Global challenges, local actions

Climate change is a global problem, yet we can locally design interventions that really make a difference, especially in cities around the world. It is well known that cities use lots of energy. To be specific; cities use over two thirds of the world’s energy and contribute to more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. This is why What Design Can Do (WDCD) is focussing its second Climate Action Challenge on urban energy issues. WDCD, IKEA Foundation and other partners are calling on creative professionals, students and start-ups around the world to come up with innovative solutions. As the research partner of WDCD, STBY conducted the design research behind the Clean Energy Challenge.

Focus on five cities around the world

The design research in preparation for the challenge, focused on finding out where designers can make a difference in five different cities – Mexico City, Sao Paulo, New Delhi, Nairobi, and Amsterdam. STBY initially explored the topic to set the scope and agenda for the design challenge, and then worked with our local research partners from the Reach network to define the final briefs that are most relevant to each location. These briefs are the starting point for the participants in the challenge.

Local relevance and urgency

The local relevancy of a design challenge is very important. That is why the local partners of the Reach network played a key role in the research. Throughout the initial desk research, we identified 5 key topics that seemed to be relevant to most cities. Together with the local partners we organised co-creative workshops with the objective to get insights on local energy issues from experts in the field. This way we jointly identified the topics that were most relevant to their cities. For instance, in the case of Nairobi we decided to focus on the topic of ‘Eating in the City’, while in Mexico City the focus is on ‘City Waste’.

Wider scope on clean energy

Initially we uncovered 10 different topics relating to clean energy where designers could make a difference, but we had to bring these down to five when it was decided to focus on the five participating cities. From that point on, the research focused on establishing a briefing package for each city that had both local relevance and a clear link to one or more of the wider topics defined. The workshops carried out in the five cities by our Reach partners were instrumental to this.

You can download the briefs we made for the Clean Energy Challenge on the website of What Design can do. You can choose one of the following challenges: Eating in Nairobi, Moving around in Sao Paul, Building in Delhi, Waste in Mexico City, and Cityscape of Amsterdam.

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