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Life After DSI: Josh Treuhaft

One can well imagine that the typical DSI applicant is an idealist. We who are interested in what Daniel Pinchbeck once called the ‘brilliantly nebulous’ field of Design for Social Innovation are those who are imagining the world as a different and hopefully better place. But alumnae Josh Treuhaft explains that while our program might attract idealists, it eventually makes pragmatists out of them. He admits to leaving the program having confronted and reevaluated his ideas about systems, change, and impact. “In most occasions,” he replies to me via email, “you cannot will the world into the form you want. You start with both a hope for a desired future state and a pragmatic understanding of the current state and design your way from what is to what could be or should be.”

Arup Group Limited, where Josh is now a member of the Foresight, Research and Innovation team, is a company that is involved in shaping our future in an actual, physical way. Arup is a multidisciplinary firm of planners, engineers, technical specialists, and more dedicated to “delivering innovative and sustainable designs that reinvent the built environment.” How does a DSI graduate fit into a company whose highlights include the designing of the Sydney Opera House? Josh explains: “I like to say that our team is focused on bridge building. In some circles this is confusing because in the literal sense, Arup actually does a lot of bridge design and bridge building. I actually meant it in the metaphorical sense.”

“External bridges: we build bridges between Arup and external partners, collaborators, and projects that help the company better understand and stay at the forefront of the industry.”

“Internal bridges: we help design and facilitate internal workshops, help bring disciplines together to explore new topic areas, and help facilitate internal discovery that leads to new work out in the world.”

“Bridges to new futures: We also do a lot of think-tank-y research projects on emerging topics that seem relevant to the future of cities and the built environment.”

Josh works across all those areas. “Sometimes I coalesce small teams around interesting and exciting ideas and we research them and meet new people and discover new things and open up opportunity spaces for the organization. Sometimes I design and facilitate workshops for internal teams who need to do strategic planning. Sometimes I do research projects, like what ‘circular economy’ really means and how it will impact the shape of cities and communities of the future.”

“A lot of the stuff we learned at DSI is relevant in this space. Stuff like thinking critically, collaborating, looking at systems instead of just the pieces, telling powerful stories, generating interesting ideas and testing them, looking at and making sense of data.”

by Genieve Ramrattan

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