The Story of Strategic Development

Series 2/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.

Mini Series 2/3: Human Centred Design – The following series covers the concepts and ideas behind Human Centred Design?


I have always loved strategic planning and structured development. It’s one of my personality traits which led me to become a civil engineer. I love the methodology and high level management engineers use. Everything has to be designed to a high level of detail and the design has to work together with this detail. Landing in Bangkok and discovering the city was therefore a little overbearing for a self-confessed obsessive compulsive perfectionist. It was challenging to make sense of the way buildings came together. The structural diversity I observe in one city in the UK was present within one street in Bangkok. The wealthy modern buildings where surrounded with self-assembled buildings. The city presented element of organic community led growth and strategic development. It was a great place to try and understand the different ideas and concepts behind development and the practical impact. It provided a great place to develop an insight into organic growth.

The first part of my journey into understanding this question was to understand the idea of sustainable development and economic growth. This question would enable me to understand the practical impact of strategic or organic growth. The level of affluence present in today’s society can be traced back to the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution enabled society to progress from a general level of extreme poverty to an affluent and opportunistic society. The issue is we have never been able to create a prosperous society in which the great wealth creates a wider sense of well-being. We have constantly worked towards quantitative solutions creating more effective and calculated systems. These systems have enabled us to develop amazing and wonderful engineering systems; our failure has been in measuring their wider impact. Two pillars of sustainability our extremely difficult to measure: the environmental and social impact; as a society we have ignored these ideas. It is therefore more important than ever that we focus on qualitative solution in order to create sustainable growth. How do we achieve qualitative solution when the basis of our modern economy is founded on mechanical quantitative progression?

The difficulty with qualitative solution is they cannot easily be defined or measured. Qualitative solutions require us to listen and understand the problems, potential solution and their impact. It is not just about having the best engineering solution but designing the solution which works for the end user. We cannot achieve this without Human Centred Design; our traditional design methods limit what we can achieve both economically and personally. In order to be creative and approach the different design challenges we have to rethink the reason why we are designers? Is it to design using the tried and tested method? Or is it about taking ownership of the design building an innovative solution which challenges our understanding? How do we take ownership and design using innovative processes?


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