Design helps councils tackle climate change

The results of a project that encourages local authorities to use design to deal with climate change issues are being unveiled today.

The i-team, a collaboration between sustainable development charity Forum for the Future and global design consultancy Ideo, is showcasing its activities at the Design Council’s headquarters in London WC2.

The i-team was set up in autumn 2007, with support from the Local Government Association, and asked local authorities to apply to work with it.

Last summer the i-team started working with three local authorities – St Helens, Kirklees and Suffolk – to advise them on using design to encourage sustainability.

The three councils are working on a range of ideas, including: A Web game to encourage young people to live more sustainably by linking their actions in real life to a virtual St Helens; a low-carbon children and family centre in Kirklees; and an incentive scheme to encourage Suffolk social workers to reduce their business mileage.

The i-team encouraged the councils to use ordinary people’s insights to come up with solutions, which led to initiatives such as Kirklees Council consulting a recovering alcoholic as a way of exploring what support is needed to change habits.

Helen Tinker, environmental programme manager for Kirklees Council, says, ‘We interviewed a recovering alcoholic who explained the role that information and support had played in helping her to change her lifestyle.

‘We can use this learning to better understand how we might support members of the community in making low-carbon choices.’

A spokesman for the i-team says there has been a lot of interest from local authorities in the process, and that there are aspirations to extend the scheme and engage more local authorities.

David Kester, chief executive of the Design Council, which is hosting the showcase event, says, ‘Forward-thinking councils are now realising that good design can help them deliver services which are more sustainable, better value for money and better focused on user needs.

‘Designers have a unique ability to understand people’s real needs and their experience of services, and develop new ideas to help them work better. That’s great news for users, providers and the environment.’

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