As recipient of the 2016 Fairly Educated Design Student Scholarship, I was given the pleasure to attend the sixth annual Fairly Educated Conference, hosted in Geelong at Deakin University. The short but event-packed three day conference included panel discussions, workshops and many notable keynote speakers from all professions and backgrounds who have all in one way or another been changing the world, literally.

Conference attendees were a collection of passionate individuals from various other universities around Victoria and Australia. It was wonderful to meet other attendees who study or work in such a broad range of different fields and hearing their inputs and thoughts on sustainability and Fair Trade. The conference had a small number of designers in attendance, and like myself they were also interested in the prospects of designing goods that make a difference.

The theme for much of this conference was ‘small change, big impact’ and personally, one of the most important messages that I took from this conference is that we all have the ability to change the way things are, our voices matter the most. The most effective way in which we can pursue change is to understand what our own values are, and what we find most important to us.

As industrial designers we almost always aim to create products using more sustainable practices, for this reason the conference was extremely valuable in learning the methods and processes used by many established companies that have been finding success in what they do. As an example Etiko Clothing is one of very few labels within Australia that received the highest possible ranking in the annual Australian Ethical Fashion Report.

Leaving myself and many others wondering at such a similar price point, why are more companies unable to adapt to more sustainable and ethical practices.

Aside from the various Fair Trade brands and organisations we also had motivational speakers, activists and people working in social enterprises that have been making change through their actions. Many of whom also realised at one stage that more can be done to benefit the greater good, and it doesn’t take much to do so. Education and conversations are the catalysts that can drive change, ideas diffuse through society and talk.

Without such knowledge there is no reason for people to want change the way we think and live.

As a student and a designer I often wonder why, even with the education we receive in relation to Fair Trade, we still have such growing issues in unethical methods of production and consumption. We are all taught sustainability and fair practices, so why are we yet to put what we learn into everything we do. If anything, this conference has provided me with the motivation to do what is right and ethical, not just in what I choose to design or make, but also the choices I make in the way I live.

Fairly Educated was not only a place for people to learn more, but an idea in itself that shows change is possible. Every single passionate and like minded individual at the conference brought a different story and a fresh perspective on what sustainability means to them. But as a collective we defined what was possible.

Written by Christopher Chen | Recipient of the 2016 Fairly Educated, Design Student Scholarship.

Posted by:Alexandra Sommer