#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.
Kirsty Dias - Managing Director at PriestmanGoode
William Knight - Director at The Renew Consultancy
Anita Roddick: How Anita Changed the World - The Independent
Design Dialogue by William Knight and Martha McNaughton
Christine Lagarde: Lagarde puts green policy top of agenda in ECB Bond Buying - Financial Times
USA 03 Town Hall - Harry West: ‘we’re safe when others are safe’
Andrew Mead - Chief Architect at MTR
What I like about Gross National Happiness, is that it's actually saying, 'well, how do we make sure that our citizens have agency and social equity? How do we make sure that we're looking after the environment? How do we make sure we're looking after the economy?' That feels to me like what the new normal might be - Mark Bergin
[on Anita Roddick] I often reflect now at how ahead of her time she was, in that she had such a clear vision that was absolutely driven by sustainable instincts - Kirsty Dias
A lot of the work that we have done, the three of us, is to push the message to people that are decision makers, that don't necessarily have the kind of background and understanding of design, but are able to get things done - William Knight
We need to make sure that there's a balance of equity, we need to make sure that we've lifted people up so that we actually have people on a common playing field. Because at the moment, I think we're experiencing mortality and infection rates with people who are in marginalised communities at a much higher rate than people who are in a more well to do community. There's obviously some social inequity - Mark Bergin
This is one of the big changes that's happened with COVID, the idea of the 'culture of me' has now turned in the 'culture of we' - Mark Bergin
[on Clap for Carers] ...the flip side of that and in fact why it stopped in the UK was, it also shines a light on how much our key workers are paid. Is that fair? Should they be paid more if we're so reliant on them? Are they being rewarded properly? It's shone a light on immigration policy, because we're obviously reliant on immigrants coming into the UK to perform those jobs... it is a lovely expression of gratitude, but then there is the hard part of it which requires much more rigorous discussion and funding - Kirsty Dias
I think it's really good for designers to be thrown questions that they haven't considered or thought about before. We need some new design problems in the world, there are lots of things that are out there to be solved - Kirsty Dias
We are much stronger when we come together, we share ideas, we're able to update - William Knight
Mark Bergin 23:26
Hi, I'm Mark Bergin, the founder of DRIVENxDESIGN and the Chair of the Award Programs. Today I'm having a very interesting conversation with two minds who are well versed in in being able to explore a problem without necessarily having a solution or coming to an answer. What I want to do here is have a conversation about how four intersecting ideas empathy, the idea of social equity, a sustainable environment, and a thriving economy can come together as we go out of the new abnormal and we try to move to what might be called Normal 2.0. What I hope that we can do is over a period of somewhere between six to 12 months is come up with some guidelines of where we want to steer the ship towards, rather than necessarily the exact things that we're going to do. There's many aspects where the idea of social equity and also the environment fight with each other. There's also aspects where the economic outcomes fight with the idea of the environment or social equity. What I'm trying to do here with Kirsty and with Will, is explore if there are some ways to get around this, or do we have a conundrum that way you have to go understand further? So, Kirsty, I'm going to actually focus with you first, because in our pre-discussion, we spoke about a very interesting part of your life where you worked with The Body Shop. What interests me about The Body Shop is that the energy from Anita Roddick was that she managed to go push the idea of social equity, the environment, and the economic outcomes to bring together what became The Body Shop empire. But that was what? Probably early 90s, late 80s?
Kirsty Dias 25:12
Yeah, it was definitely 30 years ago.
Mark Bergin 25:17
And at the same time that we saw The Body Shop era come through, we saw Branson bringing in new economic ways of thinking about how airlines could work, how entertainment businesses could work. But there was also another person that was in the UK at that time, and that was the Crown Prince of Bhutan. And Bhutan is actually a really interesting example because they have worked out a thing called Gross National Happiness, rather than Gross National Product. And what I like about Gross National Happiness, is that it's actually saying, 'well, how do we make sure that our citizens have agency and social equity? How do we make sure that we're looking after the environment? How do we make sure we're looking after the economy?' That feels to me like what the new normal might be, but it's very unusual for one of the world's smallest nations to go get an indicator of what might work in the much bigger nations of the world. So Kirsty, when you're working with The Body Shop, I think it was rolling out The Body Shop in Paris?
Kirsty Dias 26:23
It was actually in Nice-
Mark Bergin 26:26
Ah, I knew it was in France. Sorry, I said Paris.
Kirsty Dias 26:29
Yes, in Nice in the South of France. I mean, I was a student at the time, I was really young, but I think what I experienced... I first worked actually at the Kings Road store, which was Anita Roddick's first shop in London and she was at that time still really directly involved in the business. I often reflect now at how ahead of her time she was, in that she had such a clear vision that was absolutely driven by sustainable instincts or thoughts. And she was also very driven by sharing her success and driving social equity, I think. In terms of leadership, I think she had- you know, I'm reflecting on what we can learn about that now - She certainly had such a clear vision in wanting to share that with other people. She invested obviously massively in the way that the products were sourced and produced, but she also invested a great deal in training and in ensuring that all her employees were real advocates of the brand. When it was launched in France, as well as in the UK, there was, at the time, great scepticism about products that weren't tested on animals, for example, or those environmental goals were not considered as a reason why you would buy a product. I do think it's interesting that it's taken 30 years for the majority of people to switch their opinions.
Mark Bergin 28:24
And Will I want to take you back, in this wayback machine as well, to about 20-30 years ago. You've had experience working with Media 10 on their different shows and exhibitions, you've had experience working with the London Design Festival, you also went back into the British Design Council, but before that there was a chapter that you had in government. I think that's really interesting, that whole linear path you've had - because the government part probably told you some of the reasons why things don't happen. The British Design Council was how do we make things happen? The London Design Festival was how do we shine a torch and a spotlight on what's possible? And then when you went into Media 10, it was extending that and to go amplify the potential and the possibilities that were there. So that to me is a very interesting longitudinal perspective. But, if you think back 20 or 30 years, was social equity, was the environment at the at the forefront, or was it economic drivers? I know for me that long ago it was always economic drivers and if we could afford it, we'd think about those other things.
William Knight 29:36
Yeah. I think if you go back to that time, particularly at the end of the 90s, which is when I had graduated, and I was working in Parliament really, that was my first kind of point of call. There were lots of different things I learned at that point in my life, but the first thing was that politics is deeply tribal, and tribalism in itself is a big problem that we have in terms of leadership and directional, and also sourcing different solutions from a range of different places. But at the time there was a real sea change in British politics. 1997 when there was a big labour landslide, and social equity actually was a key component of that new Labour government, particularly around education and access to opportunity. And I think a huge amount was achieved. I think, though, if you were to speak to the people that really drove that government now, there would be a lot of things that they would have pushed further on. And I think the cyclical nature of it means that we're now at a point again, and maybe a 30 year cycle as Kirsty perhaps mentioned in relation to Anita Roddick is about that point, whereby we're revisiting some of those lessons and really learning them again. And I think your point about my trajectory is an interesting one, and I've drawn that line few times in my mind, and in fact, last week, I found myself doing a talk to Kingston University about my life in design promotion, as I've called it. In a way it is about progress. It is about application. In a way, a lot of the work that we have done, the three of us, is to push the message to people that are decision makers, that don't necessarily have the kind of background and understanding of design, but are able to get things done. And I think that's really where we are again, trying to push that message very hard.
Kirsty Dias 31:34
And I would say, because I also worked at the British Design Council with Will at that time, and one of the things which I think was really fundamental, pivotal, in making some of those steps forward, for example, in education, were the dialogues between design leaders and government, so that programmes like that Building Schools for the Future came out of direct conversation between design expertise and and governments. That kind of collaborative relationship of using expertise with overall proving of education certainly came out of that time. From that, people like Sir John Sorrell and Lady Francis Sorrell setting up the Sorrell Foundation and then The National Saturday Club. You know, the National Saturday Club provides free design education still for kids all over the country to do outside of school, which is totally inclusive and an absolute lifeline to lots of different kids. To also show and open up new avenues of possible professional and pathways for them
Mark Bergin 32:59
I think that when we go look at the way that we got to the moon, it was a multi stage rocket. You know, it wasn't that there was just one stage. And we often don't address the way that we evolve as those multi stage rockets that are taking place. The Anita Roddick example is 'let's go and actually make sure that it's not tested animals, let's make sure it's good for the environment, let's make sure there is social equity in there.' At a similar time we had George Michael and the supermodels who were saying, 'these clothes have been made in sweatshops'. That wave went through, the energy from that dissipated a little, then the next stage of the rocket came and there was another push for it, and the next stage of the rocket comes. And I think that's the important thing to realise is that these things do take multiple stages. For the viewers who don't know where I'm based in the world. I'm actually based in Melbourne, Australia. And tonight, in only two hours time, we go into six weeks of lockdown, again. That's an example of COVID, we are in our second stage of COVID, of locking down the community. The reason that we're in that second stage is because of behaviours. I was fascinated when I was told about behaviours that came around with HIV, and the frontline staff that were involved with HIV took 18 years, between learning how to deal with, say, human specimens in a safe manner, and the complete adherence to those methodologies. Now, that's something that kills you and it takes 18 years to actually go do the safe practice at work. The idea of 'how long does it take you to go think about an equitable position if it isn't already structured in a free way of thought or a highway of thought?' How do you go think about the environment if there isn't that highway of thought behind that, and the same with the economy? So I looked at how we change behaviours as being a very interesting aspect - How do we go try to solve this? I think today in the UK Christine Lagarde has come out and actually said that from the money fund perspective, their focus is that it has to actually be environment-first. That's probably similar to ways that we've seen that we need to have gender equality first, you know, that's another layer of social equity, or we needed to have gay marriage and we put that right at the fore. The idea that we actually say, 'right, the environment now trumps the economy', we have to think of the environmental balance with economic, we've got two of those three things that we're talking about. How do we bring the social equity, which in the UK for people who are Afro-Caribbean or in the US for people who are Afro-Americans, that's an example of where that's out of balance. So we need to make sure that we're addressing Black Lives Matter and Brown lives matter and Red Lives Matter and Yellow Lives Matter - we need to make sure that there's a balance of equity, we need to make sure that we've lifted people up so that we actually have people on a common playing field. Because at the moment, I think we're experiencing mortality and infection rates with people who are in marginalised communities at a much higher rate than people who are in a more well to do community. There's obviously some social inequity that's in there. In another one of the town halls that we did in the US, Harry West, from Columbia and former CEO at frog, he referred to the idea that 'we're safe when others are safe'. This is one of the big changes that's happened with COVID, the idea of the 'culture of me' has now turned in the 'culture of we'. That's my example here in Melbourne today, the 'culture of we' hasn't been protecting me and so the government is having to lock 'we' down to protect me. It's really important that we understand how that works. I think the Christine Lagarde perspective about 'let's go look after the environment' has to have been triggered by some of the covert impacts. I don't know if you were shocked when you heard of the dolphins in Vienna, or the Indian village that could see the Himalayan mountains that they hadn't seen for decades. We're getting some signals here, and signals, policy, and values are what are going to make this change here. I don't actually have an answer of how we get there. And from the time that I had in government, this would be very hard to write policy. Kirsty, have you got any thoughts about how we try to go on help government to understand the shifts? Or do you think they're going to do it in a very blunt way that a lot of the legislation has done, but then they miss out on some elements?
Kirsty Dias 37:52
I was just considering what you were saying about 'the culture of Me versus We' and I think at the beginning of this crisis, and continuing to a certain extent, there was this strong idea of community and considering others in our social behaviour, but as we come out of lockdown - and whether that is to do with unclear messaging or not really understanding clarity of rules - we're certainly seeing very blurred lines in terms of public gatherings, how to behave in public spaces. I wonder whether there's something about the different national interpretation of rules, as opposed to a following of global guidelines. You know, that goes back to what kind of global call conversations are we having? Yes, every country has its own specific issues and its own specific take on the pandemic. But if we knew that all over the world, if the World Health Organisation is saying we should be wearing masks in public, then it would be much easier to enforce that rule. We're certainly not seeing that in the UK, so that rule is not being adhered to, but if it had a proven effect, then it would seem to be wisest to do that. I guess this is continuing, you're going into a second lockdown, we did a webinar a couple of weeks ago with people from MTR in Hong Kong and they were reflecting about the SARS epidemic that they experienced a number of years ago and what the effects of that have been and whether in fact, things just returned to normal. And apart from the fact that it is now commonplace to wear masks, Andrew Mead from MTR was saying that, you know, actually things do just go back to normal and quite quickly. But I think this pandemic with its second waves means that we might be seeing fundamental societal changes. Well what can design do? I think it can help communicate clear rules of social behaviour-
Mark Bergin 40:38
I'm really glad that you brought up Andrew made an MTR. For those of you that aren't familiar with Andrew, he was involved with the Canary Wharf stations in London. He was also involved in the Singapore underground system, the Dubai underground system, and now the Hong Kong underground system. And so if you trace through that you've got that he was involved in SARS, he's been involved with MERS, and he's also been involved with COVID. What that brings, is that he understands the preparedness and also how you do react and how you don't react to a circumstance. You know, if you took somebody who is the first time Skipper of a boat and they got into a storm, they'd handled it very differently than somebody who had been in three storms. I think that's really important. What we've seen is that in a lot of cases, there were, say, scenario games or scenario activities that governments went through, but we're finding out that they were wanting, that they didn't actually understand how pandemics work. You know, pandemics are very well understood as far as transmission. We've seen that if we go into third world countries where there's a pandemic, we're often able to go and enforce a lot more standards from the West on those countries and we can resolve things like Ebola relatively quickly. But when we get into the West, we're saying 'oh, well, not me, I don't need to wear a mask', or somebody says, 'Well, I've got a university degree and I know a mask doesn't work in all cases'. So I cart back to the resilience that comes from having well thought through scenarios with simple messaging that actually has a clear structure to it, so that when we hand it to the media, there's clarity of thought. It's that lack of clarity, the lack of messaging structure, which is causing a void and then it lets people go and actually create confusion, and that means panic. And panic can either be super-panic, I think we've seen the toilet paper panic that's happened around the world. Did the toilet paper panic happen in the UK?
Kirsty Dias 42:42
Mark Bergin 42:43
Yeah. Okay, so the toilet paper panic happened here in Australia. It's happened again. As soon as we heard that we're going into the second lockdown, toilet paper disappeared off the shelves. This is interesting, [laughter], we don't have to worry about our personal hygiene at any other point than when there's a pandemic, and the point that we look at isn't washing our hands, it's wiping out balm, which I think is fascinating. But this idea that nobody knows. If I wanted to really find out about this, I'd probably go to insurance companies and I'd ask actuaries and say what do you know about pandemics? You know, insurance people have already thought through many of these scenarios. For some reason, we don't ask them what's the communication plan for that disaster that's coming? How do we go handle it? And if I go think back to things like the British Design Council, or I think back to other organisations, that's probably what I expect them to have on the shelves, the pandemic playbook. Here is a great messaging system, here's how you talk about the lockdowns, here's how you talk about the releasing of the lockdowns. I know in Australia they started to talk about 'we're at stage three of the lockdown', but we're going to go into stage one of the return, and I'm going 'oh, I don't know which stage I'm up to now'. It's simply by using the language of saying 'it's phase one of return', or 'it's phase one of lifting restrictions'. I can understand that we're in a stage and I can understand that we're in a phase, you call them two stages and I'm confused. So that's a very important thing about how a community affords that when we're turning around and saying 'well, all we're doing is we're funding the minimum, we're not actually funding for resilience and we're not funding for potential scenarios that might be trouble'. New York's very good at that now. New York, since 2013, have been funding environmental resilience because they know that Superstorm Sandy was the first storm surge that they will have, not the last storm surge. And I think what we're going to find is that this idea of building up social equity of the 'we versus me', we need to have resilience there. I suppose it's working out who are the people that we need to speak to and excite their imagination that they think could possibly hold the keys to make this a more graceful move when it comes in next time.
Kirsty Dias 45:06
Just thinking again, though, about the social equity - we had, as I'm sure you did, Clap for Carers, and we had this spotlight on our absolute reliance on key workers. And that was without question something that brought the community together every week, and was an expression of gratitude for all the work that these key workers were doing in supporting lives, however, the flip side of that and in fact why it stopped in the UK was, it also shines the light on how much are our key workers paid? Is that fair? Should they be paid more if we're so reliant on them? Are they being rewarded properly? It's shone a light on immigration policy, because we're obviously reliant on immigrants coming into the UK to perform those jobs, but the policy around immigration here is very grey and unchanging picture. So there is another side of that story, which yes, is all about rainbows and a lovely expression of gratitude, but then there is the hard part of it which requires much more rigorous discussion and funding at the end of the day.
Mark Bergin 46:41
And what's interesting, if you go talk to healthcare workers, their primary concern wasn't how much they were getting paid. It was actually did we put bullets in their guns? Had we given them the personal protection equipment to do their job? If it was a military thing, there'd be an outcry that this side of politics didn't put the bullets in the guns when we had to go off and fight the war, that's almost sacked the government, but not having the bullets in the guns for healthcare workers was 'did we actually give them enough personal protection equipment'? And the answer was no, we didn't, globally. So there's there's a conversation there which is how do we actually shine the light? And that keeps coming up for us at DRIVENxDESIGN - How do we keep shining the light on things that actually are problems that we need to go solve? To quote Brian Collins, 'are designer's problem seekers or are they problem solvers?' And you go, well there's probably a mixture of both. I know Kirsty in your practice you've got a mixture of people who are problem seekers and problem solvers in there. And I think coming up in a week or two, you're actually opening your doors as a generous offer to go and actually ask for people to come in and actually tell you some problems? Do you want to tell me a bit more about that?
Kirsty Dias 48:06
We're holding a charity day on Friday 17th of July, where we're offering our design time to solve anybody's design question for a charitable donation to the charity Fare Share. And, and yeah, we are open to questions of any kind. We'll pull together a team that's appropriate to that to the problem to, think through or help think about different aspects of whatever your problem is, you'll get a recording of the session and any materials are generated during the session. So yeah, we're very open to anyone's questions, so please sign up. I will send you the link Mark.
Mark Bergin 48:58
We'll make sure that's in there. Is this the first time you've done that?
Kirsty Dias 49:03
It is. I would say, interestingly, the inspiration came from when I attended one of Will's sessions and one of the people on that call was a woman called Katie Tregidden and she does something very similar every Friday afternoon, I think, where she offers some time for charity and it was a brilliant idea. And also to ask some new questions. I think it's really good for designers to be thrown questions that they haven't considered or thought about before. We need some new design problems in the world, there are lots of things that are out there to be solved. And, maybe you wouldn't consider using a design consultancy to explore those issues, but this gives you a chance to do so.
Mark Bergin 50:00
And so what do you think for a two hour session? What do you think is I respectful consideration to go make sure that you're raising money for Fare Share? You know, is it 10 pounds? Is it 10,000 pounds? What do you think?
Kirsty Dias 50:18
Whatever people want to give. There are some indications, I think, on the website,
Mark Bergin 50:24
Great, okay, so we're gonna have a link to that so people can get to it. But what a great initiative, you know, I think I might even see if I can throw some throw some of these problems into into the ring and we'll see.
Kirsty Dias 50:37
You should do that. For example, if you did that Mark, then maybe we could publicly share some of the output.
Mark Bergin 50:45
Yeah. And actually, what I'd like to do there would be that we have a session which is able to be publicly shared so that there's an exemplar for people to understand 'what can you achieve when you put the type of horsepower that you've got PriestmanGoode behind a question which actually isn't necessarily resolved yet'. I think that's a really good thing to go do that. So Will, your world revolves particularly around the design promotion space, and we know that the work that you've been doing with Design Dialogue is that you're trying to discover what is the next phase for design promotion? You know, I see that there's an artisanal camp in design, and that there's actually a very economically driven transformation side of design that's in there. It almost feels to me that they're moving in to do two very different needs sets. And there's lots of corporate sponsorship for the transformation side, but without that artisanal design, we don't get some of the richness and the culture there. How do you think we're going to be able to communicate those two, do they stay together or do they start to actually move into their own hemispheres and understand how to collaborate rather than necessarily coexist?
William Knight 52:07
Really the answer is collaboration. It doesn't have to exist at all points of contact and indeed different directional strategies can, as you said, at the beginning coexist. I think it's important that they do coexist and are pointed in different ways. But I picked up your points about talking to an actuary about the notion of a pandemic and how that plays out and I think, in relation to the network that you've both kindly spent some time on, Design Dialogue, one of the things that we've really tried to do is to get a range of different voices that have come together. I don't think I've managed to reach the insurance industry yet, but a good example was an accountant who works very closely with a number of different sized creative businesses. He had a very telling and rather calculated view on what the impact is going to be in terms of the industry. In some ways, that really wasn't about design promotion, per se, it was about the structure of the industry and what we're going to go through. And I think that sort of perspective was actually very helpful and I had a lot of comments about that particular part of our discussion. So the forum itself is very open, it's intended to be a very mixed economy of views and perspectives. We've tried really to look at some of the issues that have been raised on this conversation as well, particularly around social equity and opportunity. That really manifests itself for our sector around access to opportunity. We've looked at things like recruitment, and we've looked at things like mentoring, which I think is really important in terms of drawing through the talent and being able to really make sure that the future of the industry is in good hands. And then we've gone all the way through to the flip side in terms of kind of the interface with government and how representation works in the sector as well. So there's a huge amount that we've covered, but I think the essence of it is that we are much stronger when we come together, we share ideas, we're able to update and I'm delighted to hear that the inspiration for PriestmanGoode's forthcoming charity day, originated from just listening to a conversation or contribution to that network. So I'm delighted, there are all sorts of things that are sparking off out of it, and I think that's really been a great achievement.
Kirsty Dias 54:41
And I would add to that, that has been one of the highlights for me actually, about working from home and the lockdown situation has been access to peers or different groups of professionals, through you Mark globally and through you Will more locally. I think that has provided a very kind of supportive community. I think that certainly issues around access that really need to be approached collectively because in my experience, the issues around diversity in the workplace actually come way before University. It is about actually working with much younger people to, you know, show the opportunities within the design industry before they even get to university, because we need more diversity in education full stop. I think that goes that goes beyond #blacklivesmatter, that is absolutely about social equity because it is about the different socio-economic groups that are accessing those opportunities as well. So we're really keen as a company to invest time in encouraging that access at a much younger level.
Mark Bergin 56:11
If I think back to that earlier comment that we had from Harry West about the idea that we're safe when others are safe, and I look at the designers that I see are really forging into what this next year of design is - the designers that have gone less about the me activation and more about the we. It's beyond them. That's the interesting thing. And just in closing, you've always got to have a little bit of a graphic if you're into design, We and Me kind of mirror each other, maybe that is something that we will go follow up there. Kirsty, Will, l so appreciate your time and your thoughts and I'm sure the viewers will do as well. This is the first of these conversations that we're going to have and I do look forward to actually go and see if we get some brain power from PriestmanGoode to actually help work out what might be those thought highways, those directions that we can go down. Because unless we can inspire the imaginations of the policymakers of why this is important, they're not going to get there. I think that might be the biggest design solution that we can come up with. Thank you so much for your time.