Design is a field in particular that has experienced many critiques around neo-colonialism. Largely due to the power, influence, and resources granted to designers and the increasing socio-political issues with which they’re aiming to design within.
Heading to Toronto for the Service Design Global Conference on October 10-11, Aunty Vickey Charles, Cultural Connector and TACSI Social Innovator will be sharing her experiences and a developing set of mindsets and approaches that support Indigenous-led innovation in project work, based on our experience working with Aboriginal Australian communities.
These mindsets aim to strengthen cultural, social and economic participation in social innovation projects.
Innovation and co-design have a role to play in working towards equity. A big part of that includes taking a hard look at the effects of colonization, building bridges that restore power balances, and furthering self-determination.
Whether in project-based initiatives, designing services, policy-making, procuring work, or planning new strategies, furthering self-determination is essential, it can be tricky to navigate. While many parts of the world are still learning what this means for their practice, we can look to New Zealand and Canada who have longer track records of using genuine co-production to leverage complementary skills where solutions are self-determined by Indigenous nations.
In Australia, we’ve observed that some social innovation and design organisations have been afraid to, or don’t engage with Aboriginal Australian communities because there’s a fear of making mistakes or there is a surface level engagement where a lot of politeness and niceties are exchanged but Communities are left with a solution they don’t want or won’t use. As a result, too many communities are left to go at complex change alone.
We’ve observed designers, around the world, seeking a middle ground: a partnership space, a bridging opportunity, where design offers process and community leads. This means working toward a reconciling of design process that acknowledges that Indigenous people are the most researched group of people in the world. This means acknowledging that problem solving is something that Aboriginal Australian peoples have been doing sustainably for over 70,000 years.
In this talk, we want to share some approaches that we’ve found helpful in fostering meaningful bridges. These approaches are informed by learning and partnership with Aboriginal Australian people through case study design projects.
Most importantly, we acknowledge that we’re still learning too, especially from Indigenous partners and communities – we want to share and open the space for discussion with global design practitioners.
About Aunty Vickey
Aunty Vickey Charles is an Alawa/Mara woman from the Northern Territory who grew up in Adelaide from the age of 18 months, due to policy at the time. Aunty Vickey has worked across her lifetime to tell her story of the stolen generation and raise awareness of Aboriginal Australia through her work in the Not for Profit service delivery, Government sector, as a Cultural Competency Facilitator in SA and as a social innovator at The Australian
More about Aunty Vickey