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Dream big, start small

Designing for the unknown – further thoughts

August 4, 2014 by meghastie   

Having commented on the forum, and feeling the need not to rave too much, I wanted to develop some of the ideas a little more – they may seem rather slapdash otherwise.

My two key points were –

  • 1. That design is not a solitary occupation. 
  • The importance of involving others.  Firstly,  whether it be the “stranger” for the new ideas and new ways of thinking and understanding they can bring to a need / desire being addressed. And secondly the actual people whose needs / desires are being addressed.  Seeing things from their perspective, seeing how they experience the situation rather than assuming we know it.  I loved the hospital filming from Bennet’s TEDtalk – the pain and agony of lying there was all so clear!   I also loved that in that example it was the nurses who jumped straight in and found several really practical solutions quickly – they are used to sitting with the patients, and they so often empathise and understand the experience of the hospital.

Team work and collaboration are essential, drawing in those multidisciplinary teams we looked at in the last module to strengthen and broaden the Knowledge and open up the horizons of new Concepts.

My second observation is

2. It takes time to develop a design brief.

The Walker school project did not happen overnight! Extensive consultation across a number of different stakeholders occurred.  They had games and quizzes set up to help engage people, then formed teams to collaborate in order to do some needfinding, as well as bring new ideas in. their process was staged and deliberate.

I loved the wholistic approach – that it was not just about the building budget, but the school had drilled right back to look at the key educational concepts and frameworks they wanted to take their students through, in two year brackets – from beginning to the end of their high school journey and beyond.

Lots of thought had gone into the core business of the school – how do we meet the educational needs of this particular group of students (boys, high vocational needs etc).  this was not a simplistic or cookie-cutter approach to education, but a thoughtful contextualised engagement with student, staff and community needs and requirements.

I think this highlights one of the inherent difficulties in meeting the needs of both BIG and SMALL – BIG wants solutions, wants systems and wants actions and results, whereas to draw that out of the SMALL takes more time and work.  I think there is also frequently (in schools anyway), a distinction between the stated “vision” of the organisation (eg  lifelong learners, whole child-focussed, etc etc), and their unspoken desires (high marks at key exit points to further enhance marketability).

Whilst these concepts are not mutually exclusive, it involves taking the school into new ways of seeing education, new ways of “doing things”, and a willingness to stand against the status quo and the pressurised world of standardised testing that increasingly dominates media discussion of education.  This difference between stated and hidden outcomes problematises the design paradigm.  It  is a complex scenario and takes sensitivity and –  yet again – time to draw out and work through what can be seen as competing ideas.


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