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.

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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How can Design Thinking be applied for Social Change?

  1. 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. 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. 3. thank you!
  4. 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...
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  6. 6. how can design thinking be applied for social change?
  7. 7. abstract
  8. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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
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  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. 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. 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. 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. 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
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  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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 36. think design change 37
  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.