CATALYZING the Conversation: Designing a New Economy
Dr. Mary McBride
Issue 11 Winter 2012
Is it possible to design in economic value that also increases equity among people and adds value to our environment? Is it possible to design a triple bottom line? This is an especially important question now. Leaders across sectors, industries and nations are struggling to revive failing economies and restore economic equilibrium to their people. But, economic revival must also revive human wellbeing and our environment. The economic engine must be redesigned to meet the needs of its many users and the reality of the second decade of the 21st century.
Design is essentially a strategic discipline. Designers design for real people with real lives lived in a real place with real constraints and opportunities. Economists are more conceptual. What works in theory may or may not road test well. At this moment in time, the wheels seem to be coming off the car and our economic engines are sputtering worldwide.
So what can design do? Well, we can shape, make, build, construct and operationalize economies that can meet the needs of a world of seven billion people. How?
We can construct a design brief that essentially says: Imagine a world currently at seven billion people, most young and eager to imagine a future not blighted by economic insecurity, environmental degradation and inequity. Imagine that every one of those individuals will actively participate in economic transactions that enrich them and enliven their communities and our world. Imagine the systems, services, structures and objects that can shape wealth and prosperity into every purchase and every exchange. And, strategically design your lives, your careers and your businesses with that brief in mind.
Nothing is possible unless we can imagine it as possible. If we do not believe that it is possible to design a triple bottom line economy, then bottom line thinking rather than design thinking will prevail. We will continue to cut costs, accept trade-offs of jobs versus environment and watch as the tide that was to lift all boats rises to threaten our cities.
Every century faces its own challenges. The challenge of the last century was to develop economic systems that enabled trade that restored the world to peace and secured that peace though trade. The design brief was different. Population was lower and resources seemed limitless.
The challenge of this century is to shape and sustain peace by increasing prosperity, deepening community and evolving ways to create economic wellbeing that restore and renew our biosphere.
The challenge of this century is to shape and sustain peace by increasing prosperity, deepening community and evolving ways to create economic wellbeing that restore and renew our biosphere. It can be done and it will be done. And, in this issue of Catalyst Strategic Design Review, we examine how it is already being done in Bogota, Colombia, Central Florida and Chile. We look at already existing development plans and at the structures of family business and the corporation. We examine where design can add value and what we might refine and what we need to re-design.
Our goal is to illustrate that shaping economic wellbeing is not only a job for politicians or CEO’s. If we want a future that is triple bottom line by design, well, we will have to design it.