Valerie K C – Founder, Designer Accord @ Indialogues, India’s TED

Valerie K C founder Designer Accord at Indialogues

Valerie K C founder Designer Accord at Indialogues

Valerie Casey speaks globally on systems thinking, cultural change, and sustainability, and is an Adjunct Professor in the graduate design program at CCA. She holds a master’s degree in cultural theory and design from Yale University and a BA from Swarthmore College.

As a consultant with companies, start-ups, and governments all over the world, she works on challenges ranging from creating new products and services, to transforming organizational processes and leaders like Microsoft, Samsung, Cisco, and Johnson & Johnson, among others, have sought out her expertise to tackle their design and innovation challenges. Before starting her own practice, Casey held executive leadership positions at the most respected design companies in the world.

Casey is the founder of the Designers Accord based in Cleveland ,OH, the global design coalition of designers, educators, and business leaders focused on creating positive social and environmental impact, founded in 2007, and through her leadership, it has grown to be one of the most influential organizations in the design world.

As globally recognized designer and innovator, she was named a “Guru” of the year by Fortune magazine, a “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine, and a “Master of Design” by Fast Company. She was also selected as one of the “World’s Most Influential Designers” by Businessweek, and named a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum.

Twenty years ago, I came to India by ship! This time I am having the next dinner in India.

I am a designer – and love to make use of common things like cell phone, software, food for a better world.

For example, designing a diaper for toilet training. Potty training – sensor that tingles the child when the child will start wetting diaper; It started me thinking what we need to do to use our craft; Disposable diapers take 500 years, sensor will create toxic output. These are the questions that came to my mind.

In 2007, I started a global coalition that works for a better world, called Designers Accord – DA. It struck a chord. Several 100 thousand designers from across the country participate in the designer accord. It is counter-intuitive. It is trying to help people to collaborate, trust, asking for help. Encourage –

–         Dialogue

–         Leveraging the capabilities of members to solve challenges

The guiding principles are –

  1. Individual responsibility – educating on sustainability
  2. Educating people about sustainability for co-creation and collaboration

My journey with Designer Accord has given me five most important learnings –

Learning 1: 21st century challenges will not be solved with 20th century models.

–         What materials to use for greener products? We feel the discussions are narrow to begin with. The wealth accumulation and distortion… An alternative view of the world (wealth map). This cannot continue

Learning 2: Creativity is powerful (and it makes people really nervous)

–         CIO survey that happens every year by IBM, 1500 CEOs from across 67 countries

a.       Creativity is the most important thing that is needed in navigating the current world

  1. Bias against creativity has emerged in the last few years
  2. People thinking out-of-box are actually maligned, passed over for promotions
  3. Bias against creativity is very similar to racist and feminist;

Learning 3: complex problems are solved by networks and not people

955mn people around the world go hungry; while 40% of food is wasted while the food production is being asked to be increased by 50% to meet the challenges

a.       Restaurants, super markets and homes in developed world

b.      Developing countries – harvesting to moving for safer places is a challenge

c.       It is about agri policy, water, retention;

           All these at the heart of these challenges

Learning 4: Everything exists within a system

o       We need to have deep appreciation for the systems orientation

o       There is a consequence for every thing we do and every thing we do not do

o       That is not my responsibility or I am not responsible for… every thing we do has impact

Learning 5: Think differently

  • Water pump goes like a merry go round… we need water pumps.. it is one of the biggest failures..
  • When we focus on needs that are needed we may miss the opportunities
  • The great disruption

Every industry is going through transtion.

  • Products ————————–> services
  • Fiscal cycle ———————> Then new normal
  • Formal Education ————-> Socially created knowledge
  • Mobile phones ——————> Mobile internet
  • Individual purchase ————> collaborative consumption

A fascinating document that is internal one, whole DNA of Apple.. ..

–         Deeply empathetic

–         Focussed – edit out all other things, to deliver that one thing flawlessly

–         Branding – flawlessly, precisely,

Perceptions and reality are one and the same…

Our problem is usually operationalizing the ideas. How do we put the ideas in action and scale them. We should not depend on government funding. That age is over. It is completely the process thing. It is the least sexy things. It is all about systems

Does it make sense to push the R&D? No correlation between investment in R&D and innovation. We need to focus on giving simple tools to bring about simple solutions

Education and arts are same. Why are they not same? A while ago I heard the argument -one to the brain and one to the heart. It is a flawed one.

We need better choice architecture – We need to have ways to find solutions and resolve issues in a sustainable manner.

Choice architecture necessitates ownership. We need to make it participatory – Individual consumption to societal trends – You need to show off, that is the mindset

China has jumped from 7th largest economy in the world to 2nd economy. China has 10% luxury goods consumed in the world. Where are they coming from?

DA: Can we include buyers of designs..

We thought of phasing DA out by 5 years. Since it may not be relevant any more. It will be changing. Museum accord and travel accord have happened from DA. It is a network, away from the public view.


In’dialogues’ – India’s TED – Tribal Knowledge systems and contemporary education : Ganesh Devy

Ganesh Devy : literary critic and activist working for tribal welfare

Ganesh Devy : literary critic and activist working for tribal welfare

I would never like to call them Adivasis – tribals – janjati. They are the real stake holders of the land.

Knowledge and education – Not all knowledge is placed in formal education system. Huge amount of knowledge systems is outside – Music, arts, agriculture, engineering, medicine and healing, astronomy etc.

Education is not knowledge – there are many people who have a great amount of understanding on agriculture and cultivation, which an agri-scientist does not. Knowledge is inclusive… knowledge has time and space… plato to poulomi to Newton..

So many times I have been told, Indians are cyclical sense of time while others have linear. Barthruhari who wrote on grammar, wrote an additional book on time. He spoke about four characteristics of time..

  • Time – Water … cyclical
  • Time – straight road – we move along the linear
  • Time is like birds – trained to fly – fly differently but controlled by some body
  • Time is segregated, linear, aggregated.

One can be both rational and irrational, and be taker, maker and follower of knowledge

Theory and knowledge are not separated. Practicing people theorize. Learning happened when practice happened. Apprenticeship made it happen.

With the arrival of British, these practices have been trashed. Most important fact is all that is oral is not considered to be knowledge, that goes to the extent of instructions and to contracts. Only written books are allowed into the university. British intervention failed to understand the knowledge share, it actually did not understand the formation of the society.

University system was introduced. We still follow with minor modification. Our education system may be contemporary but not growing within.

Branding of people happened. States who became part of the people’s existence altered everything. How come this river and hill that belonging to us becomes part of the kingdom. I have become non-existent? Every thing was taken away…

Private enterprise or people made coins earlier. Coin-making was made part of the state, those who made coins earlier were made to be counter-feiters.

Agricultural yield was taxed on the area held, rather than on the yield that can change. Colonial system wanted the land to be listed. Wandering communities and entertainers became criminal tribes. A law was made in 1871, criminal law was changed to take care of this – 191 communities were declared criminal community. 690 were termed into tribal communities. They are not indigenous. They were engaged in economy and knowledge of India. We made them primitive, not knowing any idea of what it means.. We have become incapable of imagining tribes to be modern.

Language is the most distinguishing mark, differentiating one human being from the other. Voice along with body and eyes are used. Colonial understanding that, only that is written is valid, has made most of them invalid.

In early 19th century, when official printing was started, only a few languages were picked up. They were not picked up due to their richness and social spread of the languages. More developed languages were not the ones that came to print. We used paper since 13th century. Authors wrote and signed – Takuram, Kabir.. Voice and letters had no gap. With printing that gap came.

States were given to only those languages that are printed, when India got independence. Gujarati does not have any epics but state was there because it was printed. But Billi language has more epics but not printed.

One language can be written in different scripts – Sanskrit in three. One language can be written in different scripts, we limited it. Scripts came into existence for economic interest.

If you notice, script’s geographical forms come from number systems of the language.

How many languages in this country? 22 state languages, 26 languages get awards…In India we had 1652 mother tongues in 1961 census; In 1971 census it became 109;

Bangladesh came about due to Language. They declared only those languages that have more than 10000 speakers will be recognized, rest of the languages became all ‘others.’

If 3.9% of GDP is going to be for education, it is for only for those listed in 8th schedules. So all the languages that are not in there is not going to get any money for furthering. So all other languages and knowledge prevailing traditionally are weeded out.

Aphesia – either brain fails to communicate instructions or speech mechanisms do not identify. India has imposed Aphesia, 96% of languages are not heard in India. Every language has different ways of looking at the world, and they are not heard. We have imposed our likes and dislikes on vast number of people in this country.

We want in official forums to start thinking about it. In a recent meeting on intangible heritage, people were discussion about Interactive devices?!! 96% of the heritage has been left out!!

Adivasis always saw the earth as the place they belong. They did not see earth belonging to somebody. We are consuming natural resources, we are worried, climatic changes are drastic and beyond our control. Adivasis are at the receiving end of what these ‘knowledge’ owners push them into.

When we think of traditional knowledge, we need to understand that apprentice… those uneducated know more about agriculture than the agri scientists!

Degrees and affiliations are denigrating. Let us recognize the knowledge unrecognized. If we want to have sustainable development – not sustaining oneself – we need to sustain the mother earth. We need to recognize that knowledge. We need to evolve a system to recognize every body’s knowledge. We need to think education radically; we need to give the world a way, a paradigm of existence in future. Let us have dialogue with the ignored and bring them to the fore. It will give the world a word of hope.

We have a large class that wants to satisfy the urge very fast – Instant gratification:  Management of pain is anesthetics while pleasure is aesthetics. We have lost real aesthetics in the process. What we have developed over centuries – knowledge including all art forms – we put them into 3 min and 30 min idiot box and we do not have time and patience for them.

We need to open our mind and hear to integrate and help the world sustain. Let us do it.

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