Is design one of the ways to avoid “Dutch Disease” in Latin America?

September 15, 2010 at 3:38 pm 3 comments

Picture 01: ‘The Economist’ Sept 2010

In a special report about Latin America, due to a lot of the countries celebrating 200 years of independence [the so beloved BICENTENARIO] “The Economist” dedicates a whole issue to articles that refer to issues regarding political and economical background. Even though, as we’ve stated in previous posts, “you can’t put all Latin American Countries” in a bag, as Hans Rosling would point out; there are some issues that can be considered a general trend. Latin America is now enjoying good prices on their commodities. Could we suffer the “Dutch Disease” ? For some, the Dutch Disease, can be a well-known term. Yet it is not mentioned or taught in an ordinary design school. The ‘Dutch Disease, ‘a term coined by this newspaper in 1977 to describe the impact of a North Sea gas bonanza on the economy of the Netherlands. This malady involves commodity exports driving up the value of the currency, making other part of the economy less competitive, leading to current-account deficit and even greater dependence on commodities. This matters because all the more because mining and hydrocarbons are capital-intensive businesses, generating relatively few jobs’ [The Economist, “It’s only Natural”, 2010] The article indicates that commodities are not enough to make flourishing economies sustainable.

Picture 02: Service design project for SCL Airport@Procorp [C.Miranda, N.Cristi]

Even though the article puts upfront some policies taken by some countries like Chile [
Fundación Chile & Corfo] and Brazil which are bringing some manufacturing an other innovations in the goods exportation in order to diversify the use of the commodities; there is still a fear to this kind of scenario: commodities being a “curse”. They pose the question: ‘How do you go from copper to computers?“. Is that the question we should ask? How to get to be an industrialized country? Maybe the model that we [Latin Americans] should follow is that of being “Service leaders”. And not just in delivering the service of “Call Centers”, as the India Model shows [“The World is Flat”, (2005) Thomas L.Friedman]; but delivering other kind of service models that can fulfill the region’s needs [who knows better than natives about their own culture?], that meaning private and public services; and the Northern Hemisphere’s needs at better rates.

Service Design can be the next big thing for Latin America. IDEO and Adaptive Path are two Design Consultancies, based on Interaction research and design IxD[out of the computer], in the US that provide this offering of Service Design Experience. Nonetheless, the pioneers in this kind of offering are the British, as the Guardian shows in this article: “SERVICE DESIGN”. The article highlights the idea of Design resolving Services for tackling problems under a Systemic View for: the Business Industry, Public Sector [Blair & Gordon Brown] & Social Innovation, within others. All these have a collaborative approach. In Chile, there are few companies that fulfill these kind of Design thoroughly. In a recent past, I collaborated in projects with small design consultancies as Procorp and Amable, which are shifting into a culture of Designing Experiences through interaction… leaded by designers. Chilean universities like Pontificia Universidad Católica [PUC] and Adolfo Ibañez [UAI] are reaching slightly to this ground in their curricula.

It is a good start, yet, LATAM governments need to see where THE POWER OF DESIGN can be in the whole picture of local economic development.  The Northern Hemisphere already has.


Entry filed under: Public Policies, Service Design, Social Design.

Design, Power, New Media & Discourse Informed consent to do ethical design research

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. MIK  |  September 16, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    I agree about the question not being “How do you go from copper to computers?“. I wonder though if we are educating our people to be service leaders. Even the most elitist schools tend to be narrowminded regarding interdisciplinariry work and having a systemic view…

    Thanks for your post, Coni. This type of questions should be much more publicized and advertized as to get more people involved in the education we need to do this: not only at the school level. Our societies need to provide education opportunities in multipe contexts so that interdisciplinary work becomes the rule.

    • 2. constanzamiranda  |  September 16, 2010 at 11:16 pm

      MIK, Great comment and idea. It is true that interdisciplinary work has become a “buzz word” instead of being a “take on things”. And it is so important! What you point out in education is quite important. And this is not just on building a scenario for education, but also for human understanding. If we have “wells of information” that are not bridged…creativity and innovation are not likely to take place. We need to bridge the gaps between disciplines, schemas, cultures and individuals.

      On the other hand, I just wanted to add that Richard Florida, from the Rotman school of management, has commented the way to see services in the States. He argues that they should be better paid, as they might be sources of innovation: , I quote ” The way to do that is to begin to improve the quality of those jobs and to see service class workers as sources of innovation, continuous improvement, and productivity gains. Service class jobs are the last frontier of real inefficiency in the economy. Already, companies like The Container Store, Whole Foods, Best Buy, The Four Seasons, and Starbucks are developing new and better strategies to engage their workers, improve pay, and promote from within. These efforts are in their infancy and much more can be done to extend them.”

  • […] which are not necessarily mediated by objects. An example of social interaction might be the definition of a service. It may have abstract rules, yet these could be […]


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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
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Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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