The challenges facing the global community are enormous: from COVID-19 and other communicable diseases, through to poverty, inequality, and climate change. Many of these challenges are a consequence of, or accelerated by, rapid urbanisation. In developing countries, the pace of urbanisation is extremely fast. There is an urgent need to make these spaces and places work for everyone.

Technology and innovation play an important role in tackling these issues. In an urban setting, this is the concept of a ‘smart city’. These technology tools are however only effective when applied correctly.

Applying Design Thinking in this context has enormous merits. Design Thinking is about understanding the needs and realities of citizens, and using technology, innovation, or other tools to build solutions that improve their lives and livelihoods. UNDP has promoted and adopted Design Thinking principles over the past years in many of our programmes and projects. 

The Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development in Singapore has collaborated with innovation consultancy PALO IT to launch a series of Design Thinking resources as part of a knowledge partnership. We will start with a mini educational video series on how to use Design Thinking with positive impact in mind, particularly for those who work on urbanisation and smart cities issues.

This video series covers:

  1. Why Design Thinking? (WATCH) - Why does jumping straight into solution mode, despite having consulted with experts not always lead to the best outcome? How can you avoid costly mistakes or identify when you need to change direction? 
  2. How to design for impact (WATCH) - An exploration of the five principles of Design Thinking: empathising with users; clearly defining the problem you are trying to solve; the ideation process, prototyping, and continuous testing. Additionally, how are you considering making a positive impact for the community with feasible and sustainable solutions?
  3. What impact can Design Thinking have? (WATCH) Walk through an actual UNDP case study from Indonesia to see Design Thinking in action. It explores the importance of learning from previous work, and the need to have ‘creative confidence’ in trying to solve problems.

Watch the third video below on how Design Thinking was applied to tackle traffic congestion in Makassar, Indonesia. 

Beyond these videos, we will share resources on Design Thinking that can be used across the UNDP community. We will also learn more about applying Design Thinking from the PALO IT designers and consultants through a series of upcoming blogs and exclusive interviews.

With these resources, we hope to underscore the importance of not being led by technology when building smart cities. Instead, there is a need to be guided by the needs and requirements of citizens, and the realities of their surrounding context.

This is why Design Thinking is essential. It allows us to build genuinely life-changing and life-improving solutions to the most important challenges.

Get in touch with us on TwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook to let us know what else you’d like to see as part of this feature!

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