• Reflections of a Design Manager on Sustainability

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    By Hernan David Maestre Piedrahita

    Design is not easy, it requires consistency and passion. It involves an innate desire for change from individuals who see the rough present and believe that their contribution over time will have a positive impact in their context. Designers understand that creative work will always allow improvement, that to pass from invention to innovation we have to endure a diffusion curve that might seem as an uphill battle, that we need a clear vision, a strong project, and key actors for our project to diffuse and be successful.

    We set our project scope in terms of time and deliverables, we plan and conduct research, we filter the information, ideate and refine our concepts, we then proceed to test and validate the solutions and with some rigor and good fortune we end up with a great project right? This past quarter, the main ingredients of our efforts were: The Savannah City Government and the “S” word (sustainability).

    The Savannah City Government

    We were grateful to work with the City of Savannah’s Office of Environmental Services and Sustainability (OESS) throughout the quarter, identifying opportunities to unify the visions of numerous departments through the lens of sustainability. But while the lens was sustainability (the “s” word simply alludes to our understanding that if our work focused more on that word and less on the real needs of each department, any effort was bound to fail), the focus was on identifying collaborative opportunities that were meaningful to the departments that participated.

    Understanding the City Government structure can be an overwhelming challenge for outsiders because some hierarchies and working relationships don’t appear on any diagram. For our team to find solid footing, it required 5 weeks of interviews  and intense visualizations of the complexities of connections between 15 city departments. Ultimately, we sought potential partnerships for new collaborative opportunities between departments to make everyone’s work more efficient and impactful. The visualizations served as a conversation starter between representatives on the first workshop and was crucial to identify the sustainability champions that will carry our work forward and help it gain momentum within the City Government.

    The “S” word:

    Sustainability is often compared to a “New Year’s resolution:” all of us want it, yet few actually achieve it. And still others want nothing to do with resolutions in the first place. And this is because sustainability efforts are rarely quick fixes. Sustainability embraces those longer-term challenges, and requires unique efforts to shift the paradigm. It is an ongoing process of finding opportunities in unlikely places and articulating collaborations that add value to the efforts of all actors.

    There is no wonder that designing for sustainability might appear to be daunting, because it requires actors and stakeholders to open their eyes and admit that the old way of doing things might be outdated. It requires deep reflection from us to take the challenge and compromise to give time and effort.

    Design Management and Sustainability

    In the design field it has been known that transdisciplinary collaborations achieve better design solutions because they link the areas of expertise from various fields. In our particular case we used the sustainability mindset and the skillset of design management to understand facets of the city government and empowered the city with tools for change. Such a strategic design approach has proven to help companies that are “design-centric” to have a 211% return over S&P 500 (Design Management Institute, 2016).

    Our effort was to identify a clear path for projects to develop for departments within the city government, and specially finding sustainable champions that believe that sustainable innovation would have a profound effect on their work and the work of their colleagues. We believe that by facilitating a space to share projects and ideas that reflected on the individual’s dream view of the city, we would find not only common ground that might impulse ongoing projects but also a think tank were ideas can tangibilize.

    On our journey we saw how a snowball effect started to replicate around the city government. A process that we started as strangers and outsiders and with time resonated in the minds of the key actors, opening the opportunity to host 2 workshops were we had multiple leaders who shared barriers to success in their respective departments, successes, and objectives.

    Our project of 10 weeks might be over but this is only the starting point for other designers and stakeholders to continue thriving for a better future. With mindfulness that the tide might change and that we can’t predict how our efforts will permeate in the future, we understand that our work as advocates for sustainability will continue and the city has taken the first step to adopt design as core and be an example of progress.

    Thank you Nick Deffley and Ashley Helmholdt, and all the innovative city department leaders who participated!


     

  • Are We More Connected Than We Think We Are?

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    By Jingya Zhang

    On Oct. 31, we were excited to make our midterm workshop happen at Gulfstream Center for Design, home to SCAD’s Design Management and Design for Sustainability programs. With the help of the Department of Environmental Services and Sustainability, we were glad to host several department heads and staff members from city government in a midterm workshop. Our goal was to present our research process, generate insights and concepts derived from 3 weeks of interviews with representatives from a dozen city departments, and determine next steps for the remaining five weeks of our course.

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  • A New Take on Affinitization

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    By Gabi Campagna

    After looking into different city case studies regarding sustainability initiatives and department dynamics, it was time for us to begin our primary research. With the help of the Department of Environmental Services and Sustainability, we were able to contact several department heads within the City of Savannah as interview subjects. Our goal in these interviews is to understand the mission and methods of each city department so that we may find areas of convergence and opportunity for sustainably driven departmental collaboration.

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  • Inspiration from other Sustainability Plans

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    By Beki Diaz

    As our first dive into the topic of sustainability, we decided to start by looking at other cities and how they have started to shift to sustainable practices. We chose a diverse range of cities including Atlanta, Charleston and New York. Not only did cities these provide different approaches, they represent the ideals that the City of Savannah’s Office of Environmental Services and Sustainability looks forward to embracing and incorporating. As we start to work with them to find strategies that can help them move forward, a look at these role-model cities was the best way to understand their goals.

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  • Sustainability from a Design Management Perspective

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    By Pilar Moreno-Azcarate

    Three weeks ago we started a journey of understanding and welcoming sustainability into our practice as design managers.

    In our first week of exploration, we discovered that design management methods and sustainability models are very similar; both are based in systemic thinking and in a holistic approach to problems. This is not a coincidence; both emerge from the urgency of changing the way society has been developing. “The Industrial Age has brought extraordinary improvements in public education, human rights, and material wellbeing, but it has also destroyed ecosystems, swallowed up traditional cultures that had thrived for centuries, and created a way of life that cannot continue for much longer” (Peter Senge, 2008). We are shifting to a new era where the only way to bring development to everyone and guarantee a safe future is transforming our paradigm to start a truly sustainable way of living. This implies changes in how businesses project their vision and structure. Business models need to incorporate systemic thinking: “invest seriously and immediately in building a regenerative economy and society that mimics nature as fully as possible” (Peter Senge, 2008).

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  • Taking the Next Sustainable Step

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    By Claire Partlow

    As our ten-week project has drawn to a close, the UST team reflects on what has been a productive and insightful first step into Sustainable Small Business in Savannah. Throughout this project we have endured a rigorous process of ethnographic research and analysis. We also had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing numerous “champions” of sustainability in Savannah. In addition to our research, we hosted three events to gain feedback from key stakeholders. Through our extensive research process, we were able to discover compelling insights that are supported by data.

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  • How Will Our Next Date Look?

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    By Alexis X.A. Roberts

    Insights are indeed the keys to good design: We had heard from our Green Business stakeholders in Savannah that the existing social events geared toward sustainability in town had grown unfruitful, and a little stale. We responded to this with a Green Speed Dating event. To be clear, we weren’t actually trying to have our Green Business Owners date one another. Instead, this event was meant to introduce our stakeholders to a new way of approaching the existing social landscape of Savannah’s Small Green Business network. Our Green Speed Dating was intended to stimulate conversations around future plans, and around the idea that innovative collaborations between businesses can create the right conditions to nurture those plans.

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  • Keys to Meaning + Good Design

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    - A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience. – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

    by Alexis X.A. Roberts

    Insights are the keys to design that are meaningful and compelling. We shared some of these insights with a number of pioneers of Green Business in Savannah to gather more input during our midterm presentation and workshop. Now the challenge was to bring our original insights and these newly discovered ones together to inform our next step. We had just over a weekend to make them come to life but we ended up with something exciting which you’ll read about in a later post. Here’s a little bit about the journey we took to get there.

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  • We’re All In This Together

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    By Claire Partlow

    We live in a world of interconnected systems. Each seemingly insignificant decision you make has a ripple effect of varying consequences that affect other systems. According to scientist and author Donella Meadows, “a system is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something. A system must consist of three things: elements, interconnections and a function or purpose” 

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  • To Affinity and Beyond!

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    By Claire Partlow

    Our Sustainable Small-Business in Savannah project has a new name—U.S.T.—which stands for United for a Sustainable Tomorrow. Our team has been gaining a lot of momentum in the past few weeks, and we are excited about the direction our research is headed!

    This past week we concluded our stakeholder interviews with various small-business owners and key actors in Savannah (28 interviews in all…and a few more to come!). Not only did we enjoy engaging in insightful conversations with some of the champions of sustainable business thinking in Savannah, we also discovered some surprising data and unique perspectives. We’re grateful, too, for all of the background material that was supplied to us. We understand that we’re not the first ones–SCAD students, community leaders or business people–to be exploring the idea of nurturing.

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