This meeting, organised by SVA, offered great insight into design thinking and how it can be integrated into systems engineering. Unifying these disciplines would facilitate community-centric innovations to be more readily implemented in humanitarian projects, particularly within the UN system. Design thinking, at its core, reverses problem solving by focusing on problem definition and inter-disciplinary collaboration, prompting bottom-up systems innovation.
Many participants highlighted the multi-faceted nature of today’s global problems and that our current problem-solving mind-set is not well-suited to address them. This is often seen when western missions in developing countries impose rigid solutions rather than considering the current and future needs of the aid recipients. Systems engineering is important because many problems stem from complex ecosystems of inter-dependent stakeholders and trade-offs. Designing innovations that are easily integrated into these ecosystems ensures the solutions are both accepted by local stakeholders and enduring.
Design thinking, although not a new concept, promises to better connect society and actors from different disciplines. This is incredibly valuable since within each discipline, there exists a wealth of untapped potential being under-utilised. The clear disconnect that exists between the policy makers and local communities could be eliminated by developing lateral multi-disciplinary thinking in the middle – the implementers such as engineers, medical workers, social workers and municipal leaders who can connect the project requirements to the implementation process.
Date / Location: Thursday 19th July 2018, School of Visual Arts (SVA), 136 West 21 street, NY, USA
Author: WIT Representative, Farri Gaba