Better World By Design

I’m off to Better World By Design this year, for the second time in Providence, Rhode Island.

I have to say, after my visit two years ago it was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to.  Not just because it is split between the splendour of Brown University’s Campus and Rhode Island School of Design’s building but the way it is run, the content and most importantly the people.

In 2013 I had the pleasure of being welcome by Isobel Whitney and this year Cole Moore has been looking after me over Skype sessions.

Put together by students, they go the extra mile to make you feel welcome and ensure as a speaker you are well prepared to fit the agenda they are pursuing.  I really appreciate this as a speaker when the effort is made to go through the theme, the focus and intended impact of the event.

I’ve no idea what’s in store this year but last year I had the pleasure of meeting retired soldiers working with Whole Foods, take part in a Hip Hop Design class and explore new technologies for crafting 3D products.

I’m also impressed with their efforts to make this as sustainable an effort as possible.  Everyone is provided with reusable cutlery, we bring our own water bottles and they encourage using bikes to get around.

They are using People’s Power & Light (PP&L)’s New England Wind program to power the event, offering the opportunity to offset your carbon footprint and working with a local student initiative to compost on site. These details are tough to remember when organising a conference of this scale over three days with multiple venues.  I take my hat off to the organising committee of 2015. You guys rock. 

So this year we’re focusing on democracy and design and the theme of access.  I’ll be talking alongside Frog Design and MOMA (NYC) on citizen participation and how design can play a role in civic life. I want to talk about the importance of surfacing creativity in all of us and providing these opportunities in our communities and civic landscape.

In 2013 I closed the conference talking about the ‘concept’ of Dearest Scotland and how we were seeking to pursue our wee project of citizen letters to the future.  This year I return with the draft copy of the book to share with friends from the event, it feels like a real achievement of Lauren, Cat and I to bring this into fruition and a reminder for me that it’s good to share ideas with others,there’s something quite beautifully nerve wracking saying in front of an audience that you’re going to do something.  It holds you to account and makes your thoughts real.

I also get to catch up with Andy Cutler, our magical over seas friend who keeps us smiling with his support from across the pond for Snook and Dearest Scotland.  I can’t wait to meet you again and share a beer – check out Andy’s Smarter Cities Unite, I feel like Providence and Glasgow have a unique connection because of him. 

If you’re interested in this diverse conference keep up with it this weekend on twitter at #BWxD15