“Design for Humanity” workshop with PARK at DMI:Design Management Conference 2024

News|General|27 Mar 2024

“Design for Humanity” workshop with PARK at DMI:Design Management Conference 2024

In 2024, it is clear that to design for good is a far more complex task than it used to seem. For a business to consider itself sustainable, it is no longer enough to make small incremental improvements to products or services, but to start to repair – or even simply to mitigate – the damages of over-extraction and over-consumption, business models and systems need to adapt. It is no small task: the challenges that humanity faces are impossible to ignore, and they are global, interconnected, and urgent.

On Wednesday 27 March, following the Design Management Institute’s DMI: Design Management Conference 2024, PARK had the opportunity to run a linked workshop on Design for Humanity with design leaders and managers. Over the course of three hours, PARK senior consultants and company directors Andy Sharpe and James Hall led a hands-on workshop, shaped for an intimate group of attendees from a range of industries and scale of businesses, to explore what designing for humanity means today.

Design for Humanity workshop with PARK at DMI Design Management Conference 2024

Andy and James started the workshop by laying out the high-level statistics of the present situation: from the eight million tons of plastic entering oceans each year to the fact that rising temperatures are predicted to cost the global economy more than $2 trillion by 2030 due to the impact on workers’ productivity. They traced the growth of public awareness, from Rachel Carson’s publication of Silent Spring in 1962, which documented the devastating environmental harm caused by synthetic pesticides created by chemical companies, through the introduction of the UN Millennium Development Goals, to the present day, where PARK’s Design for Humanity sits among initiatives such as the UK Design Council’s Design For Planet, and Design for Good, from a global alliance of members including PepsiCo, Philips and Lloyds Banking Group.

The workshop took place in the context of a next major milestone, and a concern for design and business leaders, the new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). From 2023, with the new rules to be applied during the 2024 financial year, EU law requires all large and listed companies (except listed micro-enterprises) to disclose information on their activities and on the impact of these activities on people and the environment. Non-compliance with CSRD risks administrative sanctions and penalties and businesses will need to better inform themselves to take these crucial next steps. 38% of CEO’s surveyed recently by PWC indicate that climate change will significantly drive change in the way their company creates, delivers, and captures value over the next three years. Design can offer the tools to change, but what will that look like?

For 25 years PARK has been working to bridge the gap between design and business, and has seen the concept of design leadership transform. Anticipating the major factor that sustainability would take in this transformation, PARK began working with design leaders in 2019 to move from a focus on human-centred design towards a more holistic approach, launching its concept of Design for Humanity.

Designed to offer businesses a navigable way through what is to come, the Design for Humanity framework offers a holistic and ethical approach in design leadership that equally balances the well-being of society and the environment with individual interests. But design leaders and managers need to be empowered to make this change: first to understand where they are on a journey towards design for humanity, and then forge their own vision for their organisation.

The framework identifies the needs of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and aligns them with benefits for businesses – such as brand value, innovation, operational efficiencies, risk management, and talent attraction and retention – but crucially, as a framework, helps design leaders to figure out their own ambitions related to design for humanity, and to help them chart a roadmap for change within their business.

Design for Humanity workshop with PARK at DMI Design Management Conference 2024

After introducing PARK’s Design for Humanity Pathfinder Tool in the workshop, James and Andy set participants a task to apply the tool to their own situation. Attendees raised questions and debated what Design for Humanity might look like for their business, leaving with ideas, but also tricky questions. With the opportunity to follow up with PARK in the weeks following the workshop, the team are looking forward to helping participants begin to work through them.

If you would like to learn more about Design for Humanity and what it could mean for your business, please contact James Hall, or Andy Sharpe.

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