The second catalyst was the release of the 2018 IPCC report on the state of climate change. The tone of the warning was alarming: Cut carbon pollution as much as possible, as fast as possible, and keep doing so until we reach net zero carbon. Or keep doing what we are actually doing now – on a household, community, civic, national and global-political level – and face dire consequences.
At the global level, without intervention, man-made climate change will impact virtually every species on the planet. It is predicted that sensitive forest ecologies will be altered dramatically until some are unrecognisable.
Polar bears will lose their habitat, and breeding and feeding grounds for countless creatures will disappear or change forever.
Given the nature of the impact and the breadth of species who will feel it, could it be time to ask whether being ‘human-centred’ is the right approach to solve such a human-made problem?
ThinkPlace recently held its inaugural Methods Jam. This global event brought together our designers and studios across five countries. It provoked us to design new and improved approaches, frameworks and methods to tackle the complex and challenging work we do with clients all over the world each day.
WATCH THE MINI DOCUMENTARY ABOUT OUR 48-HOUR GLOBAL METHODS JAM
One discussion point was whether human-centred is the right framework for tackling problems that – in part – arise from humans’ overwhelming sense of their own centricity. As we continue our stated goal of designing better futures and ‘shifting the needle’ on the Sustainable Development Goals it is an interesting discussion to begin.
The good news is that design thinking, with its tools and mindsets, remains the best approach that is likely to help us. It involves a bias towards action and requires prototyping to test in complex system dynamics. It can broker a multitude of methodologies, innovations, and behaviour insights to produce meaningful change.
At ThinkPlace we continuously learn and build on our models from our experience as co-designers, human-centred designers and designers for positive change. Founding Partner John Body has spoken often in recent times of being ‘humanity centred designers’. It’s a small but critical distinction that offers different potentialities for the future.
There are so many other exciting planet-centred models to explore, adapt and put into practice, such as the circular economy model (an industrial system that is restorative by design) and Kate Raworths’ Doughnut economic model (which proposes safe and just spaces within our social and planetary boundaries). Other available models draw from behavioural and cognitive sciences, communication and big data.
We are told we have twelve years before climate change results in the global warming of 1.5 C. We continue to witness the propensity for humans to ignore tough problems [Spinoff wrote a great article about our cognitive dissonance). Given that human-centred designers have the skills and tools to grapple with complexity, perhaps it is time to move to practicing planet-centred design, supercharging our bias towards action, to become a bias towards urgent action.
We would like to thank Billy Matheson for being the gentle leader of the Design for Social Innovation symposiums, to the people who shared their approach to making a positive difference to the world: Gael Sturgeoner from Auckland Co-design Lab, Dr Ingrid Burkett (TACSI) and Dr Prendergast-Tarena (Te Tapuae O Rehua) and Adithi Pandit (Deloitte) for posing critical questions that need answering; and all the participants who contributed to the conversations, ideas and learning. Thank you for challenging us to tackle the difficult issues and motivating the design community to question how we sustainably create better futures - one that considers both humans and the ecology we’re part of.
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