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Matthew Taylor and I have been committing the RSA to the idea that the value of design to social progress is about resourcefulness. Here's how the argument goes: As citizens, we need to be more resourceful; more engaged, self-reliant and collective in our striving, more able to do for ourselves what we might previously have paid or waited for someone else to do. Designers, being highly resourceful people - ready to improvise and prototype, brave in the face of disorder and complexity, practised manipulators of part and whole, cheerful mediators between user and product or service - can help other people to be more resourceful by sharing some of their tools.

Matthew Taylor and I have been committing the RSA to the idea that the value of design to social progress is about resourcefulness. Here's how the argument goes: As citizens, we need to be more resourceful; more engaged, self-reliant and collective in our striving, more able to do for ourselves what we might previously have paid or waited for someone else to do. Designers, being highly resourceful people - ready to improvise and prototype, brave in the face of disorder and complexity, practised manipulators of part and whole, cheerful mediators between user and product or service - can help other people to be more resourceful by sharing some of their tools.

This argument of course begs a great How? which is the substance of the RSA Design & Society programme. It also explains why this blog is becoming a bit of a parade of such tools: examplars of designers and architects handing over the "how-to" - see posts on Cameron Sinclair, Pascal Anson, et al.

Here's a nice example from Uscreates, e.k.a. Mary Rose Cook and Zoe Stanton, thoughtful scions of Goldsmiths and the NESTA Creative Pioneer programme. They keep a little blog called Comfort Zones and encourage all comers to upload "briefs". A brief is a commitment to challenge oneself by doing things that one usually would not, in the name of understanding the motivations for behaviour change. The example on top is religiously sticking to the Recommended Dietary Allowance to understand the gap between common habits and Health Department counsel. Of course UsCreate didn't invent the displacement theory of learning by inhabiting the environment and consciousness of someone else - you can understand obesity by wearing a fat suit, eat in the pitch dark at restaurants run by blind people and be headteacher for the day if you want.

But these designers made the rationale so simple  - "to get an understanding of what it is like to live like some of the people and communities we design for" - that it has the effect of making it look easy, useful and fun. More than professionally expedient for a designer, more than a research methodology applied by wonks, Comfort Zones needs a few more briefs (anyone?) but has the makings of a practical tool for the social shapeshifting by which we could all second-guess ourselves and see how things might be different.

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