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How can Design Thinking be applied for Social Change?


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Full version of the Final Major Project for my MA in Design Management in the University of Arts London. …

Full version of the Final Major Project for my MA in Design Management in the University of Arts London.

This research explores the diversity of the wider challenges that design faces when approaching social issues and how they can be overcome. ©

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  • 1. how can design thinking be applied to the achievement of positive social change? by Anel Palafox University of the Arts London • MA Design Management • 2010
  • 2. 8 CONTENTS Abstract 8 1/8 Introduction 10 Background of the researcher Aim of the research The research problem 2/8 Methodology 16 Research philosophy and paradigms The research strategy The research methods 3/8 Literature Review & Background 22 Starting point The design framework Design: from objects to an approach What is Design Thinking? The social context for Design Thinking What is social change? 4/8 Context: Design Thinking and Social Sectors 32 Social designers and thinkers Papenek, Flusser, Mulgan & Cia Design thinking as a driver for innovation The pursuit of innovation 5/8 Discussion: Design Thinking in the Social Sector 38 The sample: how, why and who? Emergent themes Obstacles of design thinking terminology Cognitive logic of design thinking Tools and focus of design thinking Reactive attitude of social sectors Impact & metrics of design thinking for social change 6/8 Conclusion & Recommendations 48 7/8 Bibliography 52 8/8 Appendix 58
  • 3. thank you!
  • 4. think design change This paper is the result of a journey that start- I would like to thank especially Dominic Stone ed during a random conversation on a couch whose supervision has guided me through in North London in the summer of 2008. the challenge of turning various interests and Since that moment curiosity and interest in de- experiments into an academic dissertation. I sign, people and stories have been the triggers also wish to express my gratitude to all the that shaped my adventures and misadventures. amazing people who agreed to be interviewed During the last year I have gathered clues, I for this final project that enabled my work have looked for insights, created stories and and made the journey even more enjoyable. I imagined real and virtual worlds that several feel extremely lucky to have had the chance to people joined along the way. All of them have meet all these people, whom I greatly admire made of this journey an unbelievably experi- for their achievements and who I have learned ence that has broadened my horizons and from immensely. made me grow and mature both as a profes- sional and as an individual. For that and for I am grateful to the people from Participle and making the journey as important as this final the Southwark Circle for enabling my research piece of work I will be grateful forever... and providing a massive inspiration with their exceptional work in the industry. Thanks to To be honest, becoming a researcher and mak- David Gravina for his fabulous work that kick ing a Masters of Arts dissertation about ways started this research, to Daniel Dickens for his that design relates to social issues was not an constant and spontaneous help, Pia Hevia for option I had envisioned. It only started to valuable discussions, and Christie George for tickle my thoughts as I came across the work meaningful comments. of inspirational people who, just like me, had stepped out of the design box and started pav- Finally and foremost I would like to express ing the way towards a sustainable and socially my immense and eternal gratitude to the most responsible design practice. This, almost an important person in this journey; a person that accidental event, started a growing interest has motivated, supported, helped and loved in design theories and methodologies, social me long before all this adventure started, and welfare services, and user centred design. without whom l wouldn’t have been able to overcome all the challenges that appear along First I would like to thank my family. All their the road. I want to thank Justin McMurray for support made the distance that separate me being the wonderful human being he is, for from them seem smaller and allowed me to being right next to me, shoulder to shoulder feel closer to them. I am massively grateful to day-to-day inspiring me and stimulating me. my sister Lorena, who embraced my dreams His patience with my impatience and his abil- and made them hers day to day with all the ity to keep me calm with constructive criticism effort and love she poured solving the logistics pushed me to go the extra mile. His blind faith of this adventure. Friends and colleagues also in my capabilities and skills made possible for played an important role. Without the back up me to keep going and push harder. I want to of my father, my mother, Gissel this proj- thank him for all the cups of tea, the spelling ect would not have been possible or half as corrections, the mind mapping sessions, the rewarding and fun as it has been. smiles, the notes, the colours. Thank you for giving me strength and for believing in me...
  • 5. think design change
  • 6. how can design thinking be applied for social change?
  • 7. abstract
  • 8. think design change This paper will examine how design disciplines relate to the social sectors and what are the distinc- tive values that design as a methodology can offer to tackle social challenges. The great attentiveness from business leaders and social innovators towards design as a source for creative methodologies and ways to gain valuable knowledge has elevated the discipline to man- agement and strategy levels. As a result creative approaches have successfully migrated from the design disciplines towards the business sectors. However design thinking still needs to overcome the apparent complexity of social organisations. The inherent futuristic and descriptive nature of de- sign and its methodologies provide valuable insights and efficient ways of doing things that are not well understood by the members of the social sector. This paper will look at how the discipline of design has evolved in the last fifty years and how new ar- ticulations of its methodologies and techniques can be applied to the achievement of social change. This paper will conduct a thorough analysis of the concepts of design thinking in order to unveil the historic evolution of this approach and enable this research to forecast future applications and realise recommendations to improve and foster its implementation. This investigation will be backed up with interviews with experts in the industry to engage in a dynamic debate that will define the reasons and casualties of why design methodologies are such a potentially compelling fit to meet the requirements of the social sectors. 9
  • 9. 1/8 intro After an introductory section on the Researcher Chapter One will out- line the aim of the research and the research problems. This chapter will also discuss the research ques- tions posited in this paper.
  • 10. think design change 1.1 Background of the Researcher A creative thinker since her early years, Anel Palafox In parallel Anel discovered an existing project started her formal relationship with design when that aimed to provide drinking water through she entered the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de the condensation of morning fog through a ‘fog Chile in Santiago de Chile. After spending three and collecting device’. Although the project was based a half years studying at the Faculty of Architec- just six kilometres from the town and had strong ture, Anel realised she had reached the limit of her awareness amongst local residents, the initiative was interest regarding learning experiences she wanted completely external to and disconnected from the to draw from architectural studies. She decided to community. broaden her horizons and switch careers. For the next two months Anel worked with an- Although Anel was accepted in the renowned film thropologists to define an approach to overcome school Escuela de Cine de Chile, at the last minute the distrust towards the project as well as the lack she decided to explore a different alternative; of sense of ownership from the community. This Industrial Design. She chose the Design School work provided important design and engineer in DuocUC over the prestigious PUC University guidelines for the project as well as enabling a more because it was a smaller design-driven institution fluid design process with civil engineers, architects with an innovative curriculum. and designers. This input had an important bearing on the definition of the mechanics, physics, func- During her studies at DuocUC Anel become more tionality, user interface and the physical form of the and more aware of the process of design over the ‘fog-collecting device’. The approach and overall actual results and outcomes. Her projects were process produced an excellent result with the final characterised by strong observation and exploration prototype being approved for building and testing stages where she focused on the analysis of the situ- in four communities in Chile. ation. For her, this approach enabled the develop- ment of simple solutions that naturally addressed Drawing from this experience Anel recognised the the needs and added significant value during the diversity of the wider challenges that designers face process. She began to believe that the real challenge when developing products or services. She became for designers was in stepping out of their comfort passionate about discovering ways to improve zone to explore and embrace the opportunities of people’s lives through design and bridging the gap new design-related approaches. between design and other social-related disciplines. In her final project at DuocUC she had the oppor- This is where the inspiration for this research was tunity to develop a project to improve the quality fermented; to bridge that gap by understanding the of life of low-income people in desert zones1. After theoretical roots behind design thinking and provid- spending three months of research interacting with ing a concise justification for design thinking in the communities in the north of Chile she detected a social sector. significant problem relating to water. The issue was not the supply or the price of water; the problem was the quality. 1 For more information regarding this project visit: 11
  • 11. think design change 1.2 Aim of the Research “Design won’t save the world” Once these questions are addressed the research will explore the primary challenges relating to the So proclaims the title of an anonymous notice application of design thinking in achieving positive pinned to a café wall in Sydney, Australia in April social change along with recommendations on how 2009. Provocatively, the second line of the note to overcome these challenges. reads, “Go volunteer at a soup kitchen you preten- tious f*ck”. This poster prompted Dave Gravina, founder of social design agency Digital Eskimo, to post a response – both on the same wall of the café (im- age on right) and also at their blog2. His response started, “Volunteering at a soup kitchen, though worthwhile, will not end homelessness. The only way to do that is to design homelessness out of our society”. This example excellently illustrates the central idea and concept behind this research paper. Broadly speaking, the aim of the research is: to explore the potential of the application of creative philosophies and approaches to address social challenges. Design thinking is one such approach with the potential to tackle problems and opportunities more effectively in order to generate better social results or outcomes. Therefore the first objective of this research is to fully comprehend the design thinking approach and to discover how applicable it is to social change and the social sector. This will be achieved by a deep analysis of the design practice and social change-related theories in order to define the elements of interest shared between both. The second objective is to discover to what extent design thinking is currently being employed for social change initiatives, and if so, for what reasons. 
 2 Blog post by Dave Gravina available from 12
  • 12. think design change 1.3 The Research Problem This paper presents three research questions: to 15 percent per year (Martin 2009). Firstly, what is the distinctive value of design think- These types of experiences in the application ing for social change? of design thinking to the business environment support the assumption that the extent of its ap- Secondly, how can design thinking be applied to the plication is no longer constrained to the traditional achievement of positive social change? design discipline such as product or architectural design. Design is now conceived not only as a Lastly, what are the challenges facing the application discipline but also as an approach to services and of design thinking to social change and how is this strategy (Brown 2008). change being measured? The inherent qualities and characteristics that There has been a recent great shift in the design exist in a business environment (such as the clear discipline towards the development of a design measurement of benefits through defined metrics methodology. This shift has stretched the zone such as productivity), provides the motivation and of control of design. The role of designers is no justification for applying design thinking to business longer constrained by the design of objects or strategy; that is there is a clear business case for graphical interfaces; instead it has broadened to design thinking (Nussbaum 2006). include the consequences of their designs. Within this zone of consequences lies the opportunity for However when design thinking turns its attention designers to make a difference through the applica- to the social sector and the achievement of posi- tion of a continuous stream of thinking throughout tive social change, the essence and conditions of the design process, a process commonly known as this sector appear to be too broad for an accurate design thinking (Casey 2009). valorisation of the impact and benefits of its ap- plication. This paper will utilise primary research to There are many successful episodes of collabora- explore whether these benefits are being measured tion in recent years between designers or design in terms of a social case for design thinking. thinkers and members of other professions such as business strategy and commercial management. A Designers often describe the potential of design great example of this is the experience of Procter thinking to tackle social challenges from their own & Gamble. In 2007 they decided to embrace design perspective, however the social extent and social as an integral element of their business and in the variables in a design-thinking context are rarely following two years they ran a series of design discussed in depth. Nevertheless there are recent thinking workshops and initiatives across the entire experiences such as the Ripple Effect Project, a col- organisation. This innovative experience generated laborative project between the pioneering design a strikingly positive impact throughout the organi- consultancy IDEO and social innovator Acumen sation and managed to shift the prevailing attitude Fund aimed at improving access to safe drinking about design as “the last decoration station on the water for the world ‘s poorest and most undeserved way to market” (Proctor & Gamble 2008) to an people. The project was developed with local com- attitude that embraces and fosters the application panies and NGOs. Jonathan Greenblatt, writer on of design in every stage of their activities (market-, commented on the ability of ing, R&D, product supply, design). The results were design on this project to “offer highly useful lessons equally positive; within three years they doubled (...) yielding interesting results” . their market value and increased their profit growth 3 Jonathan Greenblatt is an acknowledged thought leader on corporate social responsibility, ethical branding and social entrepreneurship. He is a contributor of and a member of the faculty at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. The blog post can be found at 13
  • 13. think design change Another successful experience is the Southwark Circle, a service developed by social innovation consultancy Participle in partnership with the Southwark Council. This initiative is a UK-based membership organisation for the elderly that pro- vides its members the opportunity to stay connect- ed and socially active to “lead the lives they want to lead” (Southwark Circle brochure 2009). This project seeks to improve the quality of life for the local elderly population and create a cultural shift towards addressing the ageing challenges in society. These experiences are examples of the ambi- tion and benefits of a design-led approach to the achievement of positive social change. They also stimulate thinking about the potential role design thinking might have in the social sector. This paper will explore these areas in greater depth with a deep analysis of related literature, interviews with key actors in design-led social initiatives (in- cluding anthropologists, designers, and strategists), and an investigation of the challenges facing the application of design thinking in the social sector. 14
  • 14. think design change 15
  • 15. 2/8 methodology The topic of this research links two different concepts within the social sciences: design thinking and social change. The research philosophy will be defined by the complexity of the context where this research takes place, as well as the nature of the problems this paper aims to address. These elements also will determine the approach and strategies to conduct the research and collect data.
  • 16. think design change 2.1 Research Philosophy & Paradigms The situations analysed in this paper are highly of those interpretations to the research (Saunders complex and unique, thus they will require the ap- 2003). propriate research philosophies. The philosophies chosen for this paper are interpretivism and realism, On the other hand it is crucial to be aware of the which will be utilised in order to understand the existence of larger forces that affect people’s per- “subjective reality and meanings of the par- ceptions, behaviours and therefore, their interpreta- ticipants” (Saunders 2003) as well as the contexts tions of the situations they are in such as histori- where such situations take place. cal events or technological advances that trigger demographic and behavioural changes (such as the The researcher recognises the existence of a real- internet). ity that is “independent of human thoughts and beliefs” of which she is not anymore ‘detached’ This is where this research adopts a realism philoso- from their objects of study than are her informants phy and seeks to understand broader social forces, (Miles and Huberman 1993). From this same litera- structures or processes that “affect, influence or ture, in the attempts of discovering “the details of even constrains those interpretations” (Saunders et the situation to understand the reality or perhaps ‘a al. 2003). It is important to note that such forces reality’”, the author is herself influenced by her own affect people whether they are, or not, aware of interpretations around the topic of study. their existence. On one hand this research follows an interpretivist In order to explore the scope of the topic of this research philosophy since it aims to seize the com- research, this paper combines deductive and induc- plexity of social situations; in this case the applica- tive research approaches. The author defined three tion of creative methodologies to address social research questions to help tackle the complexity of challenges. Drawing from the social constructivism the topic and reach a deep understanding of the position, this paper also recognises the importance elements that constitute the essence of this paper. of understanding people’s socially constructed interpretation (subjective reality) around the topic of study in order to define the relevant aspects 2.2 The Research Strategy At its highest level this research aims to contribute How Design Thinking Transforms Organisations and to the body of knowledge of design thinking. The Inspires Innovation by IDEO’s CEO and president author also seeks to foster the escalation of design Tim Brown. Similarly, there have also been a range towards managerial and strategic levels in the pri- of conferences and discussions concerning current vate and public sector as well as incorporate design social inequity and the search for new and innova- as a definitive driver for social change. tive approaches to tackle this challenge (including a talk entitled “Post Crash: Investing in a Better World”, The subject of study of this paper includes two by Geoff Mulgan, the director of the Young very topical concepts whose body of knowledge Foundation, presented at TED Global in Oxford in is under constant evolution. Since this research August 2009). was undertaken, two extremely important books were published; The Design of Business: Why Design This dynamism presents a challenge at the moment Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by design of selecting an appropriate strategy that enables thinking guru Roger Martin; and Change by Design: the researcher to focus upon action and not only 17
  • 17. think design change “describe, understand and explain the situation but also to change it” (Coghlan and Brannick 2001). Donald Schön describes the design process as a reflective conversation with the situation in which the designer “reflects-in-action on the construc- tion of the problem, the strategies of action or the model of the phenomena, which have been implicit in his moves” (Schön 1983). In his account, design is a discipline that creates ‘reflective practitioners’ whose techniques are especially appropriate for when the changes occur during the design process. Designers initially shape the situation and allow it to talk back to them. Designers then reflect on the initial solution adjusting it to changing demands (more in section 4.2.2). Drawing from the dynamic nature of the topic and the theories proposed by Schön this paper adopts an ‘action research’ oriented strategy to address the research questions. Action research is a cyclical strategy that starts with the initial idea followed by a systematic study of the problem (ensuring the research follows theoretical considerations), the def- inition of the plan of attack, and finally the imple- mentation of such plan, monitoring and evaluation of the intervention. This evaluation feeds directly into the next cycle to ensure the intervention meets the needs and objectives of the research (Fig. 1). This strategy allows space to reformulate the direc- tion the research should take when necessary and 
 to revaluate the tools and methods utilised in order Fig 1. Action Research Spiral to select those that better adapt to the constantly (Kemmis 1983) August 2009). changing situation. The selected strategy also reflects a design practice embedded in the researcher that focuses in reflection- in-action and research that takes place in real-world challenges and situations with the aim to resolve them. 18
  • 18. think design change 2.3 The Research Methods In the earliest stages of this research the author paper conducts a thorough analysis of pertinent lit- encountered a strong negative reaction towards the erature, articles, conferences and any source of in- term “design thinking” among the design com- formation available. Due to the complexity of both munity. This reaction appears to be based on a design thinking and social change, the two concepts perception that the term has become commoditised were analysed individually and independently. This and a victim of ‘marketing-isation’. Specifically, there analysis seeks to achieve a compelling understand- is a sense that some practitioners claim the author- ing of each concept on its own in order to evidence ship of design thinking without acknowledging the each one’s strengths and relevant aspects to the contribution of design researchers and scholars to subject of study. This helps the researcher to reduce the body of knowledge over the last forty years. As personal bias when establishing links between the a result of this, the author committed herself to a two concepts and finding commonalities between thorough analysis of the concept of design think- them. With this division the author also attempts to ing in order to separate the buzzwords and clichés separate the concepts to a point where these con- from the very real value design thinking can offer to nections arise spontaneously and become evident to strategy and innovation in the social sector. the reader without being suggested by the author. The methods utilised in this research include an This section also follows the reductionist position extensive literature review and semi-structured of the deductive approach that states, “problems as interviews with relevant actors in the field. The a whole are better understood if they are reduced author also set up a blog to collate pertinent pieces to the simplest elements possible” (Saunders and of information only available on the Internet. The Thornhill 2003). +think design change4 blog served as a repository of information as well as a tester to measure any The literature review allowed the researcher to existing interest in this topic. It is worthwhile to identify gaps to explore further in the research. Fol- note that the author did not ask the community to lowing this section, the research adopts an inductive join her venture or promote it at any stage of the approach to enable the researcher to build a theory process. In less than three months the blog gener- of design thinking and social change. The gaps ated 1,670 visits and 2,788 page views with more from the literature review defined the framework than 50% direct traffic. It has been added to the for the primary data collection resulting in a series recommended websites lists of notorious design of six semi-structured interviews. thinking advocates such as Warren Berger, author of Glimmer and Bruce Nussbaum managing editor The inductive approach also allows the construc- for BusinessWeek and responsible for coverage of tion of a flexible methodology that permits design and innovation. The author also created alternative explorations of what is happening in a Twitter account to complement the blog that the different stages of the research. This approach currently has over 360 followers5. All this demon- provides a closer understanding of the research strates the increasing attentiveness to the topic and context and the nature of the problem (Saunders the genuine interest from different disciplines to and Thornhill 2003). understand the concept and its potential beyond a simple and easy ‘design thinking will/will not save the From the analysis of secondary data the researcher world’ statement. identified four sources of primary data: designers, strategists, social scientists and social entrepreneurs To answer the first research question - what is the in design-led initiatives. Drawing on the theories distinctive value of design thinking for social change? - this of Tom Kelley, general manager of IDEO, as 4 + think design change: design thinking + social change ( 5 See 19
  • 19. think design change showcased in his book Ten Faces of Innovation: third dealt with their practice and also attempted to Strategies for Heightening Creativity (2008), the sample define the level of knowledge of the topic. The last was chosen in a way that was representative of the part was designed to identify the challenges faced relevant areas to the topic of the research and also by designers in the dissemination of their tech- considered the perspective of the different roles or niques and approach in other sectors external to personas involved in the development of a design- the design domain. It also included one concluding led social project. The objective of these interviews open question that aimed to define whether they is to analyse the real experience of people actively had an individualist or collective conception of the involved in the development of successful ventures success of the discipline. and help to identify the elements of design think- ing present in those projects accountable for that The information collected in these interviews success. will feed the research spiral and help to build a discourse about the benefits and advantages of The interviewee cohort was chosen according to the application of design thinking for the achieve- their backgrounds, experience and relevance in the ment of positive social change. This discussion will industry. It included a design strategist involved in take place in the penultimate section of this paper the development of social services; a social scientist where the knowledge gained from the literature with broad experience in the implementation of review will be contrasted with the current practices anthropologic methodologies to social services; and investigated and the primary data collected through social entrepreneurs with experience in design-led the interviews. This chapter will also identify the innovation projects. challenges that design thinking and design thinkers face in the social sector and will set the ground for The interview was structured in three sections the recommendations and conclusions in the last ordered chronologically: past experience, current chapter of this paper. situation, future challenges. The first third aimed to state the background and personal motivations and interpretations of the interviewee. The second 20
  • 20. think design change 21
  • 21. 3/8 literature review “Before we can properly study how designers think, we need to de- velop a better understanding of the nature of design and the character- istics of design problems and their solutions.” - Bryan Lawson
  • 22. think design change 3.1 Starting Point The starting point of this research was inspired by This luminous example also illustrates one of the the increasing recent attentiveness towards design biggest challenges faced by the design discipline: to as well as the increasingly messianic role of design define and effectively communicate the role, advan- thinking claimed by practitioners and scholars in tages and limitations of design in order to stimulate the solution of business and social challenges. This and drive effective design-led innovation in helping perception, excellently illustrated in the image that to transform and improve processes, organisations kick-started this research, has inspired the re- and even societies. This lack of clarity around the searcher to truly understand the nature and roots of role and potential of design hinders its application design and design thinking and their potential role and generates a negative response regarding what in the achievement of positive social change. design thinking stands for. This is ably demon- strated in the article Why Design Thinking Won’t Save For a long time people have identified design with You by Peter Merholtz (2009), which illustrates the the forms and the visuals generated through its pro- confusion and discontent around design think- cesses rather than the reasoning or thinking behind ing and posits the importance of recognising the the forms or the decisions made throughout the different elements that shape this approach (such design process that led a product to its final form as anthropologic and sociological principles like (Fraser 2006). As a consequence design is com- ethnography and empathy)5. monly conceived as an aesthetic discipline whose object of study hardly goes further than colourful The only way for design thinking to leverage its po- products or the use of different textures or shapes. tential and impact across industries effectively is by This perception is one of the reasons why, when achieving clarity of the nature of design and filling practitioners and scholars claim the importance of the gaps between what we understand by the term incorporating design into other practices, the reac- and what it stands for, the needs it addresses, how tion of many organisations in the commercial and it addresses those needs, and what separates it from the social sector is often tinted with suspicious and other schools of thinking such as lateral thinking. incredulity. Only by clearly defining its advantages as well as its limitations will design and design thinking shift The brief and simple plea “design won’t change away from a solipsistic perception towards a well- the world” repeats itself around the globe across comprehended, collaborative and cross-disciplinary multiple sectors. The controversy generated discipline. amongst supporters and detractors of this state- ment has helped open the debate among managers, Both topics design thinking and social change are practitioners, scholars and educators regarding the broad-ranging and notoriously difficult to define. real potential that design and design thinking have The following sections will deal with each sepa- to offer to improve traditional problem solving rately; firstly with an analysis of the concept of processes. Following this anonymous complaint, design thinking, and then a succinct exploration of the shared response from the design practitioners, the notion of social change. “The only way to do that is to design homelessness out of society”, suggests that what is required is a design approach that conjugates different perspec- tives rather than an activity rooted in an isolated and assumptive approach. 5 Peter Merholz is an internationally recognised thought leader on user experience. He is a collaborator for Harvard Busi- ness Review and co-authored Subject to Change. 23
  • 23. think design change 3.2 The Design Framework Nowadays there is not a unique definition or analyse the origins of design thinking and the shift description of design. The coexistence of several from an ‘object-centred’ discipline into the study valid and valuable interpretations of its nature, as of the principles and practices behind the design Fraser (2006) puts it, only shows how diverse and process leveraged into a problem-solving activity. sometimes contradictory the perception of the design activity is. In this part we will Design from objects to an approach Traditionally design has dealt with objects, thus the “immersed in this material culture, and draw design theory has revolved around them for most upon it as their primary source of their think- of its existence despite the intentions of theorists ing. Designers have the ability both to ‘read’ to shift away from them for the last twenty years. and ‘write’ in this culture; they understand Flusser (1999) for example, states that design begins what messages objects communicate, and before any activity or physical form takes place. He they can create new objects which embody takes the search to discover opportunities beyond new messages” (Cross 2006). the materialistic level emphasising the etymological origin of the words as the basis of any discipline. Alexander posits the potential negative role that He argues that design begins with the meaning of preconceptions drawn by the designer’s experience the word and the resulting discovery of identity or context play in the design process. He suggests (Flusser 1999). that this might stop designers from stepping out of the structure of the problem and creating new con- The Objects of Design cepts that, in his vision, correspond to the context where the objects will perform. These preconcep- One description of the process of design as of tions - whether they are due to the different design inventing things “which display new physical order, professions or to the context of the design process organization, form, in response to function” (Alex- - must be identified and addressed in order to ander 1964). For Alexander, form is “the ultimate allow the designer to discover many different paths object of design” and he argues that in order for to challenge them throughout the design process this form (and design) to be successful it needs to (Alexander et al. 1977). correspond to the human needs and requirements of the context that has called it into being. According to Lucy Kimbell, Clark Fellow in Design Leadership at Said Business School, University of Objects are a central element of Cross’ (2006) Oxford, the crafting process of objects is where account on design as well, focusing on the way product and industrial designers inscribe their designers think and work and how they gain knowl- theories and ideas of human behaviours into their edge through the object. For him objects are a way designs. The way objects work, the function they to learn about how to meet requirements and per- have and how they are made all reflect the context form tasks as well as being about the environment where they were conceived and designed, however and context where design takes place. He explores Kimbell argues that “while objects are central to the what this means in matters of methodologies and work of professional designers, theories of design the problem definition and problem solving pro- have moved away from them” (Kimbell 2009). cesses. Cross believes designers are: 24
  • 24. think design change The Activity of Design design led Horst Rittel & Webber (1973) to intro- duce the concept of “second generation design One of the leading theorists involved in this shift is methods” that sought to address the perceived Herbert Simon. In the book The Sciences of the Artifi- failures of the early attempts at systematic design. cial the author focuses on the normative dimension This second generation is marked by increasingly of design as the main characteristic that separates it participative and argumentative design processes from the descriptive sciences (Simon 1969). This is that seek to address the “wicked problems” of a tacit recognition of design as a core human activ- design in a more accurate manner. ity. In his definition he considers design as an activ- ity, whether it ends up generating an object or not In his article Models of Man, Rabah Bousbaci (2008) is not relevant. Simon’s new perspective privileges distinguishes a third generation of the design the set of procedures during the design process that methods movement characterised by a designer seek to address a specific problem, focusing in the with what Simon defined as “bounded rationality”. activity or thinking of design. He argues that the different shifts in the evolution of design thinking correspond to “a major shift of This change from the intuitive and artistic designer the theoretical discourses where the designers are to a rationalist and logical designer led to the included” such as the end of the World War II and ‘Design Methods’ movement in the 1960s. The the birth of the Bauhaus (Bayazit 2004). recognition of ill-defined problems in What is Design Thinking? From the former discussion it is clear that while In Rittel’s account of the design process, the there has been a generalised shift in the focus of wicked problems present such a level of complex- design from objects towards the social aspects of ity that traditional problem-solving techniques are design, a great polemic still remains among profes- insufficient to approach them; the design activity sionals and academics when trying to define design then becomes an argumentative process because thinking. This debate is reinforced by the natural the source of knowledge and insights to define the dynamism of the discipline and the ill-defined problem to be solved lies in the external world. The problems it deals with whose lack of definitive changes that happen in the outside will shape and formulation or solution require a unique approach reshape the designer’s work whether this is part of (Flusser 1999). his own creative process or it happens jointly with other people (Rittel and Weber 1973). The nature of the design problem. Rittel and Webber’s theories promoting the integra- In his paper Wicked Problems in Design Thinking tion of trial and error techniques to the design Buchanan (1992) argues that design has a natural process share a similar approach to the reflective ability to adapt to ill-defined problems or wicked practice proposed by leading social scientist Donald problems . He claims that it is the abductive ap- A. Schön (1983), in that design problem-solving proach of designers to problem solving that enables techniques are best suited when changes occur them to discover unique ways to answer to those during the process. Schön marks an important wicked problems (Buchanan 1992). Rather than a shift in the evolution of design thinking. Aligning craft or production constrained discipline, Buch- with Simon’s pragmatist approach to designers, anan conceived design as an activity that could be he calls for a rationality of “reflection-in-action”. applied to almost anything whether it is a tangible Schön proposes a reflective paradigm to the design object or an intangible system. practice: for him the design process revolves around situations rather than problems. This allows designers to ‘shape the situation’ and observe how 25
  • 25. think design change it ‘talks-back’ to them; then they reflect on their focuses on the way designers think and know, conversation with the elements of the situation in design thinking relies implicitly upon the designer’s order to provide answers that can adapt to changing own memory, precedence, drawing and language requirements (Schön 1983). abilities. Design thinking is about methodology as much as it is about culture. Thus designers have The design approach to the problem to make sense of the place they are in order to discover opportunities and be inspired by them. In its most simplistic form design thinking is best Culture links designers with new ideas, challenges understood through the actual experience of de- and alternatives. signing something. This is well illustrated by Boland and Collopy (2004) during their experience working This ability of designers to generate new ideas with the architect Frank O. Gehry on the design focusing on what forms the future can take, rather and construction of the Peter B. Lewis Building than assuming the current state of things, is what for the Weatherhead School of Management of separates design from the rest of the sciences (Law- the Case University in Ohio, U.S.A. After four son 2006; Martin 2004). Furthermore David Kelley, years of collaboration they argued that the main founder of the aforementioned IDEO, refers to the difference they identified between managerial and main characteristic that separates design thinking design approach lies in the nature of the problems from traditional analytical thinking as the ability of encountered in design. The ‘wicked problems’ in the former to allow creative leaps, meaning discon- design require a specific approach and attitude. tinuous jumps during the design process from one Boland and Collopy describe this ‘design attitude’ to a whole new category of ideation (Kelley 2009). as the one that acknowledges and embraces the challenge of designing new possibilities rather The logic behind design thinking than select from existing alternatives (2004). This attitude privileges the importance of the process The notion of abductive reasoning was first over the result; learning how to solve a problem is proposed by American pragmatist Charles Sanders the real value rather than the solution achieved. In Peirce towards the end of the nineteenth century. management this ‘design attitude’ offers something Unlike inductive and deductive logic, abductive of value when feasible alternatives are not known, logic is by default a non-declarative reasoning while the ‘decision attitude’ or traditional manage- whose goal is neither the truth of a conclusion nor ment approach or can be used when problems are its probability, but to legitimise the process as the stable and controlled. best explanation (Martin 2009). Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, explores this Nigel Cross (1992) defines design thinking as “the in more detail in his book The Design of Business: study of the cognitive processes that are manifested Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage in design action”. He also supports the former as- (2009). Martin is concerned with the abductive sumption that design thinking is better understood nature of the design thinking approach. In his book as an activity of the problem-solving process. In the Martin aims to inform designers and non-designers same vein Tim Brown (2008), from leading design about the importance of the abductive logic of the consultancy IDEO, states the difference between design thinking approach. He stresses the value design and design thinking as “the way designers of this type of reasoning to managers that are approach problem solving.” ill-served by a management education that neglects this logic. Design thinking is rooted to the way designers connect with people (users), how they come to a Martin argues that Brown’s definition of design problem from the people’s perspective and how thinking as the “discipline that uses the designer’s they create meaningful experiences for them. For sensibility and methods to match people’s needs design methodologist Bryan Lawson (2006), who with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer 26
  • 26. think design change excludes the abductive reasoning from which design while design thinking achieves that through the thinking descends. Martin is one of the strongest generation of new ideas, lateral thinking theory advocates of the recognition of the abductive logic aims to reduce the subject to its minimal expres- as a valid element in the problem framing and solv- sion where everything is eliminated but the ‘truth’. ing processes. Rather than a radical shift towards De Bono argues that by doing this, all the relevant this logic, his work resembles a call for balance facts are exposed and therefore the risk of failure is between abductive, deductive and inductive logic reduced (De Bono 1999). Design thinking instead during the decision making process in manage- approaches risk by integrating it to the process and ment. For Martin this balance enables designers to reducing its negative impact through routine itera- embrace what is not yet known as an integral part tions throughout the entire process. of their design process. While De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats (1999) focuses Design Thinking on improving an individual set of skills and engag- ing people with non-creative background in alterna- Whatever the philosophical or teleological prin- tive thinking techniques, the aim of design thinking ciples behind the different arguments around design is to drive innovation by the selection of individuals thinking might be, there is not one single unified according to the team’s needs (Kelley 2005). theory of design thinking that defines strictly the extent of its activity and its impact. However the There is no right or wrong in defining the elements first two sections of this literature review have and characteristics of design thinking. For the pur- reviewed and synthesised the literature around it. poses of this research four core characteristics asso- In order to reach a deep comprehension of what ciated with design thinking that are most relevant to design thinking represents and the theoretical the topic of study (social change) are established: framework from where it is drawn, this review has focused on the means of design thinking rather i. Focus of the study or practice than the extent of its application. designerly ways of thinking; ii. Nature of the problems it deals with In practice this methodology is backed up by a wicked problems; variety of methods and techniques drawn from the iii. Approach to the problem framing/solving object-oriented design process, such as human-cen- routinely iteration; and, tred approach, empathy, iteration, prototyping and iv. Logic of the approach interdisciplinary team building. These techniques integral abductive reasoning. and methods enable designers and non-designers to engage in a creative approach to problem solving. In arriving at a definition of design thinking for While useful to identify creative approaches and the purposes of this research and as a guideline for commonly associated to the implementation of subsequent chapters, it is proposed to enclose these design thinking, these techniques are not necessarily four elements, take inspiration from David Kelley’s exclusive to this approach. account of design thinking, incorporate Rittel and Martin’s theories around iteration, and finally to It is important to remember that what character- reference Cross and Schön’s take on the way that ises design thinking from the rest of the creative designers think. approaches to other disciplines is the reasoning behind it rather than the tools it utilises. This is well The definition the author proposes is: illustrated when we contrast two different thinking theories applied to non-creative environments. The theory of lateral thinking coined by Edward de Bono Design thinking is a design methodology that encour- in 1967 seeks – as does design thinking - to stimu- ages discontinuous leaps during the ideation process late a shift in the traditional thinking towards new from one to another whole new category of ideas. directions in the problem solving process. However 27
  • 27. think design change 3.3 The Social Context for Design Thinking The first question posited at the beginning of this While the author recognises the importance of un- paper - what is the distinctive value of design thinking for derstanding these alternative discourses, the scope social change? - aims to define the research framework of such theories escapes the scale of this paper. analysing the two crucial concepts that shape the Thus for the purposes of the research, this paper extent of this investigation: design thinking and will simply assume that their potential and influence social change. After analysing and defining the de- are discussed and recognised elsewhere. sign guidelines of the subject of study, the second part of this literature review will turn its attention This section will review relevant concepts of the towards the social context where design thinking social sector to design thinking such as social might take place. change, community cohesion and social capital. The following section of this chapter will help to nar- It is important to stress that the aim of this paper row down the scope of this research to the specific is to define practical methods of design for positive issues of the social sector that this paper seeks to social change focusing in the design process itself, address. rather than external anthropologic, sociologic, or economic theories. What is Social Change? Just as is the case for design thinking, the concept Notions of social change of ‘social change’ has been subject of discussions for a long period of time. Recent debates around The first theorist to differentiate the changing it have done little to improve the definition of the nature of social phenomena was August Comte concept, however they have helped to draw the towards the end of the 18th century. In his work attention of professionals from different disciplines he separated social statics from social dynamics. towards the role that each of them plays in the The latter refers to a ‘progressive evolution’: people achievement of this change. become increasingly smarter and the unselfish concern for the welfare of others arises over the Social change is the main focus of study of disci- individualism and egoism (Comte; cited by Ritzer plines such as social work and sociology (Bourdieu and Goodman 2003). and Coleman 1991). The origins of the latter can be tracked back to the first attempts to understand the The nature of change is widely explored by Bernard changes originated during the French and Indus- Giesen (1980) who claims that even though the trial revolutions in France and England during the ideas have existed since the beginning of times, 18th and 19th century respectively. These events radical events occurred during the eighteenth and triggered drastic changes in every aspect of people’s nineteenth centuries triggered exceptional changes lives that provoked social scientists to undertake a that disrupted the stability and order. Social change thorough study in order to understand the impact as a comprehensive and continual dynamic in social of these changes and start to develop theories units became the norm and replaced previous con- around social phenomenon. ceptions of natural and rational order (Haferkamp and Smelser 1992). The dynamic nature of social relations and networks required those theories to address the In its most simplistic and practical form the term constant movement, variation, transformation and ‘social change’ refers to modifications in the social change in social life. behaviour patterns or relations of people, commu- nities or society (Smith 1973). Ferrante (2006) and Harper (1989) go further stating that this trans- formation can take place not only in the relations 28
  • 28. think design change between people but also in the organisation and As stated previously social change can be achieved operation of social life. In Harper’s account social in any context of society such as: economic devel- change is “the significant alteration of social struc- opment, education, technology, healthcare services ture and cultural patterns through time.” and politics. The causes of social change take place in a specific context but not necessarily limit their However, not all changes in the behaviour patterns effect to the sector where they take place; social of groups imply the existence of social change as change involves different disciplines and intercon- stated by the sociologist Steven Vago (1989). In his nects several contexts indistinctively with a domino book Social Change, Vago reminds us that for social or snowball effect. This suggests that the chain change to be considered as such, it must be “a of variations generated by one single event can be visible and sustained change”. This means it must tracked back or forwards until it becomes a cause take place during a considerable period of time and itself; also, the magnitude of the consequences of must impact a large number of people in a given such event increases as it spreads its impact across aspect of their lives. different aspects of the social structure (Lauer 1991). For the structural functionalists theorists, Although it is often associated with positive results, as Lauer also notes, this structure is naturally in a the concept of social change can either refer to a state of balance and when a change occurs in one positive or negative value. These values, known as part of society, the rest must make adjustments to ‘rates’, are determined by worldwide societal trends restore the lost balance. that make change a highly interdependent phenom- enon. While social change is a matter of sociologic A great illustration of the former discourse lies in study, all the aspects of the society are intercon- the origins of sociology as a formal discipline. In nected: social change is conformed by economic, the previous section it was stated that the disci- historic, politic, educational, anthropologic elements pline was born from the need to understand the incorporating these and several more social sciences new phenomena generated in light of the Indus- hence the existence of a variety of aspects of social trial and French revolutions, but they were not change (Haferkamp and Smelser 1992). isolated events that serendipitously led to its birth. A broader vision is proposed by Macionis and The creation of social change Plummer in the book Sociology: A Global Introduction (2008). For the authors sociology has its origins in As stated previously social change can be achieved three revolutions; “the Industrial Revolution, the in any context of society such as: economic devel- political revolutions associated with democracy, and opment, education, technology, healthcare services the urban revolution linked in part to the decline in and politics. The causes of social change take place the community”. in a specific context but not necessarily limit their effect to the sector where they take place; social The focus of study of sociology lies in these change involves different disciplines and intercon- interconnections between different areas and the nects several contexts indistinctively with a domino consequences they lead to, and the adjustments un- or snowball effect. This suggests that the chain dertaken by the social structure to re-establish the of variations generated by one single event can be balance when lost. This balance can be static (where tracked back or forwards until it becomes a cause change is seen as a disruptive element of the order itself; also, the magnitude of the consequences of and equilibrium) or dynamic (a constant evolution such event increases as it spreads its impact across or progress). Talcott Parsons (1964) argued that the different aspects of the social structure (Lauer former was the nature state of the society and that 1991). For the structural functionalists theorists, changes will only occur in order to re-establish what as Lauer also notes, this structure is naturally in a he called social order. Several theorists draw from state of balance and when a change occurs in one Parsons’ functionalist account of social change, how- part of society, the rest must make adjustments to ever some including Alexander (1985) considered restore the lost balance. this equilibrium as a point of reference rather than 29
  • 29. think design change an assumption and embraced the notion of social Social capital and social change change as a reflection of progress and improve- ment. Social capital is a theoretical concept about the value of social networks in a society. Lyda Judson If we contrast Macionis and Plummer’s account Hanifan first coined this term in 1916 as part of his on the birth of sociology and the current state of observations in rural schools community centres; society these days, we can draw interesting parallels “those tangible substances [that] count for most in between them. Today we are living and experienc- the daily lives of people”. However it was only until ing the Digital and Information revolutions. Even Robert Putnam’s book Making Democracy Work though the context is quite different from the in- was published in 1993 that the term was popular- dustrial age both events share an inevitable increase ised among social scientists and economists. The in complexity of social organisations. According author describes social capital as “features of social to Aldridge, Halpern and Fitzpatrick (2002) this life - networks, norms, and trust - that enable par- increase in turn has generated a decline in the com- ticipants to act together more effectively to pursue munity sense and the engagement of certain parts shared objectives... Social capital, in short, refers of the population with the society. This decline is to social connections and the attendant norms and more notorious in the United States, Australia and trust” (Putnam 1993). the United Kingdom. In recent years the importance of social relation- Community cohesiveness is an aspect of social ships, norms and networks has increased consid- change that deals with the human and social factors erably among policy makers who recognise the and their input in the achievement of positive social potential of social relationships as a valuable asset. change. This aspect of social change has generated While social capital refers to the relationships and great interest from social scientists, policy makers, interactions among the members and institutions and international organisations that seek to foster that underpin a society, it is not the sum of those progress from the basis of the society. According elements but the ‘glue that holds them together’ to the World Bank, “increasing evidence shows that (The World Bank 2000). social cohesion is critical for societies to prosper economically and for development to be sustain- Putman established a direct correlation between the able” (World Bank 1999). quality of civic culture and the levels of poverty. His account of social capital contemplates non- The potential of achieving positive social change economic solutions to social problems through through the strengthening of communities is what the improvement of the levels of social capital to inspired the author to choose community cohesion eradicate those problems (Putman 1993). Those as the main social focus of this paper. There are non-economic solutions however are strongly several theories that explore the value of the human linked with the role that economics have in the and community factors of social change. Social deterioration of civic culture and can often generate capital is the closest and most relevant theory for the other social problems in turn. As noted by Portes study of community strengthening. The next sec- (1998) in his book Social Capital: Its Origins and tion of this chapter will analyse this theory in order Applications in Modern Sociology, social capital has to establish the links between the social challenges potential downsides as well as potential benefits, so- posited in the communities and the potential op- cial networks can take the form of organised crime portunities in design thinking to tackle them. associations or youth gangs misleading the potential benefits of this concept. 30
  • 30. think design change According to Putnam the importance of social the definition proposed by Putnam and Woolcok capital resides in its ability to enable citizens to focusing on the positive benefits of social capital resolve collective problems in an easier way and without that meaning ignorance of the potential improve their communities smoothly. Social capital downsides of an erroneous application. In further also helps to increase the members’ awareness of sections of this paper, when the author refers to the the interconnections between them and therefore term ‘social change’, this will refer solely to positive to seek the common wealth rather than individual variation in the rates of social change. aspirations (Putnam 2000). Thus the networks also allow the flow of information that facilitates the In conclusion and for the purposes of this research, achievement of the group’s goals. this paper will draw from the theories posited by Charles L. Harper and rely on the definition of Social scientist Michael Woolcock (2000) distin- social change as guishes three types of social capital: bonding relates to common identity and denotes ties among people “the significant alteration of social structure and cul- in similar situations (families, ethnic groups); bridg- tural patterns through time with a positive value and ing relates to diversity and encompasses weaker, leading towards social equality and progress” (Harper less dense but more ‘cross-cutting’ ties (associa- 1989). tions, workmates, friends of friends); and linking related to power and connections between people This section has analysed the concept of social in dissimilar situations, such as those outside of change and reviewed the notions and theories the community. The last type enables to access to relevant to this research. It is important to note that external resources and was added most recently to there is a huge number of concepts, paradigms and the categorisation. theories that play a strategic role in the achievement of social change such as social innovation, social Social change entrepreneurship, social enterprise, social market- ing. As stated at the beginning of this section it is Along with Putnam, other social science theorists impossible for a research of this nature to cover all have tried to define the scope of this concept and and each one in the appropriate manner without its characteristics, most notably Bourdieu and Cole- exceeding the scale and scope of this paper. These man (1991) and Bourdieu (1993). The full spectrum concepts will be, when being referred to or men- of social change and social capital is very expan- tioned, expanded upon if necessary. sive and escapes the scale of this paper. For the purposes of the research this paper will align with 31
  • 31. 4/8 context “Every truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” - Arthur Schopenhauer
  • 32. think design change 4. Design Thinking & the Social Sectors The last two sections of the literature review have The commonplace wisdom that public organisa- conducted a thorough analysis of the central ideas tions cannot innovate is at odds with the history of that define this research: design thinking and social innovation (...) Innovators usually succeed despite, change. By doing this separately the author attempt- ed to demonstrate tacitly the shared visions and not because of, the sector’s dominant structures and potential links between the two fields. This should systems.” (Geoff Mulgan 2008) enable us to begin inferring the value that design thinking has to offer in helping bring creativity and There exists a perception that the link between de- informed intuition into management practice in the sign (design thinking) and business strategy has only social sector. relatively recently been discovered (as evidenced by Brown 2007; Martin 2009). As the following quote “Thinking like a designer can transform the way confirms, this relationship has been explored for at you develop products, services, processes and even least forty years: “business is concerned not with strategy” (Brown 2008). the necessary but with the contingent - not with how things are but with how they might be - in short, with design” (Simon 1969). In addition, it is also worthwhile to examine the lit- erature where these concepts start to overlap. This However the relationship between design thinking will be complemented with a brief analysis of how and social change is still not very well explored. design thinking has been applied to business inno- Regardless of policymakers’ claims about the cru- vation. These sections will thus act as an important cial role that innovation has in improving people’s contextual introduction for the research question life conditions, the potential that design has in of how design thinking can be applied to social change? this process is obscured by narrow perceptions of design and limited understanding of the concept The potential of design thinking has proven to be of innovation. The lack of a common understanding very effective in the business sector. Practitioners about innovation among design and social theorists often eagerly describe the value of this approach has done little to advance this front. for organisations seeking innovation. “Design can be a bridge between top and bottom, translating between policy requirements and goals, and local communities” (Ben Reason 2008). 4.1 Social Designers & Thinkers The literature on design thinking for social change Renowned industrial designer Gui Bonsiepe (1977) is scarce and fragmented within design research. claimed design’s enormous potential to support Some theorists have developed similar areas such economic development in progressive stages. as the German economist E. F. Schumacher (1974) Unlike Schumacher he argued government and in- whose theories about human-scaled, decentralised stitutional initiatives had the potential to strengthen and appropriate technologies showcased in his local industrial production and develop the design seminal book Small is Beautiful drew the interest of industry in developing countries rather than the politics and social theorists after the World War II. communities (Bonsiepe 1977). Alpay (1993; 1997) In Schumacher’s account, design is a facilitator of draws from Bonsiepe’s theories and claims that alternative community-oriented projects (Margolin design’s developmentist role contradicts the design 2007). industry profit motivations. Amir (2004) also advo- 33
  • 33. think design change cates for a more human-centred approach to policy the product or service. making on business and commerce. Following Al- pay’s industrial oriented policies, Amir stresses the This conceptualisation of the design process is negative consequences of the pursuit of economic explored from two different perspectives by theorist interests claiming that this can distract the industry Flusser (1991), and design and innovation guru Val- from meeting basic needs and alleviate poverty; erie Cassey (2009). At one end Flusser focuses on “Developing countries which choose industrial- the beginnings of the practice of design and estab- oriented policies, are confronted by the challenges lishes an inherent relation between the etymologies of a global economy which serves the benefit of and the activity (Flusser 1991). At the other end of powerful corporations and financial institutions of the process, Casey draws from Papanek’s account the First World” (Amir 2004). emphasising the intangible social responsibilities present during the design process that continue The most influential theorist of design for social throughout the life of the creation resulting from change is American designer Victor Papanek. The such process (Casey 2009). theories posited in his book Design for the Real World published in 1974 still remain highly topical In the article Design for Social Impact - What Does It and contemporary after 35 years of research and Mean and Why Should We Care? (2008) Jocelyn Wyatt practice in design. His work advocates for a human- also delves into this end of the discussion, but she centred design discipline that integrates a number does it through socially tinted glasses. She discusses of design thinking-type tools such as empathy, tests the importance of the social responsibilities of with real users, iterations and so on. Among other designers and the lasting impact of the design statements Papanek argues that design fails to ad- process in social environments. Through her own dress real needs because it has been reduced to its experience in the Acumen Fund and leading the most simplistic aspects. For him to define design Social Impact domain at IDEO, Wyatt acknowl- as a discipline constraint to its objects overlooks edges design thinking as an accurate approach to the qualities that entitle design to tackle effectively effectively address ill-resolved social challenges. She social challenges (Papanek 1984). also highlights the advantages of the utilisation of design methods such as prototyping, storytelling Papanek, Flusser, Mulgan, Collins & Cia and empathy to improve the development of effec- tive solutions (Wyatt 2008). Papanek’s account of design reflects a strong rela- tionship between design and social responsibility. The book Change by Design examines and broadens He calls designers to become aware of the scope of the discourse around these and other techniques the influence of their decisions regarding prod- originated in the design community that are cur- ucts and the consequences beyond the product’s rently escalating across disciplines like business constraint. His theories draw from Schumacher’s strategy (Brown 2009). Brown argues that it is time community-oriented theories and claim that the for these methods and approaches to “migrate lack of innovation in design is because its adher- outward into all parts of organisations and upward ence to a highly competitive market. Specifically into the highest levels of leadership”. Brown also market-driven design has led practitioners to fail to accounts the recent rise of design thinking to a address themselves to the essence of many prob- culture change and states that the “excitement” to lems, thereby missing out great opportunities and apply their skills to “problems that matter” is what challenges (Papanek 1984). He goes on to describe motivates the best thinkers (Brown 2009). Papanek the negative effects of this fundamental mistake goes further by believing that innovation is an when he discusses the current mechanics of intrinsic social responsibility that lies at the core of problem-solving in the creative process. He argues the discipline. that contrary to what still occurs in the practice, the first step of this activity starts long before designers According to Geoff Mulgan, director of the begin to design and doesn’t end with the delivery of Young Foundation in the UK, there is a strong 34
  • 34. think design change link between innovation and the achievement of In contrast, business innovation is typically mo- positive social change. He argues that the difference tivated by profit maximisation. Mulgan describes between the business and technologic perspectives innovation in a social context as “innovative activi- of innovation and the social perspective is the role ties and services that are motivated by the goal of it plays and the goal it seeks to achieve: meeting a social need and that are predominantly developed and diffused through organisations “In the social sector innovation is new ideas that work whose primary purposes are social” (Mulgan et al. to meet pressing unmet needs and improve people’s 2007). lives” (Mulgan et al. 2007) 4.2 Design thinking as a driver for innovation In his discourse Mulgan goes on to describe three Among the theories of innovation seeking to drive key dimensions of social innovations: the formula- real social change, some of them show similarities tion of new combinations or hybrids of existing with the design thinking approach. One of these elements; the implementations of such hybrids that theories is what Christensen et al call catalytic innova- involve cutting across organisational, sectoral or tion. Drawn from the disruptive theories of innova- disciplinary boundaries; and the compelling new tion, catalytic innovation is based on the creation of social relationships that these implementations services to address the people ignored by traditional leave behind (Mulgan et al. 2007). social sector organisations (Christensen et al. 2005). The pursuit of innovation Catalytic innovation is a disruptive innovation (2006) states that the surge of different theories whose primary objective is to drive real social and approaches that seek to drive innovation and change by implementing strategies to address and social change -such as design thinking or catalytic improve the most basic social needs (Christensen innovation- is due the natural surge of new kind et al 2006). The authors suggest that by doing so, of problems. New problems demand changes and the chances to step up and even those needs will adjustments in the practices to enable them to improve; this will enable us to approach the more deal with and overcome the obstacles (Burns et al. specific needs without compromising the wellbe- 2006)6. ing of the community. They also point out the difficulty of a business minded approach to the In his book Good to Great and the Social Sectors innovation in the social sector. As a result, catalytic (2006) American author Jim Collins supports the minds must strive to differentiate themselves from implementation of alternative approaches and the rest of the innovation approaches. argues that business thinking is not the answer to overcome the challenges of the social sector. The RED Report from the Design Council He argues that the social sectors lack of “rational 6 RED was set up in the UK in 2004 by the Design Council to tackle social and economic issues through design led in- novation. 35
  • 35. think design change capital markets that channel resources to those who differences in the situations and expected outcomes deliver the best results neither there is an underlying between sectors and even sub-sectors. Design economic driver” (Collins 2006). The metrics of thinking must strive to achieve a complete under- performance are not always clear or homogeneous, standing of the problems, contexts, advantages and the purposes and objectives of the social sector disadvantages present in the social sector. “cannot be priced at a profit”, and this means that in social sectors money is an input not an output. To most people the social sector presents more Thus success is defined by performance relative to challenges and disadvantages in the pursuit of in- a mission (Collins 2006). novation. Social sectors might appear clumsy and their leaders less decisive, but this will be true only Design thinking for social change can and should when the observers fail to grasp the complexity in draw lessons from its experience in the business governance and the diffuse power structures that sector and also from other methodologies seeking characterises them (Collins 2006). In order for for innovation. These learnings will enrich the design thinking to get ahead in the social sectors it discipline and improve the techniques and methods must adjust and adapt itself to the specifications of for a better, broader and more effective application. the sector and maintain open to further changes or However this approach must recognise the adaptations. 36
  • 36. think design change 37
  • 37. 5/8 discussion This chapter will focus on the second research question posited at the beginning of this paper - how can design thinking be applied to the achievement of positive social change? – with a focus on the practical applications through a summation and analysis of the data extracted from the primary research.
  • 38. think design change 5. Design Thinking in the Social Sectors Drawing from the information earned in the The first section will introduce the interviewee secondary research, the researcher defined a set of cohort and the criteria used for the selection of the eighteen questions to conduct six semi-structured sample, followed by the analysis of the four focus interviews with key actors in the industry. These points that emerged from the interviews. interviews aimed to explore the gaps between the theory and the actual practice of design thinking in the social sectors. 5.1 The Sample: How, Why & Who? The primary research sought to obtain differ- The rest of the cohort has been involved in ent perspectives of the sector emphasising the projects that aim to reinforce community cohesion interdisciplinary of the approach and its human through the implementation of services that ad- roots. The interviews seek to define how design led dress other needs or opportunities simultaneously. social organisations work, rather than engage in a narrowed discussion around design thinking for and The six semi-structured interviews were comple- by designers. Thus the researcher chose to focus on mented with informal conversations with service people currently involved in the industry and rel- designer Paul Sims from digital service designers evant to the approach and the aims of this research Made by Many, social design writer Kate An- in order to obtain high quality insights. drews from Greengaged and Project H, and social enterprise consultant in strategy and business The interviewees come from different backgrounds planning Christie George; as well as an exchange of and levels of expertise with varied methods and e-mails with Lucy Kimbell, Clark Fellow in Design insights. The chart in the following pages offers an Leadership at Said Business School, University of overview of the cohort emphasising the interdisci- Oxford; and Geoff Mulgan, Director of the Young plinarity in the design process for social change. Foundation, visiting Professor at University Col- lege, London, the London School of Economics All the members of the cohort are or have been and University of Melbourne as well as being the involved in design-led projects with the exception chair of Involve. of anthropologist Pia Hevia, whose input in this research goes beyond this remit by offering invalu- All the interviews were conducted in person with able insights into the understanding of the human the exception of anthropologist Pia Hevia and factors of design, thus helping to establish the link David Gravina since both reside out of the United between design thinking and social change. Kingdom. 7 For the complete structure of the interviews and questions see Appendix 9.1 39
  • 39. thinkers design changers
  • 40. Pia Hevia Jennie Winhall David Gravina Emma Southgate Daniel Dickens Ian Drysdale Anthropologist Product Designer Graphic Designer Furniture Designer Social Entrepreneur Fine Arts Current Consultant at Casa de la Senior Strategist at Founder/Creative Director Head of Members Propo- Managing Director at Head of Operations at Position Paz & The World Bank. Participle. at Digital Eskimo Design. sitions at Southwark Circle. Thikn Public. Southwark Circle. Area Theoretical Origins. Design Led Strategy. Design Processes. Service Implementation. Social Enterprise. Management. Background Pia Hevia’s experience in Jennie Winhall has David Gravina has spent Emma Southgate is Head Daniel Dickens works Ian Drysdale works the development of social worked as Senior Design fifteen years in the design of Members Propositions as a Managing Director overseeing the execu- services has gained her Strategist for RED at and digital media indus- at Southwark Circle. She at the Southwark Circle tion and implementation the opportunity of col- the UK Design Council; tries, building a career oversees the implementa- overseeing the general of services across the laborating in projects with previously she worked and portfolio that are tion of the services and activities and investigat- United Kingdom. He has the United Nations and as Project Leader for notable for their balanced research new opportuni- ing ways to escalate the been actively involved in the Chilean Government. Service Design agency contributions to both the ties for improvement and service across the United the creation of Alzheim- Her work with sociological live|work developing their commercial and activist develop new projects. Kingdom. er100, a project part of movements, the origin of core innovation methodol- domains. Dave estab- Her background is in Dickens’ previous work Designs of the time, a knowledge served as a ogy for Primary Care lished Digital Eskimo in Furniture Design however in South America as project that explores guide for this research of Trusts. Jennie’s work in 2001 with the intention she has been involved in a social entrepreneur how design can make a how experiential knowl- product design has won of creating social change social-led design projects includes the creation of positive difference to our edge is transforming the awards from the D&AD;, using sustainability during all her professional Help Argentina, a social daily lives. The project way we interact with the the RSA, Germany’s Red principles and the power experience. enterprise created to help aims to come up with world. Dot and the Australian of Design and digital to re-establish the stabil- creative solutions to the Design Association. technologies. ity after the financial crisis challenges presented by in 1999-2002. dementia. 41
  • 41. think design change 5.2 Emergent Themes During the course and upon completion of these between them, as they are all equally important. interviews and other primary research activities, it However some crossovers reflect how these themes became apparent that there were four distinct focus link together. areas that emerged as key themes. They are; A fifth finding became apparent through the lack i. Obstacles of design thinking terminology of detail, discussion and information provided by ii. Cognitive logic of design thinking the interviewees. This area relates to the measure- iii. Tools and focus of design thinking ment of the effectiveness in the application of iv. Reactive attitude of social sectors design tools and methodologies for social change. The lack of information captured during the pri- These four areas reflect the different concerns mary research suggests that there is an absence of around the application of design thinking for a rigorous ‘social case’ for design thinking. Given social change and will be explored in the following this goes to the heart of the third research question sections. The order they are discussed does not at- posited at the start of this paper, this finding will be tempt to establish any type of prioritisation discussed separately. Obstacles of design thinking terminology In recent years design thinking has gained impor- practice long before it became a design buzzword. tant supporters among the business leaders. This Working with RED she instinctively adopted a has helped it to break into the business strategy and design thinking approach when developing services be recognised as an effective driver for innovation for people with diabetes. Winhall outlines the im- in the private sector. However design thinking as a portance of having a critical posture for a designer practical approach has a long way ahead before it in order to develop genuine design thinking skills. is widely accepted and implemented in the social On her account, “design thinking is not about following a sectors. As a term the negative perceptions associ- trend but about assimilating the processes”. ated with it appear to be a constraint to its wider implementation in the social sector. A further demonstration of the discontent among scholars and design researchers is illustrated with The animosity obstacle Lucy Kimbell’s crusade against the belief that ‘IDEO can solve everything’. In revising her enor- The increasing animosity towards the term is due to mous contribution to the body of design thinking the heavily marketing-loaded discourses from ad- knowledge, it becomes evident to the researcherthat vocates proclaiming its authorship while disregard- design thinking is not an achievement by a single ing the origins of the concept. When asked about man or company, but a result of the contribution design thinking, most of the interviewees identified of multiple researchers, historical events and deter- the concept as the flagship of IDEO and yet added mined time frames. that the voice of IDEO’s CEO did not necessarily represent all things that they identified with. This ‘IDEO effect’ prompted the researcher to take a deep dive into the academic origins of design Jennie Winhall, senior strategist at Participle thinking and to explore the benefits and downsides expressed that design thinking was rooted to her of this reaction. 42
  • 42. think design change The confusion obstacle structing the interaction and exchange of valuable information between peers and disciplines. The different attempts to define this term and the dynamic nature of the concept generate an overlap The distrust obstacle of definitions. This in turn hampers the commu- nication across the community and prevents this As much as the term design thinking carries posi- approach from reaching new or better applications. tive values regarding creativity and innovation, it While this might represent a downside in some also implies unstructured methodologies and sub- aspects, it allows the concept to keep evolving and jective processes without well-established scientific adapting itself to new fields. support. This inevitably translates into risk. There is little certainty about the future of the dis- Hevia argues that this is due to occidental para- cipline and definitely none around whether design digms of the ways knowledge is generated and thinking is the correct expression or not. However - propagated. Traditionally knowledge is built by and paraphrasing Emma Southgate from the South- theorists in the ‘academia’ with a theoretical basis wark Circle - this definitional simultaneity prevents distant from the actual experience. She argues that professionals from interacting across disciplines in recent years this has shifted towards interdiscipli- and feeding their experiences and learnings back narist practices and qualitative research approaches in to the approach. For Southgate these “cultural rather than the hard quantitative characteristic of silos” generate loses in empirical knowledge among the natural sciences. practitioners. Winhall outlines the difficulty for design to break These silos became extremely evident during the into traditional business sectors. When Participle interviews. When asked about his design approach, approached Sky Media to propose a collaborative David Gravina from Digital Eskimo defined it as project targeted to the elderly population, it took a “considered design” based on a human-centred and lot of effort and openness from the multinational collaborative approach. Lucy Kimbell on the other to understand why quantitative data was not con- hand proposes a “design-as-practice and design-in- sidered at the epicentre of the development of the practice” terminology that is once again a similar project – not to mention a lot of bravery to accept but different definition. this approach without any previous experience. Anthropologist Pia Hevia expands upon this How this distrust affects the scalability of a design concern by observing that similar situations occur thinking approach in the social sectors (positive or in the world of social sciences, where the trend to negative) will be discussed in further depth in the specialise has divided the body of knowledge ob- conclusion. Cognitive logic of design thinking As established previously in this paper, design solutions to affect sustainable change. thinking is better understood through the actual experience of designing something. The empirical As Dave Gravina expressed in his interview; design nature of the approach represents another obstacle thinking - as experiential knowledge - is grounded to overcome in the social sectors. Traditional in the uncertainty of the processes and embraces bureaucracy, power structures and government the notion of being able to go forward in the policy-making processes provide a very inhospitable research process without clarity and without trying environment for the generation of truly innovative to define everything upfront. This contrasts with 43
  • 43. think design change traditional methodologies of the business and man- Paraphrasing Southgate, ‘it is about savings not agement disciplines that seek to define precisely the costs’. Since it is not a scientific process, it becomes expected outcomes before they commit with the essential to excel in the articulation of this argu- process and to control the potential risk `levels. ment to engage people in the process. This lack of scientific justification needs to be overcome Winhall, reflecting on her experience developing the in order for the process to follow its creative and community service Southwark Circle with the South- abductive path. wark Council and Sky Media, notes that the ad- vantages of this approach only became evident for The Southwark Circle is a membership organisa- the reticent people after experiencing the process; tion whose members stay sorted, connected and “Once they go through the process they convert to “lead the lives they want to live” (Southwark Circle it but it takes a lot of will and trust to embrace the 2009). It does this by introducing members to each uncertain nature of the process”, she reflected. other and local, reliable Neighbourhood Helpers. It receives support from Southwark Council to This suggests that the shift towards a design think- serve the people of Southwark. Southwark Circle ing approach still depends on subjectivities instead of was co-designed with people over 50 years old as concrete evidence that indicates the pros and cons well as their families and frontline workers, and of this methodology. was developed by Participle Ltd, and its partners at Southwark Council, Sky and the Department Daniel Dickens, Managing Director of the South- for Work and Pensions. The role and importance wark Circle, shares this vision and considers himself of storytelling skills become self-evident to make a ‘design thinking ambassador’ in the social sector. tangible the benefits of this process to those who Contrasting his experience in Help Argentina (a haven’t experienced it yet. This paper will return project instituted during Argentina’s economic crisis to this point in the next chapter by discussing the in the late 1990s and early 2000s), with his work in demystification of the collaborations between de- Southwark Circle, he recognises the advantages of sign thinking and social change and the value of the undertaking a design thinking approach to tackle storytellers in the propagation of this approach. social challenges. According to Dickens, the most appealing and idiosyncratic aspect of this approach The development of Southwark Circle is a perfect to the social sector relates to cost and time savings. example of how an abductive approach allows In his words, design thinking has the ability to people to tap into the right aspects and develop “allow to fail cheaply: this meets the needs of the services that are relevant to the community. Initi- often restricted budgets present in social sectors”. ated by Participle the project aimed to find alterna- Dickens also emphasises the need to demystify the tive solutions to improve the quality of life of the design thinking process by defining how it interacts elderly population. The project focused, as Winhall with the specific requirements of the sector. explained, on the capabilities rather than the needs of the target market. The design process privileged Design thinking in the social sector is about making the opportunities over the solutions resulting in a social innovation more effective and sustainable. service that not only serves practical needs of the 8 Participle worked with over 250 older people and family members generating insights into their hopes, fears, needs and aspirations. Based on these insights, over 50 ideas for new services were generated. They focused on a service that would create a rich third age, and redefined their proposition throughout 2008 and 2009, developing prototypes of the service and co-designing with older people and their families. A business case was developed and the project was granted with initial investment to built the service. The Southwark Circle launched in May 2009 (Source: Participle). 44
  • 44. think design change elderly but also reinforces the sense of belonging to is not limited to the finish product or service but the community. This rediscovery of the community can be applied to the way we perceive resources reactivates a sector of the population traditionally and design services. It also moves the focus from left behind and perceived just as recipients of high- traditional issues such as care generating a cultural ly costly services. The result is a combination of shift towards the process of ageing. public, private and voluntary resources to deliver a service that takes care of daily household tasks and The impact of this service goes beyond traditional also forges the participation of older people and ways of solving problems and proposes a method- reinforces their relationship with the community. ology that engages and challenges the community to reactivate themselves. By combining three different sources of financial but also reinforces the sense of belonging to the support, Southwark Circle generates a sustainable community and generates a cultural shift towards model that does not depend exclusively on the the process of ageing. government support and provides a meaningful so- lution the community can relate to. Their approach Tools and focus of design thinking Throughout the research process it became evident problems in the design process because this opens to the researcher the strong link between the meth- the possibility of reaching solutions that would not ods in design thinking and the perception of the be reached through traditional methods common in concept. Whenever somebody tries to define this management. There is a trend where practitioners approach the attention is directed to the human- across disciplines promote interdisciplinary teams centred focus, the iterative nature of the process as an tool for innnovation. However it is worth to and the prototyping tools. Despite this relationship, aims to provide different perspectives to a process design thinking is not necessarily wholly defined by the methods it utilises. As a contrasting example, in Dickens’ perspective of design thinking the tools play a bridging role that The approach is characterised by the intellectual ac- connects the intangible dimensions of the approach tivity behind the process; the ways of thinking, the with measurable tools to reduce costs and increase nature of the problems it deals with, the problem effectiveness. framing and solving processes and the logic behind the approach. In short, the underlying philosophy of On the other hand when Ian Drysdale from Think design thinking. Public described the approach of his organisation to tackle social challenges, he suggested that for When asked about the communalities between the them the role of design was more a means of com- anthropological and design thinking approach to munication tool that enabled them to transmit a social change, Pia Hevia emphasised the need for message in an easier and more appealing way rather “interdisciplinarity” in both practices as well as than a methodology. the use of ethnographic methodologies to collect relevant data for the design process. On Hevia’s From the interviewee cohort Winhall and Gravina account, what separates anthropology from the rest shared a holistic vision of design thinking that of the social sciences is the ability to see the world reflects a deeper and more profound understanding in a completely different way. She relates this shift of this approach that - to the eyes of the researcher with the ability of design thinking to integrate ab- - makes the difference between genuine design think- ductive thinking as a valid logic to frame and solve ers versus design thinking practitioners. 45
  • 45. think design change Tools and focus of design thinking On one hand the reactive pattern towards social The approach to the project was completely open and cultural changes has meant that the problem- and focused on the opportunities that could emerge solving process has been privileged over the from the discovery phase rather than the require- problem-framing stage. In other words; solution ments drawn from a brief elaborated by external instead of prevention. In the same vein design has actors of the community. Open prototyping (testing traditionally sought to find solutions that effectively a service that hasn’t being designed) followed the address the needs of the user or consumer or client. ideation phase and helped discover what people This has not changed despite the elevation of the wanted from the ‘x’ service. This also helped to discipline to strategic and management levels. identify those users who could (and could not) articulate their needs to ensure all the voices and However we are reaching a point where the solu- perspectives were considered in every stage of the tion oriented approach is no longer singularly valid. process as well as starting to (Winhall 2009). Financial collapses, social injustice, overpopula- tion, amongst other global social problems, have Instead of focusing on the common issues around accelerated the increase in the complexity of social elderly population such as healthcare, the strategy organisations leading to a recorded decline in com- of this project sought to switch from a merely munity cohesion and engagement. transactional service to a community generated and staffed service. It aimed to build a service that Nowadays design has to fight the status quo of the was relevant to people and subtly but effectively discipline that in Winhall’s words is “a hangover encourage them to take responsibility for their own from the 1950’s”. Winhall comments that fifty years life and needs. This shift also aimed to stimulate ago the concerns of design revolved around the suppliers to think differently about their offering improvement of services and products, while today and challenge them to push the boundaries to think it is more about design solutions that challenge differently about this segment. people to think differently about themselves and their environment. This approach focuses on people’s capabilities rath- er than their needs in order to provide sustainable The current state of societies and the environment and systemic change. From two different sides of has changed, keeps on changing and will change the spectrum, scalability and management, Dickens further more dramatically; we need to bear in mind and Southgate reflect on the different dimensions that regardless of whether it is positive or negative, of the impact of this project and both agree that social change is something that will occur inevitably. this will set not only a new paradigm around social It is our responsibility to steer it in a way that we services but open the way towards a cultural shift can benefit from. about worthy ways of ageing. This shift is well illustrated with the development As a side note during his last conference in TED of Southwark Circle. As previously described, this Global in Oxford (2009), Tim Brown from IDEO social and community platform aims to improve the pointed out this project as one of the three world- quality of life of the elderly population. The project changing current innovations. was co-designed by Participle, Sky Media and the Southwark Council during 2007/2008. 46
  • 46. think design change 5.3 Impact and Metrics of Design Thinking for Social Change “True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information” Winston Churchill One of the great achievements of the application intangibility of social change. However it must be of creative approaches to new disciplines beyond pointed out that the sample group included a wide engineering and design, has been the increase in variety of the roles involved in design-led ap- the efficiency of processes reflected in increase of proaches to social change (as illustrated in Figure 2). market value, productivity, and profit. These indica- This approach was chosen in order to get insights tors are a useful tool to measure the impact and from a wide range of different perspectives and therefore the effectiveness of the application of stages within a project. It also included three active design thinking. actors of the Southwark Circle pilot program in an attempt to compare their perspectives and thoughts This research aimed to define ways that design on the performance of the project. Hence, the thinking can be harnessed as an approach to surprise that clear and tangible evidence of social tackle social challenges and effect positive social impact measurement and the proof of a social case change. Therefore one of the main focuses for the was not encountered. researcher was to identify current measurement systems of the effectiveness and benefits of its ap- A perspective related to this topic offered by Daniel plication. Chapters 4 and 5 explored relevant social Dickens was that collaborative projects between theories such as social change and social capital to designers and social entrepreneurs are often as- provide a basis that supports the aforementioned sociated with high costs and long periods of time premise during the primary research. invested. Reflecting on his experiences as a social entrepreneur in Argentina and in his current role Although the researcher acknowledges the dif- in Southwark Circle, he argues that while the costs ference between sectors, she also recognises the appear high upfront, in the long run it represents importance of being able to show results in order an investment that saves money and improves the to engage people in this process. As Gravina puts performance of the services and the people manag- it; “to promote design as an important part of the ing them. sustainable shift that needs to occur, the best ap- proach is leading with examples”. However at this While the researcher does not doubt that such stage those examples constitute intermittent cases benefits will exist for many projects, the issue is the that do not greatly reflect a strong social case for apparent lack of evidence or capability to predict design thinking. with confidence the value - whether tangible or intangible - of these benefits. When asked about the advantages of a design-led approach to tackle social challenges all the intervie- While this paucity in the metrics of design thinking wees concurred that there is a natural fit between as a tool to achieve social change does not seem the two concepts. Nevertheless the measurement of a major concern to the interviewees, it became the use and the impacts of design thinking were ill- apparent to the researcher that design thinking defined and an unattended area in all the interviews. would benefit enormously from a well-defined measurement methodology. Even if this responds While conceding the intangible nature of both only to established design criteria, it would certainly concepts, this was a matter that came as a surprise enhance the effectiveness of its application and during the interviews given their level of exper- pave the way to scale the approach across the social tise in the field. This finding perhaps reflects the sector. intricate nature of the social sector and the upfront 47
  • 47. 6/8 conclusions & recommendations
  • 48. think design change The main conclusion drawn from this research reticence towards it. Contrary to the re- is that design thinking has tremendous po- searcher’s expectation, the term generated tential in the achievement of positive social mostly negative reactions. In discussions with change. This potential is great because the members of the design community prior to design process is so well adapted to handle the formal interviews, designers often referred unique and ill-defined problems. Design to the term with judgmental and negative at- methodologies are also extremely comfortable titudes and were quick to provide alternative dealing with great complexities. terminologies for what was still, in essence, a design thinking approach. The problems present in the social sector are the most wicked of problems: unique situa- This negativity is essentially triggered by tions with fuzzy goals and ill-defined briefs what the author calls the IDEO effect. The and multiple stakeholders that require a unique protagonist role of IDEO and Tim Brown approach. Design thinking is a reflective practice in the industry generates an almost automatic that integrates abductive logic to its problem rejection. While this is understandable in some framing and solving processes. This shifts respects, given IDEO’s claim of ‘inventing’ the focus of the process to the generation of design thinking; professionals and scholars alternatives rather than narrowing it to the must recognise the importance of the work of achievement of a specific solution. It also this company bringing the focus of attention allows the process to adjust to changing situa- to design and its potential in the application in tions and reflect on those changes to redefine different contexts. We could say that just like the objectives and make them relevant to its Kant became the face of the theory of knowl- context throughout the development of a edge during the Enlightenment; or Darwin project. is recognised as the father of the evolution theories and natural selection (without that Another reason why design thinking is such a meaning that they were the only actors and compelling fit for social change is the increas- researchers of those theories), IDEO’s ability ing complexity of social organisations and the to articulate in a very effective manner along cultural shifts triggered by globalisation. Social with good timing has transformed them in the organisations deal with multidimensional public face of design thinking theories. problems that require a multidisciplinary ap- proach without losing the focus on the human The dynamism of the design thinking ap- scale of the challenges. proach makes evident that design thinking is not a fixed approach tied to a specific However there are still several issues confront- definition, therefore the debate about the ing design thinking that currently prevent it term becomes irrelevant. The real risk in this from broadening its application across the argument is for those practitioners that - just sector. These issues are mainly rooted in the as IDEO - neglect the input of others and practice of design and not in the complexi- restrict themselves to language barriers and ties of the social sector. Thus it is a design become narrow minded and self-referential. challenge in itself to overcome these issues in order to open the discipline to other sectors The experience of the author suggests that the and also benefit from them. language barriers can be overcome through the achievement of a compelling understand- From the beginning it was evident to the ing of the concepts and streams behind this researcher that there was great controversy approach. This understanding enabled the surrounding the term “design thinking”. researcher to move comfortably across differ- While the term is widely known there is great ent terminologies without losing the focus on 49
  • 49. think design change the essence of the approach while still being on profession or background. This supports able to extract learnings and knowledge from the idea proposed by Kelley in 2009 that each of them. The researcher concluded that design thinking is a skill that can be learned. the focus of design thinkers should not be to However the level of expertise and knowledge establish a common language, but to enable of this approach will depend on subjective a fluent exchange of thoughts and ideas that abilities. matter among the community. In the experience of this research the only two Design thinking, as the term proposes, is a way design thinkers that emerged from the cohort of looking at things, a way of assuming a role were both educated in design. This supports in determinate context and interacting with the assumption that design thinking comes the elements in such context. This approach more naturally to those who are trained in the is not tied to any methodology further than a creative industries and are more used to gain cognitive process. As Jennie Winhall suggests, knowledge through empirical methods.. incomprehensible benefits of this approach become self-evident once that the person has Foremost for the author, it is essential to been through the experience causing a domino understand the elements that characterise the effect. However this experiential nature makes social sectors and separate them from the pri- it very difficult to translate the benefits into vate and business sectors. In social phenom- tangible elements that can be used to forecast ena there is no a single explanation or a right the social impact of its application. approach, rigid structures do not work in the social sciences (as they do in natural sciences). While there is a clear case for design thinking One of the most frequently made mistakes is to be applied to social change, the inability to to underestimate the importance of culture in forecast impacts prevents it from reaching a the social sectors. It is important to remem- broader audience and more extensive applica- ber that people, not users, inhabit the world. A tion. While the measurement of social change user is something that designers create to help is a paradigm in itself, design thinkers must them to standardise the needs and require- endeavour to build a model or social case to ments they aim to meet. Design thinking, as liberate design thinking from such constraints. any other practice attempting to alleviate social challenges must step out of its comfort zone Notwithstanding the participatory design and unload any possible baggage to be able to led approach has intrinsic value beyond the look at this new context with clean eyes. For outcomes. Also, there is value created through the researcher this reveals than more than a discovering what has not worked through an need of design, there is a need of methods iterative model that goes beyond the value and approaches to overcome the changing of any eventual design. These are harder to situations in the social sectors and design “measure”. Qualitative research may be able thinking is one alternative. to provide some idea of how a design process changed people’s perspective after the project The changes and shifts in the social paradigms is completed but again it won’t be as clear-cut are collectives and thinking of design thinking as impact measurement in other contexts. as an alternative rather than the solution allows design thinkers to embrace a truly multidisci- There is a clear difference between design plinary attitude and take part of a really collab- thinkers and design thinking practitioners that orative and multidisciplinary approach to the became evident through the development of social phenomena. Multidisciplinary teams and the primary research. Empathy and sensitivity collaboration become essential for design to towards the different situations do not depend move from intermittent cases of success to a 50
  • 50. think design change systemic approach that unleashes and leverage Even though this research comes from a per- the power of the global design community on sonal perspective the learnings and experienc- some of the world’s most intractable prob- es drawn from this process have enriched the lems. author’s vision and practice. The experience of doing design research has enlightened the These days it is not enough gathering in- researcher’s perception of what the goals and dividuals from different backgrounds and responsibilities of design are. Stepping out of work in collaboration, more and more it is the ‘design comfort zone’ and embrace the uncer- necessary to put ourselves in the shoes of the tainty of the process combined with accurate other (anthropology) to enable everybody to tools and the right guidance has proven to the understand the bigger picture and think dif- author that creativity is neither grounded in ferently, to allow fluidity of identity. Today more chaos nor in a serendipitous methodology but than ever it is evident that here is no point in can (and should) beneficiate from them. designing for people, the only way to achieve longevity of reflectiveness is designing with Having the opportunity to meet and interview people otherwise the end result will never be people from different backgrounds, cultures, relevant to those who it is aimed for. This and design practices that share a vision where mindset also helps designers to empathise with design is a means to improve the way people their team, to become a little bit of the other live, has meant a great encouragement for the person in order to reinforce the discovery researcher to keep exploring this vein. Design phase and to enable them to trust in the input must aim to address the need for happiness and other parties can bring into the projects. Sur- well-being audit from the level of a personal life prisingly, it came apparent to the author that to governments. If this thought process gains this sudden attentiveness towards multidisci- momentum and implemented in whatever plinary and user/human centred design only manner possible, policy decisions will have a reflects the previous absence of it even in the basis of people’s behaviours, psychology and design practice. sociology. Designers must think of ourselves as potential change agents rather than service In a more practical level, the scope of this providers becoming a trusted partner for those research proved to be a different type of that seek to shift from innovative projects to challenge to the author. However the correct real social innovation. choice of the tools to undertake this process alleviated the initial overwhelming sensation of too broad a scope and eased the learning process greatly. The author approached this research as a holistic project that made evident her design thinking skills and also tested them. The objective and expected outcomes of this research changed several times since the start of this paper. The chosen methodology (ac- tion-research) allowed the researcher to shape and reshape the research without compromis- ing quality or valuable time. This also reflected her designerly approach to research and enable her to feed back into the research the gained knowledge during the process. 51
  • 51. 7/8 bibliography
  • 52. think design change 7. Bibliography Aldridge, S., Halpern, D., Fitzpatrick, S. (2002) Contribution of Design : An Anthology of Papers “Social Capital, A Discussion Paper” Performance Presented to the Symposium at the Royal College and Innovation Unit Cabinet Office of Art, London, April 1976 Pergam. [Accessed online strategy/seminars/social_capital.aspx] Bourdieu, P. (1984) “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste” Translated by Richard Alexander, C., (1964) “Notes on the Synthesis of Nice, Harvard University Press. Form” Harvard University Press, U.S.A. Bourdieu, P., Coleman, J. (1991) “Social Theory for Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S., Silverstein, M., (1977) “ a Changing Society” Westview Press, Boulder, CO. A pattern language: towns, buildings, construction” Oxford University Press, U.S.A. Bousbaci, R., (2008) “The Models of Man in De- sign Thinking: The Bounded Rationality Episode” Alexander, J., Colomy, P.(1985) “Sociological Design Issues, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Theory” American Sociological Association Vol. 3, No. 2 Brown, T. (2006) “Innovation Through Design Thinking” Conference MITSloan, USA. Alpay, E.H. (1993) “Industrial Design in Develop- ing Countries: A Review of the Design Literature” Brown, T. (2009) “Change by Design: How Design Institute of Advanced Studies, The Manchester Thinking Transforms Organisations and Inspires Metropolitan University. Innovation” Harper Collins Publishers, NY Alpay, E.H. (1997) “Development Patterns of Brown, T., (2008) “Design Thinking - Thinking Industrial Design in the Third World: A Conceptual like a designer can transform the way you develop Model for Newly Industrialized Countries” Journal products, services, processes - and even strategy” of Design History, vol. 10, no. 3. Harvard Business Review. [Accessed online http:/harvardbusinessonline. Amir, S. (2004) “Rethinking Design Policy in the Third World” Design Issues, vol. 20, no. 4. jsp?ml_action=get-article&ml_issueid=BR0806&a rticleID=R0806&pageNumber=1&ml_subscriber Bargal, D. (2006) “Personal and intellectual =true&uid=24497469&aid=R0806E&rid=245847 influences leading to Lewin’s paradigm of action 79&eom=1] research” [Accessed online Buchanan, R., (1992) “Wicked Problems in Design tent/abstract/4/4/367] Thinking” Design Issues, 8. Bayazit, N., (2004) “Investigating Design: A Review Burns, C., Cottan, H., Vanstone, C., Winhall, J. of Forty Years of Design Research” Design Issues, (2006) “Red Paper 02: Transformation Design” MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Design Council [Accessed online Boland, R., Collopy, F., (2004) “Design Matters mt/RED/transformationdesign/Transformation- for Management” In R. Bolland, R and F. Collopy DesignFinalDraft.pdf] (Eds.) Managing as Designing. Standford University Press, Stanford. Casey, V., (2009) “On Design Thinking and Sus- tainability” International Design Liaison, Japan. Bonsiepe, G. (1977) “Precariousness and Ambigu- [Accessed online http://wwww.thinkdesignchange. ity: Industrial Design in Dependent Countries”, in com] J Bicknell, L McQuiston & ICoSoID Royal College of Art London (eds), Design for Need : The Social 53
  • 53. think design change Casey, V., (2009) “On Design Thinking and Sus- Berkeley. tainability” International Design Liaison, Japan. [Accessed online: [Accessed online http://wwww.thinkdesignchange. ft6000078s/] com] Hanifan, L. J. (1916) “The rural school community Christensen, C., Baumann, H., Ruggles, R., Sadtler, center” Annals of the American Academy of Politi- T. (2006) “Disruptive Innovation for Social cal and Social Science Change” Harvard Business Review [Accessed online http://hbr.harvardbusiness. Harper, C. L. (1989) “Exploring Social Change” org/2006/12/disruptive-innovation-for-social- Prentice-Hall. Englewood Cliffs, NJ. change/ar/1] IDEO (2009) “The Ripple Effect: Access to Safe Cohen, T. (2009) “Social Change is Hard Work” Drinking Water for Acumen Fund and The Gates Stanford Social Innovation Review Foundation [Accessed online [Accessed online ion/entry/social_change_is_hard_work/] item/ripple-effect-access-to-safe-drinking-water/] Collins, J., (2006) “Good to Great and the Social Kelley, D. (2009) “Design Thinking Can Be Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good To Learned” Business Week Great” Random House Business Books, UK [Accessed online http://www.thinkdesignchange. com] Collopy, F. (2009) “Thinking about Design Think- ing” Fast Company Kelley, T. (2005) “The Art of Innovation” Double- [Accessed online day, New York. blog/fred-collopy/manage-designing/thinking- about-design-thinking] Kelley, T. (2006) “The Ten Faces of Innovation: Strategies for Heightening Creativity” Profile Cross, N., (2006) “Designerly Ways of Knowing” Books, London. Springer, Berlin. Kimbell, L., (2009) “Design Practices in Design Cross, N., Dorst, K., and Roozenburg, N., (1992) Thinking” Said Business School, University of “Preface to Research in Design Thinking” Delft Oxford. University Press, Netherlands. Lauer, R. (1991) “Perspectives on Social Change” De Bono, E. (1999) “Six Thinking Hats” Penguin Third Edition, Allyn & Bacon, London. London. Lawson, B. (2006) “How Designers Think” El- Ferrante, J. (2006) “Sociology: A Global Perspec- sevier/Architectural Press, UK. tive” Sixth Edition, Thompson/Wadsworth, California. Lewin, K. (1946) “Action Research and Minority Problems” Journal of Social Issues, 2. Flusser, V., (1999) “The Shape of Things: A Phi- losophy of Design” Reaction Books, UK. Macionis, J., Plummer, K. (2008) “Sociology: A Global Introduction” Pearson Education Fraser, H., (2006) “Turning Design Thinking into Design Doing” Rotman Magazine Spring/Summer. Margolin, V. (2007) “Design for Development: Towards a History’, Design Studies, vol. 28, no. 2. Haferkamp, H., Smelser, N. (1992) “Social Change and Modernity”, University of California Press, Martin, R. (2003) “The Design of Business” Win- 54
  • 54. think design change ter, Rotman Magazine. Rittel, H., Weber, M., (1973) “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning” Policy Sciences, 4, Martin, R., (2009) “The Design of Business: Why 155-169. Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advan- tage” Harvard Business Press, U.S.A. Ritzer, G., Goodman, D. (2003) “Classical Socio- logical Theory”, McGraw Hill, New York Merholtz, P., (2009) “Why Design Thinking Won’t Save You” Harvard Business Publishing Saunders, M., Lewis, P., Thornhill, A. (2003) “Re- [Accessed online search Methods for Business Students” Prentice merholz/2009/10/why-design-thinking-wont-save. Hall, Harlow, England. html Schön, D. (1983) “The Reflective Practitioner: How Miles, M., Huberman, M. (1993) “Qualitative Data Professionals Think in Action” Basic Books, USA Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook” Sage Publica- tions, California. Simon, H, (1973) “The Structure of Ill-structured Problems” Artificial Intelligence, 4. Mulgan, G., Tucker, S., Ali, S., Sanders, B., (2007) “Social Silicon Valleys: What Social Innovation Is, Simon, H. (1996) “The Sciences of the Artificial” Why It Matters and How It Can Be Accelerated”, MIT Press, Cambridge MA. Said Business School University of Oxford [Accessed online http://www.youngfoundation. Smith, A. (1973) “ The Concept of Social Change: org/files/images/03_07_What_it_is_SSAID_.pdf] A Critique of the Functionalist Theory of Social Change” Routledge & Kegan Paul PLC, UK. Nussbaum, B., (2007) “CEOs Should Be Design- ers Not Just Hire Them. Think Steve Jobs and the Smith, M. K. (2000-2009). “Social Capital” Ency- iPhone” Business Week. clopedia of Informal Education [Accessed online [Accessed online innovate/NussbaumOnDesign/archives/2007/06/ social_capital.htm]. ceos_must_be_de/html] The World Bank (1999), ‘What is Social Capital?’ Papanek, V. (1984) “Design for The Real World: PovertyNet, Human Ecology and Social Change” Thames & scapital/whatsc.htm [Accessed online] Hudson, London. Tripp, C. (2008) “P&G Changes Its Game” Busi- Parsons, T. (1964) “The Social Systems” McMillan, ness Week. NY. [Accessed online] Portes, A. (1998) “Social Capital: Its Origins and Vago, S. (1989) “Social Change” Prentice-Hall. Applications in Modern Sociology” Annual Review Englewood Cliffs, NJ. of Sociology, Vol. 24 pp. 1-24. Weis, E. (2009) “Design for Social Wellbeing: Putnam, R. D. (1993) “Making Democracy Work: A Case Study of Normative Design Thinking” Civic Traditions in Modern Italy” Princeton Univer- [Accessed online sity Press, NJ. people/7275/posts/6442] Putnam, R. D. (2000) “Bowling Alon: The Collapse Woolcock, M. (2000) “The Place of Social Capital and Revival of American Community” Simon and in Understanding Social and Economic Out- Schuster, New York. comes” [Accessed online dataoecd/5/13/1824913.pdf] 55
  • 55. think design change websites World Bank “What is Social Capital?” [Accessed The Acumen Fund online World Bank - poverty/scapital/whatsc.htm] The Young Foundation Wyatt, J. (2008) “Design for Social Impact - What Does It Mean and Why Should We Care? NextBil- [Accessed online http://www.nextbillion. Participle net/blog/2008/06/23/guest-post-design-for-so- cial-impact-what-does-it-mean-and-why-sh]. Southwark Circle Stanford Social Innovation Review Think Public Think Design Change IDEO Designers Accord Harvard Business Review The D School Nussbaum On Design mOnDesign NESTA 56
  • 56. think design change 57
  • 57. 8/8 appendix
  • 58. think design change 8.1 Interview Structure 1. Interviewee Profile & Background. -Brief description of role. -Description of the organisation. -How did you get involved in this field? -What is the approach or methodology that you take? -Could you briefly describe one of your projects? (From the inception to the completion.) -What goals do you (or your organisation) seek to achieve? 2. Design Thinking & Social Change. -In your opinion how would you define Design Thinking? -What specific Design Thinking tools and tech- niques do you use in your approach? -How do you define Social Change? -Who are the stakeholders and beneficiaries of your work in the social sector? -How do you measure the social impact of your work? (KPI’s – SROI – Benchmarks – Intangible indicators) -What are the advantages and disadvantages of a design led approach to social change? 3. Challenges & Opportunities. -How is the application of Design Thinking to the social sector/initiatives different from other sectors such as the business sector? -What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you face with your design approach? -How would you describe the current status of the industry/field? -What are in your opinion the greatest achieve- ments in this industry? -What changes are needed to make design led ap- proach to social change more effective and scalable? 4. Open Question. -Is there anything you would like to add or find in the short and medium term that you think would improve your practice? 59
  • 59. think design change 8.2 Interview Cohort 1. Daniel Dickens works as a Managing Director at 3. David Gravina is the founder of Digital Eskimo the Southwark Circle overseeing the general activi- and currently acts as Principal and Creative Direc- ties and investigating ways to escalate the service tor. He has spent fifteen years in the design and across the United Kingdom. His career as a social digital media industries, building a career and port- entrepreneur began in Buenos Aires, Argentina as folio that are notable for their balanced contribu- one of the founding directors of HelpArgentina, tions to both the commercial and activist domains. an online giving marketplace that connects donors Dave established Digital Eskimo in 2001 with the and volunteers all over the world with innovative, intention of creating social change using sustain- high-impact social organizations in Argentina. ability principles and the power of Design and Dickens also worked with Zopa (UK) on designing digital technologies. new community-building initiatives for their social lending marketplace. 5. Emma Southgate is Head of Members Propo- sitions at Southwark Circle. She oversees the 2. Ian Drysdale is Head of Operations at Think- implementation of the services and research new public, the social innovation and design consul- opportunities for improvement and development tancy. A background in participatory art and open of new projects. She studied product and furniture source software development gives him an unusual design at Kingston University during which she perspective on how public services can open up and won the RSA Design Directions award for her become more collaborative. With the Alzheimer’s project designed for bereaved people under the Society, Ian has co-designed a service offering brief titled ‘Design for Debate’. Emma previously information about dementia and referring people to worked in the Design & Architecture department in local support services when they are diagnosed. the British Councils’ Arts team. 6. Jennie Winhall is the Senior Strategist at Par- 4. Pia Hevia works as a social scientist for Casa de ticiple. Until recently Jennie was Senior Design la Paz, a non-governmental organisation in Santiago Strategist for RED at the UK Design Council. As de Chile. Her experience as an anthropologist and part of an interdisciplinary team of designers, social ethnographer in the development of social services scientists and economists she developed a method- has gained her the opportunity of collaborating in ology for designing with end users and front-line projects with the United Nations and the Chilean workers to create new public services and delivery Government. models. Prior to Participle she was project lead Her insights as a social scientist external to the for Service Design agency live|work, who create design industry help the researcher to make evident user-centred, sustainable services for clients such as the human aspects of design thinking. Hevia ex- Experian, Norwich Union and the NHS Institute plored the sociological movements that originated for Innovation and Improvement. Jennie worked the discipline. The origin of knowledge and how with live|work to develop their core innovation it is built according to occidental paradigms served methodology for Primary Care Trusts. Jennie’s as an example for this research of how experiential background is in product design and psychology knowledge is transforming the way we interact with and her work has won awards from the D&AD;, the world. This interview was held in Spanish and the RSA, Germany’s Red Dot and the Australian for that reason it hasn’t been included in this appen- Design Association. Jennie has worked for design dix. However the content of it has been used as a groups in the UK, India, Australia and France. reference in anthropological matters. The sound file is included for further reference. 60
  • 60. think design change 8.3 Information Southwark Circle + think design change A membership organisation for older people, which + think design change is a blog about design thinking takes care of everyday worries and supports social and social change. This blog showcases examples networks. This project was developed by Participle of how design thinking is being used to combat during 2007-2009 and is currently working as a social challenges. The name was chosen from a pilot. A membership organisation whose members combination of words that were relevant to the stay sorted, connected and lead the lives they want content. to lead. It does this by introducing members to each other and local, reliable Neighbourhood Helpers. Cogito, ergo sum It receives support from Southwark Council to The very first instance of any project in any field serve the people of Southwark. Southwark Circle comes when we think and realise about the exis- was co-designed with people over 50 years old as tence of an issue, an idea that inspires us to take well as their families and frontline workers, and action, a motivation, a problem to solve, an oppor- was developed by Participle Ltd, and its partners at tunity that challenges our imagination… When we Southwark Council, Sky and the Department for think is when the magic starts… Work and Pensions. Southwark Circle is a social enterprise registered in the UK as a Community ‘Planning is everything, the plan is nothing’ Interest Company (CIC) Once we have chosen our opportunity or challenge we need to define how we are going to reach our For more information visit: target, who are the best people to team up with, the best tools to use… we need to design our strategy, to create a plan that will allow us to achieve our Alzheimer100 goals and discover the most effective way to do it and when. We need to design… Design of the Times 07 (Dott07) invited Thinkpub- lic to work with North East of England branches Change is inevitable of The Alzheimer’s Society, to investigate new Whenever we discover an opportunity that chal- methods for improving the everyday lives of people lenges and puts us in motion the most obvious con- with dementia, their carers and service providers. A sequence is to change. Whether it is the situation skill-sharing workshop was then held to train peo- or ourselves but once we have opened our eyes and ple with dementia in film-making and interviewing the curtain has been unveiled there is an inevitable skills. The emergent insights and ideas fed directly change in the course of the facts originated by into the design and facilitation of co-design work- ourselves. shops, and an emotional 18minute documentary film was produced. The investigative and co-design These are the three words that resonated the most process resulted in a number of recommendations in my head. They work back and forwards because for improvement, including a Dementia Signposting the only way to reach the change we look for is to Service, a Mentoring Programme for Carers and the design the solution for the problem we think there design of a safe “Wandering Garden”. Thinkpublic is. In today’s world we need to design to change continue to work with The Alzheimer’s Society to no longer the situation but ourselves. Design is the develop the Dementia Signposting Service. bridge between the ideas and change and think + design + change is a brief statement that presents For more information visit: the main points of my thinking and what I am aim- ing to achieve in a concise form. For more information visit: 61