The first panel at Design Public sent the conclave off to an energetic and enthusiastic start, with both panelists and participants from the audience voicing a myriad of different perspectives on the relationship between trust, creativity and design. The conversation, moderated by Samanth Subramanian, also included Scott Burnham, of Premsela, Yamini Aiyar, founder and director of the Accountability Initiative, Shomikho Rana, who leads innovation work at DFID and Namrata Mehta, Senior Design Researcher at the Center for Knowledge Societies.
The panelists began by talking about what they do and how trust affects and plays a role within their work. There was an overall consensus that the discourse and practice of design and innovation need to take the element of trust more deeply into consideration in every sector and arena of society. Scott Burnham, speaking on the need to reinvent our conceptions of good design to necessarily include trust, also described the concept of ‘Trust Design’ and the idea of designing services, products and systems to build trust. He spoke at length about the design of spaces, especially public spaces, as being reflective of trust between the citizens and the state within that society.
Yamini Aiyar talked about how, in the Indian context, the rigid hierarchy gives forth a lack of trust, which in turn generates a hesitation and fear of supporting, collaborating – and therefore innovating – together. She mentioned how this hierarchical system and the lack of transparency creates a bottleneck for innovation. Shomikho spoke about the context of his own work in HIV and health systems, and how the lack of trust in public systems often resulted in far worse consequences for a community that has already been ostracized. He spoke about the already skewed power relationship between the patient and the doctor in the health system, and how certain systems – such as the “pay for performance” system – can breakdown trust further rather than building it up.
Samanth Subramanian, pulling these thoughts together, talked about the need then, for empathy, for those in decisioning and planning positions to empathize with those for whom they are designing spaces, services and systems. Namrata Mehta provided an insightful example of the ways in which empathy – that necessary quantity in an ethnographic study – and trust – could radically affect the final design and its usefulness. She also talked about the tricky, sometimes paradoxical relationship between trust and information, generating a plethora of responses from the audience. How much information is too much information? And is Trust used as an excuse to not share information? Also, does too much information sometimes result in the breakdown of trust? These are some of the questions that the participants then turned towards. What, then, is the relationship between trust and innovation? The discussion concluded with an agreement that empathy and trust between citizens and the state, as well as between citizens and the markets with which they interact, is essential to building an innovation society.