Picture This! Social Innovation Driven by Design Management and Visual Communication


In our globalized world of the 21st Century, we are all too familiar with wicked problems such as terrorism, childhood obesity, poverty, and racism. Imagine a world in which people collaborated across boundaries to solve systemic problems at their roots. What if communities could thrive on sustainable systems that strengthened citizens and the natural environment at the same time?

Within the trans-disciplinary field of innovation, there is a niche known as Social Innovation. This is a form of innovation that places its focus entirely on improving the lives of people through solving problems using methods of design. Most design savvy people are familiar with the term Human-Centered Design (HCD), but Social Innovation takes HCD to the next level.

"Social Innovation is the result of the intentional work of people trying to create positive change by addressing complex problems at their roots" -Social Innovation Generation

Still feeling unsure about what Social Innovation is? Watch this short informational video by Social Innovation Generation to learn more:

What's the problem?

Current methods of planning for social innovation are ineffective because they often do not consider the full complexity of the systems involved. Furthermore, meetings of this nature are not as creative or productive as they could be with the use of graphic facilitation techniques and visual thinking methods.

The manner in which we approach social innovation—developing solutions for social issues—is fundamentally flawed (Shipman, 1971 & Morelli, 2008). Without proper utilization of systems thinking, design management strategies, co-design and visualization techniques, we find ourselves producing unsustainable, misguided outcomes that often have unintended consequences (Morelli, 2008). Furthermore, the complexity of social innovation challenges designers to think differently and collaborate in ways they never have before (Senge, 2008).

There is an opportunity to create a social innovation process that leverages systems thinking, visual communication techniques and other design management methods to yield more efficacious outcomes.

Why Visual Communication?

Visual Communication is one of the most underutilized, underrated tools out there! Not only are visuals the most powerful form of communication, the use of visuals facilitates multi-modal learning, which essentially means that people learn and remember much better when more of their senses are involved. (Don't worry, there will be much more on this topic in future posts!)

In order to tackle such a complex, yet specific research topic, I have created a Venn Model. The four main research areas within Picture This! are: