Giving Compass’ Take:
• Stanford Social Innovation Review discusses the rise of design thinking and how it can be applied to the enormous sphere of global poverty.
• Is it possible to address the gaps in conventional development efforts and poverty interventions with such a shift? Design thinking addresses more fundamental questions — such as “Why does poverty exist?” — and may be more responsive to imbalances in power.
There’s been a lot of hype in recent years about the power of design thinking to solve social problems. Companies like IDEO, frog, and Smart Design — as well as numerous foundations, design schools, and nonprofits — have set out to tackle tough issues with innovations that make use of social and cognitive science, focus on systemic analysis, and pay attention to emergent patterns. They are advocates of design thinking for social impact, and they’re making serious progress in areas such as improving voter registration and education programs for people stranded in refugee camps.
But what if we were to ratchet up from this level of targeted innovation and apply design principles to one of the biggest social issues of our time: global poverty itself?
The world’s most powerful governments and international institutions are working hard right now to convince us that global poverty has been cut in half since the 90’s. More and more analysts, though, are pointing out that this claim is little more than an accounting trick: UN officials have massaged the numbers to make it seem as though poverty has been reduced, when in fact it has increased.
What this means is that the bulk of the well-meaning development projects that have been rolled out in the Global South over the past 65 years — costing hundreds of billions of dollars — have had very little positive impact on poverty numbers (with a net negative effect when ecological degradation is added to the equation). How has this happened?
The answer is that the preferred development model suffers from severe, monumental design flaws.
Read the full article about using design thinking to address poverty by Martin Kirk, Jason Hickel and Joe Brewer at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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