25 May 2009

Focusing design solutions on social problems

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Frederik Wiedermann
Alice Rawsthorn of The New York Times has published an article on social design and service innovation:

“When Ritt Bjerregaard became lord mayor of the city of Copenhagen in 2006, she was astonished to discover how many working days were lost when civic employees fell ill, and how much it cost — roughly €100 million, or $140 million, a year.

City officials made various attempts to tackle the problem. Training programs were introduced for the worst-affected staff, as were research tools to help managers monitor the incidence of sick leave and its impact.

The mayor and her colleagues then decided to analyze the problem in greater depth, and invited consultants to pitch for the project. The one they chose was ReD Associates, one of a new breed of hybrid consulting groups that combine design with other disciplines, such as ethnography, psychology and anthropology, to tackle social problems as well as commercial ones.

Rapidly though this area of design is expanding, it is still so new that it does not have a name, at least not one that has stuck. “Social design,” “service design” and “service innovation” are among the favorites”.

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