A number of years ago when I started my PhD I read an article first published in 2002 by Jonathan Chapman called System failure: Why governments must learn to think differently. What Chapman’s article reminded me was that the failure of government policies can have roots in incorrect assumptions, poor processes of policy development and that the prevalence of mindsets that impede innovation. It also highlighted that systems thinking offers an opportunity to explore policy in a new light.
My PhD explored ecodesign interventions and questioned why after lots of government interventions there was apparently little ecodesign happening in industry. This PhD was strongly informed by the innovation systems literature and I presented evidence systems failure in relation to ecodesign in SMEs. I unpicked the logic behind existing government interventions and then developed a framework through which government can design interventions based on a systems perspective.
I finally handed in my PhD last week and so this week I have been reflecting on my original motivation for starting in the first place. When I started I was mostly interested in understanding why small companies struggled to do ecodesign. I also wanted to understand why this situation hadn’t seemed to change after many years of government interventions to encourage/enable/facilitate/promote/etc. ecodesign in different countries around the world.
I chose to explore this issue by investigating the ‘structural’ issues of how ecodesign happens in companies and the interaction between ecodesign practice and the wider ‘innovation system’. This research provided some interesting insights into how governments develop interventions and I made some suggestions how these interventions could be changed in the future (for better or worse). I will share some of these findings after my viva next year!!
Through investing in design Welsh Industry can contribute to a more sustainable society. This is best evidenced through looking at businesses designing products with more innovative features and reduced environmental and social burden. One such example is Orangebox, a Welsh furniture design company with whom the Ecodesign Centre have worked closely since 2007. Orangebox are a sustainability focused and design-led business whose innovative products are multi-award winning. Orangebox as a business are committed to investing in ecodesign which considers the full life cycle impacts of products and processes (from raw material extraction to end of life treatment).
Different materials need different waste treatment approaches, some are only reusable and not recyclable, others are not suitable for energy recovery but can be recycled through reprocessing.
This is the first in a series of briefings I am writing, under the theme ‘Materials Matter.’ The briefings are linked to my PhD research with Orangebox, which is based on the role of materials in design and innovation processes.
Read the full research briefing on Orangebox’s website here
I presented at Business In The Community’s annual Mayday Summit last week. The key message I wanted to communicate was the value of creativity, through design and innovation, in delivering a Zero Waste Wales. The evolution of Orangebox’s product portfolio clearly demonstrates design as both a tool and a strategy for waste reduction across the lifecycle of a product.
I attended the 5th Nordes Design Research conference last week at Aalto university in Helsinki . The theme for this years conference was “Making Design Matter!”. This was a very interesting conference and provided me with some insight into the quality and direction of design research across Nordic countries.
I gave a presentation titled “Integrating sustainability in a regional design sector” based on a short exploratory paper I wrote a number of months ago. The paper provided some analysis and insight on experiences of setting up E:DN. The audience for the paper was predominantly policy makers and was informed by my wider PhD research.
Recently I came across a TEDx video on empathy which really struck a personal chord, bringing me back to a subject that particularly intrigues me – empathy. During the talk Sam Richards asked the audience to take themselves out of their shoes and put themselves in the shoes of someone else. I found it quite powerful – have a look and see what you think.
While I admit I can be impatient and I do struggle with my listening skills, empathy is something that has intrigued me for a long while. I would argue that a true understanding of each other and nature is key to ecodesign. This is not the norm at the moment.
In the age when we frequently hear ‘collaboration is the new competition’ moving towards this behaviour of greater societal empathy becomes more pertinent. Without empathy I would argue that co-operation is possible, but effective ecodesign through co-creation, the new collaboration, is not.
Empathy is key to building trust, something that I have long argued is crucial for ecodesign.
Hence I jumped at the opportunity to submit a title for my talk with the word empathy, so I’d make the time to give this some further thought. I chose ‘joined up thinking and ecodesign require empathy’!
Now the time has come to prepare the talk, the event is on this Thursday 19th, and I’m undecided on how to approach this. Any ideas are very welcome.
I know that most people struggle with definitions. They either put too much rigidity on a term without understanding its underlying meaning or they don’t really understand the term and just apply it to lots of things it isn’t. Design and Innovation are two areas where this is rife. We have some people thinking they know what they are talking about when they don’t and lots of people thinking that others know what they are talking about when, in fact, they don’t.
It has been another week of definitions for me and it started out with an interesting and insightful ecodesign workshop with EDC, a Welsh manufacturer and a plastic supplier. The workshop was led by Sharon and was linked to her PhD. The workshop, unintentionally, largely revolved around Cradle to Cradle and the limitations of how it is currently applied and understood. I got the sense that too much focus on the definition of Cradle to Cradle created barriers to exploration of the important questions. What everyone was really interested in was impact and outcome and we needed a new way of thinking on how we achieve that.