#BeyondCOVID Town Hall - USA 03
Updated: Oct 14, 2020
#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.
Taammy Amaize - Strategy Director at COLLINS
Rick Bell - Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University NYC
Melissa Cullens - Chief Experience Officer at Ellevest
Bill Dowzer - Principal at BVN
Dan Formosa - Designer at Dan Formosa!
Lynnette Galloway - Visual Designer at Apple
William Knight - Director at The Renew Consultancy
Julia Monk FAIA FIIDA - Hospitality Thought Leader, Architect, Interior Designer, former SVP at HOK
Julie Ockerby - CEO, Creative Director and Principal at Meli Studio Australia
Eddie Opara - Partner at Pentagram
Ronnie Peters - Creative Director at 360 Design & Hyperloop Transportation Technologies
Sean Rhodes - Executive Creative Director at frog
Michael Tam - Global Associate Design Director at IBM iX
Harry West - Professor of Practice at Columbia University and Principal at Invisible Design
Beyond contactless operations: Human-centred customer experience - McKinsey Design
@techcandobetter on Instagram
The Black Panthers' 10-Point Program - What We Want Now
NYCOBA - The New York Chapter of The National Organization of Minority Architects
The AIA Affirms it is ALL In for NOMA - Kim Dowdell, NOMA National President
Captain of the Day Traders by NYT on Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports
Shared History: 1700 Years of Jewish Life in German-speaking Lands through 52 Objects - The Leo Baeck Institute New York
I'm going to start off by saying, 'I don't know', and I think that is the correct response for anybody in a leadership position right now, to acknowledge that you don't know - Harry West
The only way that each one of us can be safe, is if others are safe - Harry West
Those organisations that reflected a higher design and customer experience maturity within their organisation tended to rebound in the vicinity of two to three times faster than their peers - Rod Farmer
Those organisations that were heavily agile and customer oriented...work twice as fast at responding to changes within their business and getting new products and services out the door - Rod Farmer
These three things coming together are really starting to typify who is outpacing their competitors and returning to help from a business perspective: You're really focused and anchored on your customer; two you've got some sort of mechanism in place that allows you to make more holistic, faster, more measurable decisions; and three, you're putting in place a dedicated team, that's not just a forward looking strategy, but it's a forward looking, action-oriented, set of individuals who are helping you make very specific decisions - Rod Farmer
The situation that we're actually in we've known about for many, many years, you could even say decades, centuries - Eddie Opara
We as designers need to get into these communities and look at it from this point of view: that design is not just a profession, it's a way of life. We can show these budding, young people that it's a way of life - Eddie Opara
I believe that change is coming, and it may actually come through aspects of voting, but we also have to think federally and locally about changing the way that our representatives represent us in government - Eddie Opara
It's time for the 28th amendment, you need to have one, it's pretty obvious, there's a known horizon - Mark Bergin
There's just exhaustion of being black right now - Lynnette Galloway
Black people are looking to finally have their full humanity realised - Lynnette Galloway
This is not an issue that can be dealt with overnight... there are centuries of things that have been put in place. This is a very deeply rooted problem. This has a lot of layers to it that need to be dealt with. There's a lot of education that needs to happen. There's a lot of conversations that need to happen - Lynnette Galloway
If we were in the office together we'd be too embarrassed to face each other after you've seen marches or protesting or looting, we'd be too afraid to be face-to-face and say how we really feel, but being at home, you feel like you're in your safe space - Lynnette Galloway
we've been seen as property, animals, all sorts of things but a full human being with a full human experience - Lynnette Galloway
You have to recognise the humanity of black people to really understand that their voice matters, to really understand that they need to be in the room. What they're saying, what they're thinking, what their experiences have been - the wealth of their experiences, need to be part of that conversation - Lynnette Galloway
We still bring a diversity of voices within our own community, to design, to filmmaking, to art. Understanding that we're not monolithic and understanding why that's important, is the first step - Lynnette Galloway
The amplification of our voice is important, the amplification of our humanity is important and that happens in voting, that happens in art, that happens in all sorts of spaces where we need more representation - Lynnette Galloway
You fix violence against women by fixing men, not by fixing women. You fix racial inequality, not by fixing the people who have been racially vilified or separated, but by fixing everyone else - Mark Bergin
We're living within an invisible system that we are so used to... people have used the analogy of a 'fish in water', if you've been born into the system and live in it your whole life, if you ask the fish 'what does water feel like?' the fish will say 'what's water?' - Taamrat Amaize
You have to look at a system that creates so many 'others', and for what purpose? To potentially exploit, to build upon, to extract value from - Taamrat Amaize
We need to recognise the problem that we are having and then of course, only after you recognise it can you envision what the way out it - Michael Tam
A lot of us have been able to observe and understand and try to use techniques like design thinking to envision future problems and solutions, but at the same time there's not enough action - Michael Tam
Though we don't know what the answer is most of the time, taking actions, creating prototypes, trying different ways... is the only way forward - Michael Tam
Although we made a lot of impact on the world back then [in the 60s and 70s], we never made any of the real changes that are required to have started working on these systemic problems... so I find it exciting that in my one lifetime, there's going to be a second chance to go back and try to make these changes permanent - Julie Monk
You only have to walk anywhere through Manhattan, and actually many other cities in the US, and see the messaging and the artwork that is actually raw, it’s phenomenal...just being able to walk through the city as a gallery at the moment is extraordinary - Bill Dowzer
The answers are simple, and we've been talking around them, you know, education, employment, opportunity - Rick Bell
We need to go fix up those systemic problems which are enshrined in law, because laws give people liberty to go and actually do things - Mark Bergin
There is a lot of danger but there's a lot of potential in those types of tools [social media] to start to get the word out, start to organise on both sides of the fence - Sean Rhodes
When we think about the 28th amendment we have to talk about reparations. There cannot be progress until we solve for the 401 years of stolen labour that our country is built on - Melissa Cullens
What is capitalism doing for us? Is the drive for growth at the cost of all else? Is the drive for assets at the cost of all else really building the world that we want to live in? Is this really what money means? It's really what commerce means? It's really what business means? I think that we have an opportunity to come up with a better answer than that - Melissa Cullens
Individuality in the narrative of the American culture around being the person who rides off into the sunset and saves the day is such a part of who we are, it's a part of how we identify... we're recognising that that narrative may have reached a turning point and it might be a moment to re-investigate whether this idea of self-determination, that is such a part of who we think we are as Americans, is really the foundation that we want to continue to build upon - Melissa Cullens
There is this combination of yes, asking institutions to change; yes, asking our policies to change; but we all also have to recognise the narratives within ourselves that create the interactions and the relationships and businesses and the commerce that we build between ourselves - Melissa Cullens
There hasn't been a moment where all three of these things have come forward: climate change; global pandemic; finally acknowledging 401 years of oppression. It's an incredible opportunity to reinvent what we want to be meaningful - Melissa Cullens
You don't know what water is if you're a fish and I think the way to innovate is to identify those things that we're so used to, that we just accept - Dan Formosa
Design should be for everyone. Design is a form of segregation. It can alienate people, It can exclude people... design itself really determines who's included and who's not included - Dan Formosa
I can't go back to that discussion and say 'this is how I grew up', because really things haven't changed and it really is bizarre to me that we are 50, 60 years later, and boy, we're still facing the same problem - Dan Formosa
We've been searching into ourselves and we know there's a lot of change that needs to be taking place and we want to respond, as does the rest of the world, to have a fairer society and to be more representative and to have better role models and to empower and to cherish the talent - Will Knight
We've started to consider across different countries how this trauma and exhaustion exists everywhere. The systemic problems exist everywhere. They're going to take contextualised responses to make sure that we go get somewhere - Mark Bergin
As a designer, suddenly you realise you're actually in the moment. We're actually being involved with these things, and they're there, they're actually in front of us - Ronnie Peters
We all have a social responsibility to talk about the things that we don't want to talk about - Julie Ockerby
COVID-19 and beyond has taught me and those in my industry that the courage is for us to share and collaborate, rather than compete - Julie Ockerby
Mark Bergin 00:02
Hi, welcome to another Design Executives Club Town Hall. This is the third that we're doing in the US, and I've been joined by a panel of experts from the US, the UK, Hong Kong and Australia. We're going to be talking about how do we actually go and get through some of the challenges that are in our world at the moment. Around about a day after we did the last US Town Hall, we saw the murder of George Floyd come around, and for many people, it will change and will never be the same. You know, in the last Town Hall, we reflected on the fact that Scott Galloway had actually said that this is more of an acceleration event COVID-19 rather than innovation-bent, but what we've seen is that we thought we were in Rebound about a month ago. Now we actually need to go and deal with some other challenges with this, so I'm really glad that I've got the panel of people that I've got here. But first I want to go across to Rod Farmer, and I want to ask you as far as that rebound, and re-imagine in the future, what is it that you can offer as as insights from the McKinsey world?
Rod Farmer 01:11
Yes. So maybe just some really recent research coming in that we will publish shortly about who is outperforming others in terms of organisations from the rebound, or what you're calling rebound and reimagine? So, two things that I'll call out one is, well, three things. Let's call out design specifically here. Right, so we'll talk about that in a second. We'll talk about design, we'll talk about agile, and we'll also talking about plan-ahead teams. So three very big things that we've found. So what we've seen is we're starting to correlate emerging out of COVID-19 with what we also saw, similarly in patterns from GFC - which is those organisations that reflected a higher design and customer experience maturity within their organisation tended to rebound in the vicinity of two to three times faster than their peers. The rebound slope was sharper and faster, within each of the examined geographies. So that's number one. So being customer-centric in design or being design led, what we've always said that the value of design research McKenzie has indicated that you outperform your peers in the vicinity of 30% increase revenue and about 50% increase total shareholder return. What we're now seeing with COVID is it's actually a recovery mechanism as well, to help you accelerate through a crisis, back towards health by being customer centric. So that's a great sort of early insight we're getting.
The second one which is just about to be published, I can't say too much, but I will give you the headlines - we had a look at agile organisations' remote working. What we saw is those organisations that were heavily agile and customer oriented, so full-agile organisations, not just sort of Scrum practices, work twice as fast at responding to changes within their business and getting new products and services out the door. We also found that almost all organisations that were seeming to 'recover' rather than sort of 'decline out of COVID' were all adopting some sort of Agile mechanisms, but the ones that were outpacing others were those that had the institutional enterprise-wide agile constructs. They've moved to QBRs, they've moved to different organisational structures that broke down the silos. So maybe they weren't full agile enterprise organisations, but they had adopted the big mechanisms for making faster, more collaborative decision making. And now we're saying that this is sticking. This research will come out very, very shortly.
And probably the third thing that I'll talk about is the plan ahead teams, because we're talking about reopening and reimagining. So when a lot of organisations went into crisis mode, they started putting in place the, you know, what McKinsey was also recommending and was the right thing to do, crisis centres, right? So everything from how do I look at my organisation? How do I have business continuity, cash flow, etc.? Very, very, very important. But probably the most important thing to accelerate coming out of COVID was having a dedicated team called a plan-ahead team, that was head and almost like a dedicated squad. So let's just use agile terminology because it's topical right now, a dedicated cross functional squad that wasn't just giving strategy, but was saying what are we needing to do in the next one, three, six, 12, 24 months and these dedicated timelines, how we plan ahead and then feeding that back into the organisation. So again, if you have that agile structure in place, very quick decisions can be made about what the next couple of steps are going to look like, like a game of chess. And so these three things coming together, are really starting to typify who is outpacing their competitors and returning to help from a business perspective: You're really focused and anchored on your customer; two you've got some sort of mechanism in place that allows you to make more holistic, faster, more measurable decisions; and three, you're putting in place a dedicated team, that's not just a forward looking strategy, but it's a forward looking, action-oriented, set of individuals who are helping you make very specific decisions. Those three things we're finding are making the bulk of the differences. Let me stop there.
Mark Bergin 05:34
Okay, and so what I found really interesting there is you're giving insights for people who had a level of readiness that they were able to go and adapt their game. I remember from physics that the worst thing was actually, it wasn't getting a nursery, it was getting over the sticking point. And for a lot of corporations, if they haven't had a driven by design mentality, they've still got that sticking point. It doesn't matter how much inertia they put in, they're still going to have some problems there.
I want to want to throw across the Harry Where's because Harry, the last time you and I had a conversation, it was actually very much around AI and it had to do with ethics and where that technology front from was coming from. But we've seen that actually move along and then since then you've moved on from frog and now you're at Columbia doing work there, consulting work. Your expertise is around ethics. Change, ethics, design, they're a very interesting set of bedfellows because it is one thing to have empathy, it's another thing to be able to go and actually do that with an ethical base. How are you seeing the reactions that are occurring in the post-COVID, and also as we're entering the reaction to George Floyd's murder and Black Lives Matter. Where does ethics and where does design and where does change come together? I just gave you a simple one...
Harry West 07:07
Wow, that's a big question, thank-you Mark. Well, I'm going to start off by saying, I don't know. And I think that is the correct response for anybody in a leadership position right now, to acknowledge that you don't know. And when I look at the different stances of leaders in the United States, and I don't want to get into names here, but you can see a clear difference between those who are guessing and those who are acknowledging up front and being transparent about the fact that as a society, we have never faced anything as deep, and as broad, and as traumatic as this. And we simply don't know what is going to happen. That is not to say that we don't have to take our best guess at every step of the way, and as Rod was describing, you have to respond to the information you have in a given moment. But I think that the correct response is to acknowledge that we simply don't know. There's a lot of discussion around how remote work is turning out to be even more productive and efficient than working in an office. That may be true in the short term. We don't know its effect the long term. We are learning on the fly to social distance, to use face masks, etc. to reduce the infection rate. We don't know really whether we're going to be successful in the United States in bringing the epidemic into control, or will we in fact be completely dependent on a vaccine? We simply don't know. We do know, and I think this is a wake-up call for us, and it connects (I just got a note here, my internet is unstable. So if it goes wonky, raise your hand and I'll click disconnect video for a moment). What we do know is, and I think that it's been brought into sharp relief for us that actually, the only way that each one of us can be safe, is if others are safe. For most of my life, and I think most of your lives, there has been a kind of understanding in society that you could look after yourself. You could flee to the suburbs. You could live in a gated community. You could drive an SUV. You could take care of yourself and taking care of yourself was the way you protected yourself. But with COVID it's different, because we realised that the only way to take care of ourselves is to take care of other people too. As when we wear a face mask, it's not to protect ourselves, is to protect somebody else.
Mark Bergin 10:27
So Harry, I want to pick up there, and what I'm going to do is get you to try to reconnect into the call because your internet is terrible, don't tell us who your carrier is because that- but I'm going to pick up while you're doing that reconnection there, that thread about the only way to be safe is when others are safe. That feels much more like the Japanese culture, it feels more like the Scandinavian culture the idea of the collective well-being becomes my well-being. And when I go look at what we've seen with the Black Lives Matter, and particularly, say, the clarion call, that came to me when I went and watched the 13th on Netflix, to go see that the idea of indentured servitude, and also slavery, is permitted under the 13th if you're a criminal. That is just heinous, and that means that you then wind up having all sorts of things where some people are unsafe, and some people are safe. And I think when you go see the commentary that's coming out about people who feel that because of the colour of their skin that they have less levels of safety, that's colliding in with the idea that we're all trying to be a bit kinder with each other, as we've learned through COVID. And it's not surprising that these matters have come up, and that they've actually collided together. Scott Galloway, as I mentioned, is all about the idea that COVID is actually an accelerator to what's happening in our society, it's not actually an innovator. And I think that these needs here, and there will be others that come behind it, that we're seeing them accelerate. Eddie, I want to pass over to you, because I know that the last conversation that you and I had was we were talking about some work that you've been doing with the Chinese brand Oppo. What I find interesting is you've got a Chinese economy, which is back and it's booming, and it's doing what it does. We've got a US economy, which is like the UK, which is still struggling. And now we've also got some underlying issues, systemic issues and mistakes that are coming around. What's happening in your world at Pentagram and also in your personal world, but what's your circumstance? Give me some insight.
Eddie Opara 12:53
Well, Mark, where do I start? The situation that we're actually in we've known about for many, many years, you could even say decades, centuries. You know, you pointed out a few things in regard to the 13th amendment. I believe that was signed in 1864. You know, I'm not an American scholar, I'm, you know, pretty much naturalised. I'm British as well, born and bred. I just kind of want to start off by saying that the issue here is definitely systemic. I've been on many panels talking about this particular situation in the in the past years, but then I also have to look in the mirror, right? And when I say the mirror, I look at the aspects Pentagram and how Pentagram is set up, and one of the things that people may not know is that yes, we are very well known with, we're one of the most dependent types of companies of our kind in the world, but we are actually made up of 25 individuals, right, that have very small unique groups that can come together, that network together, or can be seen as independent from each other. Right. And so when you start to look at how the company is sort of made up it, because of that uniqueness, that structure makes it hard to penetrate. And when I say penetrate, I mean in regard to the type of designers and employees that we are looking for, right. We have a very distinct and unique issue. But the way that we're trying to deal with that particular aspect is being through the long term, right. It's not just from the point of view of now, it's from the point of view of, and I'll use the term being equitable, equitable from the point of view of women, from the point of view of sexual orientation, from the point of view of race. And it was started by five white gentlemen, in London. It took 15 years for a woman, white woman to be part of it. The second one came about I think five to 10 years later, that was Paula Scher. And then things started to change over the course of time. So the fact of the matter is that for us to change, from the aspects of the mirror, if we start to just say, pick up a designer, a black designer here and start to put them into place at Pentagram, from wherever it's not going to work, it's going to be a short term aspect, is not going to be a long term process.
We all have to think long term, right? We cannot just say, okay, you know, this is all regrettable, we've got to change things, I'm going to do my bit, waffle one second, or one millisecond or one nanosecond, whatever, that's good. I congratulate that. But it's the long-term aspect. And one of the ways that we're trying to reform and resolve this particular situation at Pentagram is that we're all teachers, we're all educators, right? But we're also finding that, because at the New York office we're all graphic designers, that 3% of the graphic design community is black. In leadership that goes down to 0.028%. Right? So we have to look at it from the point of view of the root, the systemic root aspect. Go to the schools, go to high schools, potentially look at it from the point of view of freshmen. Don't go to the private schools like SVA, or RIDS, or even Yale that I went to. Look at it from the point of view of Brooklyn College or Boise State. Look at it from the point of view of where black students are actually going, because of cost right? That is another issue. The majority cannot afford to go to these wealthy colleges, let alone even getting scholarships. Do you know how much it costs to go to these schools, absolutely exorbitant amounts of money. And then you also have it from a systemic point of view, where you have the parents and the sort of misgivings in the creative area from the parents. For example, how are you going to pay for this art thing that you want to do? Right? That does happen. I've heard it. I've seen it. That's unfortunate. We as designers need to get into these communities and look at it from this point of view: that design is not just a profession, it's a way of life. We can show these budding, young people that it's a way of life, and basically it does change the way that you deal with your life and everybody else's - through design thinking, strategy, visual design, three dimensional, industrial, whatever it is, we need to do that. And the only other way that we can do that is through brands, as well. Getting the support of different brands who've been brand activists as such. So that's another way that we can do this. So I may have sort of trickled off what you've been talking about, but I want to get back to an important factor. And this is the aspect of how does change also work? Well change also works through policy, right? Through policy changing. And yes, we do talk about it from the factors of we need to go vote, in federal, but it's actually also local. Right? We also cannot forget about voting locally. Because that really does affect our day-to-day aspects. How we can actually change the policing. Police is not done federally, that's the FBI. Right? It's done locally. And if we don't- when you say vote, people are like 'well vote what? was it local or federal? I don't understand any of this stuff.' The realignment on a federal level for the gerrymandering approach is just absolutely atrocious. In 2016, right - people were told not to vote, that was that was the fact, they were told not to vote - 55.7% was the voter turnout in United States? 55.7%. That's absolutely ridiculous. When you've got, I think Australia is up in the high 80s, right, Scandinavian countries are in the high 80% as well. The European countries Germany, France, and I think the United Kingdom, come in at around about 66% to 64%. And Britain was lower this time around, because it's had voter fatigue. Right. But it's still in the 60s. Right. It's still higher than the turnout in the United States. The highest turnout, I believe, in the United States was in the mid 19th century. Now, if you're looking at it from the point of view of the 13th Amendment, which is in 1864, but ratified in 1865, voting was an important factor there. I believe that change is coming, and it may actually come through aspects of voting, but we also have to think about federally and locally changing the way that our representatives represent us in government.
Mark Bergin 22:02
I've been really impressed by some recent work that I've seen being done by Michelle Obama in working on how do you chunk down the message just to remind people how your system works in the US. Who votes for the Congress, and how do the amendments work? Who votes for the governor? Who votes for the police commissioner? Who votes for the prosecutors? And then explaining that across different states, because everyone's voice does matter. And that's such an important thing. My thing is I feel like it's time for the 28th amendment, that you need to have one, it's pretty obvious, there's a known horizon. But Eddie, you brought up something which is much longer, you know, it's probably more like a 10 to 20 year pursuit, which is: how do you go excite the imaginations of future generations so that they actually have an equitable position, particularly around your profession? But I think that goes right across the board. Lynnette, I want to I want to throw across to you and have a little bit of a talk with you, because you fit into that 3% as as Eddie was there.
Lynnette Galloway 23:09
Oh do I?
Mark Bergin 23:11
Well you know, I think actually we've got to say that you're actually from a similar cohort. I'd imagine you're both AIGA, or members have been? So for your world, what's been the biggest impact in the last couple of months? Has it been COVID? Has it been Black Lives Matter? Is there hope, is there despair, or is it all mixed in together?
Lynnette Galloway 23:39
So I think right now it feels like everything is just kind of mixed in together. Basically, since this morning, I've written down like a tonne of notes, things that I've been trying to figure out, like what I wanted to say here, but just in general, I would just say it feels like this whole crisis- I'll start by saying I feel like this whole crisis with George Floyd has been exacerbated, but the COVID crisis. I think that we are in a situation where people are already just physically exhausted. The crisis has kind of been a levelling ground for a lot of people losing their jobs and feeling the pain of just like being out of control in general. I think people have a lot more time to pay attention to the news and to really digest everything that's going on. I think people are tired of being in the house. I think that there's a lot of just fear in general, distrust of government, things like that, that are kind of driving people to just be over it, all together. But one of the things that I think- so there's that, and then there's, I'm not sure how other people feel, but there's just exhaustion of being black right now, especially at work. It is a lot of us internally processing how we feel with each other. And then there's been a tonne of like, I'll just say zoom calls, with people trying to process things with people outside of the black community. And I think there's a lot of looking to us for the answers, a lot of answers that we may not have ourselves. You know, we're still trying to figure it out, we're still trying to do our jobs and then answer questions, and deal with things that we know are systemic, but, you know, you don't have all the answers to how that system really works overall. So it's just been a lot of that just, basic exhaustion. But kind of going off of what Eddie said, and what you said, I think one of the biggest things that resonated with me this morning with Black Lives Matter is this idea that black people are looking to finally have their full humanity realised. So what I'm kind of seeing- there's a lot of noise out there, here's a lot of marching, there's a lot of taking down statues, there's a lot of abolish the police. There's a lot of you know, things going on that people are trying to struggle with. I think you said at the beginning, how can we deal with this issue? And this is not an issue that can be dealt with overnight, like you said, there are centuries of things that have been put in place. This is a very deeply rooted problem. This has a lot of layers to it that need to be dealt with. There's a lot of education that needs to happen. There's a lot of conversations that need to happen. One of the beautiful things that's kind of come out of it is that I think because people are at home, they feel free to get on calls, without the video on, and just kind of really tell how they truly feel, I mean of the races and really just say I'm sorry, or you know, within my own community I'm kind of realising this, realising that, and I think that wouldn't happen if we were in the office together. If we were in the office together we'd be too embarrassed to face each other after you've seen marches or protesting or looting, we'd be too afraid to be face-to-face and say how we really feel, but being at home, you feel like you're in your safe space, you can turn off your camera, there's been a lot of crying, there's been a lot of like soul searching and people kind of- and I think COVID also exacerbated that too, because like you said, people kind of are kinder to each other now, they're more willing to listen to how people truly feel on all sides. But back to the humanity thing. I think that we are- the Black Lives Matter thing to me is bigger than just being like Black Lives Matter. Of course, I feel like all lives matter, but black lives have not been recognised as fully human over so many years. I mean, you know, we were deemed 3/5 of a human at some point, you know, we've been seen as property, animals, all sorts of things but a full human being with a full human experience. And I've listed all the ways that that sort of manifested, I won't list that for you all right now, but I think this kind of bridging off of that is the voice. And I think that as we kind of push forward, not only does that matter- so I was writing down like amplifying black voices, and I think that, especially in design, you know, me being part of the 3%, it's a problem. You have to recognise the humanity of black people to really understand that their voice matters, to really understand that they need to be in the room and what they're saying, what they're thinking, what their experiences have been, the wealth of their experiences, need to be part of that conversation. So there's a lot of deeper work, again, to me to really, fully understand black people beyond the stereotypes, beyond what we think they are, understanding that they have, you know, as broad of an experience as any other race. There's a broad amount of thought, you know, that goes between black people, a lot of us we don't think the same way. So we still bring a diversity of voices within our own community, to design to filmmaking, to art. Understanding that we're not monolithic and understanding why that's important, is the first step. So it's just like a lot, like I said, kind of processing through my own mind, and it's been a lot of time just me trying to figure out what this all means. And I do think the amplification of our voice is important, the amplification of our humanity is important and that happens in voting, that happens in art, that happens in all sorts of spaces where we need more representation just because people understand our voice is important. And that's all.
Mark Bergin 30:20
Actually, what's been really interesting in hearing the way that you describe that, and Taamrat I'm gonna throw it over to you in a moment, is you've given me a really interesting, contextual bubble to go and have a look at there. Taamrat, your expertise is as a strategy person - I'm going to throw over to Sean as well in a little while. What I want to say is, what are some of the strategies that we've got to go deal with the immediate things that we can go solve? And you know, I mentioned it's time for 28, you've got an election coming, we've talked about voting. That, to me seems like the most important thing. I think, you know, if I go look at, I've got all of the world's sins: I'm a male, I'm over 50 and I'm white. So you know, as male, there's violence against women; white, there's all of the other things. I try to do everything I can to make sure that we're changing what we can. You fix violence against women by fixing men, not by fixing women. You fix racial inequality, not by fixing the people who have been racially vilified or separated, but by fixing everyone else. How do we get the message across that it's so important that we've elevated black lives to having equal stature? That's a white problem to me, it's not a black problem. And how do you go do that? Taamrat, have you got any idea how we might be able to go and approach that? I know, I've given Harry a big one, I'm going to give you a big one, because this is a big topic and we have to be courageous to go and actually try to see what we can work out.
Taamrat Amaize 31:58
Yeah. Actually, I have the answer, I've just been waiting for someone to ask me. I'm waiting for a call from the government or something because I think it's easily solved. No. No, it is a big question. And it's something that we've been grappling with, I'm sure all of us as professionals in our companies as well. To me, the biggest and first thing in terms of thinking strategically, and how to break down a problem, is to really interrogate and recognise the problem. And that takes time in and of itself. As you know, you and I, Mark, were talking earlier before the call started, It's an invisible- we're living within an invisible system that we are so used to, right, and I think you've heard a lot of people have used the analogy of a fish in water. If you've been born into the system and live in it your whole life, if you ask the fish, you know, 'what does water feel like?' the fish will say 'what's water', right? We are in, all of us, in the system that so many of us don't recognise, even black people don't recognise the forces that are put upon us, because we're so used to living with them, they've been normalised with our every day. So now take that a step further and look at other people of colour, and white people who are the benefits of this system, who don't even recognise the forces that are put upon others, and are reticent to recognise their own privilege, because this is something that they've been born into, that we've all enjoyed. Actually, not all of us have enjoyed it, but a majority of white people have enjoyed this system, right? So to me, the very first step is making everyone aware of that system, and to the degree that we can, showing the different perspectives across the board. So to me, as Lynnette said, Black Lives Matter is important, but what I think is even more important to see is the oppression and the systemic forces that are putting many people, beyond just black people, indigenous people, black trans people especially, trans people in general, gay people, disabled people, there are so many others, right? And you have to look at a system that creates so many 'others', and for what purpose? To potentially exploit, to build upon, to extract value from. So one thing that- to make this sort of a little bit smaller and narrower, something I've personally been thinking about, and again, I call on all of us, as professionals in this industry to think about, is the role that we play in our companies within this system. Right. How many of our clients are we providing services to that are extracting value from disenfranchised people, taking voices or not amplifying the voices of these disenfranchised people, and yet using that as a means to sell back to them, or to make money off of them, right? You know, many of us think about the biggest brands in the US, Nike, for example: how many black professionals work within Nike? How many black professionals are on the board at Nike? How many people of colour are on the board of Nike? Where does Nike primarily sell? What heroes? What athletes? What sponsors do the Nike primarily use to sell a product? These are the types of things that we need to look at from a more, you know, feasible solutions perspective. What are the areas of influence and access that we have as professionals and design, in strategy and consultative services that we can wield to really examine the system that we're in, makes sure that other people can see it? And then by looking at that system, how do we dismantle it, versus redesigning it? How do we look at the system, break it down and design it anew? So that's where my head's at, in terms of what are the first steps The first step is really looking at the system that we're in and we're a part of, many aspects of which are invisible to us. Looking at and examining our role that each of us as individuals within that system, what are we doing to uphold that system? Even as a black professional, what am I doing to uphold the system and to contribute to a system, a capitalist system, that is exploiting people who look like me, and making money off of people who look like me, but not representing them in these corporations. And many of those corporate corporations who are my clients. I hope that answers your question in some form.
Mark Bergin 36:28
Well, actually, it does, and it goes back to Harry's wisdom there about 'I don't know'. You know, there's a stub of an idea there, and that to me is what's important. It's going to take a while to go and get there. From what comes out from our call here, there are stubs that we can then have the courage to go extend further, or they've helped us understand what not to go and explore. So I think, thank-you for the contribution there. What I want to do is I want to get across to Michael Tam in Hong Kong at the moment, Michael's got a global role with IBMiX. And before we get to Michael there, I just want to go and actually put an idea in your head: it's taken over 200 years to weave the circumstance that you're in, what's the rate of change, and how fast can you unpick that that weaved society that America has? Because you can't do it overnight. If you do it overnight, you wind up with a void. And I think every time we've seen a major revolution you wind up with a void that happens, and then even worse things occur. So the question is, how can you accelerate as fast as you can to un-weave things? And part of the reason I brought that up just before I go to Michael is because in Hong Kong, we're seeing them weaving a new chapter. And they're trying to un-weave something that came from a previous era. And it hasn't been graceful, and it hasn't been painless, and there's uncertainty. So Michael, I suppose there, COVID has gone through relatively easily in through Hong Kong. You're in the under 2% club, a little bit like Australia as far as mortality on infections. Unfortunately, the UK and in the US, most of you are above 5%, I think the UK is up near 12%. There's been interruption to commerce, but there hasn't been the devastation that has been in other jurisdictions. But you've had your protests that have been going on for quite a while and recently, you've had some new legislation, which is similar to the 13th, but it's actually people are saying the rules changed here and we thought this was not going to be the case, but it is. How is that going through as far as far as trauma goes? Because that's a very traumatic moment. And I'm focusing on the trauma because that's one of the big challenges. The underlying trauma that has come out from COVID is immense. The underlying trauma from racial inequality is immense. And going back to Taamrat's comment that a fish doesn't know it is in water, what happens if you don't know that you're in a traumatic moment? you're heading into it, where are you up to?
Michael Tam 39:13
Well first of all I want to say, for those of us in Hong Kong, certainly I can relate to Lynnette's comment that there's a lot of exhaustion right now. We ride through this COVID wave after the social unrest, and then now we seems like after we getting out of the curve, and then things then start to pick up again, that the second wave coming through in Beijing - we just heard yesterday or the day before there's another COVID sort of mutation. And then at the same time in Hong Kong, people seem to be getting out, feeling a little bit safer, but then again, having the social unrest - the situation has never been gone, like you said. I reckon it's important to recognise, I think a couple of speakers here just touched on, recognise the problem that we are within. A lot of people don't see where that problem, especially from within Hong Kong because of all the historic issues, political struggles that we have. We never have the fortune of having full voting rights and all that. So I think just to step back a little bit, I think we need to recognise the problem that we are having and then of course, only after you recognise it can you envision what the way out it. What the future should be like. And then more importantly, what kind of actions we should take. And I think a lot of us when we are within this city, and with the role that Hong Kong has been playing within the global community, what are some of the privileges that we have taken? And then now some of those privilege are basically disappearing. So what can we do? And I think with all of these questions, again, I don't have to answer. I think a lot of people don't have the answers. So recognising that we don't know is very, very important. So I can say, I have a lot of exhaustion to be very honest right now. I'm going through a lot of this when I'm living in Hong Kong, but also as a part of IBM, where we are such a huge organisation all around the world, and I have this global role as well. I hear a lot and observe a lot of these different development across the whole community. First I think recognising everyone is going through a very challenging time is very important. But at the same time, I think it is very encouraging, just like this call. A lot of us are putting on a strategist hat, putting on our designer hat, to envision that future. What kind of framework? What kind of practice methodology can we leverage on? For example, speculative design: can we use this kind of approach to help us to envision what is, not just post-COVID, not just post Black Lives Matter, but what should be the long term future? I think I think we need to leverage these skill sets that we uniquely have as strategists and designers to envision as much as possible, whatever those answers could be. And then very important as well, and probably the most important at the very end of that is the actions. I think a lot of people during this time, recognise that the last 10 or 15 years, a lot of us have been able to observe and understand and try to use techniques like design thinking to envision future problems and solutions, but at the same time there's not enough action. So I feel very encouraged to see around the globe, a lot of designers taking these kind of actions, initiating their own campaigns and initiatives to try to make change. I think that's the most important thing, because even though we don't know what the answer is most of the time, only by taking actions, by creating prototypes, trying different ways- prototype your way out, is the only way forward, and I'm glad there's a couple. Just to give a shout out I think Envision and a couple of people in the design community started that amazing design people list campaign, that website, just to bring in mentors and designers who actually in need, especially juniors who are looking for a job, and actually sorry, there's a lot of all ranges from mid-levels, juniors to seniors, who have lost a job during COVID and then all this challenging time ahead, and then how to bring them together and help them. I'm very glad also to see a lot of my black colleagues all around the world, especially from the design community, within the IBM space, that are taking actions. They create something called @techcandobetter on Instagram. Just to be aware of, if you have a tech leader, if you will have a work colleague, you have black colleagues, anyone who with any background can jump on board and, you know, make their voice matter. I find that very relatable to some of the key points that were mentioned, you know, make everyone's voice matter, I think that is very, very important. So, that's my point of view, being stuck in Hong Kong, observing everything. Everyone's going through this exhaustion. I think we need to step back, really recognise the problem, and do whatever we can to envision our way out, and then of course it's very important to take actions, or else we'll just be having this conversation without actually going anywhere.
Mark Bergin 46:09
Thanks for that Michael. For everyone who's on the panel here, we actually have quite a bit to go in our discussion so I'm going to extend over the time period that I expected, if you need to drop out, let me know in the messages, but before then I'm going to go throw across to Julie Monk here, also in Hong Kong. Julie, you bring an interesting duality. You've been in Hong Kong for quite a few weeks, but you also have your context in New York so you straddle that new context that Michael's been talking about and the exhaustion that comes out from being in Hong Kong. You've also got family and you've got your own personal interests in New York. What are you seeing as far as the change here? Is there a particular spotlight that you think we need to be casting on to go and try to actually accelerate the change here?
Julie Monk 46:57
I am very, very excited about what's going on. I know the process is going to be very, very painful. But I've also had a few years on most of the people on this conversation, and I was around in the 60s and 70s, when we were protesting a long time before when the civil rights was first coming up. And although we made a lot of impact on the world back then, we never made any of the real changes that are required to have started working on these systemic problems 50 years ago, 45 years ago, and for that, I'm really sad. So I find it exciting that in my one lifetime, there's going to be a second chance to go back and try to make these changes permanent. What Harry said, I think Harry said earlier, that the only way to save ourselves is to save others, I think that's the key to all of these problems that we're talking about. It certainly is true with COVID. It certainly is true with the Black Lives Matter movement, and there are other issues that are certainly going to be true for other issues that we are facing - that we're starting to face now, but we're really going to be facing if we don't make a big turn about in our actions and what we do. So I think that's the root of it, is understanding others' humanity, as it was stated before, having sympathy and empathy for what other people are experiencing. And then moving the world forward from there. And Mark, I congratulate you. I love our panel today. It's very diverse, I think it is representative. I've heard a lot of opinions and thoughts that I never would have probably heard without having been involved in this panel this morning. I think it's really great. We do need to understand what's going on and we do need to all act and make sure we change things. I think that it's going to keep swirling around and I think it's going to continue to roil until we get to the US election this year. And I think that's going to be, hopefully, a huge turning point. I plan to be back in America to help with those elections throughout August and November. And beginning of November to make sure that we get everybody out there voting. I think that's the first important step in solving the United States issues.
Mark Bergin 49:04
Yeah. And so one of the things we've spoken about is maybe there's some things that we need to do as actions and reactions. And I want to go across to Bill Dowzer here from BVN. Bill, if you've started something which isn't about Black Lives Matter, it's actually in response to what happened with COVID and the hoardings that were going up for the shops that were shuttered, and there was a lot of plywood that was put on there was going to be a lot of waste material. And one of your values is about how do you actually have the minimum impact on the planet when it comes to building materials. So you've created this thing called RePly, which is trying to get the plywood that's going to be thrown in bins so that it's actually used to go make some furniture. I want to focus on that, because I think that's an example of the type of reaction that we need to see, to make sure that we're actually doing something - and then we need to start, and I'm going to come across to you, Sean, in a while to actually ask, what do you think some strategies are what we can do as actions from Black Lives Matter? So, Bill, tell me a little bit about Reply and how did you actually come up with it? Because I think it might have just been, 'why don't we?' moment.
Bill Dowzer 50:18
Yeah, I think you're right. And I think, you know, one of the things for me, being an Australian and being in New York, at this period of time, has been, again, that period of reflection and also just learning. The whole COVID experience me is actually about being open to learning or relearning, and going, you know, I don't have the answers. And then the other one, to me is actually about connection with people because, I've got my family - my daughter's in Sydney, you know, you actually have to connect with people in a different way. And I found my walks, walks with friends have been my nightly thing and that's when you see all of- you're on the street here, and you actually get a palpable sense of what's really happening and you know, for me, that's the real learning process. Then seeing what was out there with all this material, we have a daily catch up in an agile way, but not practising agile, with my team and we sort of instantly just threw it around and the team actually came up with this idea of, can't we repurpose the ply? Turn it into furniture, because the cafes or the restaurants are about to reopen onto the street, and how can we sort of take one material that met one thing, which is around barricade and protection and all that, which has also become an incredible palette for messaging at the moment, like you only have to walk anywhere through Manhattan, and actually many other cities in the US, and see the messaging and the artwork that is actually raw, it’s phenomenal. So that's, you know, in terms of just being able to walk through the city as a gallery at the moment is extraordinary. And then what we've been looking at is how do we then take that with a really simple process, turn it into furniture, and then how can that actually help the cafes and restaurants that - the opportunity is over the next few months in our cities is the public domain, because the public domain is the part where we can actually distance and we can actually start to connect again with people. So that's been the strategy for where we've got to on this this initiative.
Mark Bergin 52:33
So Rick Bell, I'll throw across to you because, Bill, if you don't know Rick, I'm going to make sure you've got each other's contacts because Rick was formerly the head of NYC Design Division...
Rick Bell 52:50
The Department of Design and Construction it is now called, I was hired when Ken Nuckles was commissioner of what was then called the Department of General Services, so I don't know, Julia, I think I'm a lot older than I remember. I remember the 60s and I remember the 70s, and, you know, everyone has been very onpoint, very polite and saying that nobody has the answers. I've been hearing some answers, you know, taking notes. Julie, you talked about empathy. Taamrat before she left talked about economics and capitalism. Billy just talked about relearning, call it education, and even eating and drinking, and I'd like to follow up with you on that because I'm helping a bar in Brooklyn to reopen and it's tricky. No one's yet talked about the need for equity, and employment. But the answers aren't mysteries. I was also trying to prepare a little bit for tonight and I found the answers and it was in a statement on May 15th of 1967 called What We Want Now by the Black Panthers: "we want an end to the robbery by the capitalists of our black community. We want decent housing fit for shelter of human beings. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decade in American society? We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society." The answers are simple, and we've been talking around them, you know, education, employment, opportunity. The question I have is one of the questions, you know, the easy question, and I had the privilege of talking with Bobby Seale and even a couple of years ago, 50 years after and you know, the question posed 50 years ago is what do we want? What do we want now, what do we need now? I think the question I would add to it together is how do we achieve it? As designers in one way or another, and to the point made before by Eddie about graphic design industry, it's no different in architecture, I digress on that you know about 3% or less of licenced architects in the US, being registered professional. I also ran the AIA in New York for a while and it was very palpable. We brought in, as best we could for concerted action, NYCOBA, the New York branch of National Organisation of Minority Architects. I was honoured to be their highlighted member in November, almost four years ago. I think I may have been the only non-black in NYCOBA, but their mission was exactly on point with the question I'm asking us all, asking myself asking my wife, asking my family... What are we trying to achieve? How are we trying to design it? You know, what NYCOBA's mission was, paralleling that of NOMA, was to speak against apathy, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance, against the abuse of the natural environment, and for the unempowered, the marginalised, and the disenfranchised, and encourage dialogues and policies that will enact larger moves toward greater diversity inclusion in the profession, make it professions. It was heartening to see that NOMA and the Large Firm Roundtable (LRF) - Julie, I don't know if your firm is part of that, I assume it is - came out with a joint statement today or yesterday talking about creating opportunities for black architects in the design professions. My answer as a bureaucrat, functionary public servant is that that's great if it happens, but I think much more work should be done, especially public works, public Buildings should be done in the public sector, in house, where issues of opportunity are much fairer, are- doesn't get to the heart of the question of people who don't have the money to get to any kind of design school. And that's another whole matter for another hour or two and maybe with alcohol. Thank you for indulging me.
Mark Bergin 57:26
No, no, no. So I like it. And I suppose there is one word that I haven't heard come up in the last hour, which is the word diversity. And it's really interesting that the challenges of Black Lives Matter are so heinous that the term diversity is being left out of this conversation here. But when we get down to, you know, if we're looking at that we're proud of the diversity and we're proud of the excellence and the courage of people who have gone around design, and then we've got a very balanced circumstance. We know there's a skew here, and it's dramatically off balance and that to me might be the reason why that term diversity hasn't come through. I know that the way that you fix diversity is not, as I've said before, it's not by the people who aren't in the room being champions for diversity purposes, it's the people who are in the room have to be champions for diversity. Before I think we can get to the diversity horizon, there's actually a legislative problem - that 28th Amendment. We need to go fix up those systemic problems which are enshrined in law, because laws give people liberty to go and actually do things. You know, that's not too difficult for me to understand. And I think that's beyond the role that design has. The design can definitely push and drive people in that direction so that they know that they need to have their voice heard and they need to actually participate in voting, and they need to tell their representatives that what the want is that 28th amendment. Sean, I'm going to put you in the spotlight here. I've done it to a few other people today, don't worry, there's a few more of you are going to be put on the hotspot. But as far as helping people in the next six months to go and actually seeing that spotlight about getting your voice heard, making sure that they understand how to get registered, that they can get to the polling booth, what can somebody in your world do to actually help drive and influence that?
Sean Rhodes 59:28
Yeah, I think that's a great question, and I mean, I’m just kind of loving the conversation, thank you, everybody, just so many good thoughts. I mean, I think, you know, one of the areas that I think is really interesting is that we sort of look at what's been happening in voting and politics with Facebook and the last election, Twitter sort of being a platform for the president and everything that he's saying and doing, and then I mean, also like, I think with Black Lives Matter and the reaction after George Floyd's murder, you know, social media has definitely played a huge role in the way that that conversation is going and spreading. You know, I think one of the things that we've seen that I think is part of the mainstream conversation now is defund the police, which I think is an incredibly exciting idea. It's a systemic approach to solving some of these issues and I don't think that that was part of the mainstream conversation before. So I think that there is a lot of danger and there's a lot of potential in those types of tools to start to get the word out, start to organise on both sides of the fence. I think one thing that that I've been looking at and really fascinated about is the role of influencers, whether they're politicians, whether they're the media, to kind of make big things happen and kind of crazy things happen. And you know, because we've gotten Melissa on the phone, I just would love to throw a conversation or a question over to her, is you know what we've been seeing this week with Dave Portnoy from Barstool Sports, he's basically reached out to millions of his Twitter followers and turned them into investors overnight. Right. And they're doing some really crazy things on Wall Street. I think it's just another example of how an influencer using social media can start to drive some major change in ways that we don't, we would never have considered. But you know, Melissa, I think you know, you live in the investment world and have a real mission with that. I'm curious about your thoughts on design and technology being platforms to kind of drive bigger change.
Melissa Cullens 61:57
Yeah, you know, I think there are so many things in that. If we talk about the money stuff first, and in terms of the money stuff when it comes to equity, I think, you know, when we think about the 28th amendment we have to talk about reparations. There cannot be progress until we solve for the 401 years of stolen labour that our country is built on, and we do something to level that out and to bring everybody into a greater state of equity. In terms of marginalised groups and investing and understanding how investment changes, I think something that's been a real challenge for us at Ellevest this week is we realised that a couple of the ETFs that we use for our investments, they contain investments in private prisons. And we looked at it and it's, you know, I think maybe the maximum that anybody personally could hold if they're investing in Ellevest is .02% of private prison stock, but we don't want to hold it. And when we think about the systematic challenges of racism and the systematic challenges of money, the only way forward is to begin to break down- It's weird to be the person coming from my place and say this, but to really ask ourselves the question about what is capitalism doing for us? Is the drive for growth at the cost of all else? Is the drive for assets at the cost of all else really building the world that we want to live in? Is this really what money means? It's really what commerce means? It's really what business means? And I think that we have an opportunity to come up with a better answer than that. Individuality in the narrative of the American culture around being the person who rides off into the sunset and saves the day is such a part of who we are, it's a part of how we identify and to come all the way back around to where Harry brought us, we're recognising that that narrative may have reached a turning point. And it might be a moment to kind of re-investigate whether this idea of self-determination that is such a part of who we think we are as Americans is really the foundation that we want to continue to build upon. I've been doing as much as I can to do my own homework in the past few weeks to recognise my own blind spots and finally got around to reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' 'Between the World and Me', and he talks about racism as an identity as well. And all of these identities that we put on ourselves as white people, provide us with a level of security and a level of expectations of what the world will deliver for us. So I think there's kind of this combination of yes, asking institutions to change, yes, asking our policies to change, but we all also have to recognise the narratives within ourselves that create the interactions, and the relationships, and businesses, and the commerce, that we build between ourselves. We individually are capable of changing that, we can think of ourselves in a different way, we can think of ourselves as a part of a collective, which is just, it's just something that- there hasn't been a moment where, you know, all three of these things have come forward: climate change, global pandemic, finally acknowledging 401 years of oppression. It's an incredible opportunity to reinvent what we want to be meaningful.
Mark Bergin 65:52
Melissa, I was really interested in that point about capitalism. We often talk about capitalism as if it is the unfettered pursuit of extracting wealth. And I'm sharing way too much, in my late 20s, I had an autoimmune disease that affected my body and what it was my body was producing too many cells and that was what was killing me. And I wonder if it's actually that capitalism - it's a pretty good system, but when it's actually producing way too much, it can start to damage. And is greed the autoimmune disease of capitalism? I think, you know, it's like everything - if it's underperforming, it's bad, if it's over performing, it's bad. And I'll go back to Scott Galloway, I feel like I'm a fan of Scott's, you know, his fanboy. But, you know, he talks about that America was built on the idea of a million millionaires, not a dozen billionaires. And so they've got an imbalance in that capital extraction system there where you don't have an even distribution and what you also then have is that capitalism needs to have a little bit of a correction to itself, which it often does, in horrific ways for people.
Mark Bergin 67:08
Dan Formosa, I want to actually throw across to you. You've been around the block a few times, and you've seen various things from protests when you would have been a young designer, through to, you know, going and seeing capitalism rising. But what really interests me is the work that you went and did, particularly on how do you do behavioural change when it came to electric cars? And why that's interesting to me is, Dan's actually somebody who's had to say, 'how do I get people to understand to do something that's against their natural behaviour, they learnt behaviour?' And I think that's useful for this conversation, because that helps us understand that behavioural change is what the challenge is here and you're the only expert on the call here I know who actually has a case study where you can say this is what I learned going through behavioural change. Can you help me out?
Dan Formosa 68:01
Yeah, well, you know, design affects behaviour and we all know that. There are plenty examples of that. I don't think we know enough about it. You know, I don't think we study enough about how design affects behaviour and I wish we did know more about it. I get involved in anything from energy savings to pharmaceuticals, to, boy, any other sort of project where we really want to take focus on how that design is going to affect that person or the quality of life. And it's a design problem. You can say that that is a design problem. I like the thought that Taamrak brought up, that we're in this environment that we're born into, and we just consider it normal. You know, we're so used to it, you don't know what water is if you're a fish and I think the way to innovate is to identify those things that we're so used to, that we just accept, and say, 'hey, maybe we could change that.' I have lots of examples in my background where it's just 'let's change this thing that no one's thought about for a long time or forever', you know, that we've just accepted, whether it's medical equipment or whether it's cars or whether it's whatever the topic may be. I do also have another point that I was going to bring up is that when I describe my role in design, I grew up in, you know, born in the 50s and grew up in the 60s, when there was a lot of unrest, and there was a lot of call for equality, like racial equality and women's rights, etc. And I think that shaped my view on design, in that design should be for everyone. You know, design is a form of segregation. I can alienate people, I can exclude people, by changing the type face on your newspaper. You don't have to touch the person, right? So design itself really determines who's included and who's not included. And I used to have this description that boy, look, I, I grew up in this era where there was racial inequality, you know, there's coloured and white water fountains and black waiting rooms and training stations. I've got these very cool visuals. I used to say, wow, that used to be my past, but that's not my past anymore, this is my present, right? I can't go back to that discussion and say this is how I grew up, because really, things haven't changed, and it really is bizarre to me that we are 50, 60 years later, and boy, we're still facing the same problem and it really hasn't changed. We just haven't changed that behaviour. We haven't changed those mindsets.
Mark Bergin 70:50
So Will Knight in London. I want to ask you two particular questions here. One is, you know, the UK at the moment is in a degree of trauma because of the fatality rate. But you've also got a degree of fatigue, a little bit like what Michael Tam was talking about, the fatigue that's come out of Brexit. You know, that was a massively long campaign and it had so many chapters to it. Where's the UK economy up to? The economic numbers are saying it's terrible, the society - are you resilient, are you exhausted, are people, traumatised? Give us some insight.
William Knight 71:27
Well, there's lots of interesting things happening here right now. The UK has responded to the death of George Floyd, and there have been a lot of protests, here's been a lot of positive thinking. But I think, you know, reflecting on what I've been listening to, and thank-you all for some really, really interesting thoughts and some positive thinking. The UK carries a lot of burden around a lot of these issues, and I'm sure some of you will have seen the images of Edward Colston, who was a slave master in the 17th century, being dragged from a pedestal and thrown into the dock. I mean, you know, as an iconic moment, I think that speaks a huge amount. At the end of the day, an artist or designer created that statue and is responsible for putting him on a statue and on a pedestal in many ways. And I think there's a redressing of a lot of that history and it's long, long overdue in this country. So, we've been searching into ourselves and we know there's a lot of change that needs to be taking place and we want to respond, as does the rest of the world, to have a fairer society and to be more representative and to have better role models and to empower and to cherish the talent - there's so much wasted talent, I think that's one of the big things, particularly in the design profession, going back to the points that Eddie made and others. I suppose going on to point to fatigue, I mean, Brexit is just a disaster, just full stop. I'd love to sort of find some way of kind of rebalancing what it might mean, in terms of independence, but it's going to do us no favours at all in terms of our creativity, our ability to attract talent, our ability to reflect our relationships with the rest of the world, we're continuing to do that. The government itself is empowered by one single logic about disconnecting from its biggest trading block. So it's exhausting. There has been a lot of battles over that. I think the design profession itself is quite exhausted from that, completely disconnected from where the UK main political body seems to be, because the government has got a huge majority and therefore is all powerful. I suppose, in a way, our kind of resilience is around a kind of response to COVID and the ability to change, and I suspect that as Brits always have, we've sort of addressed things at various stages and change will come. In many ways the world has kind of changed with the UK as it has with the States and various people are leading the way, but I think there are some better global examples, and I would probably think of New Zealand as one of them, where leadership is really apparent and makes a huge difference to people. So I don't know, we're getting alliance, we're making the best we can, we're looking to our creative endeavours, we're talking to each other again - I think that's been an important part of this conversation, that those connections are being remade, and we have reborn out of different situations. Post-war is probably the closest thing that we have had in terms of generational shift, and it's a very, very interesting time.
Mark Bergin 75:05
Thanks Will for that, because it is interesting when we start to consider across different countries how this trauma and exhaustion exists everywhere. The systemic problems exist everywhere. They're going to take contextualised responses to make sure that we go get somewhere. Ronnie Peters, I want to have a chat with you. Ronnie your role with Hyperloop you're trying to go build trains that move in different jurisdictions. They move between jurisdictions. You're in New York, and I think you're right next to a hospital that has had trailers parked out the front as a temporary morgue, you know, you're right in the thick of it here. But I want to try and rise up there and work out what are some of the spotlights that we can go throw on to actually talk about the actions that are needed to get people to build some momentum here?
Ronnie Peters 76:02
Yeah, that's an interesting one. So with Hyperloop, the European Union just announced that, they even mentioned Hyperloop and actions now towards turning the economy around and moving towards the future, and more energy efficient and energy friendly form of transportation, and taking aeroplanes out of the sky. So, that's been a terrific move forward. For Hyperloop, we're very excited that now this is coming into the consciousness, perhaps it's really going to come to fruition. So that's a big one on that perspective. I wanted to talk about a couple more things I think have been really interesting that. Taamrak brought up this notion of 'what can we do as designers?' and Rick, you were talking about education. I'm always struggling with, where do I play in this and what role do I have as a white guy in my 50s right? We just started a project called 1700 Years of Jewish life. It's going to be a virtual exhibition, we're moving into the spiritual space, that part of our sort of pivot is moving into virtual reality. We had this discussion at the kick-off and just started to realise that we're building a platform in a virtual space. We can take 1700 years of Jewish history through 52 objects over 52 weeks and we can actually start to apply that to other minorities and other groups, and then realising as a designer, our responsibility, and what if we actually did use that platform for something really interesting with Black Lives Matter? So that and other things that are starting to think about that, and looking at Jewish life and the Jewish community, as a minority group in the way that they treated. So that's that. On the social media front, some of the tools, we're working with MIT at the moment, where we're measuring and listening to the radio and television with artificial intelligence, and starting to pick up where fake news is actually happening, and where counter news is not happening to balance that out, and then being able to identify influencers that we can then go and point out that fake news is existing in their neighbourhood, in their region, and how they can actually message against that and start a counter messaging. So just a few projects we're working on right now, but it's really interesting to me how, as a designer, suddenly you realise you're actually in the moment. We're actually being involved with these things, and they're there. They're actually in front of us
Mark Bergin 78:59
I'll add in when we publish this Town Hall a link to a film that we made, in I think it was 2015, about the 911 Memorial. The designers are talking about, because they knew there was the trauma that was still present in the population of New York, how they had to desensitise some of the audio, some of the visual messaging that was in there. You know, we know how to go deal with the traumatised, and I think that's where we need to be. We need to actually come off that base and understand how to go deal with it. The Jewish population in the post Holocaust have been fantastic in being able to understand how to tell their stories that actually help remind people of the trauma and never let us forget. I think that's an important thing. And Julie Ockerby, I'm going to get you to help me to wind up here. This, I have to say panellists, this has been astounding, we normally run these for between 30 minutes and 40 minutes, we're about twice that. Your attention and your input has been incredible. But Julie, here we've got the courage of people that say that they want to collaborate and share. We've recently talked about a project to do with aged care, because we know aged care around the world has actually now got a problem. And when we dug into it, the part of aged care that needed to be fixed, the first horizon was actually the workforce. We have to go right back into the workforce, we have to look at the workforce and say, how do we make the workforce proud and excited and enabled with resources before you can fix the rest of aged care? And I'm wondering if that's what we're looking at here, maybe it's this digging in very deep and working out how to go fix those core elements. What are your thoughts?
Julie Ockerby 80:45
I think that when we delved into that conversation, and basically we went to Back of House rather than Front of House, it became really pertinent. I mean, age care is an ongoing issue, no matter where we're it's at, it's just an ongoing issue. And I think the thing with COVID-19 was they really had to come into action. But the truth is, most aged care homes would at least go through once a year, some form of lockdown for various reasons. This was just heightened through COVID-19. But I have to say further to this, I'm really glad that Michael and Harry raised the 'I don't know' the line, because when Mark put this topic out, I did skim across it and I in my mind, initially was 'I don't know', I don't know how to answer this topic really, except that all I do know is that we've all seemingly had some courage in our lives to get to our stage of our careers, or set up our businesses. You know, the courage to take on further education. The courage to be here amongst each other. And it's given us the ability to have a voice. You know, I think we all have a social responsibility to talk about the things that we don't want to talk about, age care is one of those things, it's a time of life that no one wants to talk about. And I've been lucky to have the voice to be an advocate for that sector. But also, I think COVID-19 and beyond has taught me and those in my industry that the courage is for us to share and collaborate, rather than compete. And for the last decade, we've competed strongly against each other, whether it's within our design industry, or within operators. And the beauty of panels like this is, and particularly afterwards when we close the session, is that there's a lot of collaboration that happens afterwards and we've seen that quite strongly in the Town Halls in the Australian panellists. So I guess if there's nothing else, rather than holding everything close to our chests we've allowed to open ourselves up and I think that's quite courageous for a lot of us, because we are in that competitive edge, you know, designers are competitive. This has taught us to really just share amongst each other and be comfortable in that space.
Mark Bergin 83:26
And you know, I think one of my little notes here is I think I need to get a T-shirt that says 'empathy welcome', you know, 'traumatised and exhausted', you know that that to me is I think the summary that's coming out here. We know that this has to be done with empathy. We know we need to shine some spotlights on things. And I suppose this is the style of a conversation as Julie said, what I'd love to see with the panel and the people who are watching this, give us some feedback and tell us about the spotlights that you're shining that help get to that first horizon. That the 28th amendment can be enabled. I don't know what's in it. But what I know is that the 13th shouldn't be allowed to stand. That's probably the first horizon. And then we can start to get to, as you mentioned the list of the 28th, and then get things. But all good campaigns have focus. And I think it's actually got to be that we need to work out how to get everyone to vote and remind the people that are voting that you want a particular outcome beyond the election. I think that's probably the best summary I can get to. Again, I'm humbled to always have your attention. Thank you, everybody for being part of it. it's just astounding, I must say, I feel a little bit exhausted, but I also feel elated. So, thank you so much for helping me out in putting another Town Hall together.
Hosted by: Mark Bergin
Podcast production: Pat Daly
Show notes: Lucy Grant