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Designing Climate Actions: Lessons from Stanford’s d.school

When it comes to climate change, start with people, end with solutions.

Recently, I was asked to come up with a bumper sticker to describe human-centered design, the core strategy of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, the d.school. My bumper sticker: Start with people, end with solutions. This is also a roadmap for crafting next steps on climate change.

The first step in human-centered design is to start with people, establish deep empathy, understanding the needs of the people you are serving. Although empathy has its critics, empathy and equity are essential parts of the design process. Developing deep empathy for your end users helps you develop solutions that meet peoples’ needs.

I have spent the last several months talking with people, mainly older adults, about their views of climate change. Why older adults? They are living climate memory and keen observers. As one recently retired couple put it: When we were young, teachers talked about change over the next 100 years. It’s already here. We heard about them when we were younger; now we are seeing them when we’re older.” A retired national park scientist summed it up: “We are valuable observers at this point. Farmers know they no longer have bumble- bees to pollinate…They don’t have to have data. They just see it.”

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