Oct 16 Designing a Sustainable Food System at Barnraise 2017

Led by IIT Institute of Design, BarnRaise is an impact-driven conference that connects designers, community-based organizations, topic experts, and participants to promote greater impact in the Chicago community and beyond. We were excited to return to this unique conference as a design partner, and we couldn’t wait to hear about the experience of our two facilitators, Claire and Ashley.

What were you excited about heading into BarnRaise?

We knew that BarnRaise would be a great opportunity to meet other people who are interested in using design to address a complex challenge like food waste, the focus for this year’s event. Our colleagues Carmen and Taylor had a great experience leading a YMCA team at BarnRaise two years ago, and we were eager to see what our own experience would hold.

What new tools or methodologies did you use?

We were very excited to hear from Kristel Van Ael on the second day of the conference, a leading designer from the Belgian firm Namahn. She shared her journey to develop a more holistic way to tackle “wicked” problems and a toolkit that she’s created along the way to impact change on a systemic level. We used a few of her frameworks and tools throughout the workshop and look forward to potentially using more of them on the complex challenges we face in our own work.

What new perspectives did you gain?

In addition to Kristel, we learned from a variety of experts on food waste. Francesca Zampollo shared her thoughts on design thinking for food, and how veganism and minimalism could be the ultimate design solution to address waste. We toured The Plant with the non-profit The Plant Chicago and learned about closed loop systems such as aquaponics that recapture and re-use waste from the system. We also examined our own waste bins. Midway through the conference, we dumped out garbage, recycling, and compost receptacles to see how much we had wasted, how much we had re-captured via compost, and how much we had tossed in the wrong bins. This was a good reminder of the collective power of any of our individual actions.

What did your team develop?

We focused on how to create business opportunities within the food waste chain, and our group worked eagerly to consider potential interventions. We leveraged the expertise of our team members that already work on businesses in the food waste chain, and were excited about the possibility of helping to support others with similar interests, leading to our development of our final concept, a food waste incubator. It was conceived as a centralized hub of in-person and online resources for aspiring entrepreneurs, providing assistance developing a business plan, access to capital, guidance on supplies, equipment, and space; and mentorship every step of the way. With the stakeholders on our team, we mapped out concrete next steps for continued exploration, and are excited to see where the idea will go.

Final thoughts?

We had a great time with our team, and are re-energized by the power of design to tackle pressing, complex challenges!

Rêve Consulting
Rêve Consulting

We are a strategy and service design consultancy that helps people and organizations innovate and grow.