Online Conference, 25-26 March 2021 | SDN Symposium
SDN Symposium
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14:00 - 17:00


Social Justice, Racial Equity, Futures, Social Impact

Transition Design and Autonomous Design propose that long-term visions of possible futures are an important collective activity to drive change. Social Impact Designers can benefit from futures mapping activities to make the entangled systems of injustice more explicit. Creating images of long-term objectives can strengthen our paths toward justice in several ways: (i) bring clarity to what we are working toward, (ii) help shape long-term goals and pathways there, and (iii) reveal the complexities of intertwined social challenges. Participants in this workshop will practice design futuring tools while engaging questions of racial equity, structural oppression, and resilient societies.

Workshop organizers


Participation is limited to 40. First come first serve basis.

As part of the Swiss Design Network’s online conference, Design as Common Good, Hillary Carey, a Ph.D. researcher in the Transition Design program and Carnegie Mellon, will deliver a workshop to explore the uses of futuring tools for social justice topics. Strategic foresight tools, like backcasting and 3-Horizons, are useful to shift perspectives on complex problems. Thinking through ideas about possible futures can reveal the interconnectedness of social challenges. Each aspect of the process of futuring can have value to the work of social impact: mapping the elements of change, the conversation that results, and the final visions. These processes help designers map the present context and imagine interventions for next steps and long-term planning.

By working collaboratively to imagine a future where racial justice has been achieved, participants in this workshop will work with and engage questions of racial equity, structural oppression, and society. In working through activities that combine the tools and activities of foresight practices with social justice frameworks, individuals and groups can map how different aspects of the challenge are interdependent. This workshop will focus on issues of racial justice. By engaging in a complex social challenge, teams may gain new perspectives on systems that hold oppression in place. For example, mapping equity in education can reveal how school improvements are often limited by public funding practices connected to inequitable neighborhood boundaries, which relate to underinvested infrastructure, etc. It is working through the pieces of the vision that we gain new insights.

Making deliberate space to think about 100-year futures and what it might look like if society has resolved these problems can offer permission to think about equity from a different angle. In racial equity work, which involves historic and intertwined structures of oppression, the weight of the present challenges too often clouds over more significant opportunities. Descriptions of the futures themselves can be powerful in motivating people toward change. They can help ease fears about change, highlighting the benefits rather than the losses. The more specific and descriptive, the better to help people imagine what the outcomes of change might look and feel like. Yet, social justice work rarely describes the result of struggles against oppression. For designers, who are often naturally oriented toward the future, materialize those visions can be a way to support movements toward change.

This three-hour workshop will begin with a brief presentation reflecting on the intersection of foresight and social justice. Attendees will then work virtually in small groups, with a warm-up activity, scaffolding activities, and then vision creation. Then we will come back as a larger session and reflect on the application and usefulness of the materials, conversations, and visions. In taking time to brainstorm ideas and then imagine a future where racial justice has been achieved or where our own work is finally no longer needed, participants will think differently about social justice. Attendees will leave with two activities to try with their own teams, or personally, to describe the world they are working toward and the critical turning points to get there.