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Design Thinking - Waste as Resource

Updated: Jul 20, 2018

What happens when you introduce design thinking to Transition Year Students?


Refreshments anyone? Coffee cup lids, milk carton and plastic water bottle tops

At the core of the CoDesRes is a design-thinking methodology, the pCr critical praxis. Design thinking is a solution-based approach to creative problem-solving, particularly wicked problems (Rittel and Webber, 1973). Wicked problems are messy, complex and open to interpretation depending on one's point of view or knowledge e.g. poverty, healthcare, or education. In the pCr praxis, design thinking has been integrated into a systems approach, that forefronts social and environmental justice in its processes. As an iterative process, the pCr praxis is useful for engaging with ill-defined problems or more importantly problem-finding.


Often, the problem we are trying to solve is merely a symptom and the root cause goes unaddressed. This is the importance of integrating a systems approach. It is only once we begin to look at the whole system do we see that we may need to look for our answer differently. Part of the work we undertook with this years TY work placement involved trying different activities to introduce, learn about and practice design thinking using the pCr praxis. This was also to encourage an important principle in design thinking - challenging assumptions. Discussing what worked or didn’t and how we could improve upon the activities also enabled the student research assistants and the team to explore and develop new ideas and resources.


The pCr critical praxis for creative place-making, was developed to encourage creative engagement and self-organisation within community development. Built as an emergent and agile methodology, informed by systems thinking, evolutionary biology, ecological design methods, open source culture and situated arts practice, its processes can highlight opportunities that may be overlooked in other circumstances and offer pathways or solutions that have not yet been explored or tested. CoDesRes is looking at how the pCr praxis can be used within STEAM place-based learning interventions to contribute to the global goals SDG 11, 14 and 15. This forms part of the approach that the CoDesRes project seeks to share with the 2018 /19 Transition Year Students and with a number of community projects we have planned over the two years.


Population is an important issue for both urban and rural contexts and presenting a broader understanding of career paths and more diverse opportunities for progression routes to employment within rural contexts could contribute to SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Resilient Communities. The recent Dell report (2017) projects that 85% of jobs in 2030 haven’t been invented yet; an increase of 20% on the more commonly-used figure of 65%. Whether the update from 65% to 85% is accurate, the point is that we have to begin to think about the world of work in different ways and increasingly, design thinking will have a bigger role to play - everything is designed whether products, policies or operational systems.


Our first session was an introduction to the local marine ecology and various organisms found on Kerry’s beaches and in local waters. Using the 'Marine Creature Feature', a hands on exploratory session designed by WP2 lead Lucy Hunt / SeaSynergy and an information session on Shark and Ray egg cases delivered by WP3 Lead Eleanor Turner, the foundational information for the TY Research Assistants’ tasks for the week was provided. In combination with step-by-step educational resources, blended learning and team teaching, the students completed the following tasks

  • Review and analyse existing SDG resources

  • Create an SDG Pecha Kucha

  • Create a bio-fact poster about a local marine organism (think about audience, information, layout etc)

  • Explore the design and function of the shark and ray egg cases as inspiration to make a new object

  • Create puppets out of the plastic and other materials we are recycling in the office.

  • Looking at parades, how we might embed the SDGs into the St Patrick’s Day parade through costumes, themes and up-cycled materials

  • Document the empty under-used space in the area with a view to developing potential ideas for new uses

Using a hands-on creative integrated approach enabled us to explore issues of plastic pollution, waste management and more positively explore creative solutions to local concerns. The TY placements were insightful for the team and the Student Research Assistants. For the team, they offered a chance to explore curriculum ideas for teaching SDGs using a STEAM place-based design thinking approach, as well as encouraging the students to share their expertise and contribute towards the next stage of the project.


In addition to the practical skills gained in completing the tasks, the placements offered a more tangible understanding of potential career paths, previously unknown to the students. This is an important aspect of engaging with place-based perspectives for the SDGs and highlighting overlooked concerns and issues that will need to be addressed in the future to insure the area’s resilience.

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CoDesRes: Co-designing for rural Resilience through P2P networks and STEAM place-based learning interventions. The CoDesRes researchers are part of SMARTlab UCD  and the Inclusive Design Research Centre of Ireland. 

 

This research project is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has the statutory function of co-ordinating and promoting environmental research.

 

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