Collective Action for Sustainability Solutions: How might design thinking catalyze shifts from individual to community mindsets?

PI: Nicole Ardoin


Arguably the most pressing and urgent threats to the health and well-being of our society - climate change, resource degradation and most recently, COVID-19 - are at their core collective action issues. Our work seeks to address how we can most effectively cultivate the transition from individual- to collective-action mindsets to advance sustainability solutions, leveraging process and insight-driven aspects of design thinking. Our research project begins with a synthesis of what we’ve learned to date regarding the application of design thinking to collective environmental action challenges, which we will synthesize in a brief oriented towards practitioner audiences. We will engage designers, scholars, and community/sustainability practitioners in collaborative workshops, and develop a d.school pop-out course, all focused on motivating and sustaining collective environmental behaviors. We anticipate this work will catalyze new, and bolster existing, partnerships between community practitioners, the d.school and the Social Ecology Lab through a shared goal of strengthening practitioners’ use of design-thinking and research in the sustainability space. Insights generated through this project will elucidate the aspects of design thinking that are most effective and fruitful in terms of fostering shifts towards collaboration, cooperation and collective mindsets to address complex social-ecological challenges.


Maria Louise DiGiano