Supporting Conversations About Design and Sustainability

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I’m working with Beta X to record and share audio conversations about how design can support sustainability here in Leicester. Beta X is a community of “artists, makers, designers, researchers, thinkers and innovators,” whose aim is to foster and promote conversations about change, based on having an open mind, an open door and a desire for positive social change. I’ve been creating and sharing podcasts that capture the essence of the Beta X hub, and the thinking that is being put into practice about how design and creativity are going to improve the environment and bring benefits to the people of Leicester, and beyond.

I’m really enjoy capturing audio interviews and sounds for Leicester Stories podcasts, and then sharing them online and with some of the community radio stations in Leicester. My aim is to make discussions about design, innovation and creativity accessible by focussing on the passion that people have for their work, and the care that they are able to demonstrate having for the betterment of life in Leicester.

Working with Jonny Prest of Seed Creativity is always invigorating, as he’s got the ability to bring people together, so they feel that they can contribute something of value. Beta X is not about engaging with people in a way that feels distant, but is more about encouraging people to visit the Beta X Hub, and discuss the work that is being shared, while having good conversations about our sense of identity, belonging and where things might go in the future.

Radio and podcasts are a great way to foster engagement. Because there is no camera, people can relax a little more, as they share their thoughts. I’ve learnt to be attentive and listen well when people are telling me things that they are passionate about. However, I’m not really interested in people’s opinions. Rather, I want to know more about people’s experiences and their stories of how they have dealt with life challenges in different ways.

Radio and podcasts are a great way to capture conversations and to facilitate a sense of reflection and thinking that checks-in on what people are trying to say. The best conversations are where people who would not typically be asked to make a contribution, get the chance to share their story in their own words and on their own terms. There’s a ‘community feel’ to this approach that asks people who contribute to explain what they are describing, and to put themselves in other people’s shoes who might not otherwise consider what’s being discussed.

 The model for this is developmental and deliberative. It’s about bringing people into the ‘circle of responsibility’, so that we can help each other better understand what is motivating and driving people to live out their lives in the way that they do. If we want to foster change and a stronger sense of responsibility to the planet, one another and the other lifeforms that we share the planet with, then the last thing we should do is impose our ideas dogmatically on others. It’s through conversation and discussion that we discover a sense of future purpose, and gain confidence about what we’ve learnt and have to offer to the communities that we belong to.

To be sustainable, therefore, we need to deeply embed a sense of civic participation in our social practices, and this has to use and embody our media as a vehicle for sharing those conversations and discussions. If we leave a really good, challenging and insightful conversation in the room, then no one else benefits. But, if we record it and share it on our community-focussed media platforms, then we’re able to widen the circle of engagement considerably.

I’m hoping that the people that I am connecting with as part of the Betz X project feel more confident themselves about using different media platforms to communicate and discuss their ideas and experiences of fostering positive social change. Once people have taken part and produced content for themselves, then it doesn’t feel so difficult the next time around. Once people realise that you don’t need to be a ‘professional’ to do this, then hopefully more people will feel that they can have a go and take part in one of the future conversations we hope to have.

If you want to take part in a podcast discussion recording, we’ve got two sessions coming up, sign-up on Eventbrite:

10-12 Thursday 24th February – Using Creativity to Engage and Empower

10-12 Thursday 3rd March – Life Hacks and Sustainability