Banking on Impact: A project exploring the role of design in financial services

I’m curious, very curious, about the questions designers in financial services are tackling, or even just asking. And what are they not asking but could (or maybe, should) be asking?

What do designers working in financial services have to say about the impact of their work on society? And how might these viewpoints shape the businesses they are in and the direction of financial services in the future? 

How much does a concern for the future inform the work of designers in financial services? In what ways do they use these concerns to inform their research and explorations to influence others in their work environment?

In what ways do designers working in financial services connect their work to larger societal and global challenges, such as inequality, the lack of affordable housing, climate change and its impacts on lower-income and marginalized communities?

These are some of the questions I was curious about back in 2019 when I started thinking about a project entitled Banking on Impact, or ‘BOI’ for short. The idea was to provide a forum for designers working in financial services to converse, reflect, and collaborate at the intersection of design and the larger socio-economic context – and for which the workplace might not provide expansive space to explore. The idea was founded on the hypothesis that there is an appetite for these conversations and that by providing the context for exchange between designers, human-centered (and beyond human-centered) approaches could be a stronger channel for change within the institutions where it functions.

After Covid-19 pushed us all into our respective bubbles in early 2020, I spent some time developing the concept as well as having long-form conversations with a friend and former research partner, Michael Schaus, who took an interest in helping to shape it. And so began the BOI Project, in earnest.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

One of the first things we did was expand it out beyond design in financial services to broader creative roles, such as design consultants and artists who work with or adjacent to financial services, or in themes associated with the economy, and who are thinking about the impact of their work on larger societal challenges. Expanding the scope opened up participation to people doing interesting work in projects outside of the banks and, in some cases, outside of their day jobs.

Tapping into a few of the systems, foresight, and innovation communities that we participate in, we put out a call for interview participants and are now in the process of conducting just over 30 interviews.

It’s been a truly illuminating and inspiring experience so far as we hear the unique perspectives of a variety of different design and art professionals who seek to make change in their own ways.

Early findings tell us that there is an appetite for a forum to not only engage with one another, but to invite other stakeholders into the experience as well. The form it will take is still to be determined but the great thing about engaging designers and artists in the conception and implementation of such a project is that it has the potential to be a rich creative endeavour in itself.

More to come on this project as we learn more and begin to shape it based on the many inspiring inputs.

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