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What if Lab: the sustainable society

What if...we could design our sustainable society together?

De briefing voor What if Lab: the sustainable society is alleen beschikbaar in Engelse versie.

Design for a sustainable society

The way we, as humanity, choose to live our lives today, is causing the world to change at a fast rate. These rapid developments have global effects and create challenges for which plug and play solutions usually do not exist. So how do we ensure the quality of living in the world of tomorrow?
The core philosophy of the What if Lab programme is: designers are essential for shaping the future. We believe design is a flexible and extendible discipline and that designers possess the inventiveness and creativity that form the basis for innovation. We are looking for innovative design solutions that respond in an inclusive and sustainable way to the changes that modern society – and that of the future – demands.  

Wicked problems

The concept of a sustainable society has been around for decades. In 1981, Lester Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, defined it as “one that is able to satisfy its needs without diminishing the chance of future generations.” It is an ever-evolving concept that includes a broad range of topics including environmental, economic, societal and technological issues.

Challenges concerning the classic sustainability themes like waste processing, circular use of materials, renewable energy, reduction of CO2, smog prevention, scarcity or abundance of water and food immediately spring to mind when talking about sustainability.

We believe sustainability also covers topics like how we live together and interact as humans, building a respectful environment in which future generations will thrive and prosper: densely populated cities or abandoned villages, inclusivity of all, accessibility for all, food distribution methods, preventing obesity, responsible mobility, taking care of our elderly, inclusive health care, preparation in case of natural catastrophes, educational systems, empowerment of minorities, and so on.

Very often the challenges addressed above are so-called “wicked problems”. These are socially complex issues, intertwined with other topics and dependent on various factors. For every “wicked problem” there is always more than one explanation and therefore never just one solution. We have to look at these challenges from different perspectives and tackle them together. Even small changes can already have big effects.

For this What if Lab, we invited designers in Indonesia to think about how they could improve the world around them. What everyday issues do they see in their local environment in Indonesia?

Collaborations Indonesian x Dutch designers

Out of all applications to the programme, five designers were selected to participate in What if lab: the sustainable society. These five Indonesian designers were teamed up with designers from the Netherlands that are active in the same field of work. This way we stimulate intercultural exchange and inspiration in the design world. Both designers can profit from each other’s knowledge, craftsmanship, and experience. We believe that combining different backgrounds will be complementary in solving issues that come from within the community and stimulate solutions that come from new perspectives.

What is What if Lab?

What if Lab is a programme initiated by Dutch Design Foundation (DDF). DDF is an organisation that focuses on strengthening the position, development, and importance of design. DDF believes that designers are equipped with the right state of mind to tackle sizeable, highly complex challenges. This is why for What if Lab we challenge designers to think about issues that companies, the government or other organizations are dealing with.

Programme partners
  • Erasmushuis Jakarta
  • DutchCulture
  • Dutch Design Foundation

The programme started on 27 September 2018 with a Lecture by Dries van Wagenberg (Dutch Design Foundation) on ‘Dutch Design and a sustainable society’ in Jakarta at Kreavi.

In oktober 2018 the Indonesian designers travelled to the Netherlands  to visit Dutch Design Week, start of the collaboration with their Dutch counterparts and visit different experts throughout the Netherlands.

From 19 to 26 of January the Dutch designers will travel to Jakarta for a six-day work residency in Indonesia, to meet experts and work with the local stakeholders. On the 24th of January the designers will share their progress and work during the What if Lab symposium at the Erasmushuis.

A final exhibition of the prototypes will be organized in May 2018 in Jakarta.


If you have any questions regarding this What if Lab, please contact:

Dries van Wagenberg [email protected]