I am developing the Innovation Lenses framework as one of the main contributions of my PhD Thesis. This work starts from the premise that fragmented innovation is increasing complexity for sustainable solutions because they lack understanding of the dynamic interactions between actors shaping socio-ecological-technical systems. Thus, new tools and frameworks are required not only to expand actor’s perceptions about the system at play, but also to provide alternative paths for transitioning towards more sustainable and equitable futures.
The Innovation Lenses presents a framework to map and understand the multiple types of resources and assets to be considered in design practices. It provides eight innovation lenses (human, networks, cultural, governance, financial, built, digital, and ecological) that together inform new opportunities for intervention by (1) amplifying actor’s understanding of the dynamic interactions in the situation of interest, (2) expanding the opportunities for integrating the social and the ecological systems, (3) providing new possibilities for interventions. If applied in existing tools and methods, or even in the development of new ones, they can support designers to uncover often hidden variables as well as points to be leveraged through new interventions for dealing with socio-ecological complex challenges.
Because socio-ecological-technical systems are contextual and adaptive, the establishment of what variables should be considered and what points should be leveraged vary according to each situation and actors shaping in the dynamics of the system. However, by utilizing the eight lenses framework throughout the entire process, designers can expand their perception about these dynamics, and intervene considering a broader range of variables that are shaping socio-ecological-technical challenges.
The Lenses of innovation framework integrates considerations from multiple disciplines to advance the field of design in developing sustainable solutions for complex socio-ecological challenges. While some contributions are implicit, others are more explicit. For example, the “Community Capitals Framework” (CCF) created in the context of rural community development, considering seven types of capital (natural, financial, manufactured, human, social, cultural, political) into the analysis of existing hard and soft infrastructures in a given system. The CCF is being applied to understand how decisions in the past shaped the current situations. This work considers the seven capitals of the CCF as “innovation lenses” and utilizes industrial symbiosis principles to explore how might future interventions consider these flows by informing more integrative design practices. It also adds the “digital” lens due to its contemporary role in shaping innovation practices.
I am developing a playbook with new tools and frameworks to support the design of sustainable solutions for socio-ecological complex challenges. This playbook is being designed considering contributions from diverse disciplines capable of advancing the practice of design . Its application has been prototyped during decision-making processes in three different levels and situations: at the facility level in local circular economies, at the city level in food systems, and at a regional level in brownfields redevelopment. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and concerns. This is intended to be a living document to be improved over time.