Design thinking goes to schools

Design for Change has been making a great impact on children, the world over, thanks to a simple, sticky idea by Kiran Bir Sethi , Director of the charming Riverside School, located in Ahmedabad, India. An idea that enables children from all walks of like to use design thinking to solve the immediate problems around them.

The idea is so simple, you wonder why no one thought of this before. As a jury member, invited to evaluate and select the best stories, I was both amazed and elated.

Children are introduced to a simplisitic, design thinking approach, called FIDS ( Feel, Imagine, Do and Share), where they feel for a problem that affects them, imagine an alternative, preferred scenario, work on the change and share their stories of success. It’s the simplicity of the process that appeals to schools, both private and public, rural and urban, rich and poor, alike. Children take on issues big and small that affect them from Bullying to Cleanliness, Growing trees to banning plastics, transforming classrooms to transforming attitudes and feel empowered to bring about change using the ‘ I Can’ spirit.

There is no better example for the power of Design thinking than this.

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Infographic Courtesy: http://dfcworld.com

The d*school or the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, introduced the concept to the K-12 schools in USA with exciting results. “Teachers and students engage in hands-on design challenges that focus on developing empathy, promoting a bias toward action, encouraging ideation, developing metacognitive awareness and fostering active problem solving.”

While that was a guided, supervised process, Kiran’s DFC is self-starting and viral. Which is all the better. Her TED talk has been so widely received that it is impacting children globally.

Recently the Pearson report called  ‘The Learning Curve’, emphasises, the need for 21st century skills for our children, that include: Leadership, Digital Literacy, Emotional Intelligence, Communication, Team working, Problem solving and Entrepreneurship. Amazingly, children who go through design thinking are impacted with the exact same skills.

Others have been catching up to the impact this has. NoTosh, a Edinburgh based organisation, that works with governments and schools has found success in introducing Design Thinking at schools, with the ultimate aim of improving the overall learning process in schools.

The DFC team is all set on the path to making an entire new generation of children with the creative confidence to survive in the new world order. And, happily, Design is helping them reach there.

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Ministry of Design, Mr Modi?

Dear Prime Minister,

Your landslide victory in the elections and your swearing-in as the new Prime Minister has given the vast majority of Indians, the audacity of hope.

It is now clear to all that you believe in change. If there is one profession that can match up to that belief, it is the profession of Design. We believe in change, too and often question the status quo, just the way you have done.

Having been in Gujarat, home to NID, the oldest and the most prestigious design institute of this country, you are probably aware already, what design can do. Having allocated land in Gandhinagar for NID’s PG campus, you have already done your bit for Design as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

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But, now, as PM, your canvas is larger. The expectations are mounting and so are the problems. I want to draw your attention to do something dramatic, as is expected of you. Please create a new ministry: Ministry of Design.

The Ministry can be the think-tank, you need that will kickstart design thinking for governance. You need design thinking across all the 230 sectors of the economy. Take for instance, primary education. The Pearson report on education says that Technology can provide new pathways into adult education, particularly in the developing world, but is no panacea. There is little evidence that technology alone helps individuals actually develop new skills.” So, I hope you will not fall for the free laptop or cheap tablet phenomenon and focus on training our children, new skills like Leadership, Critical thinking, Problem solving and team-working, which will help them become global citizens.

Introducing ‘Design Thinking’ at school-level prepares them for the world and this has been amply proved by the ‘Design for Change‘, a program that germinated in Ahmedabad and is empowering children world over with creative confidence.

We all are aware of your concerns for Energy, Water, Transport, Health and the Environment. Do you also know that there are projects big and small, done by designers that attempt to solve problems in a systemic way? Whether it is the d*light project of lamps for the common man or the Daily Dump‘s project in home-composting, these are enough to convince you that design needs to get it’s due.

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You need to also look at the great Indian resource of hand-made crafts. For decades, designers have been working with artisans,from Kutch to Katlamaran, Srinagar to Chennapatna not only to make beautiful products, but also make them economically independent and socially acceptable. The pride you have for all-things Indian, will come to the fore, I promise.

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Does this mean, you need to start more design institutes? Maybe, not, Mr Modi. I hope you have the time to familiarise yourself with the VISION FIRST think-tank that demonstrated the need to embed design across sectors. We need more nimble, small design centres envisioned as part of existing schools, colleges and institutions.

I hope you would empower the India Design Council to take this agenda forward. And make design accessible to all. You may want to make it more outward-looking and create an agenda, beyond superficiality.
The Ministry of Design can be the agent of change that you want to see. And you can count on the design community to join you in this cause.

 

 

Leading from the front and how!

The INDEX Awards (http://www.indexaward.dk/)  is no ordinary design award. It is a recognition for using design for improving lives. While it re-iterates the huge potential of design for improving lives of people, the awards do put the spotlight on thought leaders who could leverage this potential and make them actionable. In a world full of form-giving designers these award winners stand apart in using design for its primary purpose of ‘improving lives’.

In that context, India’s KIran BIr Sethi and Pranay Desai win this year for their ‘ Design for Change’ is truly a proud moment for Indian design.  My last post was about designers from India leading from the front. This award is proof of this potential. KIran Bir Sethi has taken the lead and ‘infecting the bug’ into every child, the potential to feel for a problem and taking charge to find solutions for it. The contest runs for a few days but it empowers every child to solve their own problems and prepares them for facing the challenges of the world.

Kiran Bir Sethi, a designer by qualification, has been recognised for what she calls as ‘common sense’ in leveraging the creativity and potential of school students into a game-changing movement all over the globe. She easily manages to make each child a protagonist, who take charge of situations and solve problems. Kiran has managed to leverage ‘desisgn thinking’ to hep solve everyday problems. And has managed to inspire the future generations of the world.

Her TED talk on the subject continues to be inspiring. It shows her journey ffrom 2007 when she took a small idea and ran with it. She proves that design thinkers from India can lead from the front using the ‘common sense’ approach.

Lead on Kiran BIr Sethi!  And hearty congratulations!