A Wish List for Wicked Projects

In April, my friend Peter Macleod inspired me with his MASSLBP Wish List, which he sent out in a newsletter to MASSLBP’s network. Peter was in turn inspired by a Christmas card message: “work for what you wish for”. Expressing the intention, out loud, for all to see, of the kind of work that you want made a lot of sense to me.

Fired up by the success of our recent collaboration at the Collingwood Conference, my frequent collaborator Daniel Rose started a conversation about our dream projects. These are projects that can take full advantage of our capabilities and that also really push us in our practice while making a big difference in the world. We referred to this cheekily as “Project Mongoose”, but really what we’re talking about are Wicked Projects.

Addressing Wicked Problems

What is a wicked project? A wicked project first of all aims to address a wicked problem.  Wicked problems are all around us: climate change, economic transformation, poverty, healthcare, urban transportation and human migration to name just a few. Solving wicked problems is meaningful, purposeful work. They’re complex, intertwined, ambiguous, messy and frustrating. Wicked problems fight back as you try to solve them.

The projects that would make our wish list would be centered on one of these problems. Our role is not to be the content expert in the chosen field. Our role is to bring both proven and novel processes and tools to these projects while working with and learning from some of the smartest people we can find.

Continue reading “A Wish List for Wicked Projects”

Sometimes self-organizing social systems just end in a circle jerk

via andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com An ant mill is a phenomenon where a small group of army ants separated from the main foraging party lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle. The ants will …

An ant mill is a phenomenon where a small group of army ants separated from the main foraging party lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle. The ants will eventually die of exhaustion. This has been reproduced in laboratories and the behaviour has also been produced in ant colony simulations. This phenomenon is a side effect of the self-organizing structure of ant colonies.

Remind you of anything in the online world?

My Wilderness Downtown postcard

I highly recommend this fabulous interactive film/video for Arcade Fire. http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/ Technically and artistically brilliant, I felt it made a great impact by integrating my old childhood address into the storyline. When g…

14435517-postcard

I highly recommend this fabulous interactive film/video for Arcade Fire. http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/

Technically and artistically brilliant, I felt it made a great impact by integrating my old childhood address into the storyline. When given an opportunity to send a postcard back to that younger version of myself, I felt compelled to give him comfort. He experienced some really difficult, painful times. But he turned out ok.

Is Humanitarian Design the New Imperialism? | Co.

Bruce Nussbaum writes: So where are we with humanitarian design? I know almost all of my Gen Y students want to do it because their value system is into doing good globally. Young designers in consultancies and corporations want to do humanitarian…

Bruce Nussbaum writes:

So where are we with humanitarian design? I know almost all of my Gen Y students want to do it because their value system is into doing good globally. Young designers in consultancies and corporations want to do humanitarian design for the same reason.

But should we take a moment now that the movement is gathering speed to ask whether or not American and European designers are collaborating with the right partners, learning from the best local people, and being as sensitive as they might to the colonial legacies of the countries they want to do good in. Do designers need to better see themselves through the eyes of the local professional and business classes who believe their countries are rising as the U.S. and Europe fall and wonder who, in the end, has the right answers? Might Indian, Brazilian and African designers have important design lessons to teach Western designers?

And finally, one last question: why are we only doing humanitarian design in Asia and Africa and not Native American reservations or rural areas, where standards of education, water and health match the very worst overseas?

It’s a good question. Change-making as mass movement enabled by Western hegemony and entitlement is problematic not only in the field of humanitarian design.

However, designers are perhaps better equipped than most international development professionals in shifting the lens towards the end-users and beneficiaries of innovation.