Launching a Platform for Sustainable Innovation

Designing visionary futures with The Planet Life.

Jan Hellemans
Feb 25, 2020 · 7 min read

As designers and innovators, we create products that we hope are amazing for people and work for businesses. However, this mindset comes with responsibility. The things we make have impact on a bigger scale — on the global ecosystems of our planet — which is the livelihood of us all. As a designer passionate about addressing the dangers of climate change and eager to take action within the innovation space, I was looking for a way to have a bigger impact. That’s why about a year ago I started a platform called .

At that time, the world was finally waking up to climate crisis challenges. Many realised they had to do something, so they took to the streets to have their voices heard, to push for a change from government and businesses responsible for the situation we find ourselves in today. Left and right influencers alike popped up to guide people through how they could change their own personal lifestyle to lower their footprint on the planet. This included everything from eating less meat to avoiding single-use plastics to flying less, cycling to work and consuming in a responsible way. All of these actions have already had a great impact. They have been made possible thanks to organisations working hard to raise awareness, such as and the . But there is a limit to how much individual actions can affect economies and influence true system change.

Climate change and current environmental risks are global challenges that need collaboration to solve. The Planet Life is a platform to connect, inspire and mobilise communities to create positive impact and empower sustainable growth. The Planet Life provides a platform to work together towards a better future for humankind and our planet. We bridge the gap between ecological initiatives and greater society. We build momentum and pave the way for activists, future thinkers and change makers to act and drive a sustainable economy. The Planet Life is a place for action-oriented individuals to connect, find a purpose and strive for that common goal.

“The Planet Life is a platform to enable change and build sustainable innovation.” — Jan Hellemans (Photo by S. Takhar)

In short, The Planet Life works at the intersection between activism and business to drive economic, social and system change. We believe to solve the challenges we’re facing today, businesses need to collaborate and engage more with civil society.

On Wednesday, 5th of February, we launched our first event in collaboration with Bamboo Crowd and WeWork, Finsbury Square, London. We welcomed three speakers for an evening of hard truths, emotional stories and inspiring ideas. These talks were essential to opening people’s minds, inspiring debate and acting as a catalyst for getting into the problem-solving mindset for the workshop session.

“The highlight was the variation of the whole evening.”
event participant

Facing Change: How Business Can Meet the Climate Challenge

, Independent Strategy Director and Climate Activist, set context for the evening with his opening talk on ‘Facing Change: How Business Can Meet the Climate Challenge’. He guided the audience through a reality check of the challenges we’re facing. He used scientifically proven numbers to unravel the hard truth of what it would mean if global heating would hit the current trajectory of two degrees hotter by 2050 and four degrees hotter by 2100. He warned of more extreme and frequent weather disasters, from flooding to droughts and wildfires.

Paddy Loughman speaks on “How Business Can Meet the Climate Challenge”. (Photo by S. Takhar)

To keep global heating at 1,5 degrees, Paddy called for global education and empowerment. Aiming for shared success and cooperation will get us to a place where we reimagine success by eliminating waste, minimising the space we use, getting to zero carbon and returning the ocean to good health. If we all see sustainability as an opportunity, we are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.

Reinventing Emergency Shelter Provision in Disaster-Prone Cities

With our climate changing in drastic ways, it’s important to understand the severity of global warming on populations. A small increase in temperature is going to impact and displace a horrific number of people in a very short time. Iris Ryu, social entrepreneur and founder of , shared the harsh reality of emergency shelter provisions as a response to these displacements. They are often overcrowded, unsanitary and not safe or fit for purpose. People live in these conditions for months without any privacy, trying to keep their dignity whilst abuse and sexual harassment is a common practice. Iris started Daruma to reinvent emergency shelter provision in disaster-prone cities, providing safe, sanitary and dignified emergency shelter for the urban displaced. Through space-sharing, Daruma matches guests with host families, homeowners, and hotel/hostels in a socio-culturally appropriate manner to deliver safe, rapid, local and inclusive shelter.

Iris Ryu talks about “Reinventing Emergency Shelter Provision in Disaster-Prone Cities”. (Photo by S. Takhar)

How to Apply a Planet-Centric Design Methodology

Next, Kwame Ferreira, Founder and CEO of startup studio and agency , took us on a journey introducing planet-centric design methodologies. The problem-solving methodologies in today’s companies are not helping to meet the set by the UN in 2015 to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030. Planet-centric design is regenerative and restorative by design. It forces long-term thinking to create balance, and drive change in business and society.

Kwame Ferreira explains “How to Apply a Planet-Centric Design Methodology”. (Photo by S. Takhar)

Let’s do some workshopping!

The second section of the evening was all about identifying challenges and opportunities around 5 pre-selected SDGs:

Each person was asked to pick one SDG they felt most passionate about. The workshop kicked off with dividing all attendees into groups of six around their selected SDG. Each group found inspiration, fact and figures, and ‘what if’ scenarios to spark initial conversation. These initial conversations were followed by looking at future states. Each group was asked to come up with a couple of dystopian futures, which then were reimagined as a utopian future instead.

Attendees discussing and collaborating around their selected SDG using workshop tools and format designed by The Planet Life. (Photos by S. Takhar)

The next step was to identify the challenges and determine how to overcome them to make the utopian future a reality. Around 40 people participated in the workshop and eagerly shared their ideas. Several groups even went one step further and identified opportunity spaces touching on factors such as cost, infrastructure, policy and education.

“The practical side of the event, as in generating ideas and utilising the broad range of thinkers in the room was a very productive and interesting exercise.”
event participant

That’s a wrap

It was great seeing so many people from different backgrounds discussing the future of our planet and the role business plays into it. Participants came from organisations like PWC, IBM, OnePlus, Barclays, Bloomberg, UK government, and included designers, business strategists and startup founders. All were looking for places where they can have open discussions on the climate crisis — to be heard and know how to contribute to driving solutions forward. They all understood how the condition in which future generations will inherit our planet depends on our attitude and the actions we take today.

“This is the most inspired I’ve been in 18 months.”
event participant

Participants discussing and sharing ideas and challenges with each other. (Photos by S. Takhar)

Whether you are looking to make an impact, have an idea to contribute or are looking build a new sustainable venture, The Planet Life is here for you. Be part of the community and create something that works for humanity and the planet. If you live in London, stay tuned for more workshop events and opportunities to get involved. You can follow The Planet Life on and . You can also reach out at .

This post was written by Jan Hellemans, Experience Designer at London, and founder of The Planet Life. Read Jan’s contribution to frog’s 2020 trends, all about .

frog Voices

Thoughts on design from frogs around the world

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface.

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox.

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store