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 2 at NGMA, Bangalore on October 14!

We hope you’re looking forward to the Design Public Conclave as much as we are. This note is to provide some orientation and preparation for the intense day we will spend together, as well as some background reading that might help you get more out of the day.

As you will see in the Conclave Agenda, we will begin with a discussion of innovation and the Indian corporation, moving on to Public and Social innovation, and then discussing how design might accelerate Start-Up innovation.

Lunch will be in beautiful spaces of the National Gallery of Modern Art. We have taken some care to figure out how to design the space to best encourage and enable conversation.

After lunch, there will be final panel discussion on the actual practice of innovation, followed by breakout sessions on three selected Grand Challenges of Indian Society, namely inclusive higher education, quality maternal and child healthcare, and toilets and sanitation for all. Participants will divide themselves into three groups based on their interests, and will spend the next hour and a half developing innovative solutions to these wicked problems.

Several participants have requested background readings in advance of the event. You might start with this light parable on innovation. Then check out this discussion of innovation and its relation to design. We have also undertaken a survey of innovation theory in India that you might find helpful. Then read this article as well this post, which talk about whether and how innovation can be routinized.

You might also be interested in the subject of the public, and what constitutes public interest, check out this article, which attempts to understand these large subjects.

Finally, you might also be interested in reading Aditya Dev Sood’s thoughts in a New York Times Blog called India Ink on whether there could be a Steve Jobs in India’s future.

Several participants have contacted us asking about the event and how to reach the venue. For your convenience, we have prepared this map, which will guide you to the Design Public Conclave at NGMA.

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How Shall We Understand the Public Interest?

By Aditya Dev Sood

Panchayat meeting on Village Sanitation in Khera village, Budaun District, UP

At the Design Public Conclave, we are concerned to explore how Innovation serves or is related to the Public Interest. In order to address that large question, however, we must first consider what we might mean by this high-minded term. And to do, we first ask, what is the Public?

On account our Socialist past, and our nearly extinct figuration as a ‘developing’ society, one still commonly encounters references to the ‘sectors of society,’ organized as (i) the Government (ii) the Public Sector (iii) the Social Sector and (iv) the Private Sector. Whereas, prior to liberalization (i) and (ii) were seen to operate more or less indistinguishably from one another, their roles now appear to be diverging, with the role of Government having to do more and more with the creation and regulation of markets, while the Public Sector is either privatized or else outsources all its core functions and operations to the Private Sector.

While representatives of each of these sectors may operate in ways which it claims are in the Public Interest, the ways in which they make these claims are varied. Moreover, in each case, it is difficult for anyone to articulate how the interests of the particular bureaucracy or organizational or financial-communications network is actually aligned with the putative Public Good. The collective interests of society, when described as the vector sum of all the diversely oriented forces operating upon and within it appears as a static quantity, which can easily be reduced — through corruption, inefficiency, venality, cupidity, and the concomitant destruction of value — but which cannot easily be increased except in so far as a functioning service-providing entity continues to operate with its own enlightened self-interest in mind. Thus do we once again derive, through a metaphor of vector integration, Adam Smith’s famous Invisible Hand, whereby private ambitions are channeled towards the larger aims of society.

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