We live in a time of transformation, with international cooperation being put under pressure, climate change calling for new solutions and technological advances coming with a severe hangover as the social networks we all rely on prove to be based on algorithms that threaten to undermine our democracy.
It is not enough to continue doing what we have always done. Anticipating the future is often associated with anxiety because, in a sense, we have been used to simply extending the platform we are currently standing on. If we just assume that the future will be an extrapolation of the past, we are indeed in serious trouble.
But nothing needs to stay the way it has been so far.
We can change things if we want to. And in Denmark we have actually done that more frequently than most, and with a fairly high success rate.
We can change things if we want to. And in Denmark we have actually done that more frequently than most, and with a fairly high success rate. In Denmark we are good at reinventing, creating and shaping society to achieve our dreams – in cooperation with others – with a focus on what is ultimately valuable to both the individual and the community.
In many areas we have been adept at reconciling apparently opposing positions. Such as making the labour market accessible to all while also ensuring that our children grow up in a safe and secure environment. Such as building the world’s most digital society without leaving anyone behind. Or creating companies that generate growth while remaining socially and environmentally responsible.
As I see it, the Denmark we know today was shaped to a high degree by design.
We have designed a society where companies can both turn a profit and make the world a better place..
Using design as our approach, we have found solutions that proved economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. We have designed a society where companies can both turn a profit and make the world a better place. We only need to look slightly farther afield to be reminded that this is far from given.
Nevertheless, the rest of world is beginning to catch up, embracing some of the values we have pursued throughout our recent history. To us, 2018 will also be remembered as the year when Danish companies and organizations in a broad sense truly began to join the effort to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Sustainability is increasingly a cornerstone in the development of new products and services and thus a key design parameter. The SDGs have a introduced a global focus on sustainability in 17 different areas of society. This year it has been evident to us that companies – our primary cooperation partners – are beginning to focus their strategic aim at sustainability as an independent value alongside their economic bottom line. This holistic approach is also a characteristic of many of the collaborative projects we initiated in 2018 – and of new projects to be announced in 2019.
For example, we are working with Realdania on a project to minimise the amount of waste in construction based on new circular solutions. Together with a wide range of companies we seek to address the challenges of mobility in rural areas in partnership with Faaborg-Midtfyn Municipality, which serves as the testing ground. For UNDP, the United Nations’ Development Programme, we have collaborated on new forms of governance design to enable the huge organisation to decentralise (and simplify the bureaucratic procedures for) much of its work. We are helping private and public healthcare providers to shape tomorrow’s healthcare in a scenario-based process; and together with our colleagues in D2i – Design2Innovate we are organising digital sprints with 100 Danish SMEs. Finally, together with Innovation Fund Denmark we are hosting about 30 entrepreneurs who receive support to develop their business in an innovative and sustainable direction based on design methods.
The challenges to our society may be great, but fortunately, so is the creativity on display in the proposed solutions.
Through the Danish Design Centre’s work I learn first-hand about hundreds of Danish quality design solutions every year. And the range is nothing short of impressive. The culmination occurs when we co-host the spectacular Danish Design Award event together with Design denmark and the Confederation of Danish Industry in May. The challenges to our society may be great, but fortunately, so is the creativity on display in the proposed solutions.
So we have plenty of reasons to celebrate. We can take pride in having built a fairly amazing society that the world can learn from. And in the coming years we can look forward to a host of opportunities for shaping the next edition of it.
Mark your calendar now: Design Summit and the Danish Design Centre’s 40th anniversary on 12 April.
Until then, we wish you a Happy New Year!