Isobar Good global director, Kara Prosser, on design’s impact on society and making the world a better place
LBB > Where did your passion for social good come from, have you always been quite aware of it or was it something you gained over time?
Kara Prosser > My passion for social good started with an experience I went through in hospital in Australia when my father died very suddenly. Nothing seemed to be designed from a human’s point of view, everything was designed from a hospital point of view. I’d just finished studying architecture and international studies and before I got into digital and UX design, I was looking for a role in sustainable building, so sustainability has always been an area of interest. In the meantime, because I could use Photoshop, I started designing websites for some businesses and got into digital design.
When I started working more in the digital space and driving experience design with Isobar, I joined the dots. We put people at the core of everything we’re designing with human-centred design practises. Everything we do here, we have to do for good - and that’s how Isobar Good started almost four years ago. We’ve grown the initiative from there and it’s been a very personal motivation for me with what I went through with my dad. Ultimately that’s given me this purpose to make the world a better place through design, creativity and innovation.
LBB > So what does an average day look like as global director at Isobar Good?
Kara > I’ve just done an international move in the middle of a global pandemic, relocating to Copenhagen from Australia! I’ve been in a global role for 12 months and the plan has always been to get me on a better time zone and closer to some of the teams I work with regularly. I do still work with our Aussie team but it was obviously a very challenging time zone to be in when you work globally. So my world has changed from working in the middle of the night and very early mornings to working normal hours with most of the teams across different countries. I have the most amazing job covering everything from presenting to clients all over the world to running internal training and driving new business. It’s phenomenal being able to collaborate with 45 markets across 85 locations. Every day is completely different.
LBB > What are you currently focusing your energy into when it comes to social causes? What are the most pressing issues for you right now?
Kara > One of the most interesting things about being in this role globally, particularly with the pandemic which has really magnified a lot of the biggest social issues different nations have, is that the breadth of work that we do with our clients is huge. We do two key things with Isobar Good - the first one being that we help corporate organisations integrate social impact into their brands and business. At the moment social impact is a really hot topic, especially with regards to climate change, COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter so this is more important to our clients than ever before.
The second thing we do is work with not-for-profits to deliver even more good through the capabilities we have. We also drive a lot of meaningful partnerships between not-for-profits and corporate organisations. We’re doing work across all areas of social impact - clean energy, supply chains, health, gender equality, indigenous rights and quality education for children.
LBB > How do you feel that design can help solve some of these global challenges?
Kara > Through Isobar Good we champion human-centred design and agile ways of working. We drive an innovation process of discovery, collaboration and experimentation. When we think about how we help businesses contribute to society in a positive way and how we help not-for-profits deliver more impact, it’s so important that there’s some rigour to that process when we’re tackling such big issues. We really believe in the importance of design thinking and involving end users in the process to connect with those who will be using or experiencing the products or systems we create.
Because these issues are so complex and there’s so many different stakeholders and governing bodies involved, we keep a collaborative process that’s creative and tangible. We value ideas and sketches on the wall (virtual or real) over long documentation. It’s a fantastic process to really get everyone on the same page and bring people on the journey.
LBB > How do you ensure that your work connects on a human level?
Kara > We are obsessed with being human-led and experience-led and not technology led. We see technology as an enabler to do good, not something that is driving good. We have lots of different tools, methods and processes to ensure that we are keeping experiences and people at the core of what we do. We start with an open mind and conduct a lot of user research, trying to get into the shoes of the people who are experiencing the problem. For example, we worked out of a family violence shelter for six months on one of our projects. We’re constantly co-creating with those people. We’re really hands on and ensure that everyone is involved at every step of the process.
LBB > What are some of the most impactful changes you have been able to make to-date by bringing together the power of creativity and technology?
We strive to create impactful change in everything we do, bringing to life our vision of creating a better and more sustainable world for everyone. One app that has had a big impact is ‘The New Normal Navigator
’ that we created in partnership with Camp Quality and the families it supports. The New Normal Navigator helps families navigate cancer treatment of their young children, and the isolating journey home. A perfect fusion of creativity and technology, it’s a friendly tool with articles, family stories, educational content, and forums to communicate with other families who have been through a similar journey. Beyond the thousands of downloads and activity within the app, the feedback from the families was amazing. One mum said - “It’s not about the medical stuff, it’s about how you cope as a family; how to feel better supported. The NNN makes you realise what services are available and ask for the support you need.”
Another project creating impact through the power of creativity and technology is the chatbot we created for Tourism Tropical North Queensland
(TTNQ). Locals of Tropical North Queensland helps inform tourists on what to expect in the region, appreciate the wonderful complexities of the world’s largest coral reef and how they can help protect it. The platform literally squeezes as much local knowledge as it can from experts living all over Tropical North Queensland and puts it into an interface that feels like you’re having a conversation with a local. This was a first for Australian tourism, and for sustainable tourism globally.
LBB > How do you stay on the cutting edge of transformative design and initiatives?
Kara > I’m incredibly lucky that I get to live my passion every day. When you live and breathe what you do, you don’t even think about staying up to date with things, you just constantly absorb the latest and greatest, We provide a lot of thought leadership in this space and that’s why clients come to us for innovation. I’m incredibly lucky that I get to work with a phenomenally talented team of over 6000 people globally who specialise in different areas of technology and innovation. We have a big culture of sharing so we learn from each other and brainstorm together. Staying open minded with who you collaborate with and leaning on experts really helps.
LBB > Personally, what are some of your most memorable projects that you are most proud of in your career so far?
Kara > When you work on such meaningful work around the world, every project is special in it’s own way. I love seeing the transition our corporate clients are making and sharing that progress with their customers through products and services and equally it’s incredibly rewarding to drive change for the beneficiaries of the NFP’s we work with. I love connecting with the incredible passion our clients have and helping bring their vision to life. Some of my most memorable moments have been working out of a family violence shelter for six months to truly get in the shoes of victims, collaborating with communities across Africa to drive awareness about Malaria and prototyping eco friendly supply chains with airline executives.
LBB > How do you like to relax and unwind in your spare time? Do you have any passion projects you keep up with on the side?
Kara > My passion projects happen within Isobar Good so I’m incredibly lucky in that sense. I advise some of NFP’s boards and am always looking for meaningful partnerships to collaborate with through Good. In my own time… six months ago I would have answered this question very differently! It would have been: eating and drinking good food and wine with my family and friends who live all over Australia and the world. Or it would have been: hiking in the Himalayas or diving in Malaysia… how the world has changed! Hopefully we will get all of those amazing privileges back again very soon. In the meantime, I try to keep fit with a daily run, and am indulging in incredible second hand danish designed furniture for my new apartment in Copenhagen.