This is my first post here, and I thought I would share some recent publications and a little about how and why I do what I do, with the hope that doing so might launch some nice discussion.

The European Network for Environmental Citizenship (ENEC, COST Action 16229) describes Environmental Citizenship (EC) as:

the responsible pro-environmental behaviour of citizens who act and participate in society as agents of change…

ENEC (2018)

I am on the Management Committee of ENEC, working with an incredible collection of social and natural scientists, environmental humanities scholars and educators, trying to understand how we might educate for “EC”.

As part of that work, last year I undertook a research project with a group of Masters students who were participating in the SDU cross-faculty Citizen Science Talent Program. We were joined by a Visiting Researcher, Sarah Trahan, and together presented our findings at the Nordes biennial Nordic Design Research conference, which took place in Kolding and online last week:

Wilde, D., Lena Hupe, Trahan, S., Guinita Abel, C., Kjærsgaard Longueval, S., McLaughlin, C. Rethinking Food: Co-Creating Citizen Science for Sustainability Transitions. Nordes 2021 Nordic Design Conference. pp.228-237.

ABSTRACT: Transforming human food practices to be more sustainable is not straightforward. The human food system and international sustainability advice are both global in scope. Whereas food practices are locally situated and personal. ReThinking Food grapples with this challenge, using co-creative citizen science and the Future 50 Foods Report. The research involves cooking with; sharing food, recipes and stories; surveys, interviews, online and in-person activities. Through these actions, participants exchange knowledges with the food, their families and each other; become agents of change in their social groups and workplaces. They enact agency, shifting scales from human to non-human; near to far; from one-to-few-to-many. Building on this insight, we propose a hybrid engagement strategy for fostering connections across scales, from the personal to the planetary. The strategy strengthens the effectiveness of bottom-up societal transformation efforts. 

I am privileged to have these kinds of opportunities. Being a Scientific Lead on the Talent Program let me work across disciplinary boundaries in ways that are very comfortable for me, but not so often afforded for students. More often than not, given these opportunities, the students thrive.

The work demonstrates how I bring together research and teaching in fundamental ways, and the experimental nature of my practice, which I describe as participatory Research through Design (pRTD). If you’re interested to read more about pRTD, and what I believe the role of design research could be, within a larger post-disciplinary landscape, have a look at this article:

Wilde, D., Designing Research Education for Global Concerns. She Ji Journal of Design, Economics and Innovation, 2020, Vol. 6, issue 2 Summer 2020. pp.170–212 2019

ABSTRACT: If the ecosystems that we are part of and rely on are to flourish, we must urgently transform how we live, and how we imagine living. Design education has a critical role to play in this transformation, as design is a materially engaged, world-building activity. Design is complicit in the problems we are facing, and informs and shapes how people live. In this article, I seed ideas about design research education for global challenges. I speak to the merits of post-disciplinary and hybrid strategies, and look to science for clues about how to respond to twenty-first-century challenges through design. I posit sustainability brokering as a new pathway for design, and anticipating alternative futures as a critical step in developing transformative innovation. I then propose participatory research through design as a foundational methodology; describe four pillars of practice to scaffold sophisticated research at undergraduate and master’s level; and lay out a work plan for building research capacity in a doctoral school. Through this process, I articulate core skills that design researchers will likely require if they are to contribute to global challenges constructively. My aim is to seed fruitful regenerative discussion with these propositions.

I was fortunate to have another paper included in the Nordes proceedings. This one reports on a workshop undertaken at DIS2020, the ACM Designing Interactive Systems conference. The workshop is part of an ongoing series of work that experimentally examines how design, as world-making, can assist us in envisioning the futures that we so badly need to be moving towards. At the workshop, my coauthors and I worked with a diverse group of design researchers to develop new imaginaries around food-tech and multi-species futures, using food as subject, object and material for our inquiry. The outcomes are brought together in a More-Than-Human Food Futures Cookbook that, to our delight, has been included in the EU Responsible Research and Innovation Toolkit (RRI Tools) – an online resource that brings together tools, techniques, and methods for conducting RRI. The RRI Tools website provides rich resources and discussion around what RRI is, and its importance in tackling societal challenges.

You can find the Nordes article here:

Wilde, D.* Dolejšová, M.* van Gaalen, S., Altarriba Bertran, F., Davis H., Raven, P. G. Troubling the Impact of Future Food Imaginaries. Nordes 2021. pp.115-124.

ABSTRACT: Global scale transformation is urgently required if we hope to stabilise socio-ecological systems. While design contributes to social and ecological un-sustainability, it can also play a pivotal role in bringing us towards more positive, inclusive ways of living and being within the planetary ecosystem. Experimental, co-creative design provides powerful tools for prompting critical thinking and inspiring new imaginaries. We engage with these possibilities, and explore their role in societal transition. We present an experimental food design workshop that aims to engender fantastical and plausible possibilities for regenerative (more-than- human) future food practices. We reflect on how to move from such imaginaries to ‘implementable nows’ that is, transformative innovations that might be enacted today. We provide inspiration and methodological guidance for designers interested in the social imaginaries brought forth through world-making efforts; leapfrogging the adjacent possible and reorienting situated practices towards better – socio-ecologically just – futures. 

If you’re interested in this work, please join my colleagues and I as we bring together diverse stakeholders from across civil and civic society to backcast from the [better] futures we envision, to scaffold effective action towards ethical societal transition, today.