Aly Blenkin

I am a designer who is passionate about the intersection of design, social impact and technology. Currently I am the co-director and co-founder of Pivotal Act, an initiative focused on helping nonprofits design and build technology to address pressing social and environmental challenges. A fun fact: I once studied witchcraft and business during the same semester.

Unintended Consequences of Design

When was the last time someone asked you ‘what are the unintended consequences of releasing this feature?’ or ‘who else may be directly or indirectly affected by these product decisions?’ These questions are generally not considered or often hidden away in backlogs, as the briefs we are answering are asking us to innovate, disrupt and create the next big thing.

When everything is telling us to speed up, make decisions faster and release new iterations, we leave ourselves with less time to consider the potential negative affects our design choices may have. This product centric focus approach can be extremely detrimental. As designers and creators of new products and services, we need to be conscious of the decisions we make and be aware of the wider systems our products fit within.

In this talk, I will illustrate ways interdisciplinary teams can use design-led methods, such as systems mapping and speculative scenarios, to challenge the ethical, cultural and social implications of the technology we design. I will give examples from my own work of how I have been able to bring a systems lens to complex problems such as: access to education for undocumented people, alternative forms of aid in response to climate change and forced migration, and how to foster better outcomes for young people leaving government care.