Designing for resilience

Earlier this month I had the privilege of co-presenting at SOCAP’s “Designing the Future” conference in Malmö, Sweden.

SOCAP, or Social Capital Markets, brings together social entrepreneurs, philanthropic funders, and impact investors dedicated to increasing the “flow of capital toward social good.” Back in September 2011, I led the Design for Social Innovation track at the SOCAP11 conference in San Francisco, and several others from Hot Studio set up drop-in consulting.

This time around I was joined by David McConville, President of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, and Mauricio Apablaza, from Oxford University’s Poverty and Human Development Initiative. Our talk focused on the idea of designing for resilience.

Concepts of resilience exist in the fields of physics and psychology. But our talk focused on a different, more holistic understanding of resilience; one that considers the capacity of systems—be they social, cultural, economic, or ecological—to deal with change and continue to develop, using disturbances to catalyze renewal, novelty, and innovation. In other words, how do systems respond to change, and how can they be improved by disruptions?

This aspect of resilience incorporates several different disciplines, notably the sciences and design, and stresses the interconnectedness of things and the way big systems work together. My co-presenters and I believe resilience has the capacity to fundamentally alter how human beings approach problem-solving on a global, systemic level.

One of the prime movers in the space has been the Brooklyn, New York-based Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI). Dedicated to continuing the work of the groundbreaking designer, inventor, and polymath Bucky Fuller (known for his geodesic dome, dymaxion car, among many, many other things), the BFI works to forward initiatives that fuse science and design. For the past several years, the BFI has sponsored the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, an annual design competition that awards $100,000 to support the “development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity's most pressing problems.”

An example of resilience at work can be seen in the 2011 winner of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, Blue Ventures, which leveraged marine biology to solve socio-economic problems in Madagascar. For years, indigenous coastal communities had been overfishing their main crop, octopus. As a result, octopus populations declined, forcing fishermen to become more desperate in their hunt for the eight-tentacled mollusks. It was a vicious cycle: the more they fished, the poorer the villages became.

Read the full article here. This post originally appeared on Hot Studio's blog and has been republished with permission.

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