A Lecture to the “Global South” Class

Effective Altruism

I am a big fan of Peter Singer and have looked for an answer to my predicament – how do I practice Effective Altruism? I am not volunteering at the local hospital as some of my peers do. I would like to – but have not found the space in my life and in my head to pursue my desire to contribute to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. I have been urging my children to take up volunteering, and spreading the word. I have said that such work will bring meaning to ones life.

In the book “Effective Altruism” Singer offers examples of extreme altruism – of people who have undertake altruism both through digital and software tools to judge impact and then contribute and some who contribute a significant portion of their incomes to transforming the lives of people in need. There is an instance of – a discussion of: would it be okay to take up a job at a financial agency to make lots of money so that there is more money to give, even though the agency is about increasing the net worth of rich people potentially through dubious means. The answer is that yes – the giving of money is useful and impactful.

My out as it were in undertaking effective altruism is also provided by Singer – as he suggests that the teacher who activates students to become effective altruists is also performing effective altruism. So this is my tithe – a word I used in 1986 to describe my desire to teach to activate students of design to consider their agency for change. I have not used that word in a long time – I use other words to describe ways to transform uncultured ways of apprehending Design. For example one phrase Great Civilisations invites students to consider local contexts in Asia with affection, and potentially as place to travel to fall in love with the place a location for future engagement. This is effective altruism if the student potentially brackets out design in the service of consumerism, and substitutes other notions of Design – aka D4X as the equation where the X can be poverty, justice, drinking water and other aspects of sustainable livelihoods.

Global South

In recent years I have set up a course cluster framed as Global South – so as to frontally reframe locations as the ‘other’ and as an economic category. Asia in this instance contains many pockets of the economic ’south’ and the questions for a design student is ‘what can you do’?

I went in to a Global South class yesterday. I showed the BBC Video -The Tower of David.

And then proceeded to set up the narrative of a discourse of design that exists outside of the bald notion of urban consumption – I of course provocatively bracket out a form of design which I describe as “designing expensive things for rich people”(DETFRP). I then proceed to ask the question – if you were not to do this DETFRP, then what form of design practice would be available for you to practice?

Below are the resources I brought up in class.


Effective Altruism

Design for the other 90%

Fortune at the bottom of the Pyramid


NOTE – explanation of Tower of David