Prototyping the Network: SwipeSense
In 2010, Design for America’s Northwestern studio — the only DFA studio at the time — reached a pivotal moment and needed to create more impact. The development of a fellowship that jumpstarts post-graduate careers, new studios and in some cases, new business, emerged as a way to scale the DFA model.
Mert Iseri and Yuri Malina, two DFA founding members, are prototypes of all things DFA. Upon graduation, rather than working at traditional companies, they chose to dedicate themselves to growing one of the thirteen projects they worked on in school — SwipeSense. To support Mert and Yuri, DFA worked with Northwestern to develop the DFA Fellowship — a one year program for recent grads to oversee network operations and grow professionally. As the Fellowship’s first recipients, Mert and Yuri had the time and financial support they needed to take a promising concept and turn it into a thriving business. All the while, the first fellows cohort increased the number of DFA studios from one to eight in just one year.
Mert and Yuri’s company, SwipeSense, is a solution to the 90,000 deaths in the United States occurring annually from hospital-acquired infections. By connecting hospitals to the Internet of things, SwipeSense uses smart sensors to monitor and improve hygiene activity without interrupting workflow. Since its launch in 2009, SwipeSense has raised $26.9 million and is used in 20 hospitals. The company continues to scale its product’s national presence with notable results; one customer reported a 70 percent drop in hospital-acquired infections.
Their impact can be measured beyond lives saved. The fellowship they helped establish put into motion an iterative process on DFA’s institutional design. Fellows sustain and grow a network that feeds on creativity and challenge; to do this requires constant criticism and re-design of programs such as Leadership Studio, design teaching resources, communication methods, and outreach to partners. To date, sixteen young alumni have grown the DFA network to what we see today; they have grown as confident leaders of a movement that is bigger than any one project, person, or community.