Mission & Vision
Together we design a sustainable, livable and social society for future generations.
World Design Embassies (WDE) is a mission and design-driven programme in which stakeholders equally collaborate on complex, societal issues. In open coalitions of partners, we connect the power of design to national transitions. Drawing on missions around themes such as health, safety, mobility, sustainability and inclusivity, WDE works on the transition to a sustainable, liveable and social society for us and the generations that follow us.
World Design Embassies stands for design thinking and doing. For working together on complex social issues that goes beyond domains and sectors. We believe that imagination is crucial to change ‘what is’ into ‘what we want’.
Scroll down for the full vision and motivation.
How do we treat the planet?
How do we treat each other?
And how does this affect us?
We are living in revolutionary times. Times in which we face crisis, climate change, polarisation, and conflict on a daily basis. Times when fundamental changes to existing systems are more urgent than ever before. Changes that require the imagination of designers, the insights of science and the creative power that lies within us all. We are standing at a moment in history when a real change of direction is possible and necessary. We must start asking ourselves fundamentally different questions and dare to change the shape of our society.
Since the industrial revolution, we have mainly become better at what we have always done. With ever-smarter machines, more advanced technologies, and more complex supply chains. We have become champions of continuously refining, improving, and fulfilling every desire. For example, search online for hand blenders, car models or smartphones, and you will find an endless selection. An endless cycle of increasing production and consumption, in which the design field plays a major role.
This level of sophistication and development translates into an overwhelming amount of convenience, comfort, and prosperity. However, this leaves deep footprints. Consider the depletion of raw materials, production methods that spread pollution, and waste and the dichotomy between those who can afford all these luxuries and those who are left out.
A large part of the world thinks they’re living in a land of plenty, but how sustainable is that? But this dream is not just a threat to our health. In particular, it also addresses other big questions such as: biodiversity, climate change, security, economic crisis, international tensions and migration and segregation.
Some parts of the world enjoy great prosperity, but at the cost of 2.3 billion people living in areas that are rapidly becoming uninhabitable. Taking responsibility for our extreme comfort also means taking responsibility for the increasing threats elsewhere in the world. Our task in the coming decades is to say a brave goodbye with conviction to the current status quo and change direction together.
The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) send a clear message: we do not need a structural change but a transformative change. It’s not possible to transition by working with just one organisation or in just one field. We need to step outside the existing structures while fundamentally changing our society’s economic, social, and technological structures.
We have the next 30 years to make that fundamental change in many areas. 2050 seems a long way off, but if you do the maths, it’s just as far away as the 1990s. When it first became normal for all of us to have computers on our desks. It is breath-taking how fast things have developed. The internet, algorithms and Artificial Intelligence created a digital world in which everything became possible. Now it’s time to realise the same breath-taking changes in the real world over the next thirty years.
That long-term perspective, showing that things must and can be done differently, is not the domain of politicians, our world leaders, or the current market mechanisms. These forces are driven by short-term interests and lack the right tools or agendas for the future. Where the tools of these two powers are insufficient, the arsenal of the design world, creative thinkers and science form a third power: the power of knowledge and research, questioning what currently exists and imagining new proposals for behaviour.
That starts with curiosity and doubt, with asking an infinite number of questions. In this respect, designers and scientists have a lot in common; they are creative and specialise in change. A scientist must doubt what they think they are sure about, and a designer must know for sure that they doubt. A mirrored world, but comparable in creativity and passion for progress.
Progress towards a sustainable, regenerative, and inclusive world with systems that leave no social or environmental traces of destruction.
Trust in Makership
We have to get started now. We shouldn’t shy away from the challenge but roll up our sleeves. We should be optimistic but not naive. It is crucial that we rely on each other and discover the maker in ourselves without knowing what the final solution is. We can’t be afraid to use other values, new working mechanisms and imagination to deal with our challenges. Ingrained systems get stuck and old answers no longer work, so we must dare to ask new questions and shape other inclusive coalitions. The power of making The source of change does not lie in the world’s manufacturability but in humans: in their ability to make things. Creative power starts with the will to change society, not just your life. Makers are captivated by the question and not just by the solution. There are simply no easy solutions for transformative questions. Imagination is needed to stimulate that creative power. In addition to thinking rationally and structuring what is happening around us, it is important to be able to put yourself in another place, another time, and another world. That interaction creates possibilities. The discovery: the creative power of the proposal, of alternative scenarios and new possibilities. The makers are the people who will make a new future. Not on their own but because they constantly come up with new ways to activate other people and connect networks.
To set the real transition in motion, everyone needs to tap into their makership, and here we distinguish between five roles. The Watchdog, who sets the agenda’s theme: does not say that it must be done differently but shows that it can be done differently. By making the urgency visible and tangible. The Treasure hunter who is not focused on objective facts and figures within a defined context but uses empathy in search of personal meaning and underlying values from practice to gain more insight into the issue. The Initiator who doesn’t focus on improving what already exists but proposes promising new possibilities. A framework for different behaviour. The Explorer who facilitates joint exploration, not aimed at finding the solution but designing the change. A process that leads to unexpected outcomes by using everyone’s expertise. The Valuemaker who doesn’t focus on defined project results but increases people’s creative space within systems and facilitates people in mutual connection. New networks as drivers of change.
We need people who feel committed to doing more than just the bare minimum. In society and in organisations. That sense of responsibility not only demands something from designers and scientists, but it also demands something from market parties or the government. It requires everyone to find a way to connect to the goal that hangs over us all.
It is about uniting the roles and qualities. We have many more qualities than we use in our professional lives as municipal officials, community officers or social workers. These qualities allow us all to tap into the makership within ourselves.
Designing the change
At World Design Embassies (WDE), governments, the business community and designers come together to tackle social problems and show that things can be done differently. WDE sets the agenda, opens coalitions for social transitions and brings creative power together. The Embassies work on the necessary fundamental changes, each from their own context.
They do this by researching, experimenting, and learning together. It is not about designing the solution but about designing the change. The dialogue is crucial here; the coalitions and the diversity of perspectives create the space to take concrete steps. Therein lies the power.
We feel the urgency and, at the same time, a unifying force that seems to make change possible. There is the felt need to create a hopeful vision of the future. This is the moment when we must and can do things differently. A moment like this doesn’t happen very often in history. We’re optimistic but not naive. The necessary change begins with pain and resistance. Creativity, solidarity, inventiveness, and improvisation are necessary for us to transform into a sustainable world.