Service Design Global Conference 2019 - A Filmfest to bring the best of Toronto to DC

A truly inspiring evening with SDN founders Birgit Mager and Shelley Evenson reliving SDGC in Toronto and talking about the evolution of Service Design.

“We need to be evangelicals. And go above service design and see the culture of the organization and make changes on a larger scale. If you can dream it, you can do it!” -- Birgit Mager

Even though it was Friday evening, MediaBarn was packed with service designers joining us for our third annual SDGC Filmfest. This year’s Filmfest differed from our past events as we had SDN Co-founders Birgit Mager and Shelley Evenson as honored guests. The room teemed with excitement to hear the two founders talk about the past, present, and future of the Service Design Network.

The night started with a quick meet and chat with Birgit and Shelley as they told us the story of how they began the service design community despite being on opposite ends of the world. Though they experienced differences in language, culture, and standards for beer, they both had a common goal of making the world better through building a service design community. Starting in 2008, they opened the once-exclusive community to the practitioners around the world when they saw a growth of interest in this field. Fast forward to 2019, Birgit and Shelley witnessed the seeds they planted grow into fruition with 46 local chapters across the world. 

Talking about the present and future of service design, they both believe that topics within the SD community are changing to incorporate more well-rounded educational programs, defining standards of design, and continuing the building of local communities to spread service design organically. Shelley added that industries should be moving forward to a new era of customer experience by adopting the Service 4.0 model of proactive, integrated, human-centered, and data-driven approach. Lastly, Birgit hopes to see service designers be defined by outcomes rather than deliverables as we learn to speak languages of all kinds. 

The second part of the event consisted of two talks from the 2019 Service Design Global Conference followed by moderated discussions led by Yvonne Tran and Cameron Hanson. The first talk “In/Visible: Shaping Hidden Social Structures Through Service Design” was by Dr. Josina Vink, designer and researcher with expertise in the health system transformation. In the talk, Josina reflected on her experience working in different healthcare systems in the US, Canada, and Sweden to highlight the importance of a designer’s work in building positive social norms and structures. In order to make positive social changes through SD, designers need to redesign their own thinking by shifting these 6 assumptions: focus on the process instead of outcome, design with everyone rather than a select few, look for underlying patterns rather than the obvious, think of social structure as a material of service design rather than externality, see themselves as an actor of the system they seek to design, and design is inherently political rather than neutral. By paying attention to the roots of a problem space such as social interactions and norms in the physical environment will help designers nurture the designer in everyone. 

The second talk of the night was “Design in Service of Place: Community Business on Fogo Island” by Zita Cobb, Founder & CEO of Shorefast and Innkeeper of Fogo Island Inn. Zita tells an amazing story of how she used business-minded ways to serve social ends to pull a small fishing community out of an economic downturn perpetuated by modernization and capitalism. Her story focuses on how building common identities and experiences within a community has helped Fogo Island become an intersection of culture and modernity, old and new, past and future. Every business on the island such as arts, fishery, and the inn pulls from the traditional values and cultures and is translated into a modern and global environment through design. Even more, more than 60% of the profit earned from the businesses is transferred back into the small island’s economy to fuel new investments and developments. Zita believes that two seemingly different concepts can co-exist, for-profit business and non-profit business, to create social businesses that benefit all actors involved in the system.  


Our third movie night was a great success made possible by all our guests and our sponsor, Mediabarn. This will also be our last event of the year so we look forward to beginning a new year with the SDDC community! 

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