The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: A New Vision for a Positive Planet

cirplan.jpg

In 2015, the United Nations announced an ambitious set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to assemble the world's private and public sectors to converge around the core problem areas that we must address as a collective society to move into a sustainable future.

The goals are universal and set ambitious targets for creating healthier, happier, and more positive lifestyle opportunities for all 7.4 billion people living on the planet.

sdgs.jpg

Our founder and lead creative changemaker at Disrupt Design was named Champion of the Earth by the United Nations in 2016 for her pioneering work in elevating science-led sustainability and innovation. All of our programs and initiatives align with the SDGs, especially with goal 12 in helping to bring about change in the way we design, produce, and consume products. 

 
https://www.globalgoals.org On September 25th 2015, 193 world leaders will commit to 17 Global Goals to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years. End extreme poverty. Fight inequality & injustice. Fix climate change. The Global Goals for sustainable development could get these things done. In all countries. For all people.

An Introduction to the Disruptive Design Method

an introduction to the Disruptive Design Method by Disrupt Design

The Disruptive Design Method is an approach to exploring, understanding, and evolving complex problems into sustainable solutions. It combines systems thinking, sustainability sciences, and design methodologies to create problem-loving creative changemakers who are capable of diving deep into complex problem sets, developing strong social innovation outcomes, and reconfiguring business toward the Circular Economy.

The world needs more pioneers of change, people who are willing to intentionally and thoughtfully disrupt the status quo of deep-seeded problem arenas. Innovation is useful for iterating at the edges, but what I am interested in founding is a movement of creative changemakers who have the critical, cognitive, and practical tools to understand, intervene, and activate positive impacts globally.

going beyond innovation and design thinking with the Disruptive Design Method

To clarify, in the case of this approach, ‘disruption’ is used to describe the active intervention into a problem arena by diving deep under its obvious components and mining its foundations to be able to then develop a systemic understanding of what feeds the issue being addressed. Then, by applying techniques such as systems mapping, one can identify intervention points and create designs that seek to shift the status quo of the problem arena. This approach is all about intent to positively intervene and disrupt the status quo of any problem arena to ensure that the outcome is more effective, equitable, and sustainable.

There is a three-part Method (that anyone can use) and a 12-part Methodology set that underpins the applied Method. Let me lay these out now:

The 3-Part Disruptive Design Method

There are three distinct parts to the applied Disruptive Design Method — Mining, Landscaping, and Building (MLB) — each is enacted and cycled through in order to gain a granulated, refined outcome through iterative feedback loops.

MINING

The first part is Mining, where the mindset is one of curiosity and exploration. In this phase, we do deep participatory research, suspend the need to solve, avoid trying to impose order, and embrace the chaos of any complex system. The tools of the phase are: research, observation, exploration, curiosity, wonderment, participatory action, questioning, data collection, and insights.

LANDSCAPING

The second part is Landscaping. This is where we take all the parts that we uncovered during the Mining phase and start to piece them together to form a landscaped view through systems mapping and exploration. Landscaping is the mindset of connection, where you see the the world as a giant jigsaw puzzle that you are putting back together and creating a different perspective that enables a bird’s eye view of the problem arena. Insights are gathered, and locations of where to intervene in the system to leverage change are identified. The tools for this phase are: systems mapping (cluster, interconnected circles, etc.), dynamic systems exploration, synthesis, emergence, identification, insight gathering, and intervention identification.

BUILDING

The third part of the MLB Method is Building. This is the creative ideation phase that allows for the development of divergent design ideas that build on potential intervention points to leverage change within the system. The goal is to not solve but to evolve the problem arena you are working within so that the status quo is shifted. Here we use a diversity of ideation and prototyping tools to move through a design process to get to the best-fit outcome for your intervention.

iterative action research with the disruptive design method

Iterative Action

The key to this entire approach is iteration and ‘cycling through’ the stages to get to a refined and ‘best-fit’ outcome. Why do we do this? Because problems are complex, knowledge builds over time, and experience gives us the tools to make change that sticks and grows. This cycling through approach draws upon the Action Research Cycle to create an iterative approach to exploring, understanding, and evolving the problem arena.

systems at play diagram by leyla acaroglu

The 12-Part Methodology Set

The three applied parts of the MLB Method are based on a more complex Methodology set. This set combines 12 divergent theory arenas to form the foundation to complex problem identification, solving and evolving that develops a three-dimensional perspective of the way the world works. From cognitive sciences to gamification and systems interventions, the 12 units of the Disruptive Design Methodology are designed to fit together to form the foundations of a practice in creative changemaking. We teach the full set at the UnSchool as part of our online and in-person workshops.

Systems, Sustainability and Design

Through the MLB Method, systems boundaries are used to define the problem arenas one wants to explore and through systems mapping connection points perfect for tactical interventions are exposed (which is often not where you would intuitively think, based on your starting knowledge in the problem arena).

From this, new knowledge is built from the mining and landscaping phases, that form the foundations for rapidly developing divergent and creative ideas to intervening in the problem arena. Any problem from small, hyper-local concerns to massive global issues can be explored and evolved through this MLB Method. And, because it’s a thinking and doing practice, it can be adapted and evolved based on the problem. The core of the approach is always systems, sustainability, and design.

Becoming a Problem-Lover

Instead of avoiding or ignoring problems, this method teaches you how to be a problem lover who dives right into the sticky center of the issue; and has the tools to cycle through the issues and seek out the non-obvious opportunities, designing divergent solutions that build on your unique individual sphere of influence, which is the space we can all curate to affect change on the people or things around us.

Systems thinking is one of the powerful tools that we use to explore complex problems, it enables any practitioner to see the entire system from multiple perspectives and empowers a shift in ridged to flexible mindsets.

The Green Economy: A Future that is Sustainable, Regenerative and Circular

lincirc.jpg

THE GREEN ECONOMY

There is no doubt of the need to rapidly address the social and environmental issues facing humanity today. Thankfully, the global creative and business community has started to adapt and take action in moving toward the United Nations (and many others) calls the 'Green Economy'. An economy that is sustainable, regenerative and circular in nature.  

This is a global movement away from the ‘business as usual’ approach to the commodification of natural resources and the prioritization of profit over purpose, to circular and regenerative products and systems that provide economic growth and social equity all within the Earth's carrying capacity. 

Seeking to incorporate the ‘ability’ to ‘sustain’ life on Earth, the conjoined word ‘sustainability’ has taken on many cultural meanings since it started to become more widely used in the late 1990s. The concept of economic growth in line with biosystem constraints and in respect of social systems makes complete sense when you consider the fundamental principles of life of Earth. We are all sustained by food, air, and water – none of which we can make ourselves without the beautifully complex natural systems that flourish on Earth. 

The shift towards a circular, sustainable and regenerative economy is often referred to as being ignited in 1987 when the Our Common Future came out (called the Brundtland Report, crediting the main author). Then, at the Rio Earth Summit, the definition of sustainable development was catapulted into the public arena, setting the global agenda for a future that is sustainable and regenerative. 

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs
— Definition of Sustainable Development in the Brundtland Report, 1987, p. 43
A new plan for people and planet has just launched - the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Tell everyone!
 

In 2015, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 17 global goals to be achieved over a 15-year plan. The Green Economy is critical to achieving these goals, with the Partnership for Action on the Green Economy bringing together nations, states and the private sector to rapidly transition to sustainable systems. 

Many organizations and industry leaders who are adapting to the Green Economy need to rapidly upskill in Circular Systems and Sustainable Design in order to build capacity in creating new business models, technologies, and service models that fit within this fundamentally different approach to generating wealth and serving global human needs. 

How are you making changes to be apart of the future economy? Circular Systems Design, life cycle, and systems thinking are all credible and powerful tools to enact organizational shifts towards a circular and green economy. 

Circular Economy Primer

the circular  economy by disrupt design

SHIFTING TO CIRCULAR SYSTEMS

The circular economy is a $4.5 trillion opportunity. It’s a new way of looking at the relationships between markets, customers and natural resources, leveraging innovative new business models and disruptive technologies to transform the current “take, make, dispose” economic model.
— World Business Council for Sustainable Development

It’s exciting when movements catalyze and bring together many great ideas. That is exactly what the Circular Economy Movement is doing. An overarching umbrella concept, it is used to describe the rapid, intentional shift from a linear take-make-waste economy to a circular one that values resources from pre-extraction to post-disposability.

Companies and governments around the world are embracing and integrating the many theories and approaches of the Circular Economy. Reports demonstrate the economic validity of this transition and the opportunities that designing products for circularity offers.

The circular economy aims to eradicate waste—not just from manufacturing processes, as lean management aspires to do, but systematically, throughout the life cycles and uses of products and their components.
— Mckinsey and Company, 2016 report on the Circular Economy
from linear to circular economy

There are several key approaches that make up the Circular Economy, but the most important are:

  • Turning products into product service systems (PSS) that maintain value across the entire life of the product
  • Taking a scientific life cycle approach to understanding the impact of design and production decisions
  • Looking to nature for solutions through Biomimetics and natural principles
  • Understanding and working within the two main nutrient cycles: biological (things that degrade and contribute back to nature) and technological (things that go back into a production cycle)
  • Using systems thinking to understand feedback loops and dynamics while also avoiding unintended consequences
  • Viewing circular systems as regenerative, which means they offer positive elements back to the system rather than detract from it and destroy
  • Maximising effectiveness and efficiency of materials and resources through design, known as eco-design strategies or sustainable design principles 
 

Leyla Acaroglu explains systems thinking for the Circualr Economy at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's 2017 Summit in London. 

Looking beyond the current “take, make and dispose” extractive industrial model, the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimising negative impacts. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital.
— Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The concept of the Circle Economy has been around since the late 1980’s, but right now is blooming into a global economic shift that will significantly change the way we do busines, consume products and design systems. The World Economic Forum and the European Commission have platforms and mandates to advance the Circular Economy. 

 
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming entire systems of production, distribution and consumption. Unprecedented levels of technological innovation are giving rise to new models of consumption – products and services – including where and how they are being accessed. This transformation will create significant economic opportunity across developed and emerging economies with the arrival of new business and operating models.
— World Economic Forum
 
How do we sustain economic growth in a world of finite natural resources and a growing population? With natural resources becoming ever more difficult to obtain and our industrial processes exponentially impacting our environment. Our future economies, by necessity will have to mimic the Earths Natural systems.

7 Systems Thinking Benefits that Every Organization Needs

ToolsOfASystemsThinker_inverted.jpg

THINKING IN SYSTEMS

 

Systems thinking is one of the most powerful tools we have to understand and change the world around us. The original application of systems thinking in organizational management and change started to evolve in the 90’s, with the need to reconfigure efficiency and productivity within organizations.

Today, many industries leverage the power of systems thinking, from healthcare to advanced technological applications. Redesigning how we can sustainably deliver products and services also requires a systems thinking approach.

This ensures that we meet human needs without negatively impacting the natural systems that sustain life on Earth.

 

systems thinking with disrupt design
 

BUILDING SOLUTIONS

Organizations employing a systems approach to sustainability and organizational change gain a more evolved understanding of how things are interconnected.

This helps develop creative, divergent, and effective ways to rapidly build solutions that have positive impacts.

Here are seven exciting outcomes that you gain from applying systems thinking to personal and professional activities:  

  1. Optimization: With a deeper understanding of the dynamics within a system, optimization is an emergent outcome of systems thinking. It allows organizations and individuals to take full advantage of any element within their system.

  2. Problem Loving: Rather than avoiding complexity, systems thinking helps individuals discover the exciting opportunities that problems offer for innovation and creative development. Employees become problem lovers, not problem avoiders.

  3. 3-Dimensional Perspective: A systems approach looks at the whole organism or ecosystem, not the individual parts. This means moving beyond the siloed ‘departments’ and developing a trans-disciplinary understanding of the macro and micro in an interconnected, dynamic way. The world is not flat – developing a wholistic systems view unlocks the power of creativity.

  4. From Linear to Circular: Human-produced systems are largely linear. We take things from nature, manufacture them into usable goods, and then dispose of them back into holes from where resources were extracted. This approach is reductive and inefficient. A systems approach allows for the circularizing of all products and services so that we design out waste and inefficiencies, plus create more value.

  5. Failure is Fun: Since there is no blame in a system and everything is interconnected, systems thinkers get excited about discovery. This is especially true when it's learned through ‘failure,’ as it helps gain new perspectives that build our creative capacity.  

  6. Interconnectivity: Everything in nature is dynamically interconnected and interdependent, just as humans need each other for success. Creativity and productivity depend on interconnectivity, and systems thinking provides the tools to integrate this into everyday practices.  

  7. Creativity: The more you develop a dynamic understanding of the world, the more creativity your brain starts to develop. Conformity kills creativity; to overcome this crisis, systems thinking activates new neurological development and enables dynamic, divergent thinking.

 

The Productivity Hack Your Organization Needs: Shifting Mindsets

obs.jpg

SHIFTING MINDSETS

In order to maximize productivity in a positive and regenerative way, we need to shift mindsets from a mechanical worldview to one of dynamic, creative, interconnected systems worldviews.

 We need to apply our past knowledge of the evolution of the natural sciences to our organization and production processes and systems of today.

CREATIVE POTENTIAL

Creativity pioneer Edward de Bono argues that possibility is what makes a beautiful creative mind. In his work, he illustrates how the mind uses experiences to map and pattern thoughts.

It shows significant insights into the way humans can bust through linear thinking into lateral, divergent, and disruptive thinking modes.

For de Bono, creativity stems from being open to provocation. Stagnation of ideas come through the repetition of the same experiences and thus comfort is a killer of creativity.

How often does your organization seek out provocative new experiences that challenges the status quo so that your creativity can be enhanced through positive challenges? 

SYSTEMS THINKING

Systems thinking, with all its different offshoots and branches, evolved to help humans understand how to be more effective and creative as communities, as collaborators with nature, and as contributors to the future.

Knowledge, meaning, and purpose are understood through the building up of ‘whole pictures’ of phenomena rather than the breaking down of things into parts.

systems thinking and mapping

SHIFTING MINDSETS

By adopting a creative systems worldview, we shift our mindsets to look for interrelationships within and between systems.

When looking to increase efficiency, productivity, and creativity, organizations need to think about the untapped knowledge that exists in the deeper worldviews that people hold.

This helps overcome natural cognitive biases and unlock the creative potential of their human resources.

This will help us learn how to build regenerative businesses that give back, rather than take away from the planet.

The 3 Main Systems at Play in the World are...

3 main systems at play in systems thinking by leyla acaroglu

One of the obstacles many people experience when starting to embrace a systems worldview is the infinite possibility of everything being interconnected.

This often overwhelms people, limiting their ability to see what is immediately at play in the world around them. So, we have developed a simple identification tool for people who are starting out in systems thinking.

MINDSET SHIFT

Shifting to this mindset begins with identifying and thinking through the major systems at play: social, industrial, and ecological. This helps people to classify the intangible and structural systems to then be able see how they interact and impact society at large.  

  1. Social: these are the human-created systems that are constructed to facilitate and advance human society, such as education, finance, legal frameworks, and government.

  2. Industrial: these are the products, goods, infrastructure, and services created to facilitate the social systems that serve humanity. Their physicality and need for materials to function usually categorize them. These include roads, transport, cars, petrol stations, and the parts needed to make each of them function.

  3. Ecosystems: these are the natural systems that sustain life on Earth, provide the raw materials that facilitate the industrial systems, and literally keep the world spinning. These include the hydrogen cycle, carbon cycle, flora and fauna, minerals, and nutrient cycles. Everything in nature is circular. Humans, however, tend to make our industrial systems linear – which is one of the root causes of unsustainability.

These three system categories form the foundation for an understanding of how the world works. They inform the dynamic relationships between human needs, social order, infrastructure, and ecosystem services.

Of course, you see that they are all interconnected when you begin mapping them.

Shifting Mindsets through systems thinking

DEVELOPING CAPACITY

If your goal is to develop the capacity to intervene and leverage change within a systems framework, then use social, industrial, and ecosystems as the foundational building blocks for this approach.

Each of these three major categories contain many subsystems that allow one to identify and map the landscape within which one is seeking to effect change. For example, the human system is a subset of education, but it needs infrastructure, life, schools, and books to fit within the current model of education.

Without raw materials for buildings and food to sustain the educator – we would not have the ability to deliver the service of education.  

When we run workshops at Disrupt, we always start with this map and then move into more detailed and complex explorations through analog systems mapping techniques.

Within a short period of time, people understand it. The world is complex, but it also is completely relatable when you start to explore its dynamic interconnectedness.

What is the most untapped power of the human brain? It’s not what you think it might be...

the power of thinking in systems thinking
“The most significant behaviour of the brain is humor because it indicates an asymmetric patterning system”
— Edward de Bono

Individual growth requires the ability to reflect and dynamically learn. Why is it that you can have a highly intelligent person who is not good at thinking, or an incredible thinker who is not classically considered intelligent?

The father of lateral thinking, Edward de Bono, illustrates this phenomena through a simple example of a car. He says that intelligence is like the horsepower of a motor, whereas thinking is the capabilities of the driver.

These two are not mutually exclusive, but without the capability of the driver, the car doesn't go anywhere.

So – intelligence is pointless unless you have the thinking tools to unlock and apply it.

IS YOUR THINKING RESTRICTED?

It's hard to believe, but many people don't think very well. Years of structured education and work life often form neurological pathways that are designed to facilitate focused and restricted thinking.

These pathways minimize the danger of being wrong or missing out on the rewards created by schools and organizations. People often limit or box in their thinking tools, restricting the horsepower of their intelligence.

We are seeing more and more rigid and restrictive thinking in organizations, which results in a net loss of creativity and productivity.

More now than ever, the world needs dynamic, flexible, and divergent thinkers to help explore and evolve the complex problems that we all face.  

 

Shifting mindsets and perspectives
“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”
— Albert Einstein

Fostering Creative Confidence

One quick way to unlock your creativity potential is to make it fun... seriously. Play-based professional activities, from Lego Play to Gamestorming, are quickly gaining popularity.

These types of play-based explorations develop new neurological pathways and flood the brain with reward neurochemicals like dopamine.

We investigated the positive benefits of play-based creativity tools, and came up with 25 exercises called Designercise. These play based exercises help break down rigid thinking and build creative brain pathways.

BRAIN HACKING

How often do you enable an environment that deliberately fosters creativity? In order to enhance strategic and effective problem solving, people need access to the right-fit tools.

They also need time and techniques that will help them get to the end goal. Our brains are highly effective patterning machines, meaning they make sense of the world through creating relationships.

Yet, we are often taught to break the world down into individual chunks and solve problems in isolation. We instead should be solving problems in more dynamic and chaotic ways.

CURIOSITY & CREATIVITY

Creativity is not a special talent that some people have and others don't. It is the ability to break through the cognitive restraints and structures we all place on our thinking skills.

This is why conformity is one of the biggest killers of creativity. Curiosity is the remedy to conformity, and the way to enhance creative confidence is to shift perspectives on how the world works.

Creativity is a skill that everyone can learn – there are no magical potions or special talents that people need.

We are all born with the same thinking capabilities, and creativity is about how we design our brains to interpret the world. It is not some innate skill that we have or need in order to unlock our creative thinking skills.

Confidence in anything comes through positive reinforcement, and creativity is no different.