Ch… Ch… Changes; change starts with asking new questions

Ask new questions. Imagine what the future will look like a hundred years from now. The power of imagination. You’re sure that you want to discover. Making the change itself possible. During the conference ‘Ch… Ch… Changes’, inspiring words and examples will be presented that initiate or will initiate the necessary changes we represent.

Type Update
Published on 4 November 2022
Ch… Ch… Changes; change starts with asking new questions
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The message is that we all have a responsibility and must do it together. The conference was also a unique moment for launching Jetske van Oosten and Tabo Goudswaard’s book ‘Maakkracht’. The book is a guide to how we can change together.

Policymakers, companies, research institutes and creatives of all shapes and sizes can be found sitting in the overcrowded Philips Hall of the Evoluon. “It’s the perfect blend, and you are the group we have to do it with”, says Martijn Paulen, director of the Dutch Design Foundation, at the opening. Paulen is referring to new ways of working together. “A need from which the World Design Embassies (WDE) arose five years ago.”

Design power

“You can’t just leave it to designers. You also need policies, laws and regulations, and companies to operate on a larger scale. Depending on the issue, you also need philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and designers. At WDE, we strongly believe in building coalitions and the role of  design power role in those coalitions.”

According to Paulen, design power is not necessarily about designing new products, but rather, as he says, “Questioning, setting the agenda, reorganising processes, research by design, other dialogues, prototypes, seducing, shocking, new cultures of use, shaping scenarios, designing empathically and so on. But most importantly, asking questions. New questions, because when old answers no longer work, you have to start asking new questions.”

How do we treat the planet? How do we treat each other? Those are the big questions for Paulen. “I hope to make your life a little bit simpler today. If we’ve solved these two questions, we’re done.”

‘Scientists are trained to doubt what we all think we know for sure. The design world definitely needs to know where the doubts lie. With the power of these specialists' imagination, now is the time to get the story straight.’


Ambassador of the WDE programme and former Government Architect Floris Alkemade reduces these two questions to one: how can we organise our lives so that we aren’t leaving a trail of destruction behind? Alkemade said, “Since the industrial revolution, we have mainly become better at what we were already doing.” The endless range of hand blenders, smartphones, and car models found online shows that. “The price for this paradise is being paid on the other side of the world. That’s what it should be about when we talk about design and change. What responsibility do we take, and what do we see? The real development is the raising of that ethical awareness. A realisation that we could easily put aside until now. We no longer have that option.” 

Read WDE’s full vision here.

“We must take the threat seriously, but we can’t avoid it.” The hubris – the pride – of the designer and science helps with this, says Alkemade. “Scientists are trained to doubt what we all think we know for sure. The design world definitely needs to know where the doubts lie. With the power of these specialists’ imagination, now is the time to get the story straight.”

Christian Bason - credits:

From a problem to a direction

Christian Bason, CEO of the Danish Design Centre (DDC), also emphasises the need to envision a new sustainable future. DDC is an independent foundation, partly funded by the Danish government and partly by commercial activities. It’s located in Copenhagen in a building designed by Rem Koolhaas. Bason will be present during DDW22 with thirty colleagues to “learn and share knowledge”. 

“At DDC, we believe people have the ability and willingness to create a more sustainable world,” said Bason. The centre is mission-driven. “A mission is a way to move from a problem to a direction. Or from complexity to a positive vision of the future. This direction is the key to our mission work. In doing so, we mobilise that entire area’s ecosystem.”

DDC has three overarching missions. The Green Transition: designing the irresistible circular society, the Digital Transition: towards a more ethical digital society and the Social Transition: a radical approach to the mental health emergency. 

“Denmark has a big problem regarding young people’s mental health,” says Bason. Hence the Social Transition. The centre doesn’t just work with healthcare organisations. Together with thousands of young people, DDC looked to the future and asked, “Can you imagine a society in which you flourish?”

Nadine Ridder, Dorine Baars & Jonas Martens (Verveeld & Verward)

Niet Rotterdam

What kind of future do we want? Designers Dorine Baars and Jonas Martens of Design Studio Verveeld & Verward are also asking this question. Averse to short-term thinking, they collect projects, ideas, ideologies, and concepts with cross-generational thinking, like the Living Root Bridge in India. This is where they are building a bridge from tree roots. The roots are pulled from one side of the bank to the other. Baars explains, “This formation will take 100 years until these roots are actually strong enough. The local population maintains the bridges and has rituals around them yearly.” The duo themselves initiated the Niet Rotterdam project. It’s a piece of land in Limburg that Rotterdammers can flee to if Rotterdam becomes unlivable in the future.

Nadine Ridder & Gabriel Fontana - credits:

Welcoming sport

Designer Gabriel Fontana is also asking other questions. He developed Multiform. “Multiform breaks a boundary within sports. In sports, it’s always one team competing against another team. A winner against a loser. For many young people, sport is a hostile environment. You’re good, or you’re not. You have to perform.” Fontana asked the question: How can you make sports more welcoming? 

He developed an unconventional form of handball. The uniform changes colour when the referee blows the whistle and the players switch teams. “The uniform is a means of changing perspective. Whoever used to be your opponent is now your ally.”

Nadine RIdder & Boey Wang - credits:

Two days without sight

Designer Boey Wang observes that our world is very visually oriented. Last year, during DDW, he showed a collection of kitchen utensils that help visually impaired people. Like a measuring cup with holes so that someone can feel when there is enough water in it. Or a cutting board from which the cut vegetables do not fall off. 

According to Boey, it is necessary to understand the other person’s motivations and emotions if you want to design for someone else. That is why he set up a training course for future designers. During training, the students could not see anything for two days. “It teaches them to reflect on their identity, and it expands the possibilities to express themselves through video, vibration or digital.”

Nadine Ridder, Jetske van Oosten & Tabo Goudswaard - credits:


According to ambassadors of the WDE programme, Jetske van Oosten and Tabo Goudswaard, a maker is hidden in everyone, which is why they wrote the book ‘Maakkracht‘. Van Oosten says, “The moment we have a drawing of what the Netherlands should look like in 50 years, it doesn’t mean that we know what we need to do to get there. Designers don’t know that either, but more and more designers are getting very good at creating a context in which everyone can figure out for themselves how to get there.” 

The book is a simplified way of seeing the design methodology, Goudswaard continues. “It’s a kind of step-by-step plan with which you can achieve change from A to Z. We strongly believe in the creative power of people. With this book, we want to wake up the maker who lurks in everyone.” 

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