To build the N Square Innovators Network, we established impactful, lasting relationships with partners whose own networks are full of the very people we aimed to attract. In most cases, these relationships involved a grant—or series of grants—to get the flywheel turning, but over time they became less transactional and more reciprocal. A core group, comprising leaders from PopTech, TED, Hollywood, Health & Society, Singularity University, and Games for Change, formed a community of practice that offered mutual guidance, shared resources and made valuable introductions. This community shares a foundation of trust and mutual respect that has led to significant and novel collaborations beyond anything we might have imagined on our own. Many of the most committed and productive members of the N Square Innovators Network came to us through this vital core group of committed colleagues.
Intelligence. Exuberance. Commitment. These are hallmarks of the N Square Innovation Summit, an annual festival celebrating the work of each new cohort of innovation fellows and welcoming newcomers. This public “parade of prototypes” showcases emerging ideas while building esprit de corps and knitting community.
As the first snow of 2018 fell in Providence, Rhode Island, nearly 80 members of the N Square Innovators Network assembled to celebrate the public presentation of projects produced by our inaugural cohort of innovation fellows and the launch of ambitious new collaborations.
How might we provide active experiences and other unique resources that effectively teach about nuclear threats? Or foster the development of artistic work with lasting impact on this issue? Or guard against dangerous disinformation? These were the challenges taken up by the second cohort of innovation fellows in 2019
Cohort 3 fellows spent roughly nine months in 2020 learning and practicing methods of creative problem-solving and design, ultimately producing solutions that address needs in the nuclear field in new ways. But unlike other cohorts, this one was compelled to do much of this at a distance during a global pandemic.
By popular demand, Cohort 4 was composed almost entirely of leaders and staff members from NGOs eager to find better ways to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate to improve outcomes in the nuclear field.
Sometimes fledgling projects need more dedicated mentorship and assistance. With support from Carnegie Corporation of New York, N Square provided both financial and technical assistance to nearly a dozen of the most promising concepts to come out of the first four cohorts of innovation fellows.
Rhode Island School of Design
After seeing Carl Robichaud and Erika Gregory speak at PopTech in 2015, Rhode Island School of Design professor Tom Weis decided to do something about nuclear challenges—and to bring the faculty, students, and administration of the oldest art and design institution in America along with him.
cool mint media
“Artists hold the key to how we view the world…. We believe in the power of collaboration and taking creative risks.” Innovation fellow Cole Jorissen put those tenets to work when he created cool mint media, a Brooklyn-based record label making hip-hop music about global security, nuclear weapons, and existential risks.
Design, Culture, and Global Security
Graduate students in industrial design grapple with the risks posed by nuclear weapons from Professor Tom Weis’s course at RISD. Novel solutions abound.
After WWII, the Marshall Islands were entrusted to the US by the United Nations for their protection. Instead, the US used the islands as a nuclear test site. Graduate industrial design students Charlotte McCurdy, Allison Davis, and Erica Efstratoudakis created the chilling exhibit FACELESS—which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in conjunction with the film and music experience the bomb—to confront the public with what happened next.
RISD professor and long-time N Square partner Tom Weis faced a welcome challenge: After introducing design methods to the nuclear field, he was so inundated with requests to collaborate with the IAEA, the US Department of State, think tanks, NGOs, the UN, and others that he started a whole new company just to meet demand.
Hollywood, Health & Society
Part of the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, HH&S offers free resources to film and TV writers and producers on a wide range of health, safety, and security topics. Through a partnership with N Square, nuclear experts like former secretary of energy Ernest Moniz and the late Bruce Blair, founder of Global Zero, made on-site visits to writers rooms and consulted on storylines to ensure that nuclear challenges are portrayed accurately and responsibly–and Hollywood creatives started teaching nuclear experts how to tell more compelling stories.
In its six-season run on CBS, Madam Secretary reached tens of millions of viewers weekly with stories that mixed international intrigue with Washington politics. In close consultation with nuclear experts, the award-winning episode “Night Watch” tackled the terror of nuclear threats.
Led by Hollywood TV writer/producer Jennifer Cecil, Atomic Storytelling covers the fundamentals from story arc to character and setting, providing nuclear experts with narrative techniques that bring their messages alive for diverse audiences. Storytellers have come from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Inkstick Media, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Stanford, and the Nuclear Threat Initiative—among others.