by Buse Kaçar

Creating Sustainable Impact Through the Power of Community

Published in ATÖLYE Insights · 8 min read · February 26, 2024

7 Key Learnings from the Community-Powered Design Summit 2023

Author: Aslı Işıldar, ATÖLYE Community Member Editor(s): Nikkole Mojica, ATÖLYE Contributor: Sonay Ardi Akkar
The Community-Powered Design Summit, hosted online on June 13, 2023, by ATÖLYE and Harvard Business Review Turkey and curated by our Co-CEO Bengi Turgan, brought together a blend of minds to explore how the convergence of community and design can create sustainable, inclusive, and lasting impact. Let's explore the insightful conversations that transpired and unpack key learnings which emerged from this diverse gathering.

Community-Powered Design

Our Co-CEO Bengi Turgan and Serdar Turan, Editor-in-Chief at Harvard Business Review Türkiye, kicked-off this one-day summit by expressing the importance of evolving from a human-centred design approach towards a community-centred design one, embracing the power of communities for communities whilst designing anything. We believe that this is vital in order to achieve inclusive, accessible and regenerative products, services, and systems that benefit the whole.

How might companies comprehend and execute human-centered design strategy?

(Tim Kobe, Founder & CEO - Eight Inc.) Human-centered design strategy starts with a fundamental realization: in order to create something of value, it is crucial to understand what is important to people, and then design to meet those needs. While this approach may seem apparent, it is not always the lens used by companies or leaders. Design is often perceived as a soft skill, and its potential to drive business and create value is underestimated. However, once the efficacy of human-centered strategy is recognized, its utility can become clearer and more likely to be implemented. The key is to consistently factor this perspective into the decision-making process to ensure that every step taken aligns with achieving the desired outcomes for humans. The long-term success of a business will depend on how well this principle can be executed, transforming human-centered design into a core strategy rather than a mere afterthought.

What is Memberful design?

(Harald Dunnink, Founder - Momkai) Memberful design emphasizes relationships that extend beyond transactions. It promotes the creation of movements designed to foster a sense of belonging, transform systems, and make significant change. Three critical elements contribute to Memberful design: the power of commitment, the art of creative leadership, and the value of lasting connections. Together, these elements redefine shared success and create a collaborative environment for achieving it. By concentrating on these principles, we can construct a design model or strategy that brings people together and creates meaningful changes. In the end, it's not just about making something beautiful or functional, but about designing something that resonates deeply and will create the environment for lasting impact.

What is relational design and how can you use it?

(Mert Çetinkaya, Director - ATÖLYE Academy) Relational design is a design process that prioritizes the outcomes of collective sense of trust, safety, ownership, belonging, shared meaning and purpose over the reductionist idea of design outputs as solutions. It focuses on the creation and nurturing of healthy relationships which in turn nurture more healthy relationships. Practicing relational design involves identifying key relationships and intentionally working towards elevating their quality of trust and safety. It advocates for "disintermediated sensemaking," a process that allows people to make sense of their work. The essence of relational design goes beyond the traditional idea of design outputs as solutions. It celebrates and seeks the interconnectedness and interdependencies within a system and aims to create meaningful and harmonious relationships. These relationships lead to the emergence of a variety of solutions, rather than attempt to control outputs. Relational design places a significant emphasis on facilitation. It promotes engaging with care, curiosity, and commitment. Together these strategies contribute to creating an impactful design process that aligns with the larger goals of the system it operates within.

What does community-powered mean and what is the community-powered organizational model?

(Leen Sadder, Global Director of Community and Communications - ATÖLYE) Community-powered refers to the shift from human-centered design to relational design. It highlights the need to place relationships at the center of work for sustainable and lasting outcomes. ATÖLYE's model offers a glimpse into this new frontier of strategy and design. Instead of following the traditional agency structure, ATÖLYE places a core team, a curated community, and a global network at the heart of its ecosystem. The key is purpose-driven work that values nurturing relationships. The goal is to create an organizational model that is future-proof and can influence the way we work, recruit talent, collaborate, create a true sense of belonging, and cultivate dynamic work cultures.

Why does creating a community and its exponential returns take time?

(Buket Sönmez, General Coordinator - Teacher's Network, Zeynep Erdoğan, Director - imece, Moderated by Engin Ayaz, Co-founder & Co-CEO - ATÖLYE) Creating a community is a long-term investment and an exercise in patience. It requires strengthening relationships and fostering bonds within the community. This interconnectedness has inherent value, though it cannot be easily quantified or immediately understood. Justifying the value of these bonds can be challenging because it's not directly translatable into immediate returns or measurable metrics. However, these bonds create a foundation for shared understanding, mutual respect, and collective growth, which are invaluable for a thriving community. When united, a diverse group of individuals can be profoundly transformative, though the effects of such a transformation are not usually immediate. It's only over time, through persistent collaboration and interaction, that the fruits of this labor become visible. Therefore, creating a community, encouraging relationships, and demonstrating patience are all critical factors in developing a transformative and resilient community.

What is the antifragile theory?

(Mirko Tattarini, Founder & Director - MRK Studios) The antifragile theory, conceptualized by Nicholas Nassim Taleb in 2012, postulates a system's ability to withstand impacts and learn and improve from them. It's a unique paradigm that fundamentally contrasts with traditional approaches to risk management. In an antifragile system, shocks and disruptions are welcomed rather than avoided. These systems thrive in uncertainty and volatility, using situations as opportunities for growth and adaptation. The central principle here is overcompensation - the system does not merely survive or resist the impact, but rather shifts and improves. The concept extends into the design as well; antifragile design embraces commitment over comfort. It shifts the design narrative from a human-centered approach to one that is planet-centered and values shared success, emphasizing the improvement and resilience of the design when faced with a problem. This allows for innovative solutions and adaptations to emerge from periods of disorder, thus presenting growth opportunities.

How do community-centered structures simplify things during times of crisis?

(Atılım Şahin, Co-Founder & Head of Community Systems - Neol, Sinem Uğurdağ, COO - Aposto, Moderated by Melissa Lara Clissold, Communications Lead - ATÖLYE) In times of crisis, swift action is a necessity. However, coordinating initiatives in a community can be challenging. This is where a community-powered approach excels and facilitates collaboration and unity of purpose among diverse stakeholders. This approach further cultivates organic bonds between its members while simultaneously supporting intentional community designs. It brings the right people together in suitable configurations to simplify decision-making processes. This approach also aids in uniting different stakeholders who are working toward the same goal. One such example is when ATÖLYE, Neol and Aposto gathered with individuals and organizations from its ecosystem - a greater community - to work towards relief and restoration efforts after the February 6 earthquake of 2023. Intentionally designed communities that bring together the right people at the right time, quickly, help reduce response times. Such communities also act as catalysts, enhancing the resilience and elasticity of the group in the short and long term. The community-focused approach forms the bedrock of these setups, establishing bonds that make the community more resilient and flexible. The design and existence of these catalysts or facilitators in a community help navigate the uncertainties of a crisis and create an environment of growth, adaptability, and collaboration.
Final thoughts This retrospective represents just a small portion of the rich insights gathered from the Community-Powered Design Summit. The takeaways are broad and distinct sources on harnessing the power of communities, shifting from human-centered design to relational design, understanding the meaning behind meaningful design, the importance of patient investment in communities, and the adaptability of antifragile systems. A monumental thanks to the guest speakers for their inspiring and acute contributions. We hope these takeaways will provide you with a broader perspective and actionable advice on ways to incorporate community-powered design into your strategies and spaces. You can watch the full event via this link.
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