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Photo: Oliver Herlitschek


How to Create a Design-Driven Mission for a Thriving Youth

02. Mar 2023

What happens when we combine design methods, years of research in mental health, and 150 people with a burning desire to change the current approach to mental health? Director of Social Transition at DDC, Sara Gry Striegler, explains how the future scenario Vorby was created and discusses the potential impact of working design and -mission-driven

Long reads

It sounds like mission impossible: How can we create a future where young people can thrive while the levels of reported stress, anxiety, and loneliness are higher than ever?

In the fall of 2022, DDC – Danish Design Center decided to mobilize 150 critical actors in the field of mental health and well-being to explore how we can create more than just another plan for a thriving youth: We wanted to create a foundation for an entirely different future. 

“We know that we are on the road to one of the biggest welfare crises ever, but no one seems to know where to start,” says the Director of Social Transition at DDC, Sara Gry Striegler.

She sensed a general hunger for new tools and ideas in the field – a way to both shake up and inspire decision-makers in the current system. In other words, an excellent starting point for introducing a radically different approach.

Sense the future

Sara Gry Striegler and DDC specialize in mobilizing actors within health and social action. Using design methods, we have created tangible, immersive scenarios for future healthcare in Boxing Future Health and the future of aging in New Days. Design can be a powerful formula to create necessary systemic shifts when we encounter complex challenges, such as the current mental health crisis among young people.

 “We know that design is a unique method for mobilizing people, forging new connections and collaborations, and launching new ideas and initiatives,” says Sara. She adds:

“When we design future scenarios, we use our collective imagination to place ourselves somewhere else entirely – for instance, in a future where young people thrive. When we can see, feel, and listen to alternative outcomes of the future, it stretches our imagination of what that future could be, and it becomes clearer what we need to do here and now.”

A new approach

Among the participants in the mobilization effort was Janne Koefoed Jørgensen, Head of Program at the cross-municipal collaboration, The Frontrunner Network, which focuses on helping vulnerable citizens solve challenges that may arise in their meeting with the government.

“We wanted to find new solutions to an issue that we really don’t know how to solve,” says Janne. She found the design approach both appealing and inspiring. During the process, she and the other participants explored signals and glimpses of the future in the present to better understand what may be coming. 

“That was an incredibly inspiring process. Creating a preferred future helped us create a language and focus on WHAT we wanted to change rather than on change itself. We must recognize that there are issues we simply can’t solve with what we know today. I read somewhere that contemporary literature lacks utopias. I think this is somewhat similar: It is difficult for us to imagine what a better future actually looks like.”  

"We wanted to find new solutions to an issue that we really don’t know how to solve."

Janne Koefoed Jørgensen

Head of Program at the cross-municipal collaboration, The Frontrunner Network

Janne Koefoed

Janne Koefoed

Act in the present

After working with systemic design in the healthcare sector for several years, Sara experienced first-hand the effect real scenarios and mission-driven design could have on solving complex challenges or “wicked problems”.

“When we work with missions, we map out a common direction that is not just words on a piece of paper, but something that we can feel and relate to as human beings. In other words, we’re mobilizing the human empathy and imagination in each and every one of us – no matter our background or starting point. That’s an extremely powerful way to build new capacity, shape new perspectives, and not least spark action.”

A lasting imprint

While Sara did not doubt the potential impact of the initiative, she was thrilled to see how the 150 participants at all levels readily immersed themselves in a fictional future. 

 “I was surprised at the level of energy in the process – people were so hungry for new, tangible ideas and images. One of the participants even said to me: ‘The imprint that the experience of being in the future has left on me will last. I’ll keep returning to these images in my daily work.’ That makes me believe we have seeded the ground for actual change.” 

What comes after the first stepping stones is less tangible. The first round of actors has been mobilized for a while, but there is no formal roadmap for how they should implement the changes going forward – an essential premise for this kind of project, explains Sara. 

“The idea is that we set people free to work towards the mission of creating a future for a thriving youth in their way. We’re in this for the long haul. We will very likely never have a Vorby 1:1. For us at DDC, the goal is to build the capacity for the system to act independently towards a better future – with a range of new partners.” 

For Janne and the Frontrunner cities, the process has already sparked new ideas. 

“People are very excited about both the work with signals and about getting a better understanding of working with scenarios and looking for solutions in new ways. We can definitely apply the learnings and narratives from this project, specifically in working towards a future where young people can thrive.”

"The imprint that the experience of being in the future has left on me will last. I'll keep returning to these images in my daily work "


Vorby Workshop

A shift in people

While the majority of the workshops were set in the future, a crucial step was for the participants to commit themselves to actions and partnerships here and now. Sara already sees micro actions from some of the participants, and she is convinced that we’ll soon begin to see the first ripple effects of the initiative. 

Meanwhile, we at DDC continue to work towards building a mission for thriving youth with new partnerships and collaborations. The mission will launch this summer, departing from the principles and process behind Vorby, says Sara:

“We tend to view systemic change as shifts in organizations. This project was about making something shift in people. And I believe we have succeeded in that.” 


The framework and preferred future, Vorby, will be launched in spring 2023.

Sara Gry Striegler

Director of Social Transition

Phone +45 6110 4778
Social LinkedIn

Do you have questions about the mission?

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