In March and April 2022, we facilitated three pilot workshops exploring the Doughnut Economic model in relation to the digital tech sector for the first time.
We invited people in the tech sector, already interested in digital sustainability in some regard, to come together and:
- explore a broad definition of sustainability;
- look deeper into the root causes of what is going wrong;
- imagine a better future for the industry.
I was familiar with Doughnut Economics but I never thought about applying it to the tech industry, so I found the overall concept really interesting.— Alja Isaković, Founder ResponsibleTech.work
The workshop design
Taking inspiration from City Portraits
Our format took key concepts from the Doughnut Economics Action Lab Creating City Portraits guide.
A City Portrait takes a holistic snapshot of a city’s performance across four crucial ‘lenses’ that arise from combining two domains (social and ecological) and two scales (local and global).
The four lenses become:
- LOCAL / SOCIAL
- LOCAL / ECOLOGICAL
- GLOBAL / SOCIAL
- GLOBAL / ECOLOGICAL
Each of these interconnected lenses focuses on a part of the overarching question at the core of the City Portrait. Together, they combine local aspirations – to be thriving people in a thriving place – with global responsibility – both social and ecological – that requires every place to consider its many complex interconnections with the world in which it is embedded.
This was exactly what we wanted to do. But instead of regarding a place, we wanted to think about an industry: the digital tech industry.
Applying the City portrait to an industry
We applied the four lenses to our context and realised that the LOCAL/ECOLOGICAL was difficult to relate to an industry. We left that to one side, and formed our starting questions for the other three lenses:
- LOCAL/SOCIAL: What would it mean for the digital tech workforce to thrive?
- GLOBAL/SOCIAL: What would it mean for the digital tech industry to respect the wellbeing of people worldwide?
- GLOBAL/ECOLOGICAL: What would it mean for the digital tech industry to respect the health of the whole planet?
Before the workshop participants were invited to chose which two of the three lenses interested them the most.
As it turned out everyone chose GLOBAL/ECOLOGICAL and one of the two social lenses.
The final format
The workshops were 2.5 hours each. This initially seemed long, especially for an online workshop, but anything less would not have given people sufficient time to feel they could really engage with an issue.
The workshop was designed for between 6 and 10 participants, with 2 facilitators.
It started with a round of introductions between the attendees which provided a good chance for people to get to know each other, and do a little light networking.
The next 20 minutes was spent introducing the topic, the Doughnut model and answering questions.
In order to familiarise everyone with Miro (the tool were using for the online collaboration) and give people a chance to get into thinking about sustainability, the first task was to write down three things you see or feel in 20 years time that show the world is a better place.
The main part of the workshop asked the attendees to pick either the LOCAL/SOCIAL or GLOBAL/ECOLOGICAL lense to start their exploration with. Attendees were split into two groups and tasked with exploring the lense.
For each of those lenses, groups were invited to first reflect for some minutes and then to look at the lense template on the Miro board.
The LOCAL/SOCIAL lense showed a grid of the 12 social foundations, with two spaces: one for pains and one for visions.
For the GLOBAL/ECOLOGICAL lense, attendees were presented with a dial of the 9 ecological ceilings – also with spaces for pains and visions.
Attendees were given quiet thinking time to jot down notes against any of the dimensions that resonated with them and to add pains or visions. Attendees were encouraged not to dwell on any dimensions that didn’t resonate with them and to move on to something that did.
After quiet thinking, a free flowing discussion over 20 minutes for each lense followed, and we asked attendees to note any additional points as the discussion continued. Over the course of the session, the group was guided by a facilitator to keep the group on track, and keep everyone involved in the conversation.
A short screen break to allow people to stretch their legs and snack up, and we repeated the process for the second lense of their choice. Attendees were given the choice of the GLOBAL/SOCIAL lense or the GLOBAL/ECOLOGICAL lense.
At the end of the both sessions there was a brief wrapping up session. In the first workshop we tried a voting mechanism in Miro – but this didn’t work out too well!
In the second and third workshops we had a more simple report back/discussion. Sometimes to lowest tech solutions are the best!
At the end attendees were asked to summarise any initial reflections they had to the group. A sanitized list of all the pain point comments made during our workshops can be viewed on our google worksheet.
Applying the doughnut model to something that I am slightly familiar with made it much easier to think about the framework in practice— Mario Carabotta, Design Consultant
Follow-up insights from our attendees
As is so often the case with things of a complex nature, it can become a journey of discovery as new ideas percolate and connect.
Some of our workshop attendees have shared some new thinking that has happened for them since the workshop:
Escaping the White-Male Monoculture of Technology: 3 Thoughts by Graham Lally
Can software and web design reduce e-waste? by Wholegrain Digital (Jerome Toole and Tom Greenwood)
Interested in the format?
You are welcome to use our materials to run your own version of the workshop.
This was an amazing workshop! I was so impressed with the amount of preparation, the different layers of exploration.— Dr. Fieke Jansen, Post doc @DataJusticeLab
If you have any questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to contact us.