When there are two opposing design constraints

The key problem when designing under the macro level constraint of corporate social opportunity [CSO – a more proactive approach rather than CSR] is that at every strategic decision making node there is the level of uncertainty on how best to make the next move, add the next feature, design the object or whatever.

This is because the objectives [thanks to noel titus in the comments section] are to maximize the benefits to the community while maximizing profit or revenue generation in order to be a sustainable enterprise. And attempting to maximize both simultaneously implies a certain amount of compromise or tradeoff as there is a minimal cost involved in each decision making point.

How do we grapple with this conundrum? Can we set down any criteria for decision making at least? What are your thoughts?

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10 Responses to When there are two opposing design constraints

  1. Noel Titus says:

    While I haven’t read the Grayson-Hodges book on CSO, creating a sustainable enterprise reminds me of a pareto optmality problem, assuming that benefits to the community come at a cost to profit or revenue generation. This, however, need not be the case.
    Such a formulation, however, requires a restatement of what you said where maximizing benefits and profit are not constraints, but an objective. The objective of creating a sustainable enterprise would be to maximize a function that depends on community benefits and profit/ revenue generation. The constraints on the problem would come from regulatory issues and other variables such as energy consumption that community benefit depends on, while profit would depend on another set of variables commonly encountered in a corporate enterprise, like capital investment etc.

  2. niti bhan says:

    Thank you for helping to articulate what I was attempting to say so well. Would you mind very much if I bandied your words around with due credit of course?

  3. Noel Titus says:

    Sure, you are welcome to do that.

  4. The design constraint is because of the “the boundary condition” enforced by the “area of focus”. More the area of focus gets narrower stronger design constraints are enocuntered.So in my view when someone encounters a situation like this, he/she has to increase the area of focus and bring more entities into play. Logically more entities produce lot of chaos but it also produce lot of win-win game permutations and remove design constraints. In this case of CSO, if we think of profitability in terms of 1. partnership ( read some kind of ad revenue) with organisation who has some kind of saleable produce for the target market,( very crude example more pervalent education means need for more pens…), 2. indirect but qualitative organisational benefits ( a healthier society is less prone to violence and hence stable economic environment for business), 3. an opportunity for in depth market and customer insights etc then actual design constraints are drastically set loose if not removed.
    Does it move the discussion any forward?

  5. niti bhan says:

    Thank you indeed for your well written thoughts on this and I do believe it does take the conversation forward. I like your point #2 which I hadn’t thought about earlier in quite that context. Can we make a sketch of the graph of the inequalities and shade the area where the “potential solution” may lie ? Can we treat the various points in the shaded area [from OR] as prototypes working towards the ‘optimal solution’ ?

  6. Thanks for the reply..Niti i think as an approach working towards the “optimal solution” does not seems to gel with me as there is no optimal solution to any problem. For me what is important is the “next solution” and the journey goes on… So as you suggested finding potential solution is a good approach..But the discussion does not go forward if we do not state a problem and then choose an approach and make the plotting..do you have some examples of problem state in CSO domain which we can discuss…i have couple of them in my mind..cheers

  7. niti bhan says:

    Hi Surojit,
    Why don’t you throw out your samples?

  8. Here are some of my examples
    1. Solving traffic problem in a economically strong city (especially in India cities like Bangalore, Pune)-
    2. Providing low cost Sanitation facilities
    3. Introduction of active women in local politics ( my favourite as it will bring down political violence drastically as one of the many outcomes)..looks more like CSR though

  9. niti bhan says:

    I think these can be either CSO or CSR depending on how you structure it. Framing the problem correctly really goes a long way towards being able to come up with good solutions.
    Let’s take the Sulabh Shuchalya example for your #2. http://www.sulabhinternational.org/pg05.htm
    They state their mission is to provide sanitation facilities etc etc
    If you took this as a CSO for example you could break the concept of clean sanitary facilities for slums etc so,
    [Example of Urgent Need]: Safe, clean, sanitation facilities for women in public spaces in India
    How best can we provide these services to [specific location] in a manner that serves the community and creates income generation opportunities as well?
    – Build with the local group where you are locating such facility
    – Can it be run as a slum dweller’s cooperative society/venture?
    – Can they manage it themselves? i.e. how much to charge, provide soap and shampoo [bulk is cheaper than sachet, serve 100 people instead of one shampoo]
    – can it be branded by the bath soap company?
    – can it be managed by the local communities’ leading women in the social groups?
    – can the cleaners, managers, soap dispensers etc also be trained to provide basic hygiene and health information to the local community as they come here?
    and so on and so forth…

  10. Hey that brings a good working focus to the issue,,for me before getting to the ideas mentioned by you lets get one level up of abstraction..To ensure such a cooperative ecosystem to function self sustainably we need to find the entities who will be potential drivers to such a initiative..or stake holders and their respective payoffs..once we identify and freeze that we can find a first draft of solution involving all of them
    My List will be ( entity-utility-payoffs-draggers)- we can add or delete
    1. Corporate civic body-gives space,people and continuity-a salebale politcal track record-non professionalism
    2.Direct Contributory corporates-(soap, buidling materials,skill training etc)- gives quality and awareness-CSO,monetary gains-non involvement
    3. Indirect contributory corporates-money,awareness and management-better brand value,local support-non involvement
    4. Women NGOs-dedicated time, executive management, awareness , fund raising- some valuable work!!!, cross selling other initiatives-non professionalism
    Others who can be the part of the list are Women colleges, Hospitals,Schools etc…
    Now can we make a working solution model of with all the above…
    your views…

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