Today Determines Tomorrow

When I walked into Our Daily Bread in Stillwater, Oklahoma for the first time my freshman year, I was blown away by the food distribution process and attitude of workers. Our Daily Bread is a non-profit organization located here in Stillwater that operates as a food bank in the form of a shopping center to feed low-income families in Stillwater and surrounding areas. When speaking about social entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations in class this week, this local organization is the first one I thought of, as I have personally volunteered multiple times at Our Daily Bread, helping families or individuals shop through the grocery floor. This organization can be deemed a social entrepreneurship because its revenue comes in the form of improving the quality of life for its customers, rather than financial capital. They operate on donations from companies and people to gather food, equipment, and other needs. Combining this personal experience with researching, reading, and watching videos on the Wicked Problems website and other social entrepreneurs, I have concluded these forces of change are driven by the selfless, humble attitude of people that realize what we do today matters for tomorrow.

The Wicked Problems website describes that social entrepreneurs can approach a wicked problem two ways: hands-on action or working to implement or support policies. I read the No reading for the Market vs. Government Regulation article in class, and lawyer Leigh Fletcher discusses the best way to encourage energy conservation and sustainability is building stronger regulations at the government level. This addresses the second approach to attacking wicked problems just discussed. Fletcher discusses this would take the form of requiring building construction to meet certain “green standards.” After learning about LEED standards in class, I agree with Fletcher’s side of the disagreement over implementing government regulations when building and designing. By mandating construction projects to meet a LEED certification or restructuring building codes to require certain green building standards, this is basically ensuring built-in sustainability in new buildings. To tackle the ever-increasing electricity consumption and emission of greenhouse gasses, certain measures need to be enforced on the government level in order to directly implement sustainable practices in construction building and designing. However, like any wicked problem, certain challenges and consequences accompany this solution, such as the fact that it will take an extremely long time to revise laws that will re-structure the layout of building codes, varying definitions on what constitutes green building, and increased building costs associated with the currently expensive price of eco-friendly materials.

As I was researching social entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations, I came across one that particularly peaked my interest that approaches wicked problems through hands-on action, as discussed earlier. Design That Matters is a non-profit design company that creates products to benefit needs of developing countries. Products the company has designed range in areas of education, health care, and renewable energy sources. Through technological designs, they work to better the quality of life for poor communities in third-world countries. They partner with other social entrepreneurs to manufacture, distribute, and provide new perspectives to successfully produce a functional product. Their most recent product they are designing in the prototype stages is the Otter Newborn Warmer, a conductive warmer for newborns. The warmer will allow rural hospitals with limited staff, resources, and experience to treat premature newborns that are prone to develop hypothermia. Design That Matters really interests me because ever since I began looking at colleges and thinking about what I wanted to do in my life and major, my goal was to find something that allowed me to both design and help people in need. I’ve always had a heart for service and knew that I wanted to incorporate this passion into the career field I chose. Design That Matters was the perfect social entrepreneurship for me to research because it combines design and my passion to help improve quality of life for others. The head narrator of the Wicked Problems website stated, “Social entrepreneurs provide the economic vehicle in which designers can tackle wicked problems.” Social entrepreneurs are foundations to building a program for designers to use their ideas, styles, and creativity to combat the wicked problems of our world.

Watching various videos on the Wicked Problems website, one idea (it could really be deemed a fact) that stuck with me was how interconnected wicked problems are to each other and what they affect. For example, my wicked problem is the lack of housing for the urban poor. This lack of housing is connected to the wicked problem of food insecurity for the lower class and the economy on the basis of low income rates among the poor. Lack of housing develops into further wicked problems such as waste and pollution. Wicked problems are a never-ending chain of consequences and problems that can’t be fixed. While this is a harsh reality, design, programs, and policies can mitigate the effects and large scale of wicked problems. The beginning to any social entrepreneurship is recognizing the existence of a wicked problem. This can be determined by the current/future state analysis discussed in class. By using the tools of pinpointing factors influencing human activity, assessing trends, and defining the background and system of the problem will alleviate the wicked problem through determining its root and all the people affected by it in order to create a solution that benefits all parties. A problem I want to attempt to address is improving the quality of life for people in third world countries through safe, healthy housing and the associated amenities, such as access to clean water and sanitary facilities. This is related to my wicked problem and I have used the current/future state analysis to identify the causes of this problem, the target group it is affecting, the current consequences it is having on quality of life, and predicted future consequences. By identifying and empathizing with these characteristics, you are better prepared to attack and develop a solution to wicked problems because you have a deep understanding of the problem. The next step is harder: designing a product or service that will successfully alleviate the wicked problem. I watched a Ted Talk that the CEO of Design That Matters gave and he stressed an important motto his company revolves around: design for outcomes. Designing for personal financial gain, status, or recognition is entirely the wrong mindset to have, as it reverses the whole purpose of designing a product. How can you design a successful product that is not meant for people?

Designing to improve quality of life and diminish human suffering has held a special place in my heart for a long time. As I advance my college education and experience, I am eager to either work for a social entrepreneur that reflects my passions or incorporate these passions wherever I work.

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