Design for Sustainable Co-Creation

Today we humans use 1,5 planet and by doing so we drive our humanity and planet into an unbalanced emergent state.

I listen to a youtube clip by Otto Scharmer (MIT) who explains Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges. The youtube clip is part of the master course 7,5 p “Back to the land” — Design for Sustainable Co-Creation.

How does the food system function in your life?

The food we eat are often processed and in our food system and supply chain (we as consumers are pretty unaware of) we tend to use more energy to produce the food we eat than it actually gives us back. We know that the planets clock is ticking, yet we have no sustainable solution in place. As part of the course you spend one workshop week at the village Hjulsjö, Dalarna to embed yourself in the environment you study. For me its a little bit like traveling back in time.

A countryside girl with a beating city heart

I grew up in a similar small Swedish countryside village, that put visitors straight into Astrid Lindgrens fairytales. The lake was close by, the fields and forest were my playground and our dog Skilla was one of my best friends. My parents were full time workers and not real farmers but we got sheep as pets. The sheep’s gave birth to lambs that I took care of and played with during the summer. In the autumn the hard reality was that some of them was sent off to slaughter. It did not feel easy but you had to learn to accept how it was.

Growing up I contributed with all sorts of work such as household cores, building fences, feed the animals and the yearly hay harvest. My childhood taught me responsibility, to work hard, be honest, helpful and respect people. We learned to take care of nature and animals yet process and use what nature provided us with. Nature was beautiful but not experienced in the way you visit an exhibition hall.

Awareness of the self and the nature

If I had a problem I could always climb up in one of our wise oaks and it might secretly whisper and answer to my question with the rattling leaves in the the wind. As a teen the fields freedom instead made me feel disconnected to friends, future opportunities and society and I counted my days until I could move. Since I left I have remained a countryside girl but perhaps I turned into a city girl with a beating countryside heart if you ask my sister. She claims I forgot how its like, for real.

A workshop to bring it all together

However, the week at Hjulsjö felt mindful, perhaps a bit unclear and definitely more arty explorative. It did brought back memories as well as gave new insights or deepend my interest in collaborative design processes for wicked problems and dynamic challenges. The workshop week was run by Annika Göran Rodell, Grythyttan and Cheryl Akner Koler, Konstfack and philosopher and author John Thackara.

8 Insights from the workshop week at Hjulsjö

  1. To succeed you need to work in a collaborative co-creation process to make diverse people collaborate to reach beyond personal limits.
  2. The city and the countryside host different cultures and we need to create mutual trust and understanding. To enable change we need to be aware of values and norms and how they play out strategies and impact decisions and change management to reach doable solutions.
  3. We need to map up and visualise the different users/players and stakeholders and find possible ways connect. To succeed to connect we need to work inclusive, embed our self in the environment and develop our listening skills to become more presence.
  4. To go to action with speed we need to explore and prototype small projects we learn from.
  5. We need to develop scalable learning journeys from those projects and educate people how to take action to make things happen faster with success.
  6. We need courage to challenge old ways of how to work and measure success. We need incitements that points in the direction of our goals and promotes sustainable values beyond short sighted revenue.
  7. At the same time we need to understand and respect that the farmers and stakeholders needs to make a sustainable living and come up with new business models to create valuable holistic experiences, products, services and ecosystems.
  8. We need peoples different stories to be told, a new powerful narrative to emerge with vision to inspire how to build a working life and prosperity in a rural areas. We need to share and spread those stories.
  9. We need to be resilient, stubborn och believe in our self and the future and develop skills to co-operate with people different than our selfs.
  10. Now there is plenty of room for turning challenges into new opportunities. It´s just to start to do it.

Co-create the future

“A collaborative approach, and multiple skills in new combinations, are needed to cope with that complexity. Open information information channels for the sharing of resources are a challenging design priority.” John Thackara

Food system may be improved. Recently Nordic startups got funded that combines improvement of the food system and reduce waste. Lately we seen ToGoodToGo that allows users to buy surplus food from restaurants at a discounted price. Karma that has built an app that helps restaurants, grocers and cafés reduce their food waste by selling their surplus to consumers at reduced prices. ResqClub that saves restaurant food from being thrown away.

What will I bring with me?

As John Thackara explains, change and innovation are no longer only about finely crafted ‘visions’ of some future place and time. We need to be concrete and practical and ask questions such as;

“Do you know where your next lunch will come from? and Do you know if that place is healthy or not?”

He claims this approach expands the design focus beyond hard infrastructure and towards a whole-system concern for the health of places that keep the city fed and watered. Working with circular design with sustainability in mind I believe we have room for plenty of opportunities by connect and co-create to facilitate the energy our planet provides in a much smarter, more valuable, economic and sustainable way.