Attaining international reach in Design Research

To celebrate the vast body of global design research projects during the 20 years of Stby and 15 years of the Reach Network, we set out to reflect on the value of having different, local perspectives in our work around the world. We asked ourselves and many of our Reach partners a few questions: What makes collaborative design research in your part of the world successful and meaningful? And: What is special about the approach we developed together over the years?

By considering these questions anew, we not only celebrate our work, but also create compelling reflections we can all benefit from, and that we like to share here. But first of all, we have made 3 videos that show the rich diversity and creative collaboration in our international network. Please dive in!

Video 1: Meet our international design research partners

This video shows the spirit of curiosity, creativity and social engagement among the partners in our network. It gives a sense of both the variety and interconnectedness of this global design research community. We hope you enjoy meeting some of the people and studios who make up the Reach Network. (7 minutes)

Video 2: The diversity in our international network

This video taps into the richness of the cultural and contextual diversity that surrounds design researchers in their daily lives and work. Awareness, sensitivity and curiosity for differences between and also within countries is very important. Being firmly grounded in local cultures helps to explore the needs and challenges people have, and to make sure their stories are heard. In this decentralised way design research acts as a catalyst for positive change across the globe. (10 minutes)

Video 3: The value of our international reach

This video explores the social impact of global design research. Across the various local studies we all work on, we are always looking for similarities and contrasts, and often surprised about the outcomes. Our cultural affinities and comfort with complexity helps us to collaborate across countries and cultural differences, and to always push deeper to learn more. The practice of “remaining diverse, but playing the same melody” is a profound experience, which is not only meaningful to our clients, but also enriching for ourselves as design researchers. (8 minutes)

Greater context awareness, diversity and inclusivity

Around the world, many different and intertwined cultures exist – local, regional and global. To address the challenges that people, organisations and our planet face, we need to engage with a wide range of perspectives. Different digital and geographical cultures have their own values, needs, dreams and aesthetics. To achieve international reach in design research, we must explore and understand the nuances of a range of cultural contexts. This requires cultural diversity in the international research team, and a deep understanding of the local situation of participants. This leads to more inclusive and deep understanding, and contextually rich outcomes that resonate with global design and innovation teams.

Enhanced quality and relevance

Stby has found a lot of value in doing international design research for 20 years. We learned how to orchestrate global projects with many partners and distributed client teams, and in the process, we also learned a lot about the world, made many new friends among other design researchers, and grew our sensitivity to different cultural perspectives. Our clients and partners benefitted from our work as it enhanced the quality and relevance of their designs, policies and strategies. We fostered their creativity and innovation processes and supported them in making their designs both culturally sensitive and globally competitive. Our partner agencies in the Reach Network benefitted as well, in similar ways as Stby itself, through exchanging knowledge, practises and perspectives. Through all this both the reach and impact of our joint work have grown considerably over the years.

The power of using video

We often use video in our international research work to share stories from many different people and places. This has the advantage that we can actually show the different contexts and the diversity that we encounter, explore and want to celebrate. So we decided to express our own reflections on video as well, together with our partners from the Reach Network. The three video stories we share here illustrate the strength of combining local perspectives with collaborative international teamwork in design research.