Frustrated in the face of inequality

Over the past number of years in my adult life, I have had compounding experiences which have led me to become more and more disillusioned with the inequalities that human beings face on this planet.

I have traveled the world to learn about issues that people around the world face, and how they are approaching problems in their own ways. But ultimately I have been left feeling powerless to be a part of any sort of solution.

My focus has gradually shifted from being concerned more with the outcome of my own life, to being concerned with how to position myself to be the most impactful to create a better world for all lives. This is not a small burden to take on. I have often felt extremely overwhelmed, depressed, and powerless in the face of what seem to be endless problems of inequality, misunderstanding, greed, and ignorance.

In reading Margolin, I was most affected by the framing of the “global situation”. Our expansionist societal trajectory is something that I have toiled immensely over, but never had the vocabulary to articulate in terms of design frameworks. The idea of a society which succeeds in attaining an equilibrium seems extremely far fetched to me, and that we have defended too far down our own rabbit hole of capitalism to ever dig ourselves out. But the sentiment being described in terms of design thinking is new to me, and sparks a moment of hope in me that others have the same thought process as me.

I took this as an immediate direction to the Pilloton reading, which emphasized proximity to a community in order to understand the nuance of their problems. I inherently believe in concept, and I really value being a part of a community, as well as working with that community in order to create sustainable change. In my last full time position I worked for the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation planning events for their public park. I hoped that I would be able to see the impact of my work on the ground with the communities I was serving, however, a lot of the impact of my role was clouded with the politics of non-profits, budgets, partnerships and funding. I also became disillusioned with the way this particular non-profit was affecting adjacent underserved communities near downtown city limits. I was shocked by the way that these issues were being essentially not being addressed, or actually being ignored in public dialogue.

I was also moved to feeling by the various articles about non-profits on both a local and international scale. Before coming to ac4d I heavily explored my desire to make a career of the non-profit sector. I started off in the arts thinking that I could make a difference in that realm, and after getting fully spent of the pettiness and corruption of arts funding, I moved on the environmental non-profits, only to experience similar kinds of leveraged relationships, emphasis on numbers rather than actual impact, as well as lots of turn-over in staffing and chaotic leadership. It left me feeling very disdainful about the effectiveness of non-profits all together. I felt that this was particularly addressed in Hobbe’s article about international development, which addresses this issues but, even takes it a step further when these operations that are essentially missing the mark upscale. Scaling only escalates the emphasis on numbers, dollars and appearances completely at the detriment of actual impact or fulfillment of their mission.

While all of the authors that I already mentioned somewhat validated feelings that I already had about how to approach issues of poverty, the one that I will likely take with me the most in my future as a designer and as a “social entrepreneur” was Yunus. Yunus is the author that left me with the most hope. The idea of a social business being self sustainable seems like the most likely way that I, personally, will be able to live a financially sustainable lifestyle, be creative and innovative, while also attempting to affect change to a wicked problem. I lean towards wanting to activate the Bernays in me to build a social business which uses elements of subtle persuasion, but persuasion for what I believe to be social good. While I know there could be unintended consequences, I believe that our global situations are all reaching a head and that we MUST take direct action, and we MUST have courage and fortitude in the face of the worlds problems. Or else there may not be a world left.