Design Public III: Why We Focus on Trust, Participation and Innovation

Design Public began as a conversation around the question of how design thinking and innovation can be used by organizations and actors outside the private sector, specifically government organizations and social sector agencies. As we enter this third edition of the Design Public Conclave, we see not only that our questions and deliberations have become so much more sophisticated, layered and granular, but also that there is a clear need to move beyond mere conversation, to the actual establishment of diverse consortia, partnerships and alliances that will bring this agenda to practical realization.

At our first conclave in Delhi, we focused on the question of Governance Innovation: Can or should government agencies use user-centered design solutions to develop and deploy better solutions? The easy answer is yes, but the question remains, where can we find the special expertise that allows them to do this? Out of this question was born the concept of what we call the Bihar Innovation Lab. [Read more…]

IBM Officially On Board as Sponsor for Design Public

We’re elated to report that yesterday, IBM officially confirmed their sponsorship of the third edition of the Design Public Conclave. Our CEO, Dr. Aditya Dev Sood, has been in conversation with the folks at IBM for the past month or so now, discussing areas of mutual interest and opportunities for collaboration. The focus of the conclave is on how governments as well as private corporations can increase trust in the public sphere, and in doing so help build a culture of innovation in India. IBM has been at the helm of innovation in several different arenas, and most recently have been focused on urban infrastructure and smart cities, highly relevant themes in the context of building more trust and participation through better design and innovation.

Smart Cities are cities that know how to “leverage information, anticipate problems and coordinate resources.” The smartest cities integrate and coordinate between all key functions and infrastructures. [Read more…]

Political Participation and Trust in Ancient Athens

By Ayesha Vemuri and Sedona Chinn

The foundations of western democracy and political thought lie in the ancient Athenian democracy. Their institutions are the roots from which modern governments have grown. Therefore, as Design!publiC III explores modern phenomena of political participation and trust, it stands to reason that Athenian understandings, as the ancestor to modern democracy, be likewise understood.

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WikiLeaks, State Secrets, and Trust in Government

When WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of classified documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and State Department memos, the world was forced to consider, How much do we trust our governments?

WikiLeaks, a whistleblowing website, says “We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government, and stronger democracies. All governments can benefit from increased scrutiny by the world community, as well as their own people. We believe this scrutiny requires information.” In the past, WikiLeaks had published information on pollution dumping off the coast of Kenya, a video of an American helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed twelve people, including two Reuter’s journalists, protocol in Guantanamo Bay, and e-mails from Sarah Palin’s personal account. The more recent classified documents and diplomatic cables were published in coordination with major newspapers, such as Le Monde, El Pais, Der Speigel, and The Guardian (who shared with the New York Times).
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Arun Maira Joins Board of Advisors for Design!publiC

February 1, 2012. New Delhi. Arun Maira, member of the National Planning Commission of the Government of India, has just agreed to join the Board of Advisors for Design Public. Speaking on the focus topic for this edition of the Design Public Conclave, “Trust, Participation, Innovation,” Mr. Maira said that these themes are key priorities for him and for the National Planning Commission.

ColourNext Dialogues in Mumbai: An Overview

The first ever edition of the ColourNext Dialogues was held at a restored mill in Byculla, Mumbai on the 24th of January. An intimate gathering of designers, architects, academics, sociologists, cultural critics, design students and writers, Dialogues was a fascinating half-day discussion on the four social trends identified in ColourNext 2012.

The day began with a short welcome address by Dr. Aditya Dev Sood, founder and CEO of the Center for Knowledge Societies, who organized the event in collaboration with Asian Paints. After introducing the event as a space to dialogue about all things colour, Dr. Sood invited participants to introduce themselves and say a few words about their professional or personal interest in colour. The answers given reflected the participants’ wide ranging backgrounds and interests, but also indicated the myriad ways in which colour could be understood, used and appreciated. Whilst some of the responses were about practical applications of colour, others spoke of the psychological and sociological responses to colour, that colour can be considered the most direct medium of communication, and that cultural connotations of different colours can vary considerably.

Sneha Raman, Innovation Manager at CKS, followed this with a brief presentation on the process of identifying these trends. After this, participants were introduced to the themes through artistic portrayals, in installations wherein the theme could be understood visually and spatially as well as textually. After spending a few minutes observing and interacting with the installation, they spoke about what it signified, whether it seemed relevant, and discussed the appropriateness of the associated colour palettes.

Overall, all the participants were in agreement about the relevance and importance of the trends identified, and considered each one to be pertinent in the present time. The installations were perceived to be both beautifully executed and highly appropriate, and were also varied enough that they collectively seem to portray several different aspects of our individuals selves as well as our society as whole. Whilst Awakening talks about our inherent spirituality and ‘collective consciousness, Headrush is more about an individualistic, adventurous and risk-taking drive. Small Joys is about lightness, playfulness and taking out moments to revel in the smaller pleasures of life, while Crystal is about introspection, elegance and an appreciation of subtlety and nuance.

After this, participants talked about the value of ColourNext, how it could be taken forward and improved, and how it could be used in both personal and professional contexts. One of the points made was that ColourNext is unique – it is the only forum in India where people can come together to converse solely about colour and its many dimensions. It is the only attempt made to understand the evolution of the colour story in India – where it comes from and the direction it takes. It is an effort to move beyond the purely visual appreciation of colour, and to understand the underlying societal, technological, psychological, cognitive and cultural factors that impact our colour choices.

Participants also spoke about the participatory nature of both the ColourNext process as well as of the conclave as being at the crux of its success. This kind of open forum, where individuals from a variety of different backgrounds can gather to discuss colour and societal trends, yields deeper insights than any other trend forecasting effort. If order to take ColourNext forward, this discussion could be taken online, participants suggested, allowing even greater participation and constantly evolving understandings of these themes.

Planning for D!p 3 Begins

By Ayesha Vemuri

Hello and greetings for the new year! First, our apologies for the long silence, but although we’ve been back from the winter break for two weeks now, planning our various new activities and directions for the new year has taken up most of our time and energy. Foremost amongst these is commencing our plans for the third edition of the Design Public Conclave, to be held in New Delhi on April 20, 2012, for which the focus topic is ‘Trust, Participation, Innovation.’

A major point that was reiterated several times during both the last two conclaves, especially with respect to the question of governance innovation, was that there is a grave lack of trust and a general belief that the government is disinterested in promoting the actual interests of the public. Corporations too are being increasingly mistrusted, and their honesty questioned. People appear to be losing faith in the efficacy of institutions, both public and private, observable in the wave of protests from Tahrir Square in Egypt to the Ram Lila grounds in New Delhi, and on over to Zuccotti Park in New York.There is a crisis of trust, as it were, on account of the disconnect between traditional institutions and the socially mediated public.

Citizens the world over seem to be demonstrating a burning desire to participate in making change happen, but there are no established avenues or channels for participation, and they must improvise. Social media platforms provide such an avenue, and in fact all of the many protests of the past year have been organized and intensified, at least to some degree, due to social media. The experience of social media can lead to the development of new expectations of trust and participation, and will require traditional institutions, both public and private, to reconfigure their structures to generate more inclusiveness, participation, and trust. One of the major aims of the third Design Public conclave is to explore and answer the question of how this can be achieved.

While the event isn’t for another few months, we are beginning the entire process sooner this time around, and hope for our own approach to be inspired by the topic. We hope for the planning process to be a more inclusive and participatory lead-in the to the conclave, especially via online and social media platforms. We will be hosting discussions on our linkedin group, facebook page, and through twitter (#designpubic). As always, the blog will continue to function as the main platform for the dissemination of our thoughts, but we hope to expand this avenue as well, by inviting our expert speakers and participants to contribute articles and thoughts on an ongoing basis. We also look forward to your thoughts, comments, and participation over these next couple of months until the conclave.

For more information about the Design Public Conclave, read the outbriefs and see the books from the first and second editions, and also stay tuned for announcements on the CKS and Design Public websites.

Design!publiC II Officially Begins!

The much anticipated second edition of the Design Public Conclave is finally underway! Aditya Dev Sood, founder and CEO of the Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS), opened with a word of welcome.

He welcome all participants to the event. He spoke about how Design Public was not a static conferencing platform, but something like a movement, attracting new participants and stakeholders over time, all invested in the question and challenge of innovation.

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