What are the 10 big design challenges in the social sector? » Design Thinking

We have relatively few design thinkers operating in the world. What would happen if instead of that capacity working randomly on problems it was focused on a small number of big issues? Could we use new mechanisms like open source or prizes to motivate larger numbers of creative people to collaborate? Could we create categories where creative competition causes us to build on the ideas of others to create the breakthrough ideas many areas of society need? I think we could.

The first step is to generate the list of big design problems in the social sector. I want to take a stab at starting that conversation here. One place to start is the list of Millennium Development Goals published by the UN. What do you think? Is this the right list? What about social issues in the developed world like obesity or crime? What kind of metrics should we use to determine the potential impact of tackling any given challenge? Should we use a return on investment approach like Bjorn Lomborg? How do we go from these general categories to more specific design challenges? I would love your thoughts and ideas.

UN Millennium Development Goals:

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Achieve universal primary education

Promote gender equality and empower women

Reduce child mortality

Improve maternal health

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Ensure environmental sustainability

Develop a global partnership for development

via What are the 10 big design challenges in the social sector? » Design Thinking.


One Reply to “What are the 10 big design challenges in the social sector? » Design Thinking”

  1. to my mind there is potential for design to contribute to all of these… in fact if we were really smart, we could design our way out of the problems, but perhaps that is the idealist in me? When I look at this list I can see that design’s capacity to realise objects, systems and experiences is an important aspect of addressing any or all of these. But perhaps most interestingly it when designers partners with others to explore and think through issues that radical (which may be big or small) shifts become possible. Shifts in how we understand and communicate what we value, what we already know and our capacities to change from the inside out. of course we could design better or more hospitals or housing, we could also design new conceptions of dwellings and care.

    To me it is a case of design + – designers don’t know it all, but they can help.


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