Alignment Tango: Communities and Markets

Session Overview

Date and Time: Monday, August 19, 11am – 12:30pm

Location: East Wing Hall, Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles

Livestream: Free for EPIC Members

Aligning communities and companies isn’t a one-time task of product-market fitting; it requires ongoing mediation between organizational and social worlds. These presentations share methodologies and tactics for using community perspectives, cultural insights, and social context to shift business strategies and products for better alignment.


Ethnographers as Intermediaries: Plurality as a Double Edged Sword in Web3


Mrinalini Tankha, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Portland State University
Chris Rogers, Researcher, Crypto Council for Innovation

Based on original research, this paper shows how builders and founders in the Web3 industry are driving a plurality of projects and products enabling cross-chain operability to create diverse blockchain ecosystems. While this is generative for innovation in the industry, we argue that it is displacing user and community-centered perspectives and preventing fully fleshed out end-to-end Web3 solutions to urgent social problems. Given this disconnect, we propose re-situating the role of ethnographers as intermediaries that can translate or convert different kinds of value in an increasingly global and embedded techno-economic landscape.

Mrinalini Tankha is Assistant Professor of anthropology at Portland State University with research interests in money, technology, and design. Her work looks at the effects of financial exclusion on the everyday lives of communities. She is currently leading a project on the uses of cryptocurrency in Cuba as well as an NSF-funded project using big data and ethnographic methods on trust in cryptocurrency during times of crisis. She is also co-designer of the board game Loy Loy: The Savings Game.

Chris Rogers is a social impact blockchain and Web3 researcher who has been working in the space since 2021. He holds a master’s degree in cultural anthropology and a graduate certificate in business blockchain from Portland State University. He is currently working on a project documenting the experiences of Black and Latinx founders in the Web3 industry and developing a Web3 use case database for illustrating applications of blockchain technologies to policymakers and regulators.

Beyond the Moment of Care: Extending the Impact of Ethnography to Healthcare Financial Touchpoints


Robert Benedict, Director, Service Design Strategy, Providence
Brian Graziano, Director, Service Design for Patient & Market Experience, Revenue Cycle, Providence
Zachary Schlossberg, Principal Researcher and Design Strategist, IA Collaborative
Amy Wicks, Director, Research and Design Strategy, IA Collaborative

Ethnography-based design work in healthcare has typically focused on clinical encounters — understanding the patient/clinical relationship that is central to the experience of receiving healthcare.

 But what about the interactions that occur beyond that moment of care: the boring stuff, the uncomfortable stuff, the billing. 

 Through this case study, we will recount a portfolio of iterative ethnographic work embedded within Providence, a US-based hospital system, which focused on the human interactions behind billing and financial assistance. We will explore how connecting stories to traditional quantitative KPIs can begin breaking down financial barriers to care.

Robert Benedict has extensive experience developing innovation strategies for diverse clients, including hospitals, NASA, Nobel Prize-winning scientists, and governments. He co-founded Context Partners and led design strategy work for clients such as Google and Nike. With degrees in Design and Org. Management, Robert now directs Service Design Strategy at Providence, leading teams to create exceptional patient and caregiver experiences across a vast network of facilities and programs in the Western US.

Brian Graziano is a Director of Service and Product Design at Providence Health, a leading US not-for-profit health system, where he champions human-centered research and design approaches aimed at improving patient access to care and financial wellbeing. Brian’s approach includes a unique mix of creativity and strategy, leveraging experiences from an extensive mix of of industries and previous leadership roles at IA Collaborative, Levy Restaurants, Gensler, and J&J Design (Janssen Pharmaceuticals.)

As a Sr. Lead Research and Design Strategist at IA Collaborative, Zach Schlossberg leads qualitative research efforts across an array of industries, including healthcare, tech, consumer goods, and more. In addition to consulting, Zach’s has worked in furniture and industrial design, and ran a tech startup. In each of these roles, he has leaned into qualitative research, connecting his fascination with human needs and behaviors to his professional training and education in design (MS.ID) and business (MBA).

As a Director of Research and Design Strategy at IA Collaborative, Amy Wicks focuses on designing for complex industries, in particular healthcare and finance. Amy’s passion for healthcare was fueled by her previous role as a Service Designer for the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation where she prototyped technology-powered solutions for patients and care teams. She is most excited by opportunities to use design to re-center human connection and create equitable access to essential services.

Reframing Rural: Finding New Truth in the Voices of Rural Americans


Jen Shadowens, Strategist + Partner, Zeus Jones
Morgan Hay-Chapman, Strategist, Zeus Jones

The pervasive rural-urban divide affects everything from climate change to securing our food supply. And at the core of this divide is a mutual misunderstanding. In this session, we’ll show how we helped Land O’Lakes, a leading advocate for rural America, reignite their organization around the future of rural communities. A series of mixed methodology inputs reexamined the myths and flawed foundations underpinning our understanding of Rural America. Our research uncovered a new narrative that Land O’Lakes could champion—one that broadens our mental models of “rural” and celebrates the unique assets that exist in America’s rural places.

Jen Shadowens is a business leader and strategist at Zeus Jones. She holds a master’s degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. She favors work at the intersection of business and community, helping companies make a real difference in the world. At Zeus Jones, she co-leads the Mindset Research practice, dedicated to advancing the role of community-centered research in business.

Morgan Hay-Chapman is a strategist and researcher at Zeus Jones. Her work is centered on finding human-centered solutions to brand and business challenges for clients like Target, Land O’Lakes and Chipotle. She co-leads their Mindset Research practice dedicated to advancing the role of community-centered research in business.