The prelude to the Dutch Design Week, the World Design Forum (WDF), was held on Friday 19 October at the iconic Klokgebouw building. The location, a disused factory building from the 1930s has found a new lease of life as a cultural hotspot. This proved almost symbolic for the themes that kept returning in the various lectures, films, and debates at the third edition of WDF.
Change is in the air We are living in a time of tremendous social and economic upheaval and it feels as if change is in the air. The old institutions, the results of the welfare state that was erected on the ruins of the second World War and based on realities and predictions that applied over seventy years ago, are no longer serving the people living today. How to bring society and its institutions back in line? How to spark a new sense of connectivity? How can today’s generation reclaim the institutions for itself? How to ignite social enterprise?
The rise of the networks An impressive range of experts and speakers tackled these questions initially voiced by Eindhoven’s Alderman for Innovation, Culture and Public Space, Mary-Ann Schreurs. From social housing projects to e-learning for healthcare professionals in low and middle income countries, and from bottlenecks in traffic to empowering people under threat of violence by giving them video cameras: the speakers all predicted the end of the pyramid as the dominant organisational structure, and the rise of the networks. The top-down model of doing things is no longer satisfactory as people have come to expect to have a say in matters which concern them directly.
Value creation by co-creation The pyramid is on its way out. It implies a closed and bureaucratic organizational model with no regard for the people who depend on its functioning and no real exchange of supply and demand. Instead, what we will see, according to today’s experts, is networks taking over. The main characteristic of these networks is that they are communities, not hierarchies. The relationships between the members of the network will be mutually dependent and horizontal. Value is created by collaborating, by co-creating.
We create, therefore we are unique But how to implement such ideas within existing institutions? Could designers play a role in restructuring housing corporations, local and national governments, care institutions? Keynote speaker Caroline Hummels, Professor of Industrial Design at TU/e, warns that design is not magic. She predicts that a shift is needed in the way we see ourselves as human beings and the kind of society and the values we want to pass on. A shift away from the ‘prominence of the spreadsheet’, the idea that our institutions cannot make a decision unless it is backed by files filled with irrefutable facts; a move towards the idea that as people we are unique because we create, not because we think. Or having an idea, jumping in and getting things done. In the final round table the idea is picked up. It seems, if we want to spark true social change, we can do so by seeing ourselves as actors within our institutions, and if we want to add social value we should be open to making connections and alliances in unexpected ways.