Designing Sustainably: “Do not Harm” Principle

Series 5/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.

Mini Series 2/2: Peace and Conflict Resolution – The following series will research the themes of Peace and conflict resolution in order to understand how they relate to sustainable development.

Connectors Dividers

Peace and conflict resolution is an integral part of achieving sustainable development. The absence of physical and cultural violence provides a safe place to work together and design a more sustainable future. However to achieve a long term sustainable vision we need to move away from traditional structures which promote business as usual, and unsustainable growth. To achieve this we must bring about structural change through the principles of Peacebuilding. Designers shape the environment in which we live, it is therefore important to apply Peacebuilding within Design. If designers can grasp these concepts, we will be able to build a culture of Peace and sustainability within our environment. What are the principles of Peace and Conflict resolution and who can they be applied within the design process?

The founding principle of peace and conflict resolution is the Do not Harm principal. Do not Harm is the consideration off the holistic environment within the design and its sustainable impact. This is a central concept to sustainable development and leads the designer towards the Human Centred Design process. Do not Harm is about asking the community if they have a solution to the challenge, and building an understanding of the environmental limitation with the community. To achieve this practically we must understand the different Connectors and Dividers within the community. Connectors are the structures that bring the community together; a sustainable design needs to build on these connectors in order to connect with the potential of the community. Dividers are the structures that bring about conflict within the community; design must address these dividers to design a resilient solution. If the design at any time negatively impact on the Connectors or introduces conflict to the community then the designer needs to consider alternative options.

These principles are in essence already applied into the construction industry through the way we manage Health and Safety. Over the last decade the UK construction industry has strived towards Zero Casualties, ensuring all staff get home safely at the end of each day. To achieve this we have built up a Health and Safety culture into the design process; from conceptual design through to the construction and demolition. At each stage we consider the risk and alternative options to reduce the risk. The same methods are applied in order to understand our environmental impact, there is however a limited integration of the social impact throughout the design process. The theory of connectors and dividers could enable the construction industry to build the Do not Harm principle into the design process. This would enable us to go beyond ensuring Zero Casualties and enable us to build up design solutions which have a long term positive impact on society. How can we build these principles into engineering and enable designers to identify with these concepts?

Jenn was inspiring in her approach to peace and conflict resolution. As we challenged her in the practical application of Peace and Conflict resolution she was quite clear in knowing the limits of her knowledge. Jenn didn’t apply the theories if she didn’t understand the social environment in which she was designing. I have met some inspiring Health and Safety managers over the last year and the one trait that leads to excellent Health and Safety management is being aware of the risk and knowing that you cannot solve the challenge yourself. An excellent Health and Safety manager works on getting the staff on board with the solution. Peace and Conflict works in the same manner, Jenn understands that achieving a sustainable Peace is challenging and requires each of us individual to develop in our behavior and attitude. Sustainable Development should apply the same principles in order to get the community on board with the design process. As designers we need to be aware of our limitation in achieving sustainable development. We need to be humble in the way we approach and work with the wider community. This will enable us to build up solution in which there is a wider understanding of the importance of sustainable development, in which we can capture the human resource within the design process.

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Building Long Term Sustainable Peace

Series 4/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.

Mini Series 1/2: Peace and Conflict Resolution – The following series will research the themes of Peace and conflict resolution in order to understand how they relate to sustainable development.

Conflict Resolution

Designing with purpose is about leadership: self-leader defines how you identity as a designer and leadership defines how you connect with the community you are designing for. How do we build up relationships and work together to build a more sustainable future? To understand this concept we met with Jenn Weidman deputy director of the Rotary Peace Centre. This first issue was defining peace, peace is complex and is more than just the lack of physical violence. Johan Galtung’s defines peace, using the conflict triangle, as the absence of physical violence, cultural violence and structural violence. The interesting part of the conflict triangle is the theory that peace can only be sustained if we can overcome all forms of violence. Structural violence creates barriers and inequality in society, if we don’t build up structural peace then all we will have is an unstable superficial peace. This concept is defined excellently in the Hebrew definition of the word Peace; Shalom defines peace as nothing missing and nothing broken. Understanding the real meaning of peace is an important part to building a better future together. Peace is about building prosperity and well-being, creating value which goes beyond monetary gain and economic growth. How do we achieve peace and how does it relate to sustainable development?

To create a sustainable and lasting peace we need to address all the elements of conflict. Physical violence can be addressed through behavior change using Peacekeeping as a means to prevent conflict. Peacekeeping is not about forcing peace, the design of Peacekeeping is built on three key principles; the consent of all parties involved, impartiality of Peacekeeping forces and none use of force except in self defence and the defence of the mandate. Peacekeeping forces should be designed with the parties at conflict in order to create an empowering peace instead of creating a superficial and reprimanding peace. Cultural Violence is discrimination against different groups based on their identity, cultural violence can be addressed through a change in attitude. Peacemaking is about educating by building resilient power bases in which different cultural groups can communicate and build up relations. Structural conflict needs to address the contradiction in society removing social barriers and creating a more equal society. Peacebuilding creates a platform to enable a more equal society, it works on changing the very structure of society to encourage and empower the community to create sustainable growth. Each of these processes require theory of change to achieve sustained and resilient Peace, but how do we bring about these changes?

Power and influence are interesting and intangible concepts, to bring about change we need to create influence but how do we achieve this. To represent power Jenn started to draw an upside down triangle it was an unstable structure that was then supported by different power base; weapons, wealth, people… It was an interesting way of visualising power and the influence each of us have, the only reason power basses exist is because we let them. Theory of change is about recognising the influence we hold and how we can work together to create long term change. Human Centred Design is central to building a long term sustainable Peace and applying theory of change. Human Centred Design enables us to design and build up the three pillars of peace. Peacekeeping, Peacemaking and Peacebuilding requires community led initiatives to work; peace is all about building up relationships to create prosperity and well-being within society. Peace and conflict resolution is an important process to developing long term sustainable growth, what principles of peace and conflict resolution can be used in sustainable developement?

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Human Centred Design: it Starts with You

Series 3/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.

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

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My wife is an artist, she is driven by the creativity design process. Everything she does is led by a passion to explore research and understand different ideas and concepts. Before I met my wife I could distinctly separate the idea of art and design. To me art was about expression and communicating your identity through a creative process, design contrary to art was about working for the end user and building up a solution to solve a challenge they are facing. With this definition of design don’t we lose the idea of ownership and responsibility? Is the challenge of designing with the community, first about understanding who you are as a designer? When I first met my wife I started to understand more about the design process, I started to work on my engineering designs as an artist would; taking ownership of the design and crafting the details. The more I understand who I was the more I enjoyed the process of design. I was less driven by the result; instead I saw the process as an opportunity to grow and learn and discover my own identity as a designer. Is the journey to achieving Human Centred Design therefore a journey of self-leadership?

This idea of self-leadership is central to the design process. It is required in order to understand and relate to the problem, it enables us to dig deeper and find the route cause developing a design which empowers the community. This part of the creative process is the empathy stage and in order to develop empathy you must know yourself and use emotional intelligence to relate to and understand the problem. Emotional intelligence enables us to connect with people and develop a genuine understanding of the impact of our designs. This was where my week in South East Asia started, it wasn’t in the excitement of discovering a different culture but in the reflection of understanding who I am as a designer. This first workshop was led by May Sripatanaskul founder of the Asian Leadership Academy. We started to learn more about empathy and how it fits within the design process. The workshop was a great insight into how empathy can build up the creative process and bring identity into design. How does defining your identity as a designer empower you in the design process?

May enabled us to understand the connected nature of the design process, how each piece of the puzzle fits together to create an innovative solution. The process of empathizing built up the understanding and passion to ideate; developing different potential solution. The more unrestrained the process was the more innovative we were in our approach. This was a central lesson in the Human Centred Design process; there is a time to be creative and a time to narrow down on the idea. The creative stage is about building up on ideas, using creativity to create. In order to achieve this we need to create a safe place for innovative thinking in which we can openly discuss different ideas. Understanding the creative process and the importance of following through the stages of the design is the first step to designing with impact. Human Centred Design starts with each one of us, it starts with understanding the way we relate to each other and how we can encourage and build each other up. Is the basis of sustainable development about building up relationships and working together to create a better future?

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The Sustainable Perspective

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Getting to do work experience in an area I was passionate about at a young age radically changed my level of passion and commitment. It enable me to have a completely different understanding of maths and physics and how they could be used practically to solve real world problems. Yet this fascination for the technical aspects of civil engineering was not the must memorable part of the work experience. One morning when I went into the office, my mentors set me the task of interviewing all the staff and finding out about their story. For a shy introvert this was a big challenge that had my fourteen year old self feeling rather disconcerted. What I learnt from this experience completely changed the way I look at my career.

During the interviews I asked each member if staff what they where passionate about, what role they played in the company and how they had got into that role. Each member of staff answered my questions in an open and honest manner. I came out of the experience with an understanding of who an engineering consultancy worked. How each individual played their role and had a purpose within their company. I also learnt about their purpose, their story and their passions. My mentor taught me about the diverse environment of engineering and the different disciplines involved in a consultancy. This taught me to always try and understand where engineering fits into the bigger picture. This has encouraged me to understand how different perspectives can help understand and overcome challenges.

Diversity is a word we through around a lot but what does it really mean and how can we create a more diverse engineering community? Diversity is about creating a workspace that is representative of society. This is vital for civil engineering as we work on solutions that shape the society in which we live. To create a real diversity within engineering we can’t just promote engineering as a career choice, we have to encourage people to bring their passions and interest into engineering. In doing so we can bring a wider perspective into engineering, and build up an innovative approach to the problems we are solving.

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?

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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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