SDP 2021-2022 Week 3: Human Centered Design

One topic discussed while walking out of the building this week is what a great date idea it would be to take someone canvassing about compost. The class itself occurred in two parts – Lecture and Training.

Eesha took us away on our first design lecture. We learned about the Human Centered Design movement that arose as a means to ground the design process in its roots. Our project throughout this class will be using Social Design (i.e., Human Centered Design with an equity-centered approach) to conceptualize processes – not “solutions” – that will support the efforts of the South Baltimore Community Land Trust in moving toward a Zero Waste Future for Baltimore. Eesha walked us through how this mindset can be applied to each stage of the Practicum, and I’m certain I’ll be referring back to her slides to keep myself centered throughout this course.

Human Centered Design and Social Design are such valuable frameworks to understand, and I hope to apply them to other aspects of my life. In a way, they’re a bit therapeutic. Understanding that a collaborative, creative process rather than solitary solution-crafting is needed to approach the problems we see around us has helped to alleviate some anxieties that the past few years have exacerbated. Climate change, systemic racism and corruption, and other massive and existential problems are overwhelming when we view them from the perspective that we need to “fix” them. Instead, working through a process that will address these issues makes them more approachable and ensure that the “fix” isn’t simply a band-aid that ultimately will fail.

From here, we moved on to our training portion. From the first lecture to this point, we have had new faces every week. In the second class, we had the pleasure of meeting Greg and Shashawnda. This class, there were eight new faces in the classroom and six new faces virtually. It was awesome to see such a variety of people – different disciplines, education levels, institutions – all represented in the classroom. Each person shared their reasons for being there, such as being a concerned Baltimore resident who would like to repair the damage done by the BRESCO incinerator and its contract renewal, fighting racial injustice and supporting Black people and their health, supporting environmental justice and ethics in spaces beyond academia, and even as a means to understand the differences between American waste systems and those of other nations that manage waste differently.

The most interesting and, in my opinion, vital part of the training was the emphasis on listening to those we’re reaching out to. Yes, we will be sharing information on composting options and the Zero Waste Initiative, but more importantly we are connecting with Baltimore residents to understand their vision for their city. How can we make composting accessible, not just improve the process of disposing food waste? We need to have a human-centered approach and include the people of Baltimore in the process.

That all being said, who wants to be my door-knocking date?