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Designing to Shift Power



Look at the world around you, virtually every single product in that room, every single service you interact with, every app you open, has historically been designed by a group of homogenous designers. What would the world look like if we had a more diverse group of designers in the driver’s seat?

To tackle that challenge I worked with Act in Africa, a business accelerator based in Zimbabwe, to design and lead a program that gave unemployed Zimbabweans the tools and opportunities to become design researchers and to shift who held the power to design and world-shape in their society. The program pushed the participants to go from learner to leader within a month. We worked on a local challenge, ‘How might we improve public transport in Harare?’ as a way for them to rapidly learn design research skills and apply their skills to their context. We then worked with major local corporate clients in a design sprint where the researchers practiced their skills and ran a real consulting project. We are running a version two of the program this year and planning a scale-up to Zambia design research; training; decolonizing design; community design.

Keywords: design research; training; decolonizing design; community design

About the Author

Alex Alden is a CIS gender woman and a multi-faceted Strategic Designer with 7+ years experience leading the design process from design research, to prototyping, to service design, to full implementation. I’ve spent my life at the nexus of creativity, business and social impact. I understand the power of design to shape the way we see the world and build bonds between us and our planet. I have worked across the world with clients ranging from UN Agencies, to large NGOs including International Rescue Committee and Populations Services International, to businesses like Glovo, to design agencies like IDEO and fuseproject to build products, services, brands and programs that drive connection through a deep understanding of people and systems. I have a Master’s in Development Practice with a focus on Innovation from UC Berkeley and am currently an Acumen Fellow, and President of SINGA Spain where we create spaces where locals and migrants interact to build bonds and create a shared identity based on creativity design and entrepreneurship.

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