By Laura Zhang and Shannon Randolph


Do you ever wonder how human-centered design (HCD) might be applied in the world? This summer, the Hive went abroad to Vietnam to pilot a Hive and EnviroLab Asia design research and internship program. A team of three students -Laura Zhang (PO ’19), Lena Tran (PI ’18), and Kim Ha (PI ’18) – and the Hive’s Director of Community and Global Engagement applied HCD to reframe an environmental-health issue and test out behavior change campaigns for bear bile reduction. Read more below and watch our homemade video about the process here!

The plan was to continue the last project Shannon had been working on with her postdoc at the San Diego Zoo and the animal welfare organization, Animals Asia (AA). AA focuses on on shifting consumer demand away from bear bile and ending the inhumane farming of moon bear bile. With support from EnviroLab Asia, the Pomona College Dean’s Office International Initiatives, and the Pomona College Internship funds, in June 2018, our team set off for Hanoi, Vietnam!

The primary reason that moon bears are captured from the wild and kept in small cages on bear farms is for their bile. Bear farmers extract the bile from the bears’ gallbladders (a painful process). They later sell the bile to people who use bear bile as traditional medicine to treat inflammation and liver and gall bladder conditions. There are now many readily available herbal and synthetic alternatives with the same medicinal properties. While it is currently illegal to extract bear bile in Vietnam, it is not illegal to keep the bears in captivity in small metal cages. Bears can only be rescued if the bear farmers voluntarily give up the bears or they are caught in the act of bile extraction (which rarely ever happens).

One way that AA has tried to advance the rescue of these bears is through their Health Day interventions. These interventions are targeted toward the villages around Hanoi that still keep bears and have residents who use bear bile. At these Health Days, AA brings in official traditional medical practitioners (TMPs) from the Hanoi Traditional Medicine Association (TMA). The TMPs offer free walk-in consultations to any residents in the village and prescribe herbal alternative medicines for conditions that patients may use bear bile to treat. Patients are educated about different herbal plants that they can grow in their garden, and they are given a small bottle of an herbal alternative medicine to bear bile.

AA’s hope is that through these Health Days, people will find replacements for bear bile or other animal-sourced products to maintain their health and stop using bear bile altogether. This would reduce the demand for bear bile, and hopefully make bear farmers more willing to give the bears up. Once rescued, the bears live out the rest of their lives in AA’s beautiful Tam Dao sanctuary, where they are cared for by an amazing international veterinary and caretaking team.

As conservation is a slow progressing field, we knew we couldn’t help AA solve the problem in just one month. Our goal was to implement the HCD process and identify key ways that the Health Day interventions were working or not and where AA needed to focus their outreach efforts with target populations in the community.


How does HCD fit into this?


 We used HCD combined with additional social science methods (surveying and rapid ethnographic qualitative analysis) as our approach to assess this issue and identify points of intervention. HCD is a framework for creative thinking and out-of-the-box problem solving. HCD has five stages: empathy, define, ideate, prototype, and test. In the empathy stage, we conducted surveys and interviews with our target population to engage them and understand their deeper motivations for preferring bear bile among other medical choices. Using this quantitative and qualitative data, we drew insights that helped us define (or reframe) personas for our target audiences (also called users) and unexpected insights about user needs around which to frame this behavior change campaign. In the ideation stage, we used structured prompts, such as “How might we … (make herbal alternatives more accessible)?”, to brainstorm as many realistic or unrealistic ideas (100+) as possible. Then, with AA staff input, we selected the ones we thought were most feasible, most exciting, and most groundbreaking human-centered strategies to reduce bear bile demand to prototype. In the prototyping stage, we used very basic materials (post-its, cardboard, colored paper, simulations) to create prototyped experiences of our ideas, and then tested these prototyped experiences with original users to gain their candid feedback. Based on their candid feedback, we could determine whether our idea was something that our users would actually use, or whether the prototype needed more modifications or needed to be scrapped completely. In the times where our ideas were completely off, we needed to go back to the define stage, and reassess our user and our framing of their need-insight statement.

This process encourages one to fail early, and to keep the human aspect of problem-solving in the forefront – hence the name, “human-centered.” No matter what solution you personally think will work best, if the user doesn’t use it, then it doesn’t work. AA found this process to fit very well with their environmental non-profit work. In these spheres, trying to convince people to change something familiar to something unfamiliar is often the goal. In the conservation realm, solutions – or behavior change approaches – are also often presented from culturally-skewed perspectives. Without gaining a deep sense of empathy and understanding of the target audiences’ needs, organizations’ work can regress rather than move forward. However, a behavior change idea that fits the daily routines and implicit needs of the target audience (illuminated through in-depth observation and interviews) is much more likely to lead to a successful behavior change solution or campaign strategy.


Sample results from Design Process


Through the HCD process, we identified three key personas to engage, who were influential and had extreme (i.e. amplified) experiences and opinions about health decision-making regarding bear bile. These were: “respected male elder,” “granny,” and “reputable traditional medical doctors.” One example persona from our work – the “respected male elder” – was a respected patriarch of the family, who had suffered from long-term health issues without resolve and would only accept advice from a man of similar status (doctor or peer of same age group). He felt the need to maintain a masculine front in order to save face. He often reported being in fairly good health, but from time to time, would open up about his health accomplishments (e.g. overcoming a condition, regaining strength). These victory stories played a huge role in influencing how his peers – especially his male peers of the same status and age – perceived him. His stories informed how other men make their own health decisions.

Because his reputation of being a strong leader was very important to him, he didn’t want to waste time using medication that appeared mediocre, weak, or gentle. Herbal medicine was often perceived as gentle, weak, or slow to affect change, whereas bear bile and pharmaceutical medicine were viewed as strong and fast-acting. Thus, men who had had experiences using herbal medicine long-term and seeing lasting effects could speak to this being gentle in an effective, long-lasting way. They had shifted their opinions through personal experience about the necessity to have fast-acting, strong medicine, to desiring slower-acting but effective medicine.

Our prototype intervention idea was to identify and support respected men in the community who are already sharing health advice with one another to share their stories more widely, either through personal gatherings or through radio shows for men. AA could build upon this system of social hierarchy to identify reputable men in the community who want to grow their social capital by helping disseminate health knowledge.


Reflection on the process


AA found the HCD process, paired with evaluation surveys, quite useful for finding nuanced approaches to engage target audiences in the community. We were surprised to discover that the most important tools for shifting behavior already existed within the social fabric of the communities we engaged, in both the rural far North and in the peri-urban North around Hanoi. Older, high status men and women engage in their gendered, age-stratified groups in particular ways, sharing and exchanging health insights and knowledge. A conservation organization, such as AA, can amplify and support these existing messaging pathways or create similar ways of passing along health knowledge to more effectively achieve their desired conservation outcomes.

Contact Laura ( and Shannon ( if you want to learn more about these kinds of opportunities.


Have you always wanted to make your own jewelry? Come to the Hive for an awesome workshop with our new metalsmithing bench! Design and create a unique pair of silver earrings, for yourself or a friend. Collaborate with others while you learn about the design process, silversmithing and indulge in your creative side.


Sign up here:

Space are extremely limited! You will be notified with your placement on waitlist.

In June, the Hive hosted a Future of Design in Higher Education conference, frequently referred to as The Convening. The event was a continuation of the January Convening in Dallas organized by Kate Canales (Southern Methodist University) and Doreen Lorenzo (University of Texas at Austin). In attendance, we had 40 design educators from 25 institutions representing four countries. The attendees were specifically invited because they are involved in establishing design thinking and creativity programs at their schools. The goal was to share successes and challenges, with an emphasis on creating solutions to common challenges together.

If you’re interested in learning more about what the event was and what happened, here are a couple of things you could check out. One of them is a YouTube video, compiled and edited by Hive post-Baccalaureate, Lucia Ruan.

Another is a zine created by both Lucia Ruan and Andikan Archibong.

We hope you enjoy these brief recaps of what was definitely an event to remember! We had a blast hosting this and are looking forward to the next convening.

Hideas is an initiative by Hive student staff, Olivia Cornfield, that allows members of the 5C community to share their ideas with each other via a recording station in one of the rooms at the Hive, the Vault.

This is a collage podcast, compiling voices from the community, for the community, to create community. For example, if you want to collaborate on a project and want to find other people who are interested, or you simply want to tell a story or share a wild idea, Hideas is a great place to do it.

Participating is easy: in the Vault at the Hive, there is a yellow Hideas poster on the wall to the left of the door, which has a Zoom recorder attached to it. It’s easy to use, and instructions are on the poster. If you have an idea, hit record!

Here is the first episode of this new podcast.

You can listen via this YouTube link, or listen to the audio directly beneath it. Enjoy!

We would love your feedback! Please feel free to drop a comment here, on our YouTube or on our Facebook! Thanks for listening!

On Sunday, Rick and Susan Sontag of the eponymous Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity (thats us!) received honorary degrees at Pomona College’s 124th Commencement.

Rick and Susan, both alumni of the Claremont Colleges, are instrumental to the Hive’s existence, so we were happy to see the two honored by Pomona. They currently serve as President and Emeritus Director, respectively, of the Sontag Foundation, which focuses on furthering brain cancer research and supporting brain cancer patients.

Although Susan was unable to attend, Rick imparted invaluable advice about embracing the unexpected hurdles of life to the class of 2017. In case you missed it, hear the Sontags’ powerful story here!

Summer time!

Congratulations for making it through another semester! In case you were wondering, we are happy to announce that we will be open over summer starting Monday, May 15th. For all of you still on campus, drop by and create between 9AM and 5PM from Monday through Friday. Send us an email before you come by! We’ll be putting on plenty of fun workshops, so follow our Facebook page to be notified of updates.

Students destressing from finals at the Pitzer stop of our Human Loom Migration workshop. Clearly, we’re ready for summer! Photo: Fred Leichter.

Dear Colleagues,

The Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity (the Hive) is offering two competitive grant programs for infusing creative collaboration, cross-disciplinary and cross-campus connections, ambitious challenges, and active learning into courses at the Claremont Colleges. We will be awarding course activity grants for Fall ‘17 courses of up to $1000 to support activities by individual faculty members and up to $5000 for interdisciplinary or intercollegiate teams. We will also be awarding two course development grants of a $5000 team stipend to develop or transform a course or courses during Fall ’17 which will be taught in Spring ’18. The Sontag Center will additionally support all grant recipients through non-monetary means including but not limited to space, staff time, design expertise, and help sharing the story of the course.

The course activity and development grant proposals will be evaluated by the following criteria:

  • The proposal features an experiential component –
    A past example is a music course in which students practiced the 19th-century sailors’ work songs they studied in class while working on a ship to understand how the work-singing historically fit the ship-board work and maneuvers.
  • The proposal nurtures connections between students and/or faculty from multiple disciplines or campuses –
    A past example is a course co-taught by a materials engineer at HMC and a professor of sculpture at Pitzer in which students created art from multiple materials.
  • The proposal involves substantial collaborative activity among the students –
    A past example is a physics class in which enrolled students taught basic electronics concepts to their non-specialist peers, then worked together to create devices of their own design.
  • The proposal presents students with ambitious challenges –
    A past example is an art history course in which students worked together to invent a ceramic tradition, including researching Native American ceramic artworks, harvesting local clay, making tools, and creating and firing objects.
  • The proposal supports a learning environment of curiosity, openness, flexibility, and experimentation for both recipients and students –
    A past example is a history course where each session, students learned about historical issues, rapidly explored approaches to solutions by making models and other objects, and presented their designs for questioning and critique.
  • The proposal allows for learning experiences that are not possible in the current course design.

If you have questions about the principles that drive our criteria, or would like to discuss ways to increase collaborative creativity in your course, please contact Linda Shimoda, Fred Leichter, or a member of our steering committee. We enthusiastically support proposals that seem risky and ideas that are developing. In our view, great learning experiences come from a process of experimentation, growing from successes and failures, and continuous improvement. We encourage you to pose questions, follow hunches, and engage in self-reflection throughout the grant experience. If you would like help developing your proposal, feel free to contact us for assistance.

Course Activity Grants
These grants are intended to be used for course components for which current funding mechanisms do not exist. Funding is intended to support specific activities (e.g., class tours or trips), outside facilitators for active-learning workshops[1] (e.g., guest dance instructors), supplies (e.g., film, printing paper, cardboard), and/or faculty attendance at a workshop or other specialized education (if the education directly relates to the course changes being implemented). Staff time and expertise can support these course elements in a variety of ways, including but not limited to designing course activities, acquiring materials, teaching class sections or relevant workshops, conducting research on the impacts of the course experiment, and sharing the story of the course. We encourage faculty to discuss with us other needs that may fall outside these categories.

Course Development Grants
These grants will be used to develop or transform courses in Fall ’17 which will be taught in Spring ’18. The criteria and elements supported are basically the same as the Fall ’17 course activity grants; however, we encourage applicants to be even more ambitious and excited to experiment. During the fall, recipients will collaborate with Sontag Center staff, will test ideas for their course with a short-form pop-up class taught at the Sontag Center, and will receive a $5000 team stipend.

To apply for a course activity or development grant, please complete the attached application form and return it to by Friday, April 28, 2017.

Fred Leichter

Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity
130 E. Seventh Street
Claremont, CA

[1] Funding cannot go towards funding speakers or other outside facilitators that do not support an active learning exercise.

The Sontag Center Call for Proposals, Fall 2017 (including application forms)

The last Faces of the Hive interview featured Elijah Jabbar-Bey, and you should check that post out if you haven’t already. He was interviewed by co-worker Akotowaa Ofori. This time, we’ve flipped the script, and Elijah has interviewed Akotowaa in a fascinating interview we hope you’ll enjoy as well!


What’s the meaning of your name?

Akotowaa: It means “that which was fetched or brought forth for its anticipated value.”

The story behind the name is that a long time ago in this village in Ghana (which is where I’m from and have lived my whole life), there was a chief with multiple wives, and his first wife was pregnant with a son who was prophesized to be the greatest leader that the people would have ever seen. One day when the chief left the palace, the first wife was walking around, and she saw this delicious plate of food. So she ate it. But it was sacrilege for anyone who wasn’t the chief to eat the chief’s food, so when the chief came back and discovered his food had been eaten, he was really mad. He asked who committed the crime, and no one confessed. His hand was forced, and he resorted to declaring that when the culprit was found, they would be sentenced to death. Eventually he found out that the culprit was his wife, and he couldn’t take back his word, so he ordered to have her executed. But the people wouldn’t let her die along with the unborn child who was prophesized to be the tribe’s greatest leader. So, right before the wife was executed, they performed a C-section on her and brought out the baby, which they named Akoto. Literally the name means “that which was fetched,” and the addition of the “waa” makes it female.


Actions or words?

Akotowaa: *Laughs* This is a complicated question. I am very tempted to answer “words” because I am a very word-oriented person. I like reading and poetry. I mean, I suppose sometimes words fail and actions would be better, but personally, my method of taking action is using words. I think I’m a words-over-actions kind of person, and maybe that’s because I’m lazy, who knows? *laughs*


How did you get into spoken word?

Akotowaa: I got into spoken word in high school when a senior told me that she was holding an experimental open-mic event. I had no idea what an open-mic was, but somebody told her that I write poetry, and so she decided to seek me out and ask me to do this thing. I didn’t know what spoken word was, so all I did was write an ordinary poem; it rhymed and everything. It was horrible. *laughs* I memorized it and said it out loud.

Photo credit: Reina Hernandez (also a Hive student staff member)

Later on though, probably a year later, I smuggled myself onto a bus that was going to a poetry and jazz festival, and I got there and saw what was happening and was like, “Oh my goodness! What is this?! This is so cool!” One of the poets who performed was absolutely amazing, so when she was done, I went backstage just to find her and talk to her, and she asked me if I write. At that point I had given up poetry, so I said, “Yeah, I used to, but I don’t anymore …” and she was like, “Yeah you’re going to start writing again, and when you do, show it to me.” She was a pretty well-known poet at the time, and she built a relationship with me just based on me going backstage to talk to her. She raised me in the spoken word scene in Ghana, in a sense.


What role does creativity play in your life?

Akotowaa: The role creativity plays in my life is giving me a reason to be alive (mic drop).

I’d honestly be pretty bored without it because, you know, so many things are just schedule and routine: wake up, go to class, do homework, come back, sleep. And I think I derive the most enjoyment out of life based on books I read or cool new things that I see. I honestly can’t imagine wanting to stay alive without the inspiration of creativity. I wake up with this fire when I believe that I have something really cool that I want to make a reality that day.


What brought you to the Hive?

Akotowaa: Knowing my personality, if there was any ideal place for me to work on campus, it’s the Hive. It is this center of creativity, and I’ve always wanted to be a part of something that is just that and to contribute to it in any way I can. My sponsor was actually the first one who told me about the Hive and told me that I should check it out. I finally went to take a trip there one Sunday, and I loved it.


What’s something you dream about?

Akotowaa: There are so many, I don’t even know what to pick…. One of them is to be able to tour the world making and/or performing art with my closest artistic friends. That’s something that would absolutely rock my world. It’s a fantasy of mine to just be free to see the world and make art at the same time and not worry about anything.


What technology would you like to see made possible in the future?

Akotowaa: It would definitely have something to do with eyes. I feel restricted a lot by my myopia and the fact that I have to wear glasses. Like, I could get contacts, but it’s not like I could swim with them, you know? Or like, what if my glasses break? I want to be able to just turn it off or on – the need to wear glasses – without having contacts or laser-eye surgery, because I like wearing glasses too sometimes. *laughs* But it would be nice to be able to choose when to need them.


If somebody could only interact with you once and take away one thing from you, what would you want that to be?

Akotowaa: I would like to tell them a fantastic story that they would remember for the rest of their life. That story doesn’t exist right now, though. *laughs*



Akotowaa’s working hours are Tuesdays from 6-9pm and Saturdays from 3-6pm. Feel free to drop in!

If you’re interested in checking out Akotowaa’s spoken word, she has an EP out called “Solitaire,” which you can find here:


From 3/11/17 to 3/19/17, students at the Claremont colleges took a week to step away from work and unwind from the stress of school. Although spring break is supposed to be, well, a break, the Hive did not rest! Not only did we stay open to accommodate the 5C community’s creative juices, we also planned fun workshops to help students relax, cool down, and eat. Check out our spring break recap below!


SPRING BREAK SPECIAL: Make Fried Rice with Hayat Ramzi (PO ’19)

3/13/17, 4:30-6:30PM

On Monday, we took a step outside of the Hive and into the kitchen! When post-baccalaureate associate Lucia Ruan (PO ’16) was a wee first-year, she remembers struggling to find affordable food while staying on campus during spring break. So, she thought, what better opportunity to help people in the same situation while also teaching them how to prepare food for the future? When she posed the question, Pomona sophomore Hayat Ramzi answered the call. Hayat offered to teach her simple summer classic, fried rice, along with an unbelievably easy Oreo truffle recipe. The results were delicious!


Matinee Movie Break: Lilo and Stitch

3/16/17, 3-5PM

In an effort to get rid of all of the ice cream sandwiches in our fridge leftover from another event, we decided to host a chill hangout to share our goods with the greater community. Post-baccalaureate associate Christie Zeeb (HMC ’16) said, “Why don’t we show a movie?” And so it was. After polling the 5C community on what film they would most like to watch, the people had spoken; we screened Lilo and Stitch on a hot Thursday afternoon.


Stitch is troubled. He needs desserts!

- LiloLilo and Stitch (2002)


We had a great time this spring break, and we hope you did, too! We’re excited to jump back into the second half of the semester. See you around the Hive—possibly at Lose Your Shoes?