At the Institute without Boundaries, changing the change has meant
tackling local problems that have global repercussions, while also
speculating on global issues to devise frameworks within which local
agents can contribute solutions to those issues. Walking on both sides
of the line, from systems theory to generating examples and embodiments
of design innovation, the faculty and students fluidly interact with
experts to exchange knowledge, build ideas, test prototypes, and
formulate systems. Over the past number of years, this process of
experimentation has generated a number of insights on change that are
worth consideration, especially in the context of a world where global
forces connect and impact communities in the most unpredictable ways.
Here are some of our insights:
Sometimes, the world is good as it is and we don't have to change it as designers. Sometimes we need to stop trying to change the world and let it be.
Other times, the rapid pace of change demands that designers mitigate change, acclimatizing people so it becomes bearable, channeling it into a direction that is evidently beneficial all.
When inexorable change becomes dehumanizing, degrading, alienating or brings about conditions of injustice or inequity, designers can work with civil society to postulate alternatives, to dream alternative realities that society can adopt. Designers can change the change as they control the embodiments of change.
When rapid or massive change is needed to avert crisis or imminent extinction, the redesign and reinvention required may be too critical to leave to designers alone. In these instances, design needs to interact with science, sociology, economy, and politics to generate possibilities that ensure survival and open avenues of opportunity.
Working with students from diverse backgrounds in arts, design, business, science, economics, sociology and informatics in an environment without professional boundaries, where students, faculty, and visiting experts embrace challenges together has made clear to me the complex readjustments required of design methodology. This past year, we have been working on design solutions for sustainable housing for Guanacaste, a region in Costa Rica. How could we help from such a great distance? How could our inter-professional team generate relevant solutions? To address these challenges, we experimented widely, conducting extensive research, showing up in person to charrette, collaborating with other academic institutions, finding on-the-ground NGOs to stimulate, roping in experts local, national, and international, and even working with elementary school children. We learned that their problems were ours.
Experimentation, while not always successful, taught us how varied methods generate different design results. Knowing which approach may generate a particular result can empower communities, designers, and clients and if not to change their change, at least to guide it positively.