Overview: Design Trust
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May 17, 2022
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A critical part of making real change in environmental data ecosystems is to imagine what it might look like when we get there. Our opportunity briefs have provided a foundation by collecting insights and opportunities for change in local environmental and climate planning, and more broadly exploring environmental data as a public good. 

Using design processes and focusing on products outside the traditional policy brief or memo, we will host OEDP’s first Design Trust. 

The Design Trust will focus on translating policy opportunities into prototype designs and future narratives. Prototypes might range from a re-thinking of process, procedure, management tool, or policy, to re-designs of data management methods or visualization models. Future narratives illustrate where and how these re-designs of environmental data and governance show up in policy, community spaces, and in everyday life. For examples of future narratives, see our series on the Civic Voice Archive prototype.


Open Environmental Data Project (OEDP) works broadly with data producers, collectors, and users to understand how participatory environmental governance approaches can be leveraged to work better for data users across the data spectrum. Design Trusts will specifically bring together designers, writers, and multimedia creators that are interested in environmental data and its uses to develop prototypes and create future narratives demonstrating what different environmental data futures look like. 


Our first Design Trust will use opportunities identified in our two most recent briefs as jumping off points for brainstorming. We will invite ~10 writers, designers, and multimedia creators to explore design challenges and ideas together, as well as several data users to provide helpful insights and direct observations from data experiences. An interested subset will then work individually or on small teams to build out these ideas as prototypes or future narratives.

The Design Trust will serve as both a brainstorming session and place for participants to connect with one another. We will examine “How might we?” questions in relation to the insights delineated in our opportunity briefs, and the broader goal of fostering environmental data as a public good. Participants will brainstorm around solutions, and ultimately create a slate of concepts to prototype. 

For example, the group might focus on the insight that:

“Communities intimately know the environmental and climate issues with which they grapple, and often understand potential solutions. But avenues for communicating information and solutions to local governments often remain unclear or are inaccessible. This points to the need for local governments to make it easy for communities to be in conversation, to understand how input is incorporated, and how accountability will be tracked and communicated back to communities.”
(For more insights, see our
latest opportunity brief)

From this insight, individual participants or teams can explore “How might we?” questions to center solutions: How might we better facilitate government learning from communities? How might we implement models where government does the facilitative and iterative work of creating value-imbued engagement?

We will offer five stipends to interested participants who want to explore a design or narrative further in written, audio, or visual formats. For example, they might create a slide deck delving into the design considerations, a written future narrative that places this prototype in use in a futuristic setting, or an explainer video that explores a specific use case. Participants will have three weeks to work on their prototypes, and a chance to share their designs with each other during a second Design Share event. OEDP will publish and distribute the work among our partner networks and via our social media, website, and newsletter.

A flowchart of the stages in the Design Trust cycle