12.21.23
Shari Davis, Oliver Escobar, Lily Tsai + Lee Moreau | Audio

Design As S1E6: Citizenship Part 2


On this final episode of the season, Shari Davis, Oliver Escobar, Lily Tsai, and Lee Moreau finish their discussion on citizenship and design.

Subscribe to "Design As" on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. "Design As" is brought to you by Mastercard Customer Experience and Design, a global design community working to accelerate the future of commerce through experience and innovation. Find out more at careers.mastercard.com.

Lee Moreau is the founding director of Other Tomorrows, a design and innovation studio based in Boston, and a Professor of Practice in Design at Northeastern University. He is also the host of The Futures Archive, a podcast from Design Observer that looks at the history of human-centered design with a critical eye to its future.

Lily Tsai is the Ford Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Director and Founder of the MIT Governance Lab, and the Chair of the MIT Faculty. She is the author of When People Want Punishment: Retributive Justice and the Puzzle of Authoritarian Popularity (2021) and Accountability without Democracy: Solidarity Groups and Public Goods Provision in Rural China (2007).

Shari Davis is a community organizer and youth advocate. They are the co-executive director of the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP), an organization that empowers everyday citizens with the ability to directly manage public money. Prior to this role, they served as  director of youth engagement and employment for the City of Boston, where they launched Youth Lead the Change, the first youth participatory budgeting process in the U.S., which won the U.S. Conference of Mayors' City Livability Award. In 2019, Davis was honored with an Obama Foundation Fellowship for their work on participatory budgeting.

Oliver Escobar is Professor of Public Policy and Democratic Innovation at the University of Edinburgh. He works on participatory and deliberative democracy, with a focus on public participation, policy innovation, the commons, political inequalities, and the governance of the future. Oliver was Academic Lead on Democratic Innovation at the Edinburgh Futures Institute (2019-2023) and Co-director of CRITIQUE, Centre for Ethics and Critical Thought (2021-2023). He currently co-leads research projects at the UKRI Behavioural Research Hub and the EU Horizon programme on Intersectional Spaces of Participation. He is an editor of  The Handbook of Democratic Innovation and Governance, and the author of Public Dialogue and Deliberation: A communication perspective for public engagement practitioners



Transcript

Lee Moreau
Welcome back to Design As a new podcast from Design Observer and a conversation with design leaders, scholars, practitioners and a range of industry experts who seasoned perspectives' will help illuminate the topics of culture, complexity, and citizenship in terms of their impact — not only in the design practice, but also in terms of how they themselves are being shaped by design today.

Lee Moreau
Design As is brought to you by MasterCard, a global technology company in the payments industry. Their mission is to connect and power an inclusive digital economy that benefits everyone everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. To learn more about opportunities within their thriving design community, go to careers.mastercard.com and search for "design jobs". This is part two in our conversation around citizenship. Last week when we spoke, we talked about our personal definitions for what citizenship is and who we are as citizens. But really, listeners, if you want to hear the full story, and I hope you do, I encourage you to go back to the previous episode and get the full brilliance of that roundtable discussion that we had, and then we can come back here and pick things up. Let's quickly go around and reintroduce ourselves for today. I'm Leigh Moreau, the founding director of Other Tomorrows, a design innovation studio based in Boston and a professor of practice and design at Northeastern University. Also, our dedicated Design Observer listeners will recognize my voice as the host of The Futures Archive, a podcast from Design Observer that looks at the history of human centered design with a critical eye toward its future. With me this morning is Lily Tsai. Hi, Lily.

Lily Tsai
Hi, everybody. I'm a professor of political science at MIT, where I also directs the MIT Governance Lab, which is a group of social and behavioral scientists who are interested in supporting and understanding innovation in governance.

Lee Moreau
Fantastic. And also here is Shari Davis. Hi, Shari.

Shari Davis
Hey, Lee —hey everybody. My name is Shari Davis. The pronouns that I use, are they/them and she/her. I serve as the co-executive director at the Participatory Budgeting Project, where I have the pleasure of working with an amazing team to transform democracy in ways that center community power. And so our work really focuses on methodologies or practices of participatory democracy, like PB - participatory budgeting, where community members make direct decisions about how public funds are spent. And I'm so excited to be here.

Lee Moreau
Thank you, Shari. And finally, Oliver Escobar joining from Scotland.

Oliver Escobar
Hi. Yeah, it's great to be here. So I'm a professor of public policy and democratic innovation at the University of Edinburgh. I'm originally from Spain, but I've been in Scotland now for almost 17 years, and I work on all kinds of democratic innovations in research, but also in practice. And for those who are not familiar with the term, democratic innovations are things like participatory budgeting, citizen's assemblies, detailed crowdsourcing platforms and all kinds of co-design co-production processes, sometimes in policy contexts, sometimes in community contexts, and more often than not, somewhere in between.

Lee Moreau
It's lovely to have you all here. Last week when we spoke, we also talked about the notion that citizenship like design is maybe best framed as a verb as opposed to a noun. Certainly, we think of design at times at its best, maybe working more as a verb than a noun. And citizenship is very much aligned with that, and we'll want to continue unpacking that. So I think we'll continue that here today.

Oliver Escobar
I think that has a lot to do with the narrowing of the public imagination of what political and democratic life is and can be. And that has a lot to do with a very successful story that has been told on democracy in the last 70 years, in the aftermath of the Second World War. But if we go back in history, you know, we can go back as far as 3000, three and a half thousand years and find the original sort of seeds of democratic life, forms of human association that were based on dialog and deliberation in all kinds of relational forms of governing and living together. So we kind of need to reclaim the way we tell the story of democracy. It didn't start in Greece, in Athens, in a Eurocentric Western space. That is a myth that is now debunked. In fact, we begin to see signs from archeology and anthropology that shows democratic ways of living and governing all over the world in all continents, which shows that it doesn't belong to any single party. It's a human story, it belongs to the world, it is the first instinct of communities to govern themselves democratically. And there's a connection here to- still in that theme of the in-between, because there is room and of course there are implications. What does the the in-between and this kind of thinking about the in-between means for design, but the reason why it matters so much is because the in-between, for example in between the spaces, are the foundations for the type of solidarities we are going to need in order to tackle the climate, emergency, ecological breakdown, inequalities, crisis, etc. etc.. Participatory budgeting is a great example of that. While the reasons it is spread all over the world is the most successful and widespread democratic innovation — there have been over 11,000 localities across the world developing participatory budgeting processes. In Scotland now is an official process that all local authorities need to use, for example. But it all started in in Brazil. It's a democratic innovation that comes from the global south and is spread quickly, first across Latin America — and the thing that was striking in its origins is the type of new solidarities it fostered because it created a space in between the different social classes in a particular locality. And it's very easy to dismiss or despise a faceless stereotype once you come around the table face-to-face together with others who are different from you and you listen to their predicament, then all of a sudden you begin to think: You know what, I yeah, let's put on hold, this vanity project we wanted to do and let's channel resources to that absolute priority that is just and necessary in your community. And that kind of solidarity cannot be fostered through traditional institutions. And that's where democratic innovations like participatory budgeting, climate assemblies, some forms of digital crowdsourcing coming in can make a real difference. And we now have examples all over the world, really exciting examples that show a different face of humanity and a different story of what political life and democratic life can be.

Shari Davis
Yeah I think our next step there, Oliver, is to tell those stories and to tell them better. Because I am excited about this and I find that folks will be excited and they get excited, but it's not front page news yet. And I think that there's a real opportunity for folks that have experienced that change, that have that have seen what happens on the other side of practice to tell that story. I also kind of feel like there's another story that needs to be told in this realm of re-imagining what it means to be citizens or what it means to be global citizens. And that is actually the story of our future. And I think that this conversation is bringing us in that direction. But something that I've thought about a lot recently is- some of the barriers to getting people there, right, introducing people to maybe new ways of thinking, new ways of being even those that are- that have a lot of evidence behind them, like participatory budgeting. How do we get folks to believe that it's possible in their community where it's never been tried before? How do they get folks to wrap their mind around what participatory budgeting is and how do we get folks to see themselves in it? For me, the first time I did PB It took me a couple of months into the process where to really click, and I was working in government at the time, right, and I was like,

Lee Moreau
So it had to work.

Shari Davis
It certainly had to work, right, that someone-this was the mandate and I was thrilled about this mandate. But I'm like: Wow, this is so different from anything that we've ever done in the city of Boston before. There are a lot of pieces of this that we really have to make work, and I wish that I had done one thing as part of my my like maybe design thinking at the beginning. I wish that I had had an opportunity or I've been invited to maybe think about what would happen at the end of the process or ten years from now after we had really won participatory budgeting or really won community led decision making. And by won I mean we met the enabling conditions that we were really looking for. This space where folks had felt belonging in public spaces, this space where folks felt like they could participate, this space where we were able to bring formerly and currently incarcerated people to the table in ways that they felt ownership of their community saw themselves in it. I really wish that I could have taken a moment to to really think about what's possible now in that future, to actually draw it out, to actually make some proposals with others, and maybe sit and refine what we thought that future looked like, so that we could actually build a blueprint back for the process. And I think that's part of the story that we have to tell next, is this kind of radical, rigorous act of radical imagination where we sit in, I think, what's possible, not tomorrow, but ten years from now after we've won and sit in this moment of like, what does it mean to to really transform democracy as designers, as people, and really start to paint that picture, that's a little bit of a blueprint and then begins the work toward that. You feel like that's the part of the story selectively that might be missing for us all. And I'm really curious if y'all are thinking about this, if y'all are thinking about future stories, if this is resonant, if you're like, yeah, that's part of the piece of the puzzle that's missing.

Lily Tsai
Yeah, it's a question that I've been thinking a lot about. So, you know, there's the importance, as you say, Shari, of thinking ten, 20, 30 years in the future and then imagining back to what we should do now. You know, I find based on, you know, the work in behavioral science, that another part of the challenge is just getting people to care about ten, 20, 30 years in the future. And there are really good reasons why people find it difficult to care. Like, we're living in a moment of chaos or polycrisis. There's a lot of uncertainty and instability. Time horizons seem short, I think, in those kinds of conditions. How do you plan for ten or 20 or 30 years from now when you don't actually know what the inflation is going to be like next month or, you know, whether you'll have a job next year or whether, you know, the like your your house will be completely flooded and you won't be able to get insurance? So I think it becomes really difficult to think in terms of long time horizons. And so that's something I've been giving a lot of thought about, you know, looking around the world and throughout history to uncover the kinds of practices and institutions and examples where people have developed really long time horizons or communities have developed long time horizons, and what are the characteristics of those practices, but also what are the politics that made them possible? Right. So one of the things that I've been thinking a lot about is the difference between how the UK and Norway treated their windfall oil revenues, right? So in the 1980s, the UK just decided to spend them all. Norway set up a sovereign wealth fund that acts as a trust fund for the entire country. And so they have a trust. Norway has a trust for their citizens in perpetuity. What are the political coalitions and the political conditions that make something like that choice possible versus the kind of, you know, typical neo defaults that the UK engaged in? I mean, that's an example at the country level. But I think that there are also really interesting examples in different domains. You know, at the community level, You know, there are some communities, of course, that uphold and practice regenerative principles and that enables them to uphold, I guess, or they sort of integrate a commitment to a long time horizon. It's built into the operating processes and principles of their communities. Taken by a number of studies, I read about the ham producing area of southern Spain where, you know, there's this ecology, I suppose where there are oak trees that have acorns, the pigs eat the acorns and then the farmers produce incredibly amazing ham. But what I was taken by was the fact that the farmers will talk about planting oak trees, that they'll never-you know, oak trees take decades to produce acorns and they'll never see an acorn from the oak trees that they plant. So from an economists point of view, this is totally irrational, like totally inexplicable or totally irrational because the farmers go to great lengths to plant these oak trees and take care of them so that they will produce acorns after the farmers are dead. So, right, so they have a community and a local economy that is all intertwined and sort of reinforcing with one another. So so I think that's another example of how there are practices and institutions and norms that create those kinds of long time horizons. And I think maybe, as Shari is saying earlier, like we actually just need to tell those stories more.

Lee Moreau
This is one of the strengths of design, which is to kind of foster visions of what radical imagination could yiel,. Right. And I think as designers, we love to talk to each other about how good we are at this. But getting those visions to actually become reality is a big gap for us.

Oliver Escobar
And I guess that's what design is at best, right, is the creative projection of better futures, right, a projection on artifacts, on spaces, on ideas — design as the making and remaking of the world, right. That's the sort of the big idea and the big potential behind design, and this key insight that everything is made, then therefore can be unmade and remade. And connecting to some of the points that Lily was making, and Shari as well, the question of what we owe to future generations has become again really important. It was always there in ancient wisdom and Aboriginal wisdom, in indigenous wisdom. Its, just you know, we should just be careful not to think that these are new things. These are things we are recommending because we've lost them due to all kinds of trends and concerted ideologies that push towards selfishness. I mean, in political science we have this concept of democratic myopia, which is this short termism that is built into our institutions. Think about electoral cycles. Short term, think about market cycles, even shorter— quarterly reports. So short termism is hardwired into all the systems we've built politically and economically. So getting beyond that is going to be difficult. But there are ways forward and really interesting examples. One of my favorite books on this is by Roman Krznaric, his book, The Good Ancestor—how do we become good ancestors? What do we need to do now so that then down the line, someone is going to get those acorns. And we have that community that goes beyond generations. We see, for example, cases — there have been some interesting examples of citizens assemblies and deliberative processes in Japan where they have this way of projecting into the future and thinking about that now and informing short term action based on long term thinking. We know that climate assemblies do that very well, far better than traditional institutions. The global climate assembly, for example, which brought together a hundred citizens from across the world. They were forward thinking. They were future thinking. So we know that these things are doable, right? Participatory budgeting does that as well, invites people to project into the future and imagine that community and its future. So the question is, how do we cut that short termism, that hardwire so many of our systems and how do we redesign those systems so that then we can build into it that care for future generations as well as for each other in the now?

Shari Davis
You know, it's so interesting, Oliver, sorry, it's so interesting. I like this idea of like, you know, how do we can we cut this like short wired system of maybe being hyper focused in the now. And there are good reasons for that, like we talked about before, all sorts of maybe chaos that folks experience. There's all sorts of very real circumstances and situations that are that are urgent that that families need to address.

Oliver Escobar
Yeah. Yeah.

Shari Davis
Now, I also think it's fun to think about what are the conditions, design elements that need to be present before we embark on a collective or participatory budgeting process. And I always default to participatory budgeting because I really like it. But I just want to name that, you know, there could be other things that we think about. And one of the really cool examples that I saw of this of like some pre-PB thinking was an art project in Philadelphia. I was in Philadelphia recently in Pennsylvania, and an artist and artist collective came together to look at the city of Philadelphia's whole budget, and they kind of created a people's budget office where they took the city of Philadelphia's budget and they wheat-pasted it on the side of a container. And then they had folks inside the container as experts, and then they invited these folks to re-imagine, literally move pieces of the budget around on the side of this container to maybe add a Post-it or sticky to say, hey, this should be here, that should be there to give folks some license to imagine that they could, one, change the budget and two, could envision the outcomes of what this would look like. I thought this was really interesting for a number of reasons. They got a ton of participation. They got incredible ideas, real budget feedback and recommendations that should totally be considered. Some of the pressure was off because it was an art installation, a project, an opportunity for real education. I think it could have been part of a PB process, right? Like this project was so good that it could have been used as a way to collect ideas or develop ideas into proposals. But all of that said, what it did was create space to practice, to practice imagining a future, to practice rearranging a budget, to maybe begin thinking that things could happen a little bit differently to cut that short circuit that Oliver was just describing. And so as we think about imagining for our future, as we think about moving intense design process in ways that are right and good, and I also think that there are these like maybe pre process components, right? These opportunities for us maybe to begin growing some of those skills together. And art installations and art projects I think are a really great way for it to happen. It is certainly not the only way. But I'm curious if ya'll have thoughts on maybe some of like those preconditions to engage the citizens that we hope for in the ways that we desire in the future.

Lily Tsai
You know, that is so funny. Thank you for sharing that example of an art initiative in Philadelphia. I'm smiling because it reminds me of assemblies that I studied in rural China in the late 1990s, and these were in villages of, say, 2000 to 5000 people. And what they used to do was the village officials, so there might be 3 to 5 village officials for a village of 2-to-5000 people, and they would post a draft budget on paper on the side of the village temple and people would go and like write on it and say like, you know, no, like we should, you know, focus on the road over here. We don't need a new well this year. And they would they would actually engage with the piece of paper that was glued to the side of the village temple. And then the village officials would take on board what had been written on the draft budget and redo it and then post it again. And it sounds remarkably like the art project that you describe in Philadelphia. And, you know, I think that that reminds me of one of the things that I've tried to argue for over the last few decades, which is that, you know, we can find these examples of self-governance and local innovation in really surprising places sometimes. So, you know, sometimes they are in history, but oftentimes they exist now in the present, just in non-Western societies. And sometimes I think what's especially striking about what I saw in rural China is that it's under an ostensibly authoritarian regime. You can still find pockets and maybe, you know, one might argue that sometimes you're more likely to find the most innovative forms of self-governance in those kinds of larger regimes or environments, because people figure it out, like people figure out how to develop emergent self governance.

Lee Moreau
One of the things that I think connects these two ideas is not just about the interactivity of it. I can imagine people engaging within and on the side of this container, you know, going up to the temple and writing stuff up there. But I think also the reduction of abstraction from this process and from the conversation is so essential. And that is a place for design to engage. But abstraction is really dangerous and problematic in these kind of conversations. So-and which I think takes us to trust, right? Because so much about when we see abstraction in the world, we're like, Well, what is that really about? How did that get there? What's motivating that? So can we kind of reorient?

Lily Tsai
Well, I mean, I think that has to do with Shari's question about preconditions, where what that made me think about was like the question of scale, which may be is related to your question about abstraction. You know, I find that there's often this obsession with— is this scalable as if that was the most important measure of its value or worth. And, you know, I've started to think a lot more about doing small better. And the ways in which, you know, we think about—I'm at MIT, we're constantly thinking about technology and the way in which is a force amplifier and a force magnifier. And I've been thinking a lot more about whether there's a way to think of technology is helping us do the small better to helping us do the small better rather than doing something at scale.

Shari Davis
You know, Lily, you're making me think about depth versus scale, and I think there's both of those things. The other thing that I wanted to say really quickly was when we think about the conditions, maybe you all have looked at a public budget recently. There are so many ways that we could present budget information to people, but the vast majority of the ways that public budgets are created and formatted make them literally difficult to read. And so it makes it hard to-to understand. And so I will just say that I think, like, here's a really simple way for us to maybe re-imagine an access point is literally the public documents that we generate for folks are often written in a language that may appear Shakespearean and is just not like the contemporary way that people communicate. And then the formatting of a document of-of numbers that has really important information are counterintuitive. They almost feel like archaic, which I think prevents that depth that Lily is talking about. And I think this is a great way that we can use technology to make budgets, legal documents more accessible so that people can then participate in the decisions around them. I think that that really creates a barrier for engagement and for trust, right, so someone says, I really want you to participate when they put something in front of you that it's almost illegible. And it makes it really challenging to feel like you are welcome, that you are trusted to engage and so on.

Oliver Escobar
There are a couple of things there that I really want to jump on because first, on the preconditions, because I think there is a micro and macro dimension to these and they are related because we know, you know, the macro lives in the micro and, you know, that's why the issue of scale sometimes is a red herring, is a distraction, but I'll come back to that in a second — because, so on preconditions for the these new forms of democratic life, these new designs of everyday community and political life, there are things that have come up in the conversation already that I think are preconditions. One is the fostering the craft of facilitation practice, you know, the ability of those who can create in-between spaces, foster relationships, invite people to think together, invite people to bring themselves into interaction in new ways that get us beyond the traditional blocks to new solidarities, new understandings. So facilitation is perhaps the most underrated public practice that there is and is key to all participatory processes in communities, in political institutions, in organizations, in companies and so on. And so facilitators are key. And I wish we have more in every aspect of everyday life because that will make a huge difference. So appreciating the art and craft of facilitation is one of the preconditions. Of course, at some point in the future we may no longer need the role of facilitators because barriers to participation and inequalities in interaction will be out of the picture. A utopian future. But in the meantime, we need them. The other is the art and craft of dialog and deliberation. Two forms of communication different from debate, for example, which is the most prevalent practice in our public sphere. And the art of dialog and deliberation requires a lot of discipline and a lot of practice. And these are arts that are, again, as old as as humanity. But a lot of our contemporary ways of interacting have marginalized these alternative forms of communication. So that's at the micro-level, but then at the macro level, so to speak, the point that Shari made earlier — about telling the stories, how do we get these stories out there? How do we make these things visible? And then the point that Lily was making about the visibility of that budget paper on the side of the temple, I think there is something really important for the future and for design thinking as future thinking and future making and something about the politics of visibility and invisibility. What we get to see, what we don't get to see. There's a difference between a budgeting process that happens behind closed doors with all the kind of traditional lobbying and the kind of budgeting that happens in a participatory budget. A space open out there, ready for participation and scrutiny and oversight and mutual accountability. There's a difference between the kind of environmental policymaking that goes on behind closed doors with lobbying dynamics, etc., and the politics of climate action that happens in a climate assembly, a deliberative space where if you're a fossil fuel lobbyist, you need to come in there and make the argument why is it that burning more of this stuff is going to help us to tackle the perils of a burning world, right. And you need to do that publicly in the open space, visible so that your arguments can be tested and scrutinized. So a lot of our work over the next few years has to be about the politics of visibility, of opening up all these things, of creating those lines of access and-and participation in those kind of spheres that have been taken out of the visible part of our shared mutual lives.

Cindy Chastain
Hi, I'm Cindy Chastain, senior vice president of Customer Experience and Design at MasterCard. And I'd like to introduce you to some design leaders from our growing community.

Lucy Fielding
Hello, I'm Lucy Fielding. I'm the vice president for Global brand Strategy and Design at MasterCard. I think we better clarify one very important thing, right? I-I am not a designer by trade. So that said, and I think it's really I think it is important to note in my journey to where I am today, I have worked with some of the most talented designers in the world and being able to really see how design can really help solve problems, it can really help uncover opportunities, and it can create order out of chaos. And so through my journey, I see very strongly the link between how to help our business be more impactful by bringing incredibly thoughtful and purposeful design to help tell stories, to help make the invisible visible, to really find and draw out things that can help MasterCard be more relatable, more approachable, more valuable in customers' and people's lives.

Cindy Chastain
From new digital payment products to innovations that empower people and create a more inclusive economy. Our growing design community is working to accelerate the future of commerce through experience and innovation. Find out more at careers dot MasterCard dot com and search for design jobs.

Lee Moreau
This is a huge tension in design right now that you've just articulated, which is that there's no question that design can and should be able to help make things more visible. That's one of the—truly one of the things that we can definitely do. And yet, when you look at a lot of what design is doing right now, and actually this came up in a previous conversation on complexity, so much of design is actually about making things that are invisible, right? UX experiences, all the digital interactions that we have is about taking things that could have been, you know, interactions in physical daily life and making them digital and sort of invisible. So this tension between making visible and making invisible is fundamental to our contribution to society as designers. So I'm so glad we've tapped into this and it's incredibly provocative.

Lily Tsai
I think I was just going to add to Oliver's comments that, while I completely agree that visibility invites and enables, you know, deliberation and informed deliberation, that at the same time I've been thinking a lot about the need for protected spaces and how it's only in protected spaces sometimes that people feel truly free.

Oliver Escobar
Yeah.

Lily Tsai
To say what they think, to try out new ideas. You know, and that, I think, is also a really interesting challenge to think both as citizens and perhaps for designers to think, when do people need protection in order to be free and creative, and then when do we need to render things visible so that people can engage and deliberate and be informed?

Shari Davis
Thank you, Lily, for naming this last piece, because I was concerned that we weren't going to get to this component of healing, right. And how healing actually I think has to be in the design. When we talk about citizenship and democracy for all the reasons that we named at the very beginning of our conversation and the reasons why this word is contentious and what people's experience of it has been. There is a real danger in inviting people into a process like this in a way that is extractive, that continues to like pull at this legacy of not being listened to and of things being taken away from whether that is just expertise of a community member. And I think it's so important for us to think about maybe protected spaces, but really brave spaces that center equity that are designed by the people that are going to be in them. I just wanted to really underscore how important I think that point is, because when you don't have that, I think you're likely getting a segment of the population that's able to participate and not a full picture of the people impacted by those decisions. When we don't create brave, safe, or healing spaces for people to be in as part of decision making processes.

Oliver Escobar
Yeah, I think that is so important also because I don't think a politics of visibility means that everything needs to be in the public eye all the time. I think there is a difference. That's the reason why juries in court are protected. Their deliberations need to happen behind closed doors, but their arguments can be made public. The same happens in climate assemblies or citizens' assemblies. You know, there are sessions that cannot be televised or watched because they need that a space to articulate, to develop, to think together, especially in this area of communicative plenty, as some of my academic colleagues call it, where there's so much noise and interference and so on. So that's for sure that there has to be that kind of protected space to foster good dialog and deliberation. But that still happens in a space of visibility. You're still going to hear from Assembly members how they reach their conclusions, why their recommendations about climate action are of particular kind. And that's very different to the type of behind closed doors lobbying dynamics that shapes so much of our political processes, right. So I think that kind of balance, but the reason visibility matters is because it does bring forward the call for action. You know, we see this I mean, there's a really striking ethnographic study by Timothy Pachirat—

Lily Tsai
Every 12 seconds.

Oliver Escobar
About slaught-.

Lily Tsai
Yeah.

Oliver Escobar
Every 12 seconds about slaughterhouses. That's a great example of the politics of invisibility that's sustaining our food systems, for example. And you could take that into other spaces and the politics of visibility and invisibility of migration, refugees and asylum seekers, the politics of visibility and invisibility when it comes to all kinds of rights of minorities or minoritized groups. So it really, really matters because it's going to be crucial to reshaping the stories that need to remake the future we're trying to bring forward. So, you know, and just one thing, if I may, part of it, and this is why I was thinking about the connection—we were talking about all these different initiatives, projects, processes, new civic institutions, new ways of coming together to make things happen. And they are not small in scale. If we had the time, we could go into global processes that have happened like the global climate assembly or, you know, what is happening in Taiwan, for example, with their digital crowdsourcing that has the potential to involve millions of people potentially in the future. You know, scale is no longer an issue, but we have been so focused on economies of scale and accumulation that we've forgotten what matters is economies of scope and imagination. And I think that that's where we need to begin to move towards. And for that one word that hasn't come up in this conversation so far is the commons, right. That is— we've built the last 100 years on this binary between state and markets, and we've forgotten the third pillar of social organization, which is the commons, which is what a lot of this happens, right. The common practice is resources and skills, ways of doing, organizing, budgeting, etc., etc. And I think that that's the revival of the commons for me is one of the great exciting underpinning forces behind democratic innovation, behind these new possibilities and solidarities. And I think again, design and that the design principles behind the commons are, you know, they're Nobel Prize winning design principles and it kind of brings us full circle. Is just bringing the commons up to that same level of visibility and prominence as the state and the market have in our communties.

Lee Moreau
That's our mike drop moment.

Shari Davis
Plus one.

Lee Moreau
Yep.

Lee Moreau
Thank you all so much for taking time out of your busy days and schedules to have this conversation to kind of share with us and our listeners. If our listeners want to kind of keep track of what you're doing or catch up, read some of your references, your articles, where should they go? Lily, where should someone go to find out more about what you're up to?

Lily Tsai
Thank you so much, Lee, and so great to be in conversation with all of you, Oliver, Shari, and Lee. So some of the ideas that I've talked a little bit about are in this short essay that I have Taking Responsibility for Tomorrow: Remaking Collective Governance as Political Ancestors, which is in the journal Daedalus, which I'm working on expanding into a book. But otherwise I would invite people to reach out to us at MITgovlab.org. We're working on an initiative of creating democracy and maker spaces

Lee Moreau
Oliver, where can people find out more about what you're up to?

Oliver Escobar
I just want to say to say I really enjoyed this. And given that I'm three weeks into the life of my newborn daughter, I'm trying to do a lot of future thinking and has been wonderful to engage in this conversation with you and to learn with you. I really, really enjoyed it and it's been a great trans-Atlantic. So perhaps one of the best ways is to go to the University of Edinburgh website. There you will see some of the projects we're developing. We have also our website for the Edinburgh Futures Institute, which works on many of the issues we've covered today. And then I'm in a couple of social media places, Mastodon at Oliver Escobar. At least for the time being, although I know I don't know for how long, onTwitter sash X where I'm at olivera Escobar. But the best kind of portal is through my profile at the University of Edinburgh, and I'm always happy to chat.

Lee Moreau
Shari, where can people find out more about what you're up to?

Shari Davis
Well, first of all, thanks, Lee, and thanks Lily and Oliver I thought this conversation was just incredible. If folks want to learn more about the participatory budgeting project or the work that we're doing at PBP, you can visit participatory budgeting dot org. If folks want to learn more about our democracy beyond Elections coalition or find out how you can join, you can learn more about that at democracy beyond elections dot org. We're on this social media so you can find us at PB project and I'm on the social media so you can find me, Shari Davis, on all social media channels.

Lee Moreau
Great, thank you all again. And if you want to hear more about me, find me on LinkedIn or you can go to the other tomorrow's website at W WW dot other tomorrows dot com and you can find more about what we're up to in the studio.

Lee Moreau
And thanks also to all of you, our listeners. This was an experiment. You've been on this journey with us through these six episodes and this kind of new experimental format. I think my intention was to try to create a show that would be both a safe space and we could kind of create a community around things that maybe are interesting or exciting, but also troubling in the design community and kind of play out some different narratives that don't often get surfaced. You know, I think we could have continued this conversation a lot longer and perhaps we'll have to do that. Design As is a podcast from Design Observer. To keep up with the show, go to design observer dot com slash design as or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you liked what you heard today, and we hope you did, please make sure to rate and review us and share this with your friends. You can follow Design Observer on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at Design Observer. Design As is brought to you this season by MasterCard. Thanks again to our brilliant roundtable Lily Tsai, Shari Davis, and Oliver Escobar. You can find more about them in our show notes at Design Observer dot com slash design as, along with a full transcription of the show. Our producer is Adina Karp. Judybelle Camangyan edits the show. Special thanks to the PRX Podcast Garage in Boston and Maxine Philavong at Northeastern. Our music is by Joshua Brown. Thanks, as always to Design Observer founder Jessica Helfand and to Design Observer executive producer Betsey Vardell.


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Jobs | March 05