On Design Justice Principles – William Wu

About a week and a half ago, I worked with a team to run a makeathon to address open issues around the MIT student community, such as mental health, access to food, finding study spaces, and more. We brought together student makers, leaders, and admins alike, to brainstorm, ideate, and prototype possible solutions.

Planning for the event began no earlier than September of last year. As a fairly meta “using the design process to design a design process”, we thought about how to create an environment of inspiration, a microcosm community around community improvement. Who would be the people involved? For how long? Which kinds of perspectives would be the most diverse?

Without realizing it, we had already incorporated many design justice network principles into our thinking. Namely:

2. We center the voices of those who are directly impacted by the outcomes of the design process.”

We, as students, are directly impacted by decisions by the administration. We believed that students, of all people, have critical insights and feedback to offer to improve student life and the MIT community.

“8. We work towards sustainable, community-led and -controlled outcomes.”

In fact, a few students have already stepped up to the challenge of improving the community. Services, platforms, and student groups have been formed with this intention – Firehose, a course planning app, LeanOnMe, an anonymous support network, Random Acts of Kindness week, to name a few. The we wanted our makeathon to serve as a springboard for future projects.

“6. We believe that everyone is an expert based on their own lived experience, and that we all have unique and brilliant contributions to bring to a design process.”

It can be tough as a student to envision life as an MIT administrator. Admins participating in the process were able to share their woes about project maintenance, lifecycles, and other unique viewpoints.

In retrospect, it would have been beneficial to document and share the design work during the makeathon for future events, as per “7.¬†We share design knowledge and tools with our communities.” Even posting snippets and quotes during the event to the web, for example, may be useful to future designers.