Compiling global design briefs for the climate

As the global research partner of What Design Can Do, STBY conducted research on the impact of waste and consumerism on climate change and compiled a global design briefing and five local city perspectives to address locally urgent topics. The No Waste Challenge presented by What Design Can Do is now open for submissions until April first 2021. As a co-creative effort we have been building a roadmap towards a just and circular economy for all, together with What Design Can Do, global funding partner IKEA Foundation, our Reach Network partners and a range of stakeholders in five different countries. Now it is up to creatives around the world to step forward with ideas to actually build that road towards a just and circular economy for all, and make the ideas happen in collaboration with Impact Hub, the global development partner.

We conducted research for all previous WDCD Design Challenges since 2015. Learning by doing throughout the years we had the opportunity to refine our research method to eventually become experts in global+local research on pressing issues, such as climate change. 

The global and local are intrinsically connected
The design research in preparation for the challenge was an effort of one and a half years with many steps and breakthroughs. A key principle in doing foundational research on global complex issues is constantly alternating between the local and global throughout the entire research process. This global+local approach is needed, because the global and local are intrinsically connected. Therefore it is important to take into account any relevant local resources, possibilities and barriers while researching a global problem. Only then designers can create a bespoke response to a global emergency, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all solution with less impact. 

Identifying problem areas and opportunities for design 

Basically every designer starts a design process with scoping. However, climate change is such a big topic that you can not expect every designer who wants to do something about it, to start their own scoping. That is why we create and provide design briefs as input for the challenge – by letting a couple of people crunch the enormous pile of knowledge and information that is available and identify problem areas and opportunities for design. We start the research with a global perspective, while not ignoring local initiatives and perspectives. This foundational research usually entails a lot of initial exploratory and open desk research: reading UN-reports, collecting infographics, sketching and visualizing information, and having conversations about what we read with multiple stakeholders, experts and designers. Through this process we are gradually able to identify problem areas and opportunities for design. 

Turning findings into comprehensive design briefings with many infographics  
The desk research on waste and consumerism led us to the understanding that global heating is caused by the collection of raw materials, the transformation of these materials into products that are used briefly and then discarded as waste. It is important to realize that next to the production of waste and greenhouse gasses, each phase of this ‘take-make-waste’ model uses resources like water and energy as well as pollutes land, water and air that is no longer available for biodiversity and CO2 absorption. This insight resulted in this infographic of the current economic ‘take-make-waste’ model that is explained in the global briefing.

Image: What Design Can Do

Workshopping to create local feedback and perspectives for five cities 

In the run up to the No Waste challenge our local research partners in Mexico-City, Tokyo, São Paulo and Delhi did desk research on local issues related to waste and consumerism and facilitated local workshops. We ourselves did desk research on waste and consumerism in Amsterdam and facilitated a first No Waste Lab during the WDCD Radical Collaboration day in Amsterdam in december 2019, and an online workshop with many stakeholders involved in food, plastic and textile waste during Summer 2020. These workshops are a crucial tool in the research process, as they localise the global model and foundational research. 

The global brief offers a high-altitude bird’s eye view on things, while the local perspectives from the workshops in many different places make the research become truly international. This results in relevant and meaningful local perspectives, and often also in new local collaborations with experts and creatives. 

We encourage you to join yourself. You do not need to be living in one of the six cities (Nairobi has joined recently too) now mentioned on the website. Everyone and every city can take part. Designers can submit their proposals by 1 April 2021.

Visit the online challenge platform to see how.