The Future is Fiction

future

 

Introduction

BeyondRisør's first incarnation was as 100% Risør, a relatively small-scale design
event in Risør in 2005. Building on that success, the people behind BeyondRisør
initiated a two-year design project, Beyond Acoustics, which culminated in a
spectacular event in Risør where the designs from the project were showcased. This
event also marked the start of a new two-year project cycle, this time called Beyond
Light. Well-known Norwegian designers were again asked to contribute with
designs, including international profiles such as Andreas Engesvik.

While the main focus for the BeyondRisør brand during that five-year period was
"where business and design meet", the organisation nevertheless remained loyal to
its commitment to good quality design that aims to improve our surroundings. In
2008 and 2010 it tackled issues such as noise pollution and poor lighting, and for
the 2012 biennale BeyondRisør wanted to take this commitment one step further.
Kigge Hvid, the CEO of INDEX, had attended the Beyond Light biennale, and
in September 2011, Risør was officially announced as a partner city to INDEX, a
subsidiary of the Danish Design Centre:

"INDEX: is a Danish-based, non-profit organization that was established in 2002
and coined the concept "Design to Improve Life". We work globally to promote and
apply both design and design processes that have the capacity to improve the lives of
people worldwide."(INDEX, 2011).

Following this development, BeyondRisør needed to restructure the organisation
and its activities in order to incorporate Index's Design to Improve Life (DTIL)
ethos. Our task was defined thus: "To align BeyondRisør with INDEX: Design to
Improve Life." Furthermore, our main goal was to use Systems Oriented Design "to
challenge and discover the possibilities and national networks on a strategic and
practical level, and complete a visualisation for the reframing of the organisation."
The early stages of the project

Using Systems Oriented Design (S.O.D.) involves plenty of research of the system
in question (and of all its subsystems), and of other system with which it interacts.
The S.O.D. approach also involves mapping all this research in large, complex GIGA
maps, where all the information is structured according to hierarchy, relations,
patterns, etc. By drawing up a comprehensive map of the given situation, one is then
able to locate leverage points or flaws within the system, as well as identifying areas
where something is lacking, i.e. an opportunity for innovation.
The process used during this project has mainly been systems oriented. However,
as this has been an organizational design process, systems thinking methods have
continually been adapted to respond to different aspects of the process. Whereas a
rigid systems approach might be appropriate in a conventional engineering context,
in this case the approach used had to be quite flexible.
We used the SOD-approach in order to achieve three main objectives:

1. To map out all relevant information, in order to gain a comprehensive overview of
such a complex situation.
2. To find points of innovation, leverage points or systemical flaws.
3. To communicate findings, and create a tool for future decision-making.

 

BR workshop

 

We started the process by finding out more about BeyondRisør as an organisation
(structure, activities, resources), and by taking a close look at INDEX, the
INDEX:Awards and Design to Improve Life. Having mapped out all available
information on BeyondRisør and INDEX, we then began to look at other
Norwegian design organisations and other national design competitions. We also
started to look at BeyondRisør's goals, vision and mission [statement], trying to
determine a clear course of action that would neatly incorporate INDEX's vision
and ethos into BeyondRisør's existing strategy. Seeing that BeyondRisør didn't have
a well-defined strategy, and that they indeed were working on a completely new
branding and strategy concept, we felt that the path lay open for us to develop their
organisational structure and intent more independently of BeyondRisør's previous
work.

 

gigamap future is fiction_thumb Click the image to see larger version.

 

Having thoroughly mapped out all the content on the BeyondRisør and INDEX
websites, closely examined all of INDEX's publications and all other relevant
information in secondary and tertiary sources, we then had our first meeting with
Nina Gresvig (BeyondRisør 's Project Manager) and Kamilla Solheim (Risør
Municipality's Head of Corporate Affairs). This initial meeting helped us find out
more about BeyondRisør's plans for the immediate future, particularly in regard
to their branding and marketing strategy. These plans were still very sketchy, so we
decided to arrange a workshop in Risør as soon as possible, aiming to include as
many different types of stakeholders as possible (including representatives from
INDEX).

Once the date for the workshop in Risør was set, both student groups set about
planning the structure and content of the workshop. As BeyondRisør's goals and
future strategy were still quite vague, both groups decided that we would like to use
these workshop sessions to further crystallise those fundamental elements. Another
important issue we sought clarification on was INDEX's role in BeyondRisør's
future (and vice versa). Following thorough discussions and helpful input from
the S.O.D. tutors and Dr. Peter Jones (associate professor at Toronto's OCAD
University), both groups settled on two tasks that we hoped would give us enough
answers/information for us to move forward swiftly into the concept generation
stage. The first task was a simple timeline-mapping task, where the participants were
asked to sketch out (along a timeline) where they thought BeyondRisør would or
should be in five years time, noting down every important milestone/step along the
way. The second task was more of an individual task, where participants were asked
four questions: "What improves life for me? For you? For Norway? For the world?"
While in Risør, we also participated in a workshop held by Innoventi, a marketing
consultancy firm engaged by BeyondRisør to help them develop a strong brand.
After an intense, but enjoyable, workshop session in Risør, both groups had plenty
of information about where BeyondRisør think they might be headed, and what social
drivers are behind the key stakeholder's take on the Design to Improve Life
concept. All this information was processed in detail before our group began to generate
basic concepts for how BeyondRisør might develop as an organisation devoted
to INDEX's core principle, namely Design to Improve Life.
Concept Generation

From the outset, we were conscious of BeyondRisør needing to raise its profile as
a valuable and relevant design oriented organisation. With this in mind, we then
began to sketch out several basic activities that BeyondRisør could do in order to
recruit people to their cause and to inform the wider design/business community
in Norway about their work and ethos. However, our main concern was the limited
resources that BeyondRisør currently have at their disposal. As things stand today,
the organisation currently only has one employee (Nina Gresvig) and relies heavily
on the local municipal council for input in that regard. Hence, most of the activities
we initially sketched out were designed with this acute people shortage in mind.
The three main activities that we eventually settled on concerned 1) getting third
level students involved with BeyondRisør and Design to Improve Life, 2) getting
designers, business people and entrepreneurs acquainted with BeyondRisør and
with each other, and, finally, 3) establishing a platform of communication (both on and
offline) for BeyondRisør and the design/business community.

Concept Development

While the representatives of BeyondRisør were quite supportive of this strategy
(especially as we had tried to include the inhabitants of Risør to make up for
the shortfall of BeyondRisør employees), the group felt that the project had
somehow come to a standstill, in terms of scope and ambition. The momentum
had gradually diminished since the start of the concept generation phase, and the
project found itself in a bit of a lull, both in terms of systems mapping and creative
output. Fortunately, both student groups have throughout the project had access
to Benedicte Wildhagen of the Norwegian Design Council, who has plenty of
experience with Systems Oriented Design projects at AHO. At this crucial point
her insight was invaluable in giving the project a new drive and a clearer focus. It was
on her advice that we decided to concentrate our efforts of mapping out a plausible
future scenario for where BeyondRisør can be (and should probably be) in five years
time. The activities that were sketched out the previous week to suit an organisation
that only has one employee were now expanded to match the level of ambition
that all stakeholders truly had for BeyondRisør. Hence, the concept for the website
was broadened in scope and made to become one of the cornerstones of the overall
strategy. The activities to recruit third level students, business people and designers,
and Risør inhabitants were incorporated into a much more ambitious scheme,
which ultimately aimed to get BeyondRisør and Design to Improve Life as well
known in the Norwegian consciousness as the current Low Carb-diet fad.
Final Concept

Finalising the project, we had to generate realistic and plausible scenarios for how
representative personas would experience BeyondRisør. These personas would
interact with BeyondRisør in several ways: through the website www.beyondrisor.
no, at the Biennale, in a third level education setting, at design labs, and at smallscale
networking events nationwide. For example, a BeyondRisør volunteer living
in Risør would contribute to the website and to BeyondRisør's presence on social
networking sites such as Facebook. A design student would then be informed about
and inspired by about the organisation's activities, and would then be persuaded to
create a profile on beyondrisor.no in order to upload entries for BeyondRisør design
challenges. The best design challenge entries would then be invited to a design lab
facilitated by BeyondRisør (or, in some cases, by INDEX). Experts from related
fields, such as engineering, business and marketing, will also participate at these
design labs, giving the designers a unique opportunity to interact with these experts
and incorporate them into their network of knowledge.

As more people attend lectures and courses given by BeyondRisør's representatives,
and as the popularity of beyondrisor.no and the design challenges increases, the
reputation and value of the organisation (and DTIL) will hopefully increase. This
in turn will lead to BeyondRisør establishing itself as one of the main actors within
design and business networking, meaning that it is the main organisation people
will contact when in need of such services. The knock-on effect of this will mean
even greater numbers of actively involved users. It is therefore vital that during the
next five years BeyondRisør targets relevant and appropriate institutes, companies
and individuals who are willing to help promote the brand and DTIL within their
own networks. Educational partnerships with institutions like AHO, appointing
brand ambassadors, and recruiting passionate and enthusiastic volunteers
from Risør and other places in Norway will be key moves in the early phases of
implementing this strategy.

Conclusion

For this S.O.D. task, we chose to concentrate BeyondRisør's future strategy on
two main arenas: the physical meeting place (the Biennale and design labs in Risør)
and the digital knowledge network, in order to become the main hub for design
and business innovation in Norway. We feel that it is important create an online
platform for knowledge exchange, creative exchange and resource sharing because a)
BeyondRisør already has a legacy for creating/facilitating meetings between business
and design (the previous biennales and pilot projects), and b) because creating
something as part of a collaborative effort is more likely to have an impact and to
develop into something plausible:

"Collaborative production, where people have to coordinate with one another
to get anything done, is considerably harder than simple sharing, but the results
can be more profound. New tools allow large groups to collaborate, taking
advantage of nonfinancial motivations and by allowing for wildly differing levels of
contributions." (Shirky, p.109, 2008).

However, the events that BeyondRisør organise offline, in the real world, will also
be of important value to the users. Being able to meet people face to face in the
right setting, having a casual conversation about the Design to Improve Life, and
exchanging business cards are features of BeyondRisør that the website could never
fully replace: "When people run into each other, when they make eye contact,
things happen." (Brad Bird, as quoted in Lehrer, 2011).

Bibliography

INDEX (2011), Design to Improve Life! Do It!, http://www.indexaward.dk/index.
php?option=com_content&view=article&id=30&Itemid=8.
Available: 8 December 2011.
Lehrer, Jonas (2011), Steve Jobs: "Technology Alone is Not Enough,
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/10/steve-jobs-pixar.
html?mbid=social_retweet.
Available: 7 October 2011.
Shirky, Clay (2008), Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organising without
Organisations, The Penguin Press, New York.