Many talk about creating social impact - not as many succeed. Achieving genuine social change is a complicated task, as it involves people as well as intricate systems with numerous stakeholders. However, this is also where the key lies – through partnerships, co-creation, and redesign of systemic reward structures, we can put what truly matters back in the center – people.
We need a holistic focus to bring out the human potential
When we work with social issues and support systems, whether the core issue is working with prevention, treatment, or urgent forms of assistance, there is one thing we can never forget – the person we’re aiming to help. He or she needs to be the centre of attention for every single decision, strategy, and action. For this to happen, we need to have a holistic view of both the problem at hand, the person, and the possible solutions that we can offer him or her. Only that way can we bring out the human potential that we believe is there and put it to use, not only for the individual but also for society.
An urgent need to redesign reward systems
If you’ve ever been in contact with any form of social service - as a user or a provider -chances are that you at some point have been a frustrated victim of its silo-shaped structures. As professional and competent as officials and case handlers may be, the system you work within often stops you from providing a holistic and positive experience. Disconnected departments, lack of effective communication, and reward systems that promote silo thinking make it difficult to see the whole picture. Above all – it makes it nearly impossible to make the right decisions that will help the individual get the right support, in the right moment and from the most appropriate provider.
This is why it’s essential to work with systemic redesign in social projects. If we really want to achieve sustainable and genuine impact with long-term effects – we need to change the system to promote collective action and collective responsibility. That way, we can upend the common problem with people falling between the chairs and bringing their unused potential with them in the fall.
Partnerships are key to successful implementation
Of course, working holistically and redesign systemic structures is not something that is done in a whiff. It requires mandate, time, and a genuine will to change. Moreover, it requires partnerships. Social impact and welfare projects are complex, and to achieve the holistic approaches and solutions that we need and want, it's essential to work cross-disciplinary. As designers, we can contribute with valuable knowledge and methodologies for getting user insight, building user-centered services, and working as catalysts and facilitators in change projects. We can help visualize the ecosystem of services and stakeholders involved and make sure everybody is 'speaking the same language' and discussing the same problem.
However, there are more competencies needed in these types of projects – deep knowledge about the social issues at hand, the systems involved, and economic factors are also necessary, to mention a few things. It's when all these parts come into play and collaborate to create effective and people-centered solutions that have immediate, as well as long-term, impact on people's lives and society.
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