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THE POLLINATION OF BETTER FUTURES

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Ebru Boyaci Silvia Emili Pegah Mirzaei Salomè Santamaria Martha Lucia Sarmiento Ramos

Politecnico di Milano a.a 2010/11 Product Service System Design User and Social Innovation Teachers Pera Rebecca Morace Francesco


INDEX CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION.....................................................................................4 THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF DESIGN (TOOLS AND INTERPRETATION)......................6 A NEW FIELD OF DESIGN.................................................................................................9 A NEW ROLE FOR THE DESIGN..................................................................................10 A NEW ROLE FOR THE DESIGNER.............................................................................11 Working collaboratively with other parties..........................................................11 Shifting design attitudes from objects to systems and services........................12 Inspiring and stimulating other people towards social innovation................12 Generating methodologies.......................................................................................13 CASE STUDIES.................................................................................................................13 Case study 1: GAS Gruppo d’Acquisto Solidale.................................................13 Case Study 2: Aquarius...........................................................................................15 Case Study 3: A Roof for my Country....................................................................16 CONCLUSIONS AND CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE FUTURE..............................17 -2-


Today, in the big picture of our society, we are facing unusual challenges: growing poverty rates, an emergent inequality, unstable economies, a drastic change in climate, massive consumption and many other issues to struggle with. At the same time, technologies that we create by ourselves are getting more powerful on us than we expected while markets are suffering from crisis. The speed of the transform is faster than ever, and the needs of the people is increasing parallel to this change. These challenges may look frightening, but they also offer the right set of circumstances to look at old problems in new ways. These conditions offer precisely the right opportunity for social innovation to emerge. With all of this in mind, thinkers and practitioners alike are trying to make sense of the field of social innovation. What exactly is social innovation? What are the best ways to catalyze social innovation? Design is a discipline that has been developed mostly in the field of objects, now when we are facing a perspective where the future seems complicated and full of chaos, design has to overcome its old role and take the lead of driving a cultural and social change. Considering that the present is a “function of the future and the future unfolds several choices based on different “readings” of the present” (Ogilvy 27), we can say that design has a critical role giving communities tools related with innovation and creativity, empowered people not just with knowledge and methods, but also liberating the capabilities that a society can have to shape their future.

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CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION Creativity and innovation have a deep connection and in the case of design it will be necessary to consider them as principals whenever a solution is proposed. Creativity is the process that allows us to conceive novels visions of the world and innovation is the putting in practice of this vision proposing a radical new meaning. It is clear that the process needs actors, skills and a specific context to work, so let us start seeing these characteristics that make creativity what it is. Creativity is a part of human being. It can arrive even if the environment is not supportive and is full of constraints, as a matter of fact, these constraints can be the very source of the generation of new collective ideas. As it is stated in the CoDesign, creativity is a process not just individual, but it can be also achieved by a community. This process is called “collective creativity” and is characterized by “cooperation and leadership” (working together as teams), “distributed knowledge” (the sharing of the information concerning to the project), “relational qualities” (social interaction and trust, share commitment and accountability), “system thinking”, (seeing problems as part of an overall system), “direct interaction” (a direct approach with the community) and finally “organization and coordination” (the construction of the process to learn and reflect the strategies to achieve determinate goals). The concept of collective creativity is in a strong relation with social innovation in regard with its aims for the wellbeing of the community, the sharing and the concept of a true democracy that allows people to work for something bigger than just for themselves as individuals. According to Sternberg’s “The Investment Theory” creativity requires a confluence of some distinct. He also states that it can be taught with many studies that he made. This approach to creativity brings some characteristics that evidently foster the generation of creativity and what is interesting for us at this point, is that the need of design as an actor that might potentiates those qualities to be visible. Design can accelerate and facilitate the process for a commu-

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nity, giving a direction, an organization and enhancing the power of people. Regarding of advantages of is fundamental to see the potentiality of design in the growth of the process, but is also important to emphasize that, even if the environment isn’t supportive but full of constrains, design can also help to make evident the opportunities that arises from the context and act like a bridge to overcome constrains to transform the hole system.

CoDesign also suggests some bottom-up creative outcomes that are particularly found in collective creativity. One is that creativity can be seen as a process that solves specific problems (contextualized and shaped for specific cultures). Other is that creativity can be seen as a process that enables a person to express him/herself, all this in a bigger frame of a participatory system. The last is to see creativity as a process that provides platforms that provide metaservices to stimulate and facilitate collaboration; these platforms are the most important elements to conceive novel visions. We can say that these characteristics that are own by the collective creativity and achieved by the “synergy of many� are principally facilitated by design and the knowledge that it can provide to construct the process, with specific methods that orient the solutions to imagine better opportunities of growth.

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THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF DESIGN (TOOLS AND INTERPRETATION) At this point we have seen the main features of creativity underlining the importance of design as a tool for collective creativity, to go deep in this statement we will bring two books to our study the first is 2005 book Design driven Innova-

tion by Roberto Verganti and the second is 2002 book Creating Better Futures by James Ogilvy . These two texts will show in a clearly way which kind of methods and tools can be proposed specifically by design. Innovation fostered by design seems to be a shared point of discussion in the books. In “scenario planning”, innovation is the desirable result of the proposed methodology and the social creativity; using these two factors is the only way to reach it, to “think bigger” better futures. For the vision of Verganti, innovation is a strategy for industries, but more important is to understand that for this author the concept of “radical innovation in meanings” is one of the main components of design driven innovation. Although innovation can be a result or a strategy its importance is evident, innovation is a different way to see things in same contexts, that makes products (whether if they are objects, services or scenarios) to be noticed for customers and communities. Both, the Creation of Better Futures and Design Driven Innovation need actors in order to function. In the first case the “actor” is communal creativity that is compound by citizens (communities and individuals as a small unit of analysis of culture) and “imaginators” (experts or specialists). The interaction between these two actors is what makes possible to have many views and articulate different scenarios among which people can choose and create a sense of ownership.

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In the second case the actors are mainly the interpreters (people that belong to cultural production) whom constitute the “keystone of the process” because they share the need of answering the same question that industries pursuit to solve and have the seduction power (an ability to influence markets) and managers (business people – top executives) that are finally those who make big decisions, showing in them their personal culture. In the two cases is clear that some experts are needed, because they know the specific context and give more interesting choices; the wider their professions or points of view, the better options will result. Maybe in the second case community appears more passive but still fundamental. What is most interesting here, is that in both books is expressed the need of trust and sense of mission or generosity that must be always implied to work in teams and second, the value of relationships that are what make possible to have this wider and complex palette of interactions among different kind of people with different beliefs and backgrounds; here we can interpret that these specialist or actors are Designers, professionals that have the knowledge and the experience to fulfil the goals pursued in the process with methods and tools that allow communities to achieve the goals in the construction of new scenarios and innovative solutions. In Design Driven Innovation a method called “design discourse” is introduced as an external research process related closely with interpreters (designers) that aims for understanding the way people give meanings to things. The first step is Listening, which is accessing to knowledge by understanding and attracting multiple key interpreters that are immersed in a common Design circle ; these people can transfer languages and meanings across industries. Here the text makes a distinction between two kinds of interpreters: Brokers that provide knowledge about meanings, and Mediators that give access to other interpreters. The second step is Interpreting, which is the process that a company uses to create its own vision and proposal using research and explora-

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tion, and for this a Specific Design Direction Workshop is purposed. The third step is Addressing, which is make proposals more meaningful and attractive to the market, this step is related to the understanding of the changes of new sociocultural paradigms that also change market behaviours. This addressing is achieved by leveraging the seductive power of interpreters to influence context, what allows companies first to have cultural prototypes and second to protect their own vision of competitors. On the other side Creating Better Futures proposes “scenario planning” as a tool for creativity that is carried by specialist (designers) in different fields, but that always involves communities. Here the text introduces the methodology in a very synthetic and practical way. The first step is to define the problem that is affecting a particular company, community, country or industry. The second step is taking a group of people (1525) to “brainstorm” a long list of key factors and environmental forces that might influence the outcome of the focal issue. In this point is emphasized the importance of having a diverse group. The third step is to settle on a small number of scenario plots, from two to five. We must have in mind that the author pursuits to have not just one, but lots of scenarios in order to have options of better futures. The fourth step is return to the long list made in the second step and give relevant content to stories of that list. Since every scenario has a story with a beginning, middle and ending, to work in this step (from the authors’ perspective) will take two days of scenario workshop. The fifth step is take a smaller team and undertake the task develop the scenario outlines into narratives, with several thousands of words each. This step demands research and knowledge; will take at least one month to have well-written and well-researched narratives. The last step is to define and redefine the scenario with another workshop with a larger team that involves the community affected by these scenarios; this step is crucial to correct errors, supply missing elements and modify directions of the possible narratives, and on the other hand plan the strategy that would be appropriate to face these scenarios, in the words of the author plan “strate-

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gies for all seasons�. After list the steps of each process and give a little explanation of them, we can find some similarities. First, even if the aim of the two processes is different (because one searches meanings while the other solves problems) both, as we saw before, need of many informed actors to start; is fundamental to have diverse professionals that are well informed in research and most of all, that are immersed in the particularly context of the issue that is investigated. We can also notice that interactions between those professionals are presented in the two cases through workshops. Second, there is a shared idea of giving logic to proposals or scenarios developed, in one case the idea is to give real meanings and in the other, is to create a coherent narratives; this exalts the importance of caring about the desires and hopes of customers and communities. Going deeper we can infer that these two characteristics mentioned (the need of specialists and the creation of different narratives and meanings) are actions that must be done mainly by designers because they have the knowledge, experience and tools that can drive a community from the present to a futuristic Scenario.

A NEW FIELD OF DESIGN In the times that we started to need new ways of living and producing it is also possible to talk about a need for new ways of designing. We are living in a world that filled with amazing devices and systems, but as John Thackara points out in his 2005 book In The Bubble we started to miss the point of meaning by stopping to ask an important question: "What is this stuff for? What value does it add to our lives?" (Thackara, 2). As the name of his book also refers, this is not a simple world to understand anymore, this is a complex world where it is no longer possible to solve our everyday life problems through technology or objects which are designed by third party entities who are not exactly facing the same problems or from the same perspectives.

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It might be still possible to produce temporary solutions for our daily life problems with traditional ways that we got used to. But while change is too fast and continuous, it is inevitable for them to be short term than ever. For permanent solutions which will come with a new way of living, a new system of producing and a new model of economics, we need more sustainable methods based less on technology and objects and more on people (Thackara, 4) which is still a focus point hard to control but easy to move with, wide and flexible.

A NEW ROLE FOR THE DESIGN The new era of social innovation is already started by a group of creative people as we can understand from many case studies of collaborative actions. Under the light of his in-depth research on the field and findings about many cases developed by “creative communities” who are described as “groups of individual citizens thinking out of the box” and “exploring new structures of civil society” (Meroni, 5), Ezio Manzini points out the tendency of social innovation is towards sustainability in the last years (Jegou and Manzini, 25). This social innovation, focused on sustainable development, as observed within the creative communities suggests a different organization of our everyday lives. Now it’s more visible to see that “design is basic to all human activities—the placing and patterning of any act towards a desired goal constitutes a design process” as Thackara quotes from Victor Papanek (Thackara, 1). While a group of active people, acting towards designing, developing and growing new ideas that work to meet pressing unmet needs, the function of design is “to support these innovation processes catalyzing social resources and orienting them towards sustainable directions” (Manzini, 1).

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A NEW ROLE FOR THE DESIGNER In this new field of design which “lies at the crossroads of social innovation and design for sustainable development” (Jegou and Manzini, 25), a new and different role for the designer emerges. While the knowledge and the expertise that the designers have are still needed, there is also still a need for products in product-service systems. On the other hand, it is no longer enough and designers requires to widen their perspectives towards to see beyond the product.

Working collaboratively with other parties In parallel to change of system, designers have to change the way they position themselves within production and consumption systems. In fact, in this new era, systemic changes are driven by a growing number of actors who, as a whole, generate wide and flexible networks that collaboratively conceive, develop and manage sustainable solutions. In this new context designer is more like an expert who has to be able to collaborate with a variety of interlocutors, but making interactions with them in a “peer-to-peer designing networks: the emerging, interwoven networks of individual people, enterprises, non-profit organizations, local and global institutions that are using their creativity and entrepreneurship to take some concrete steps towards sustainability.” In these designing networks, professional designers must consider themselves as active members of these emerging networks, contributing with their own competences to improve these same networks overall design capability.

Shifting design attitudes from objects to systems and services In the new framework, designers must move from the product-oriented design culture of last century, “towards a systemic approach where the focus is on the interactions: the mutual relationships among people, things and places” (Manzini, 8). At this point, John Thackara promotes a change from the "product"

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perspective, which has the physical artifact in mind, to the "services" perspective, which focuses on people and the ways they use products and services (Thackara 18). As part of shift from objects to services; designers also have to accept that the “objects” to be designed are “a complex mix of material and immaterial systems where products, services and people are highly interconnected in oftenunprecedented ways” (Manzini, 8). Even if this approach looks a little bit tricky at the ends, it has its own advantage to be sustainable as a solution: due to the fact that human interactions comes with a great flexibility against possible future problems and in this way it will be far more error-friendly by its nature comparing to other contexts. It is no longer possible for designers to be responsible of only the shape, aesthetics or function of a product. Designers need to take into account “the hidden history” of products which is described “an undocumented inventory of wasted or lost materials used in its production, transport, use, and disposal” (Thackara, 12). In this context a product needs to be considered within a system where it is produced, packaged, distributed, and consumed. In this complex world, the role of design is understood to be more about process than product, more about systems and services than about surfaces and packages, more about work to do than things to buy.

Inspiring and stimulating other people towards social innovation Creativity is not just for the ones who learned how to design, it is a part of human nature. It is only not easy to notice since many people don’t have a chance to show it if there is no need for “changing existing situations, into preferred ones” (qtd. in Thackara, 12). As all the case studies also show us, people by are all naturally creative who actually doesn’t need to be directly lead by designers in the case of creativity. Instead of this, designers should think about how to activate this natural resource of social creativity and how to use it efficiently.

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Generating methodologies The collaborative and innovative social activities of sharing, exchanging, pooling together goods and services in the last years, “require time, organization and flexibility” (Manzini, 25). Keeping this attraction permanent for these new moves and spreading these services ask for more; the need of making them quality, practical, within reach and malleable according to user imperatives and the different contexts in which they arise. At that point, designer needs to create a strategy which aims to make the local services created by some active individuals applicable for bigger scales and to accelerate the diffusion of the services to bear the promise of new and more sustainable lifestyles.

CASE STUDIES Nowadays many cases of spontaneous social innovation are present all around the world, supported by “creative communities” and these bottom-up initiatives are clear examples of a “diffused creativity”. Here we talk about onthe-field creativity because it is triggered by real context of needs, resources and capabilities. To make more evident the increase of social innovative cases and the need and the purpose of designer and the role that they develop we will bring a couple of case studies from two different parts of the world. Case study 1: GAS Gruppo d’Acquisto Solidale (Group-Purchasing Organisation) Gruppo d’Acquisito Solidale (GAS), initiated in 1994 and still developing, consists of a group of people with the same beliefs in sustainable and ethical consumption that decided to collectively buy large quantities of essential basic products such as pasta, olive oil, from small local producers and distribute it among themselves.

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While conventional models of purchasing food do not show how it is produced and distributed, or give any guarantees of respect for human rights and the environment, with this new system, shopping is both cheap and convenient, and provides the satisfaction of knowing where the products come from, that they’re supporting small producers of quality products and respecting fair trade by paying the right price. People are involved actively rather than being passive consumers. There is no additional cost for packaging or advertising products and logistics are optimised. The group meets regularly to decide which producers best fit their selection criteria of benefiting both producers and users. A list of products and quantities is organised and, based on this, the group orders the products directly from producers. GAS is an informal association, with members doing their part voluntarily without a specific set of rules, but with responsibility and with respect for others. Also inside the groups, all the processes and developments are discussed in a relaxed atmosphere, with all opinions considered. There is no strict organisational structure, and it runs on a family-friend basis, where all the costs are shared evenly and accordingly. Members place their order through email/ phone and pay in cash. On society the benefit of being together with friends in a relaxed atmosphere, discussing which product to buy that fits the group’s objectives of avoiding exploitation, and being high quality and of known origin, generates a feeling of satisfaction. The small number of people in each group makes communication easier. The environmental impact is also important. There is less packaging waste, less need of energy for cooling and freezing (food is fresh and seasonal) and less pollution from delivery, as the products are bought in bulk. Some of the products are organic so benefit the ecosystem.

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Case Study 2: Aquarius (Social Elderly Community) Another example of innovative solutions made by a creative community and supported by design is Aquarius, a social elderly group of people of age 55+ who live in a resource-sharing community suited to their diverse needs and lifestyles. In 1984 a group of elderly people who did not feel comfortable living alone, but even less comfortable living in a home for the elderly, took the initiative to establish a community for the elderly in Eindhoven (Netherlands). It was a solution for the elderly people who were living on their own and feeling lonely and insecure in need of a housing environment that was better adjusted to the needs and wishes of their age. Aquarius is a community where elderly people spend their days in a socially active environment. About 45 older people live there and each couple has their own private home and garden, but also uses a communal space and large communal garden. The inhabitants help each other out as much as possible. A committee organises the community: one of its tasks is to select new inhabitants. People can apply if they are aged between 55 and 65, to make sure there is always a mix of younger and older residents. The founders of the community initially spent a lot of time investigating positive features of other senior communities to implement in their own. Since it started in 1990, not much has changed, except for the arrival of a few newcomers and small practical improvements to the community. The inhabitants rent their houses from an Eindhoven housing society, which owns the buildings. They also share the rent of the communal area. Committee work is voluntary. The main garden is maintained by a gardener paid collectively. The benefits are clearly visible on society, on the environment and on an eco-

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nomical level. Living in Aquarius encourages active social contact and helps keep inhabitants’ lives as meaningful as possible, in a safe, friendly environment. Members probably remain active and independent for longer and the need for nursing of senior citizens is reduced for society in general. Helping neighbours and living close together engenders a feeling of safety and being cared for. Aquarius encourages the distribution of giving and receiving aid over the retirement years. As most of the activities take place within Aquarius, transport intensity is minimized. The economics of Aquarius are comparable to normal life. Inhabitants rent a house and the activities are organised voluntary by fellow inhabitants. Mutual co-operation saves money for the people and social activities are affordable. Case Study 3: A Roof for my Country (Social Helping Community) “A Roof for my Country� is an American project that was born in Chile in 1997, when a group of university students felt the need to work on the extreme poverty that affects millions of people who live in slums. The project aims to improve the quality of life for Latin-American families living in poverty through emergency housing and implementation of social empowerment plans in a joint effort between universities, volunteers and these communities where all members can have adequate housing and access to opportunities to improve their quality of life. In Colombia the project has built emergency housing. To achieve this, the project proposes the commitment of all taking an active role in transforming the reality by enhancing not only houses, but also a more just society. "A Roof for my Country" seeks to reduce the level of vulnerability and social exclusion that families living in extreme poverty have, the strategy focuses on mobilizing physical, human and social capital that each community has. This is done through the establishment of a Working Group, a regular meeting between residents of the settlements, volunteers and others who are organized to

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work on community issues. The project has four different parts. With "Education plan", each person in the settlement can increase their education and improve their interpersonal relationships with others in their community. With "skills training" people can transfer knowledge, skills and attitudes that may allow the exercise of an activity or a job. "Microcredit" provides training and makes a loan for working capital. The combination of these elements aims to promote the development of entrepreneurs capable of creating and maintaining a profitable business that serves as a mainstay in the economic stability of the community. "Health plan" seeks to improve and facilitate access by families of the settlements to the national health system by strengthening links between local networks and people. The idea of this program is to potentiate the capabilities of the community empowered each one of its members so they can be sustainable and function in the future without any external help. Design put the tools on the table providing resources that people can use to keep improving his way of life every day. What we can learn from these cases is that they are innovation of local systems, challenging traditional way of doing things. In each case some design challenges emerge: for GAS a multi-channel and multi-media communication platform to connect better producers and consumers might be created; for Aquarius communal spaces in the building would be helpful to organise more activities together.

CONCLUSIONS AND CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE FUTURE Creativity has always been present in human-beings, and the initiatives, the ideas and the need of change that make a group of people to move from one point to another will remain with the humanity. Now the difference is this creativity is more collaborative and this collaboration is more apparent to see. It is time for design to take advantage of this situation and to be the part of the com-

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munity as catalyst of this innovative movement instead of being “the designer” of the objects. The current situation represents a challenge for a designer’s point of view: we have the necessary technological support that we can exploit but we need to transform these potentialities into action, changing the perspective to a community-centred design and solving problems bottom-up. Design experts must use existing competences and design skills to recognize and support the promising cases, making them stronger, visible and replicable. Design can encourage and help creative communities to build an overall framework that works balancing demand arising from different living contexts and people’s ability to deal with them. The challenge is to forget our old discourse and to design for services, especially in shared spaces with communities that face different kind of socio cultural problems; communities that need, not just several options to choose a better future, but also need to be involved in this process of creation. We, designers, need to develop a deeper commitment with our profession and people that are involved in our context, having as principle a clear sense of social responsibility and consciousness; we have the incredible opportunity of shape a better world and live in it.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Hamilton, Clive. Consumerism, self-creation and prospects for a new ecological consciousness. Journal of Cleaner Production 18 (2010) 571–575. Jegou, François; Manzini, Ezio, Collaborative Services: Social Innovation and Design for Sustainability. Milano: Polidesign, 2008. Manzini, E., “Design and Social Innovation: A Catalyst of Sustainable Changes”. in DIS; DESIS Network (http://www.desis-network.org), 2011. Meroni, Anna., Creative Communities, People Inventing Sustainable Ways of Living. Milano: Polidesign, 2007. Ogilvy J., Creating Better Futures. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Pera Castagnone. CoDesign-Local creativity and community development, Scholarone Manuscripts. Sternberg, Robert J., The Nature of Creativity, Tufts University Creativity Research Journal 2006, Vol. 18, No. 1, 87–98 Thackara, John. In the Bubble, Designing in a Complex World. London: The MIT Press, 2005. Verganti, R., Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2009.

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The pollination of better futures