me so much about pragmatism and how to take the empathy and understanding we were so focused on for our customers and turn it inward toward our partners. There is a line she used to say to me when I would get all riled up about something and start running my mouth, “Are you adding more light or heat?” which essentially means, “Is what you’re saying (or about to say) furthering the conversation by uncovering new information or is it just adding energy without rallying moving things forward?”

What sort of magical powers do you hold in your beard?
My beard is where I keep all of my good ideas.


If you want to hear more from Adam about organizational design or how to send positive energy into the universe, be sure follow him on Twitter, and check out his new book Discussing Design

Photos courtesy of The Danger Booth and Dan Powell

Happy New Year from CreativeMornings Boston!

2015 was a big year for CreativeMornings Boston - we celebrated our first birthday, hung out in some of the city’s newest spaces, took ALLOFTHEPHOTOS in the Danger Booth and ate an incalculable amount of donuts. 

The team is working hard to bring the CreativeMornings community incredible events in 2016. If you have ideas, feedback or slam poetry please get at us

Chris Piascik on How to Make a Donut Vomit on a Loop

Remember when Chris Piascik became the first speaker to use the theme twice in a three-word sentence? That was so real.

The CM Boston community was incredibly #blessed last month to hear from Chris on how to be a general hustler. Chris, a self-proclaimed accidental illustrator, is a published author and winner of way too many awards to list here. When he’s not creating posters for bands that don’t exist anymore, he posts his daily drawings here and teaches at Hartford Art School.

Here’s our lightning interview with our epic November speaker:

You just completed your second Kickstarter campaign. What has been the most surprising part of crowdfunding?
I’d have to say the genuine excitement people seem to have about being involved. It’s really an amazing feeling to know people out there like your work enough to put their own hard-earned money behind it.

Does your process as an illustrator differ from your process as a designer? If so, how?
At this point in my career I see myself as an illustrator, and as a result of that I am bringing my unique voice to each project whereas that isn’t always the case in design. Design aesthetics and execution are particular to each specific project, and often times the designer’s voice is not, and should not, be a part of that. I still love design and enjoy doing it for my own projects—I’m just not really designing for clients at this point.

What has been your favorite project this year? Why?
Working on a few different sets of stickers for Facebook was probably my favorite project this year. Since the stickers are used almost as emoticons it was a fun challenge to think about the story or message each sticker would express and how people might use them in conversation.

Do you ever feel competitive with other creatives? How do you deal?
I don’t know if I’d say “competitive” but I do sometimes see amazing things by other illustrators that make me want to step my game up. There’s plenty of work to go around and it never seems like I am competing directly with anyone. Seeing other great work just makes me happy to see illustration as a whole thriving.

Related: Who wins a thumb-wrestling competition between you and (previous CreativeMornings speaker) Josh LaFayette?
I asked Josh, he say’s that I would probably break his thumb. I don’t think that would be the outcome, but I do feel confident in my thumb-wrestling skills.


You can keep up with Chris on his website and Instagram (highly recommended). And watch out for his new book, Another 1000 Days of Drawings, which will be available next year.


Photos courtesy of Dan Powell and The Danger Booth