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Lynne Davis CEO of Open Food Network UK explores what it takes to shift the design imperative of technology toward a 21st century agroecology. This article is a part of our column, Agroecology in Motion: Nourishing Transformation.

Resetting the Design Intention

This underlying intention in agricultural ‘progress’ can be seen in many of the great innovations that have shaped industrial farming – the plough, the tractor, distribution logistics, agrochemicals. Each invention increases productivity. Such productivity has enabled the highly specialised civilisation of the industrialised world.

Designing for diversity not only means designing for healthy ecosystems, (agricultural) biodiversity or designing for more opportunities in social diversity. True diversity happens outside of our ability to plan for diversity.

Designing for Complexity

Seen in this way, it is clear that diversity is being inadvertently designed out. Designing for productivity has meant designing for uniformity, wishing uncertainty away so fewer things can go wrong.

The idea of shifting our design intention toward the regeneration of a diverse world is not new. John Thackara speaks of designing for all life, not just for human life. Cassie Robinson has carried alternate design principles that nurture ecosystems and collective awareness through her work. Designing in this way means understanding and considering as much of the whole as you can. Such thinking is innate to peasant and indigenous world views.

People Powered Technology

Given the role that technology has played in enabling design for productivity, and given western culture’s relationship with technological ‘progress’, it is pertinent that we put designing for diversity at the heart of design in technology.

Added May 21, 2021