Professor of Design Innovation develops SDG platforms

‘We need to have the values discussion’


The United Nations asked him to look at the Sustainable Development Goals and develop platforms that enable them to be supported. Kees Dorst, Professor of Design Innovation at the Sydney University of Technology, responded with a resounding yes. “The first problem is that they are goals.” During the Creativity World Forum (CWF2019), he will visit projects in Brabant that take a different approach to the big questions.

As soon as you formulate a goal, Kees Dorst says, people devise all sorts of methods and ways to achieve that goal. “As a result, they unintentionally continue to think within the existing system and frameworks. The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are all important in their own right, but what you do to achieve Goal X doesn’t always fit in with what you do for Goal Y.”

‘If you lack coherence, you won’t achieve any goal – in spite of all your good intentions’

Values discussion

What is missing, according to Dorst, is a values discussion. What does it mean to ‘feel at home somewhere’? How do we deal with the need for security? “The discussion about values avoids you getting stuck within the existing framework of an organisation, company or municipality. Because the goals are too big for that and if you lack coherence, you won’t achieve a single goal – in spite of all your good intentions.” Don’t go into the values discussion simply to ‘find a way forward’, warns Dorst, who not only studied Industrial Design at Delft University of Technology but also Philosophy at Erasmus University. According to him, it’s about clarifying where the challenges lie in order to arrive at a shared understanding of the relationship between the objectives. “And projects are the breeding ground and source of inspiration for that discussion.”

Intensive farming

Let’s make it even more concrete. What would such a values discussion involve? Take the fact that people are increasingly living in cities, for example: by 2050, this will apply to 75% of the world’s population. “That’s not such a good idea; the infrastructure of cities is not geared to that,” says Dorst.

Meet Kees Dorst @CWF2019

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