Speculative Design for Sustainable Futures – in Delhi

This week I am in New Delhi, facilitating a workshop on sustainability futures with 18 masters-level design students at The Design Village. The workshop’s rationale:

At its core, sustainability invites us to consider how complex socio-environmental systems may develop over time. In this sense, sustainability is really about the future: how we may satisfy the needs of future generations and leave them with a world no more damaged than the one we inherited. But since the future is undetermined, we are better to consider a plurality of futures or, better yet, a plurality of sustainable futures. This reflects the fact that what sustainability means in theory and in practice may change depending on the time, place, and identity of those pursuing it. There is no single future, just as there is no single sustainability. This is no less true about India, a country of many contradictions – the site of growing economic progress and prowess but also of abject poverty; a hub of technological innovation but also of ancient knowledge, values and ways of life. What sustainable futures mean for India is a unique, necessary proposition.

The experience so far has been incredible! It’s so refreshing and inspiring to work with students from an entirely different background, and with different design foci: product, fashion, graphic, and spatial design.

To align them all, I’ve defined the workshop’s goals as follows:

Drawing from global standards (such as the MDGs) and local conditions and traditions, this workshop will provide students with the tools and skills required to research, conceptualize, and evaluate design for sustainability futures. The workshop will allow students to dive deeper into the complex relations between design and sustainability, and develop a future-orientation that would enable them to anticipate, communicate, and start addressing future sustainability challenges. For this purpose, the workshop combines techniques from Futures Studies and interaction design, and grounds design work in local-specific contexts (values, norms, culture, and so forth).

The workshop consists of three stages: (1) Research into the specific challenges that are associated with sustainability in the Indian context; (2) Development of future scenarios that respond to those challenges in an imaginative way; (3) Creating and evaluating prototypes that communicate the challenges and chart possible solutions. I hope to share the results here in a later time.

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