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.


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?


Cultural Intelligence and Engineering


A few weeks back I participated in a four day leadership course in London. The course was run by CSC Leaders and carried out by Common Purpose. One of the central points of conversation was cultural intelligence; defined as “the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures”. One of the highlights of the course was the people, the personal connection. Each individual was from a different background, a different discipline. This played an important factor when resolving the challenge of what makes a city smart.

Cultural intelligence is not a passive acceptance of others, cultural intelligence moves beyond that stage and unlocks the potential of diversity. It is defined by creating an environment where a group of diverse people naturally come together, in which diversity is not a goal but an outcome of an excellent work standard. The secret of a diverse group working well together is found in the individual connection between each member of the group. How do we enable these relationships to form?

The group I worked with was culturally intelligent; we had the courage and understanding to share in a wide scope of views. We knew each individual could bring something to the table, could offer some wisdom and path of resolution into the challenge. Cultural intelligence comes from respect, not giving or tacking offence, being engage and positive and being a leader. These are the values of common purpose and enabled us to tackle difficult challenges in an open and creative manner. Cultural intelligence is vital in engineering in order to fully consider the impact of projects we must work in a diverse work environment. Part of the challenge engineer’s face is getting more women involved in engineering please support WES and the great work they deliver.

Graduation day at the Lowry Theatre


It was my wife’s Graduation today, it was a very special moment and I felt very proud to be a part of her journey and share in her hopes and aspiration for the years to come. Graduations are very interesting events; I remember graduating last year with a mix of excitement, intrigue but also a fair amount of fear about what lay ahead. It was a very positive showcase about what the University of Salford and their Alumni could achieve. Today we were presented with case studies of success, people who had gone the extra mile and had made a difference; contributed to society. Then the universities pleaded for current graduates to stay in touch and share their stories with the university. How does a graduate progress from university study to being an example of success?

Then I remembered the story of the place in which we were celebrating. The Lowry Theatre, on Salford Quays, was design to elevate the area, provide a place for reflection and an area of cultural significance. Although when the Lowry was planned it felt out of place, why build a theatre and gallery within an old dock yard and next to an outlet mall. The two sat uncomfortably and without vision the story of the Lowry Theatre would have never met the success it has today. The Lowry Theatre is an example of the importance of creativity, arts and culture. The Lowry Theatre created an area of purpose, an area in which to live. The Quays has still not met its full potential but as the area further develops the story of the Lowry Theatre has become an integral part to its success.

Creativity, Arts and Culture are important these subjects can connect people and bring people together. These subjects need to be discussed and considered within all subjects areas. Culture and cultural intelligence may seem out of place in engineering and science degrees like the idea of a theatre in the Quays area. Yet over time these ideas will grow and their relevance will become apparent. This will provide engineers with an understanding of purpose and enable them to connect their Design with the People they are designing for.