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.
Series 13/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.
Mini Series 1/2: The Route Ahead – The series investigates the direction required to structure an organisation around the values of Human Centred Design.
When I first started on the journey to South East Asia I believed Sustainable Development was a high level tool. A tool used by experts to design a better future, a future that provided sustainable and equal opportunity. Meeting with the DSIL (Design for Social Innovation and Leadership) team I realised how limited my thinking was. If you want to design and shape the world we live in you need to work with people and communities that can collaborate and co-design with you. These are the concepts of Human Centred Design (HCD); HCD empowers the design process to be sustainable and inclusive. This in itself transforms the design to deliver a more sustainable, inclusive and practical solution. Meeting the different organisation that apply HCD as a core value was inspiring, working with the community led to a creative energy fuelled by passion and purpose. The application of HCD didn’t stop with the organisation we met but was central to DSIL. The structure of the programme was founded with the HCD principle and enabled us to build up a genuine and inclusive community.
Courtney Laurence, founder of DSIL, had created a flexible and fluid organisation that adapted the content and structure of the course to the design community. Courtney didn’t just encourage HCD but applied it directly into the development of DSIL, building up the community with the community and providing us with the opportunity to shape the future of DSIL. Throughout the courses decisions were made together built around continual feedback. The small things came together beautifully and enabled a programme that worked for everyone in the community. This was present throughout the course and from day one we all sat down together and discussed what we wanted the community to look like. At the heart of the community experience was the importance of each member and the insight they could bring to the group.
At the heart of this design environment was Katie Grennier, DSIL Field Immersion Co-Lead, Katie brought energy to the group and provided a platform for inclusive design. DSIL built up this platform through liberating structures, creating shared values and purpose within the group; we were encouraged to share and work together through challenges. Liberating structures encouraged individuality and humanity bringing a share sense of respect and understanding into the community. This was led by a democratic design process, in which we valued each other’s skills and collaborated with purpose using a range of colourful post it notes! DSIL was a liberating environment in which I could learn more about design and my identity as a designer.
The DSIL team all brought different skill sets and perspective to the group and enable us to explore and research a broad range of topics. More importantly they all had experience in the field and were able to share their own personal journey with us and the challenges they had overcome. One of the highlights of the course was the story telling evening in which we shared are own journey and the projects we were working on. It was a pleasure to hear about the passion within the DSIL community; a passion to design, solve problems and make a genuine difference. During the field course we met with amazing organizations which strive to serve their community and deliver sustainable value. DSIL was one of these organisations and has inspired me in developing EDSI and promoting the values of HCD.
Why not start you own journey into the world of Design and Social Impact and apply for DSIL 2015.
Series 7/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.
Mini Series 2/3: Sustainability in Practice – The series researches the values and practices which lead to grass route social innovation.
Changing the way we perceive and understand our responsibilities and impact is a great path towards sustainable development. Applying Human Centred Design throughout the design process can enable us to design smarter cities, working with the communities to ensure strategic planning leads to a more sustainable and equal society. In this journey to develop new ideas and processes how do we ensure the impact spreads beyond the city? The farming industry is the lifeline of the city, yet in many cases farmers struggle to make a living. As the agricultural industry experience new techniques and processes which increase the productivity, the farmers haven’t seen any of the benefits. Instead the farming community has experience increased demands and stress on their systems whilst becoming more dependent on the consumerist industry. The industry is not sustainable with farmland becoming less productive and farmers struggling to get by. How can we change the industry around and support the farming community?
In Thailand the agricultural industry is highly dependent on one player; the farmers rely on supplies and wholesale prices from the same place. This does not just affect the sustainability of the farming community but also reduces the quality of the product. Bryan the founder of Raitong Organics believes he has a solution, and the solution involves going back to basics; we need to change the product. Raitong Organic is encouraging a return to organic farming in South East Asia, working with the farming industry to build up a better quality of life as well as selling higher quality produce. By producing organic products, the farmers are less reliant on the supplies of pesticides and chemicals and can therefore work more independently. The end costumer can then receive seasonal products directly from the producer and support the industry which provides for our urban lifestyle.
As designers we often strive towards advancing practices and building better technologies. This model of development can lead to more harm than good; with technology being introduces which isn’t required, needed or sustainable. This can lead to two outcomes; it increase dependency of the community on outside support in maintaining and purchasing expensive goods and services or the technology is abandoned. Both these outcomes are unsustainable; the only solution is to communicate with the customer to ensure that the product fits within their social, environment and economical context. Raitong Organics is a social enterprise that achieves this, they communicate with farmers to discuss products which can empower the farming community. Organic products do bring their own challenges; the product is seasonal and less visually appealing. The consumer is therefore less likely to purchase organic products.
A return to basic is a great way towards achieving sustainable development. It is quite often the simplest solution which leads to real challenge. A perfect example of this is the Yellow Shoes Project which teaches rural farming communities in Northern Thailand to build bio-sand water filters. An engineer we can constantly innovate and create better and more effective water filtration solutions. Or we can provide a framework for the community to design their own filtration system using the resources to hand. A sand filtration can improve the quality of the water and by built and maintained in remote communities. The challenge in returning to basics is the consumers’ attitude; we have encouraged throw away superficial consumerism. How can we change the consumer attitude and encourage a more sustainable consumer?
Series 6/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.
Mini Series 1/3: Sustainability in Practice – The series researches the values and practices which lead to grass route social innovation.
Photo by urbanmkr
The principles of Human Centred Design starts with reflection; in order to design well you need to be aware of your identity and purpose as a designer. Over the last couple of years I have consciously set time apart to reflect on who I am as a designer, and the reason we need to create space to reflect is to listen. Listening is the second principle of Human Centred Design; it enables us to connect and empathise, understanding the end user in order to design solution which work for the community. Meeting with the different community led initiatives was a great opportunity to apply these principles. The first reason I was there was to reflect and learn from the people who were making a difference in their community. I was there to tell their story and to understand what could be applied into strategic planning and engineering to create solutions which empower the wider community. These Individuals where inspiring; meeting with the Zero Baht community I was humbled, they had built up a design solution which works for the community. They had derived a solution which creates shared benefit and leads to an equal and sustainable growth. This was ground-breaking innovation!
Zero Baht shop is a shop which does not use Baht; the currency of Thailand. Instead the Zero Baht shop has an alternative currency; recycling. This offers a lifeline for the community; a life line which does much more than recycling product. The Zero Baht shop is designed based on collective power, the shop sorts and manages large quantities of recycling, this can then be sold on to a recycling plant and secure a higher revenue stream. Community members can therefore make a living from collecting recyclable goods; this leads to a much cleaner environment and empowers individuals. The Zero Baht shop has also developed health insurance and built up a community centre in which products are crafted from upcycled recycling providing an extra source of income to the community. The Zero Baht shop has also developed a self-sustained organic farm in order to grow its own produce. In doing this the Zero Baht shop has been designed as a community hub; building up the connectors and breaking down dividers. The Zero Baht shop therefore creates a long term sustainable development, creating a wider sense of wellbeing and purpose within the community as well as securing opportunities for future generations.
The Zero Baht shop is an example of the limitation of strategic planning; the recycling plant is a great resource to effectively manage waste, it is however not designed to empower the local community; it creates a sustainable future for the few not the many. The Zero Baht shop provides the missing link it enables the positive impact of the recycling plant to reach the poorest communities within Bangkok. This combination of strategic planning and organic development is a great example of processes which can lead to a smart city; where sustainable growth is combined with equal opportunity. Throughout this process the recycling plant can achieve a higher economic impact; recycling more waste, social impact; providing a livelihood for the community, environmental impact; reducing the amount of waste left on the streets. If we could capture organic development within the strategic development then we could achieve more community led initiatives and considerably impact on the sustainable future of our cities. Using the process of Human Centred Design in the strategic framework of the recycling plant we could achieve this. Designing with ground-breaking innovation and genuinely designing smart cities, cities which grow sustainably and offer equal opportunity.
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.
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?