There’s plenty o’ buzz about design having the potential to save to world, but not too many people can substantiate that claim. Jeffrey Sachs, in a well-scripted but good interview with Design 21, speaks on the subject, offering a few tidbits of observation and inspiration.
Sachs, an economist, environmentalist and all-around expert on development, takes a very pragmatic, goal-oriented view on design and development. With the basic belief that, “the world’s problems are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man,” Sachs advises designers, engineers, economists and anyone else interested in development to rally around the existing “shared global commitments.” By joining forces and working towards common goals (such as the UN’s Millennium Development Goals), we can create maximum impact, even if “our governments are woefully inadequate.”
When asked specifically what role designers play in development, Sachs responded:
“Designers are the key to showing how to mobilize cutting-edge technologies, new materials, and new approaches to older materials and technologies, in order to solve problems such as clean water, safe cook stoves, low-cost housing, internet connectivity for the poor, safe methods of delivery of medicines and vaccines (such as safe syringes), and much more. Design embodied in sustainable technologies provide the blueprint. Typically, path-breaking approaches can be found at low cost. Once these are proved, then they can be taken to scale through a combination of market incentives, development assistance and large-scale philanthropic efforts.”
Couldn’t agree more with all that Sachs has to say, but I’d love to see somebody start making these design opportunities more tangible. Speaking as a young designer interested in designing for social impact, I’d love to see more Architecture for Humanity or D-Lab type forums for designers, connecting problems with problem solvers. Can’t hold this against Sachs, though- he’s a bigger picture kinda guy. And it’s good to hear a bigger-picture kinda guy like Sachs acknowledging design’s role in devolopment.