It’s Not You, It’s The System: Design and Technology for Social Good

This type of “social good” work makes the design process ineffective. Poverty and racism, etc. are not poorly designed systems. They are systems working exactly as they were designed. In order for rich people to continue to amass wealth, poverty has to exist. In order for white people to have racial privilege in the US, slavery had to happen, genocide of indigenous people had to happen, and the exploitation of all people of color had to happen (and has to continue).

Poverty and racism exist to serve those in power, and ultimately, as long as we are taking our cues (and capital) from those in power, we aren’t changing a thing. For example: if your vision is to create a social venture that provides a product to ‘the bottom billion’ and not to, say, eradicate slavery, wage slavery, and other worker exploitation that keeps the bottom billion at the bottom, then ultimately you’re not designing to resist poverty. You’re designing very well-thought-out bandaids. The one-laptop-per-child project is a famous example that failed to consider the overall context, cost, and maintenance of computers in the developing nations it was entering (and later radically shifted its approach as a result).