Life as a social designer

One woman’s career doesn’t only keep her busy during the week, it has made her an active contributor to society, something everyone should strive for.

31 March 2019 | People

We need to share ideas and knowledge within each industry to effectively solve problem. Lashandre Coetzee. Social designer

Windhoek • Yolanda Nel

With a degree in communication design, this local entrepreneur set her sights abroad to further her studies and came back with a head full of knowledge to share.

It was while Lashandre Coetzee was Vienna during a once in a life time opportunity, where she kept busy with her Master’s degree in social design. Back in the Land of Brave, she is working hard to ensure social change, one design at a time.

But what exactly does a social designer do?

“Different industries tend to operate in isolation,” Lashandre says, explaining that there is no real communication between different sectors like agriculture and banking. “We need to share ideas and knowledge within each industry to effectively solve problems,” she says.

During her studies, she focused a lot on urban design and social innovation. “And then you add your skills to the mix! Then things becomes interesting because you work with different people – ranging from architects and artists to product designers and IT professionals – all helping with technical app development,” she says.

“I enjoy what I do because I was always interested in spatial design, especially cities, and I actually wanted to become an architect.”

Unknown field

In the long run, Lashandre found her passion in a field that is not that well-known, “but it works”.

She says that every company has a strong social agenda, whether it is through projects, branding, communication strategy or corporate social responsibility. “I am here to help them achieve that.”

Her aim is to develop a strong corporate social responsibility for her clients. However, that is not to say it focuses on charity. “The end goal is in line with every client’s business model. If you rely on a certain community, like carpet weavers in India but you don’t take care of the community, they won’t be able to supply you with your product and that is going to affect your bottom line.”

That is why, according to her, taking care of that community should be part of your business.

“I am not here to tell you to sponsor the local soccer team. You can if you want, but I want my clients to be actively changing society to be better, through what they already do.”

Committed

According to her, you have to make commitments and live by it every day.

“I don’t support child labour and therefore I need to do research and know the practises of the companies I shop at,” she explains. That may mean that Lashandre only shops in specific stores in the country. “Still, it makes me a loyal customer, because I agree with what they do and what they invest in.”

Lashandre says that because we live in Namibia and we use this space, we should be supporting and enriching it. “Otherwise, what are we doing?” she asks.

Not only is this a new concept in Namibia, “even in Europe it is still a relatively new idea but corporates, especially abroad, are trying to figure out what their futures are and where they fit in within that future.”

Projects

One of Lashandre’s projects that was launched in February this year was the I am blind photography exhibition.

“It’s a travelling exhibition where visitors gain different perspectives of blind people in urban spaces,” she says. The project speaks to the city in a design sense – in other words how a specific city is designed and how these characteristics impact those with disabilities. “It highlights the faults and what is being done right,” she adds.

This project was also used as a communication tool. “It shows you how other people experience the same space you are a little differently.”

Her dream is to work with architects to create a space that is not only another block of apartments, but rather to use that investment to help tackle social issues, while at the same time creating something very unique to Windhoek.

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