Series 14/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.
Mini Series 2/2: The Route Ahead – The series investigates the direction required to structure an organisation around the values of Human Centred Design.
The journey into the world of grassroots social innovation and Human Centred Design (HCD) has been inspiring. Meeting and engaging with different organisation and change makers has enabled me to understand the importance of empathy in the design process. The leaders I met were led by a passion for their community; they cared for their community and wanted what was best for them. I want to build up EDSI with the same values, encouraging designer to care for and have empathy for the community they are designing for. In this empathy we can design ground-breaking practical solution that build upon the human potential of the community. Using HCD we can achieve this, we can empower the designer and community to work together. In order to be successful EDSI need to be founded on the very same structure it is promoting, in the same way as DSIL I want EDSI to adapt and develop responding to the needs of the community. How will EDSI develop in order to be an inclusive and sustainable community?
The very foundation of EDSI can be found in a quote by Martin Luther King; “When we look at modern man, we have to face the fact…that modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance; We’ve learned to fly the air like birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we haven’t learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters.” Engineering is an amazing discipline that shapes the environment in which we live and the way we interact. It is important that as engineers we recognise our role and responsibility within society. EDSI is founded on empathy because empathy values our uniqueness, our individuality and our ability to collaborate and design together. In this we can build up mutual respect and encourage designers and engineers to explore and challenge their identity and purpose as change makers.
To achieve this EDSI aims to deliver commercial products promoting and developing different design processes. EDSI will design conference and training programme building up a space to challenge the status quo and explore innovative concepts. This will enable EDSI to run community outreach programmes focused on increasing the engagement between people and engineering. Events in which we can use HCD; working with the community to understand how we can improve the engagement in-between engineers and the wider community. EDSI will grow and develop with continual feedback from the community in order to provide a relevant and inclusive solution. EDSI aims to encourage young people to build up a better understanding of the role engineers play in society and create change in the way society perceives engineering. EDSI is not about saying “yes you can” but asking the next generation “what can you achieve?” encouraging budding engineers to look beyond the tried and tested method and to embrace creativity and a passion for innovation and sustainability within the professional work environment.
EDSI believes that we all hold the key to the global challenges society faces; we are all change makers. In order to design a better future we will all need to play our role; designing a better environment; an environment which creates equal and sustainable growth. In order to achieve this we need designers and engineers to work with their community using the principles of Human Centred Design and empathy; empowering the wider community and engineers to design a better future; solving problems together. EDSI is connecting the dots between people and engineering.
A few weeks back I wrote a series on engineering leadership in which I discussed the importance of overcoming failure in order to develop and progress. Failure is a natural part of the iterative process and is required in order to define and understand your objectives and goals. EDSI needs to be lean, to succeed EDSI needs to have well defined goals and a problem statement limited to just a few words. This has to be core to the project and everything EDSI sets out to achieve must be centred around this core objective. Defining this has taken years of purposeful iteration; digging deeper and constantly asking why.
The ideas behind EDSI started, a few years back, with an interest in regeneration and sustainability, and the question of how to consider the different stakeholders throughout a regeneration project. This has led me to study and research different ideas and from an initial interest I discovered a passion for different themes. To dig deeper I had to constantly move outside my comfort zone in order to understand different perspectives; trying and testing different ideas to understand how they relate back to engineering. A couple of months back I started the DSIL (Design for Social Innovation and Leadership) course, which is ran in partnership with UPEACE, the course brought together different subjects I am passionate about. This provided me with the opportunity to start EDSI with the tagline of connecting the dots between people and engineering.
When starting EDSI I didn’t have a plan, mission statement or core objective. My main aim was to share my journey to South East Asia and my passion for civil engineering. As EDSI has developed, so have I, and during the trip to South East Asia I was finally able to define my core goal for EDSI. This goal connects what I am passionate about and enabled me to have a strong focus moving EDSI from a conceptual idea towards real world impact. Focusing on the why has taken me on the journey of a lifetime, in doing this I have built up a project with a purpose.
A week ago I returned home from South East Asia after spending ten intense days learning about sustainable development and grass route social innovation. The journey transformed my understanding of the design process and the importance of Human Centred Design. I look forward to sharing this journey and the different design processes I learnt about, but more importantly I am excited by the opportunity to express the stories of the people making a difference.The innovators going against the grain to solve problems in a creative and groundbreaking manner. Working with the community to transform lives and bring about positive change.
There are many stories and theories I want to unpack in order to understand how they can be used in strategic frameworks; building up better solutions which meet the needs of the community. One of the main messages throughout the field trip was the importance of process. Continually iterating and improving the design process in order to build up a solution which develop and overcome challenges. Including the clients and users throughout the design and creative process. Building up solution in which the designers steps back and lets the client and user develop a solution which works for them.
As a designer I am very much led by strategic thinking and results. I enjoy thinking that I can overcome any challenge through a set of procedures to build up the best result. The challenge of design and development is admitting your own limitation and understanding that the community has a great depth of insight into the design challenge. The key to sustainable development is for the designer to be process driven in which the quality and the standard of the design is as important or more important than the end result. In which the impact is measure by the lessons learnt and the shared involvement in the design. Human Centred Design is about building a better future together.
Series 3/3: Engineering Leadership – This series reflects on the process required to successfully turn ideas into action.
Social enterprise is a great idea; its about focusing on impact instead of profit. When trying to make a difference social enterprise can be a great way to build up a sustainable project that will give back to the community. A social enterprise isn’t about a miracle solution to fund your project. It isn’t a free pass to focus purely on impact. A social enterprise is an enterprise designed for social good. Entrepreneurship is about effectively and feasibly moving a project forward. Its about understanding your strengths and weaknesses as well opportunities and threats. Entrepreneurship is about researching and knowing your market, understanding who you can work with and who your potential client are. Entrepreneurship is about understanding what your client wants and how you can deliver it. Entrepreneurship is knowing the impact of your project and having a system in place to measure the impact.
Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be complex, the Young Foundation have developed a social enterprise business canvas. This is a simple way to outline a business structure to your project. To understand who your potential customers may be. EDSI currently has no business or funding structure, it does however have a business canvas. EDSI will continue to build up an understanding of the potential clients and what it could deliver to these clients. EDSI embraces entrepreneurship as an opportunity to build up a sustainable project with an effective impact. EDSI will aim to become a social enterprise and build up quality resources which responds to the mission of “Connecting the Dots Between People and Engineering”.
Leading projects is challenging, it demands perseverance, hard work and a passion to make a difference. The journey over the last few years has been challenging, I have learnt from others, I have learnt from failure, I have learnt by trying. This has however been a fulfilling experience meeting passionate and amazing people. Working on projects that I am passionate about and building up EDSI has been a fascinating and exciting experience. I cannot wait to see where EDSI will go and what impact it will have. If this series has encouraged you to start you own project or to get involved with EDSI I would welcome your feedback and questions: you can find my detail here.
Series 2/3: Engineering Leadership – This series reflects on the process required to successfully turn ideas into action.
Developing a passion and knowing what you want to accomplish and how you can do it is great. You have built up the foundation to build up a legacy and make a difference. How do you move forward and communicate you idea; make your voice be heard? Larry Smith does a great TED talk on why you will not follow your passion; following your passion is different, its odd! I have regularly tried to express and explain my ideas and often not been understood. It is important not to be disheartened but focus on developing the way you communicate your ideas. This will enable you to move from an odd and misunderstood passion to a professionally present project with a clear direction.
Simon Sinek presents the difference in between a successfully idea and a good idea in terms of engagement: who is your product reaching? The difficult realisation is that some people will just get your idea but that dose not make success. Success is related to how you engage and influence the people who do not understand your idea. EDSI would not be successfully is it only managed to reach the people who understand the importance of sustainable impact and community engagement. It would still be a good project but for EDSI to be successfully I must engage with people who do not understand the importance of the questions EDSI raises.
Reaching people who don’t understand your project is challenging. To achieve this you need a very clear and defined message that connects directly with your why. You need to reflect this message in everything you do. I am passionate about design and the role of graphic designers. Building the logo and website for EDSI was about presenting the key message of EDSI: “Connecting the Dots Between People and Engineering”. Design builds up the professionalism and authority of your idea. Design enables you to connect with the people you want to reach.