Technology Design

The Good place

How to change your approach and reinvent processes to be ‘tech and design for Good’.
7 minute read
By ekino London

Technology has changed the way we live, communicate, learn, consume, work, and travel, disrupting almost every sector. Current technological breakthroughs are faster and more far-reaching than ever before. But in the meantime, our planet is facing unprecedented challenges (in inclusion, ethics, sustainability, waste, global warming, and more). It’s here that technology can play a crucial role.

By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence

Ray Kurzweil, Google.

Earth will reach 1.5 degrees celsius threshold by 2030

UN IPCC

The new generation wants to make things that matter to society

People are already changing and adopting new habits around sustainability, waste and ethics. There are movements fighting for inclusion, human rights, and for our planet.

And the new generation is taking the lead. The shiny car and big house in the suburbs is not the dream anymore. They are cycling to work, eating vegan food and fighting their parents’ conformism. Just look at how Greta Thunberg, 16 years old, is creating a snowball effect on young people, encouraging them to play a greater role in facing today’s challenges.

Despite the fact that Millennials are coming of age in one of the most difficult economic climates in the past 100 years, they continue to be most willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings

Nielson

Businesses need to follow suit and adapt. Supporting a millennial generation working on interesting challenges and meaningful solutions is not only a way to maintain high retention levels, but to move together towards an entirely different mindset. One that places greater importance on being, doing, and creating Good.

Digital Transformation with a sustainable, ethical approach

As a digital design and technology agency, we help brands and businesses on their Digital Transformation journey; using digital tools to empower their employees and offer a better service to their customers. One that is dynamic and can support the business as it grows in the future.

Now more than ever, we need to think about how the services we build for our clients can also have a positive impact on society. How can we disrupt and innovate not only products and services, but the entire model of business?

We need to get to a place where people can use a service without being conflicted about the business’ values and practices (e.g. Should you use Amazon? And what about Uber?).

By using technology in a conscious way, we can reinvent businesses with Humans in mind. This is why designers and consultants must advocate for a ‘tech for Good’ approach—and bring our clients with us on a journey towards more meaningful products.

Good Design vs. Design for Good

With a design framework that incorporates a user-centric approach, you can create ‘people first’ services that address actual needs.

But a great idea, even when designed with the best intentions, can have unintentional side effects.

For example, it’s hard to imagine that back when Brian Chesky and Joe Chebbia couldn’t afford a flat in San Francisco, they were aware that a decade later their idea and service to solve this would be at the centre of gentrification in cities around the world. Airbnb is now seen as one of the main causes of rising rents in big, tourist cities: Inside Dublin’s housing crisis

The impact of Airbnb on our cities: Gentrification and ‘disneyfication’ 2.0 Another pioneer of the sharing economy, Uber is proof that a market can be totally disrupted by reinventing a service with a user’s experience in mind. However, a lot of disappointment around the ethics of the company has arisen, especially for its drivers, who find it hard to make ends meet despite long hours: I work 90 hours but still need to claim benefits. Other examples, such as Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, or Amazon and its biased recruitment AI show that sometimes good design and technology can just fail to be Good.

And unfortunately, ethics can be sacrificed to make way for profits and engagement. Take this very recent example of YouTube letting proliferate toxic videos run rampant. The recent terrorist attacks of Christchurch mosques and spread of these videos are a sad reminder that in our world, big corporations have to be at the forefront when it comes to leading with ethics, not business objectives.

So, how to design with the future in mind? And how to make good design Good?

Adapting our design process and our business approach

Not simply for a segmented target audience. Look at this environment as something variable and constantly changing, whether from a political, regulatory, or ecological point of view. Then design and build something for society as a whole.

We must place the planet and all its citizens at the heart of every discussion, instead of continuing the historical trend of focusing on what is best for a particular collection of humans

Chris Luebkeman-Arup

Be transparent

We need to be transparent and upfront about what a client is trying to achieve, the service we’re creating for them and how it is solving a problem, and what we’re asking in return of people using the service.

We need to be open about how we’re targeting people, how we’re using their data, and how that information is processed and stored. Everything comes at a cost, which some of our users may not fully understand, so it has to be clearly defined in the contract we are creating between the user and the service.

Get the right expert for the project

The right expert will have the right level of empathy about a given problem. Pair designers with others who want to achieve real impact and solve real problems—a great designer plus a sustainability enthusiast will likely give you an incredible product with true impact.

Use the right tools to create and measure the business framework

Nobody wants to tell their boss that their objectives won’t be expressed in figures. However, designing for Good and for sustainability can be a great growth stream for companies.

NYU Stern professor: Sustainability is ‘good for humanity, but it’s better for business’

At ekino, we were used to applying the well-known Business Model Canvas to help both big corporate clients and small startups transform their ideas into revenue. The Business Model Canvas was a great tool to summarise all the actions to be done and the expected returns. But it didn’t take into consideration the sustainability or the social impact of the product.

In 2015, Florian Lüdeke-Freund had the idea to add two new layers to the structure of the original Canvas. The second layer is built with a life cycle thinking approach to the environment and the third layer fosters a stakeholder approach to social issues.

This new multi-layered canvas is a powerful tool to transform an idea into a solution with social and environmental impacts in mind, by helping us consider every aspect when we are building something. For example, you can see in the diagram below how this triple-layered canvas can be applied to Nespresso’s business.

Just the exercise of applying this triple layer framework to an existing business can uncover a ton of insights, which can help define where to put your efforts: recycling, distribution, nutritional value, transparency, etc.

The right pace to get to the Good place

Some of the best examples of design and technology for Good can be found in small initiatives. As newcomers, startups and smaller businesses are using digital tools to create impact at their scale. With small steps, businesses can make big strides.

Take CoGo, for example, which is using new regulations like open banking to create an easy way for consumers to follow a more ethical lifestyle, by connecting them with businesses that share their values.

Or Provenance, which is using blockchain technology to empower shoppers to choose a product based on its origins and the transparency of the supply chain.

TooGoodToGo and Olio are both trying to tackle food waste with a digital platform.

Mud Jeans aims to reinvent the fashion industry with a monthly leasing, digital service, instead of the current, more typical buy-once model. That said, big companies can have a major impact too, and advertising can be an interesting way to spread the word. Like The Corruption detector, which is a perfect example of a ‘tech for Good’ approach—in the campaign, AI informs people about politicians and how corrupt they are. Hyundai and its Eco Parking campaign last summer, or Sweetie from a few years ago, have shown how a great campaign can have a positive impact in the real world. More recently, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Loop has demonstrated that startups with big ideas can help large businesses to move towards sustainability by offering new digital models. In a tech-savvy world, it is important to reframe challenges and approach them in a meaningful way. Across generations, many of us are facing a need for change, a need to bring meaningfulness into our daily lives. Sometimes this means a complete change of job, but other times it can mean simply reframing the projects we’re working on, adapting them for a future that we look forward to passing down to the next generation. As experts in digital, we have to adapt our mindsets and processes, so that the tech we develop and use is both answering our clients’ needs and tackling today’s ethics and sustainability challenges. … As part of the Havas Group, ekino is a Digital Transformation agency focused on Customer Experience, Data and Technology Enablement. We use the Meaningful Brands framework Havas has been working on for years to create people first solutions for our clients, with an innovation offer that is made up of 3 pillars: collaboration, technology, experience. With many of our clients, we’re already seeing a shift in business practices towards a more sustainable and ethical approach, and together we are focusing on services for Good. Centrica Business Solutions, for example, provides innovative, end-to-end distributed energy solutions that enable organisations to improve operational efficiency and increase resilience and sustainability. We’re working across their digital platforms to spread this message and way of thinking.

With AXA Assistance, we helped to tackle one of their very specific challenges: 13% of the calls they were receiving in Italy were being made by people with a hearing impairment. By creating a digital service using machine learning, we managed to offer the same level of service to individuals who sometimes experience a more stressful journey. It helped to reinforce corporate responsibility, and what should be the standard for an insurer: helping people in need. We believe that the future can be in our hands if we take the first small steps: designing and developing technology for Good, with society as a whole and our environment in mind. We can make the impact we have for years to come, a positive one.

ekino London
ekino specialises in delivering omnichannel communication, customer experience and technology services and solutions. We combine data, technology and design to deliver meaningful experiences that transform your business.