Mismatched

As a peacebuilder interested in design, I was naturally drawn to this book as soon as I found out about it. Holmes spent a number of years working on inclusive design at Microsoft and has been head of UX design at Google for the last year or so.

Mismatched is a terrific read for the purposes Ms. Holmes start off with–showing how inclusive design makes products more useful to more people and how some of those initial acts of inclusion can lead to broader applications we all use, So, too, is her website which includes an intriguing talk she gave. like voice recognition software. In the work peacebuilders do, her logic helps us see two things. First, designing  products and services that include more historically excluded people is good in and of itself. Second, when we ask  why we make things, how makes them, how we do so, who is included in the production process, and only then what we produce something, we also can think about how we design grassroots peaceuilding projects that are more inclusive, too.

That second point is worth emphasizing at a time when local peacebuilding is all the rage for good reason. However, we haven’t spent enough time thinking about how to take successful local initiatives to scale so that we can change entire societies. Holmes gives us one way of thinking about that. Most successful local peacebuilding projects revolve around finding ways of including the previously excluded. In her case, Holmes focuses on people who have physical challenges. Local peacebuilding projects are more often to be based on people who are in conflict because they are socially or politically excluded. Asking the questions I raised in the previous paragraph includes them in all facets of project design and gives us outsiders the role of expanding the insights gained in a single project and finding broader applications for them.

In other words, Apple and Amazon did not invent voice recognition software. Much of it was originally designed to allow people with limited or no vision use computers and other devices. What the two tech giants (and others did) was to take new technologies developed for one purpose and find ways of extending its use in ways that help all of who have Siri and Alexa in our lives.

We peacebuilders would do well to consider what she is saying.