Posts Tagged social responsiblity

DMI 2008 Remix Conference – A Social Contract for Design Thinkers

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DMII was inspired to see our industry leaders go out of their way to volunteer their time and skills to improve a system for the benefit of all, just as Marcia Lausen and Susan Verba have done in their Design for Democracy campaign presented at the DMI Remix conference in October. Their presentation on redesigning the 2008 presidential ballot illustrates that, as design leaders, we not only have the ability but also a duty to facilitate the communication process beyond day-to-day client demands, to causes bigger than ourselves.

The intensity of the participants at DMI certainly demonstrated no shortage of passion for good design. What is more, it isn’t hard to find poorly designed processes, products or communications against which to leverage this passion. Like Susan’s approach, it is a matter of selecting an issue that your experience and knowledge could best benefit from and then just diving in. For me, improving wellness, the healthcare experience and medical technology are areas in which I have found endless design holes in desperate need of emergency care.

I discovered at a lunch during the conference that Darrel Rhea from Cheskin also has taken the healthcare issue to heart. Several years ago, after giving a lecture at the Harvard School of Design, Darrel was introduced to and became involved with a group calling themselves “The Collaborative at MIT” which has a goal of taking on large social issues through design thinking. As their first area of focus, this group chose to tackle the issue of stroke treatment. By re-conceptualizing the stroke victims, caregivers and the healthcare institutions as an ecosystem, over the last three years they have been able to create real breakthroughs in the redesign of the model for care.

The greatest challenge is not coming up with the ideas but rather to get the system to endorse and integrate the seemingly obvious improvements. Like many visionaries, both Susan and Darrel have beaten their fists against institutional walls, and on occasion brute force and a very squeaky wheel worked. However, the Collaborative found that enrolling industry superstars and thought leaders have made the pill of change a bit easier to swallow. With the support of luminaries from leading hospitals, stroke treatment centers, government institutions, insurers, and corporations, progress is starting to be made which could translate into thousands of lives saved every year. Buoyed by that success, the Collaborative is now embarking on yet another important cause: childDMI Remixhood obesity.

Despite the seemingly endless list of next projects to which you can selflessly donate your precious time, there is respite in that you do actually get something out of it. Flexing your design-thinking muscles for the greater good serves to reinforce and deepen your understanding and value of the process itself. As Darrel puts it, “getting involved in this project has shown me how scaling up design thinking really can help solve the world’s problems, and at the same time makes me a better practitioner on less grandiose daily work.”

Without a doubt we do have the ability to make a difference. We have the obligation and must muster up the motivation and carve out the time. Perhaps applying some design thinking to your own interests and then mapping causes to them will light the path to solving a social issue.

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