A paradigm shift for design
This will require a design paradigm shift, quite distinct from those that came before it: the product-centric paradigm during the industrial age with its focus on putting productivity and consumption first, or the human-centric paradigm of design during the post-industrial and information ages with its focus on putting people first.
This age for design necessitates a life-centric paradigm where all that we create aims to create the conditions needed for all life to flourish, for the long term. We, and many across our community, refer to this approach to purpose-led design as regenerative design. Regenerative design goes beyond sustainability and doing less harm, towards regeneration and doing more good. Regenerative design aims for all human activity to align with and restore, replenish and revive the Earth’s living systems for the benefit of all life.
Investing in the next generation
By 2025, Generation Alpha (current 0–10-year-olds) will account for almost 2 billion of the total global population. Now is the time to support a critical group in our society, with the design skills needed to lead the future and the regeneration of people, places and the planet. However, we are seeing a number of signals and patterns that are posing challenges towards this important trajectory.
- Creative opportunities for children are under threat: In the UK, in secondary education, enrolment in design and tech GCSEs has fallen by 68%, and in arts GCSEs by 49% since 2010.
- A rise in technological innovation: presents opportunities for societal and environmental progress, whilst paradoxically increasing the need to nurture automation-proof skills that make the most of our unique human potential – creativity, empathy and critical thinking, amongst others.
- Rising inequalities in education: with a one size fits all model that is leaving many children behind, with 50% of children leaving school loathing rather than loving learning. Our educational systems fail to tap into the unique and unrealised potential and creative capacity each child presents across the richness of socio-economic and neurodiverse characteristics.
- Longer lives and faster careers: with an increase in life expectancy and a rapidly shifting labour and skills landscape one of the most future proof capabilities to grow in the younger generation is a capacity to continue to learn and re-learn, skill and re-skill as we adapt to a changing world – i.e. a skill for lifelong learning.
Design for Life capabilities
These future signals place a greater importance on the design capabilities we’re investing in for the next generation of leaders. Alongside the foundational and vocational skills that existing education systems place priority on (literacy, numeracy, digital, profession specific knowledge, etc.), generation Alpha is in urgent need of less tangible capabilities such as transferable skills and mindsets that will transform the jobs and industries of the future to be more regenerative.
At The RSA, we have been leading a Regenerative Capabilities Enquiry for the last 6 months - exploring through a review of best and next practice and a convening of businesses and learning organisations – the capabilities that we need to grow across the life course, towards a regenerative economy. The proposed capabilities framework builds on Ken Robinson’s 8 Cs for human success to propose 10 Cs towards regenerative futures. These are:
- Composure (authenticity): aligning with authentic self and acting in accordance with own inner beliefs and values
- Change (Adaptability): ability to change, energise and benefit new conditions whilst embracing change
- Collaboration (Mutual reciprocity): collective action drawing on diverse perspectives and expertise that then changes those involved for the better
- Communication (Facilitation): creating spaces for stories, ideas and expression to emerge and interact
- Creativity (Emergence): crafting ideas into possibilities through unlikely scenarios and enabling these to continue to evolve over time
- Critical thinking (Reflexivity and Complexity): building responses based on lived experiences and interconnections with complex living systems
- Curiosity (Wonder): seeing abundance, potential and learning in everything around us and particularly in living systems
- Courage (Self-actualisation): willingness to take bold risks and make trade-offs for the benefit of the whole
- Compassion (self/people/planet care): seeing the connection between self, others and the planet and caring and valuing the whole accordingly
- Citizenship (Stewardship): stewarding responsibility and contribution to community and planet leaving things better for the generations to come
Across our and our fellows’ work at The RSA we are starting to build on and shape education and lifelong learning interventions that can cultivate these capabilities from early years, pupils, and enrolled learners of all ages, to entrepreneurs, employees, and place and policy leaders. The overall aim is to shift the system to re-value and re-invest in these fundamental life-centric and life-conducive capabilities necessary for a flourishing future.