On 3 June 2022, WDCD Live returned to the heart of Amsterdam for the tenth edition of its annual festival at the Internationaal Theater Amsterdam. What Design Can Do is an international organisation which seeks to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, fair, and just society, by harnessing the power of design. Based in Amsterdam, with hubs in São Paulo, Mexico City, Delhi, Nairobi, and Tokyo, WDCD has been initiated, curated and organised by creatives, ever since its first iteration in 2011.
Plenary sessions were run on the main stage by international artists, activists, and opinion-leaders, and visitors were also invited to participate in small-scale break-out sessions. On behalf of Avans Hogeschool in general, and the Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy in particular, Douwe-Frits Broens introduced and explained From Award to Impact, a research project which brings together creative designers, policymakers, and stakeholders. The project aims to determine whether and how heterodox economic models can be used to develop new pathways, or to broaden existing pathways, that increase the (environmental) impact of biobased solutions.
The project, which is funded by TKI CLICKNL, is a collaboration between Dr. Sebastian Olma (Avans Caradt/ Cultural and Creative Industries research group); Dr. Douwe-Frits Broens (Avans Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy); Dr. Kaj Morel; and Estelle Nieuwenkamp MBI (both Avans ESB/ New Marketing research group).
The discussion at the end of the breakout session revolved around two questions: What is impact? And how do we measure it? It appeared that, though many designers set out with noble aspirations – to draw attention to social inequality, for example, or to give voice to refugees – with retrospect, success is often derived from quantitative data such as financial turnover or reach and readership: the circulation of a book, the number of people who attended a screening. However, there was also a counter-sound. A new narrative is emerging, one in which audience adaptability, or aspirations towards change, are also considered desirable impacts.
The research project will continue in 2022-23 with an extended investigation into the above-mentioned questions. This next phase will focus on designers’ perspectives on sustainable innovation. Designers will work co-creatively with a shared intention to explore potential new impact pathways that are based on a value concept that emphasizes enhanced diversity and inclusivity. Do you want to be kept informed of the outcomes? Keep an eye on our website.
Picture left: Saskia Stein of WDCD hosted the discussion
Picture right: Douwe-Frits Broens and host Saskia Stein