What Designers Making Social Change Can Learn From Business Leaders

As the head of MindLab, a cross-governmental innovation unit in Copenhagen, Christian Bason is passionate about transforming the public sector’s ability to better meet the needs of citizens and society. Register to see him speak at the GAIN Design and Business Conference, October 23–24.

Here, Bason questions the role designers will play in the reshaping government in the future, and why anyone who wants to make wide-reaching social change should brush up on their management skills.

How can designers improve their communities?

The ultimate role of designers are as integrators. They can work with leaders and communities to give abstract strategies shape and synthesize knowledge, materials and technologies into forms that are meaningful and enable desired change.

What advice would you give to designers interested in making change?

First of all, designers should take care and effort to get to know (with reasonable depth) the specific field in which he or she wants to create that change. Misunderstanding the business, organization or policy is one of the main pitfalls for designers.

Secondly, most, if not all, designers should see themselves more as orchestrators of the co-design process, rather than as the lone heroic designer. This means that they need significant organizational and social skills to enable them to enlist and lead users, stakeholders and clients through collaboration, while drawing on their professional design practices such as visualizing, sketching and prototyping.

What is the future of design's role in government and society?

Given the rising complexity and turbulence of our contemporary world, design will be more needed than ever. The only question is whether it will be educated design professionals who capture the strategic design roles of the future, or if it will be other professions who take the lead, ultimately making designers more peripheral.

Read more about what role Bason predicts designers will have in the future in “Defining the Studio of 2015.’