Context and ambition

After clarifying what I mean with ‘Innovation for Wellbeing’, I would now like to discuss the context in which I work and my ambition.

I work at TNO: an independent research and innovation organization in The Netherlands, which employs 3000 people. We work in diverse projects, ranging from developing intervention programs to promote healthy life styles, to the development of innovative solutions for energy and mobility. We execute our projects in close collaboration with our customers: with large and small companies, governments and NGOs, like War Child. TNO’s mission is to promote innovation and competitiveness in industry, and to facilitate societal transitions and promote wellbeing .

My role at TNO is in organizing and managing (parts of) projects. I received my training at Delft University of Technology, at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. This school combines industrial, technological and social concerns and its curriculum is based on design thinking: the organizing of multidisciplinary and iterative processes of problem-setting and solution-finding. In addition, I did a part-time PhD at the University of Humanistic Studies, where I was introduced to various philosophical perspectives to look at, e.g., the organization of innovation projects.

At TNO and elsewhere, many projects focus on developing technology, with the risk of neglecting social and business concerns, and focus on delivering a prototype, with the risk of neglecting the scaling-up phases, which are critical to realizing positive impact in society.

My ambition is to help my colleagues and our clients to organize our projects in such ways that they effectively promote people’s wellbeing, and to evaluate our projects’ actual impact in the real world.

I feel inspired by Victor Papanek’s ‘Design for the real world’ (first published in 1971), in which he discusses various ways in which designers can contribute to making the world a better place: designing for disenfranchised people; going into the real-world and designing with them; training people locally to design locally; and training people locally to train others to develop their design capabilities (pp. 84-85, 2nd edition). To this I would like to add: to help colleagues and clients to focus on real-world problems and to develop real-world solutions that have a positive and sustainable impact in society.

What is the context in which you work? Do you have ambitions to promote people’s wellbeing and/or to create sustainable impact?