What Counts as Success?

Success in DDS is not about making a certain type of “thing”, using a certain amount of technology, or getting certain results. It is almost entirely about your team participating in and reflecting on different parts of a design process, as you develop a potential solution to a problem. Food and sustainability is a large and complex issue that doesn’t admit easy solutions, let alone in one semester. Although much of our education encourages us to find the right answer, making the transition to a more sustainable food system isn’t that kind of problem — there is no right answer. Instead, we are asking you do develop a design that could potentially make a difference on your chosen problem.

Suppose you experiment with an intervention, and it doesn’t do what you expected. One way of thinking about this is that your design “failed”. Another way of thinking about it is that you have learned something, namely that some of your predictions and assumptions turn out to be incorrect. It is not so important whether your project succeeds or fails to do what you intended. What does matter is that you can show what you have learned from the outcomes and that you can show that you have thought carefully about the methods that you adopted.

Below, we spell out what your team should achieve in order for your project to count as successful for DDS.

Explore a sub-theme of food and sustainability issues at the University and propose a design-based solution to a current question or problem
  1. Over the course of the project, identify a clear question or problem within one DDS sub-theme and propose an intervention to solve the problem or answer the question.

  2. Using information from the world (e.g. stakeholder involvement, existing data, observation), be able to explain the current situation at the University with relation to the sub-theme and problem, and from that information identify a potential problem or question on which to focus your project.

  3. After considering multiple options, develop a design idea (intervention) with the potential to solve the problem.

Relates to learning objectives:

Effectively communicate your problem and design idea
  1. Be able to explain your problem and design intervention in a way that a general (non-DDS) audience would be able to understand, and convince the audience that the design may be able to answer the team’s particular question or solve the problem.

  2. Be able to show that you have used two types of required data in the project, and have analysed and presented them in an appropriate and relevant way that supports your design idea.

  3. Show an attempt to connect the group’s problem choice and final design back to wider food and sustainability issues and policies (e.g. University and EUSA policy).

Relates to learning objectives:

Engage in ongoing reflection and justification
  1. At all stages, document and reflect on the information collected and try to learn from it, feeding at least some of it back into their project.

  2. At all stages, your team is able to explain the decision-making process and justify (i.e. provide reasons and evidence for) those decisions, especially where there were multiple “good” options for what you could do.

Relates to learning objectives:

Demonstrate consistent participation and professional working
  1. Participate in all the phases of the course, and all whole-class or centrally planned activities including lectures, workshops, participant engagement, writing activities etc.

  2. Complete participant engagement and any other tasks that individual teams have been assigned to organise.

  3. Show contribution and teamwork from all your team members.

  4. Actively consider ethical issues, and complied with course, University, and UK legal rules for data collection and handling.

Relates to learning objectives:


Having a successful project does not depend on:

  1. Pleasing DDS staff members and only choosing options or methods you think they like! The important thing is that your team can give a good explanation of what you have done, and why, and how. It is your project, and you have the final ownership and responsibility for it.

  2. Having “good” or “significant” results, or testing your final design with lots of people. DDS projects are intended to be small. You will have limited time to test your final design. This is OK. Much more important is being able to discuss and use the information that you do have, and to reflect on your design.

  3. Having the right answer. There is no one “right answer” to your team’s question, there may be hundreds! This is not the same as saying that all answers are equally good. An “answer” (or rather, a design) reached through observation, inclusion of participants, and iteration is a better answer than one that a team “made up” just because they liked it. Engaging with the design process is very important for the final quality of your project, and developing a design (course of action) that could get you from the existing state to your preferred state.

  4. Being perfect. Every team will make mistakes, forget things, or wish they had made different decisions. Professional researchers and designers do all of these things too. This does not make your project bad, but does mean that you should be learning from these things, and be ready to explain how you might have done them differently.