After having achieved great results the last years within different projects and strategies it is time for taking perspective and reflexion.

The projects we have undertaken had great local results and served as great examples of actions that have achieved sustainability in different dimensions at the same time: what I call integrated design approach.

One icon example is the set up of a design-production facility in which a group of homeless people from Amsterdam design products. The production is made in collaboration with local shops and organisations from the neighbourhood that provide their clean waste materials, sell and promote their products. These include paper notebooks from flour sacks provided by the local bakeries and a line of jewellery from coffee bean bags provided by local coffee corners.

We trained the workshops leaders and the homeless people on design skills (sustainable design concepts, etc) and we produce together 4 lines of designed products during 3 years that were sold in local shops.

Our team was multidisciplinary, formed by experienced designers and starters. We had ambitious objectives. We wanted to achieve people, planet and profit values for the set up of the enterprise. The organisation who contracted us was happy with the goal of generating an interesting activity for the homeless coming to work to the design facility. What it made already successful and a great start!

Our added value and paradoxically what made the way more difficult was to focus on achieving the multiple values, following our vision. Just because we think we can do it aside the clients goals, so why not doing it goood, from the beginning. We achieved more than what we were asked to, and we and our client were happy for that. We learned that working in the right solutions, connecting people and doing many trials to enhance the social cohesion within the groups take much time but worth for the common results.

Way of working

I was reflecting much on this way of working, actually my way of working since I remember. I think it is much how designers/artists work. Trying to succeed a commission achieving the goal of the client and our own ideal goals, in my case achieving sustainable success at different levels, for the people, for the environment and for the profit of the project.

Achieving multiple goals is a requirement of sustainable development. I reflect on a couple of things, which I believe it can improve the next design interventions:

First thing I realised is the need of an independent consultancy team. This team will support the designers facilitation team, check and let us see things we do not see while doing the project. With ‘us’ I mean the whole team: designers and stakeholders involved in the project. This consultancy team can help for instance to deal with negotiations about designers expectations (vision) and expectations of the organisation that is investing in the project.

Secondly, having even more attention for the starters training (internships), achieving continuation work. We did this very consciously and we trained talented starters on social design issues. Though I think we can include a continuation plan in collaboration with the client to be able to achieve training continuation and employment opportunities (longer term) for the starters.

These reflections and many chats with other social designers & colleagues are guiding me to the development of a new way of working on sustainable/social/sustainst… (you name it!) design.