Design Intersections 2019: Design + Networks + Activation

In addition to developing concepts and interventions, today’s designers and leaders must direct the implementation of those concepts and interventions. Achieving systems-level success requires cultivating and activating networks—technological, infrastructural, and social—that support new collaborative activities, process, and mindsets.

Starting in February with a pre-conference event series, Design Intersections 2019: Design + Networks + Activation invites diverse leaders, including designers, executives, strategists, policymakers, and entrepreneurs to explore emergent practices for activating networks and designing infrastructures that lead to large scale impact. Hosted by IIT Institute of Design (ID), the series will culminate in a two-day conference (May 22–23, 2019) featuring talks, breakout sessions, and workshops across three programmatic areas:

  • Activism + Policymaking
  • Entrepreneurship + Emerging Technologies
  • Adaptive Leadership for New Economies

Together, we'll discover real-world contexts where organizational behavior, entrepreneurship, policymaking, and design are already colliding. We’ll examine new tools and methodologies to evolve our individual and collective points of view about adaptive leadership and the transformative practices—and challenges—of large-scale collaboration. We’ll learn new approaches for a range of industries (food, energy, financial services, housing, healthcare, hospitality, mobility, waste, public services, technology) and disciplines (behavioral science, public policy, communications), and reveal how design can do more than think—it can do.

We will address such questions as:

  • How can organizations engage and activate networks for reimagining livelihoods and the platforms supporting them?
  • What is the role of leaders in designing sustainable solutions that reimagine the interconnectivity of social, technical and ecological infrastructures? 
  • How can entrepreneurs prototype large-scale transformations that weave together new technological developments and more equitable solutions?
  • Where might we learn from alternative or emerging models of developing and scaling access, inclusion, and equity in large-scale transformation initiatives involving multiple stakeholders?
  • What ethical and ecological principles — such as social justice, sustainability, and “fit”— should inform how we prototype large-scale systemic action?


Leadership + The New Economy

Rapid and interconnected social, technological, and ecological shifts are causing organizations to increase their capacity to collaborate and adapt. This creates a new urgency—and opportunity—for leaders to support and enable large scale transformation. To do so, they must rethink the roles of humanity/talent, technology, and the environment in shaping the new economy. In this panel, we will explore how organizational leadership can promote more sustainable and equitable outcomes. How can leaders use design to create effective collaborations and partnerships? This conversation will leverage panelists’ expertise and focus on major barriers and drivers for impact.

Breakout: Integrating Dispersed Networks
Experts will discuss the key infrastructures for integrating dispersed networks and leading sustainability- and equity-oriented interventions.

Activism + Impact

Biased algorithms, automation that leads to planned obsolescence and de-skilling, and limited access to technology, media, and communication continue to lead to products, services, and systems that increase inequity. But by integrating the expertise and knowledge of key individuals, particularly those closest to complex societal challenges, participatory processes can help us work toward equity.

Innovation happens during moments of disruption or change. Activists are experts at leveraging these moments. Activism can be thought of as an act of futuring—of speculating about worlds that could be—and policy is a critical means of creating systemic change. We can learn from policymakers, activist networks, and social movements to understand how change is activated and spread, how new infrastructures can be created, and how equity can be embedded in innovation.

In this panel discussion, we’re inviting leaders from diverse backgrounds,  including design, community organizing, policymaking, and finance, to discuss how they constellate individual efforts to produce systemic change and bring about equity. How can we lead processes of transformative social innovation within the context of market dynamics? What can alternative, emerging models of developing and scaling change teach us about designing more just and equitable solutions?

Breakout: Achieving Equitable Solutions
Experts will discuss case studies about how they used participatory practices to shift innovation methods and design practices towards achieving more equitable solutions.

Entrepreneurship + Emerging Technologies

Emerging technologies enable novel solutions to our complex and multifaceted problems.  To leverage emerging technologies for value creation, entrepreneurs weave dynamic networks of stakeholders, organize resources, and activate capabilities. The practice of entrepreneurship thus creates ecosystems that integrate a multitude of social and technical systems, consequently reshaping organizational boundaries and the competitive landscape. However, current innovation practices that fail to recognize the  implications of emerging technologies can lead to even more complex, ill-determined problems. In this panel, we will discuss the role of design in actively making futures through alternative modes of infrastructuring. Panelists will share how they are reshaping the innovative search for future applications of emerging technologies by reconfiguring networks and resources.

Breakout: Activating Innovation Networks
Experts who are leading initiatives that focus on emerging technologies will present case studies about how they used design to activate innovation networks and create value.


Designing Partnerships for Large Scale Impact

Organizations can no longer think exclusively in terms of their own boundaries to promote large scale transformations, especially when aiming at more sustainable and equitable outcomes. Rather, they must focus on building their leadership capacity to integrate assets available in their ecosystems, and recombine them in novel and meaningful ways. Led in collaboration with Mo Sook Park, an expert on adaptive leadership, and Randy Stark, Executive Director, National Association of Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs, this workshop will focus on presenting new tools and methods for designing partnerships oriented towards large scale impact.

Shifting Power through Inclusive Design Processes

There are implicit, tacit power structures embedded in almost all design methodologies, and the methodologies that an organization uses determine its creations. Some designers and design researchers attempt to address this power imbalance in order to expand possibilities for innovation and increasing equitable solutions to complex, networked problems. When designers understand their own positions of power and practice self-reflexivity and cultural contextualization, they become more inclusive and collaborative in their design processes. In this workshop, we will prototype power shifts to demonstrate how we can activate networks and build more equitable and sustainable infrastructures.

Anticipating Unintended Consequences with Prototyping

Designers are instrumental in bridging developments in technology and everyday life through products, services, and systems. However, emerging technologies often bring about unintended consequences. Design tools can not only stimulate the generation of new applications for emerging technologies, they can also facilitate the discussion about their implications. Led in collaboration with Hitachi America, this workshop aims to engage participants in prototyping futures. Through the use of design tools and methods, we will investigate how to activate networks and leverage emerging technologies for systemic change.

Behavioral Design for Networked Organizations

The tension between an organization’s desire to embrace the new and its ability to do so is often amplified when it must collaborate with other organizations to achieve its goals. While strategy-driven methods and frameworks for internal “change management” are well-known, considering organizations as members of networks through the lens of behavioral design is less established. This workshop will introduce and prototype evolving methods to help organizations diagnose and tackle common organizational behavior issues that can help them operate more effectively within their business ecosystems.

About IIT Institute of Design (ID)

IIT Institute of Design (ID) continually challenges what design is and can be. We focus not just on design itself, but the impact it has on the world around us. Founded by László Moholy-Nagy in 1937 as the “New Bauhaus,” for over 80 years ID has ignited designers’ imaginations—evolving design to combine form with human behavior, conquer complexity with clarity, and challenge convention through innovation in pursuit of a more sustainable future.