DSIL encouraged me to rekindle a childhood creativity. On the last day of the Field Course I decided to revisit poetry, a form of creativity I hadn’t touched since high school. In a short time of reflection I decided to write up a few verses expressing what I had learnt from the whole experience. After much debate I have decided to share the unedited raw version of the poem. The poem probably isn’t that much better than a high school poem but sometimes creativity is just a way of exploring and understanding yourself. It doesn’t have to be a T. S Elliot to be shared; it just needs to communicate a genuine and personal story. This is the story of my time in South East Asia and I hope it helps you to connect with the values of Human Centred Design.
The Seed is Sown
The rice fields of Cambodia reflect the sun
With every grain uniquely created
It is difficult to see this scene become undone
But in the distance few developed
Solution that would touch the lives of many
They designed without thought
And spread the seed unevenly
They brought about floods and drought
There was no individuality
Each grain was the same
There was no empowerment
They didn’t even know my name
This isn’t development
There was however a sower
Who sowed the seed
They were standing closer
They knew how to lead
Each seed fell on rich ground
And grew so perfectly
We had in this found
A path to sustainability
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 8/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.
Mini Series 3/3: Sustainability in Practice – The series researches the values and practices which lead to grass route social innovation.
One of the drivers behind the industrial revolution was the developments in the farming industry; this enabled labourers to move to the city and work in new jobs which created large scale economic growth moving society away from extreme poverty. The wealth we experience today is largely due to the ability of the farming community to use new techniques and methods to increase the yield of the crops. The development of new agricultural techniques is therefore important in meeting demand. The issue comes from the development of productivity techniques which are unsustainable and exploit the natural resources of the land. Returning to basics is about using a product which sustainably meets the needs of the community. The steps to achieving this simply require us, as consumers, to value and support sustainable commerce. Throughout the trip to South East Asia I met many social enterprises and they all struggled to engage the consumer, there was however once entrepreneur who was building up an impressive campaign to change public attitude.
Anukool Saibejra is a social entrepreneur with a heart for social change and the courage to go against the grain. Anukool believes that food security cannot be achieved by creating the perfect grain of rice. Instead Anukool promotes the return to a variety of grain; through a large variety in product the market will be more resilient to risks. Raised in a farming community, Anukool is well aware of the challenges of modern farming. His parents invested in his future providing him with an education to get him into a stable career. Anukool didn’t just use this opportunity for himself and instead build up a social enterprise going against the grains of society in order to make a positive difference in his community. After creating communities of farmers who believed in his idea Anukool had to work on changing public attitudes in order to change the consumers behaviour; “Behavior and attitudes consumption […] affects the decline or extinction of genetic local rice”. In order to achieve this Anukool set about creating a product design to engage urban communities with the rural environment. Anukool developed a kit in with which you could grow your own mini rice field and find out about the different types of rice and the challenges facing the rural communities.
Anukool challenged my understanding of sustainable development, presented with the same facts I would push for a large scale solution using innovative methods. This challenge grew as I met the different social entrepreneurs; they were not searching for the perfect scalable solution but a solution that would work in their community. These designers are not searching for recognition in their designs instead they pursue a passion to make a difference on a human level. As a designer I often pursue innovation, searching for a solution that brings about real shift in the design process. The difficulty with innovation is as a designer I get lost in the wonders of creative engineering, pursuing innovation instead of impact. Innovation in design is great but we need to ensure that this is led by a passion for people rather than products. Maybe the radical shift in sustainably consumerism needs to be led by the design community and how we express ourselves; we need to genuinely communicate what inspires us, what we are passionate about and what challenges us. This will enable us to better connect with the consumer and design a product led by the principles of Human Centred Design.
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.