Accountancy and Social Design


Last year, we launched a ground-breaking partnership with the Royal Society of Art, which explored the future of our society and outlined a vision for an enlightened profession. One of the key messages from the discussion was that we cannot simply continue with the status quo – we need to have a new mindset and new framework that will allow us to confront big and brave questions: What kind of society do we want to become? What kind of businesses do we actually want to have?

Society currently faces extensive large-scale complex problems, which the disciplines of both accountancy and design are well suited to addressing. The challenges of climate change, migration, ageing populations, chronic disease, wealth disparities, and pressures on public sector finances require smarter and more agile responses. Therefore, new thinking on how new solutions are explored, prototyped and realised is needed.

AuditFutures is a cross-disciplinary project and we are promoting thinking and ideas that strengthen the interactions between accountancy and other fields, including policy, design, sociology, and psychology. This approach has been recognised by the 2014 World Congress of Accountants, where we hosted an innovative session on the new horizons for the profession. We challenged the profession to create experiences for and empathise with wider stakeholder groups, to take responsibility in building networks and in claiming the public interest. By collaborating with designers, accountants can act as a bridge between different fields of human and organisational interactions.

We see a growing need for collaborations that inspire social change. Because policy often lags behind practice, we hope to make the case for accountants, business and policy makers to respond and co-create using the foundation of Design Thinking. Economic and financial pressures of the past decade have forced traditional policy and business institutions to start thinking about outcome-based delivery of services. While this approach is somewhat intrinsic to design, it is a new horizon for accountancy. Furthermore, human-centered approaches are shifting how management frameworks influence the ways that individuals and organisations make decisions.

We believe that design thinking can help the accountancy profession in understanding issues and in creating solutions in collaboration with communities, businesses and wider society. We aspire to flip the the perception of accountancy and finance by focusing on how accounting can proactively address these issues. We are opening the conversation to iterate the evolving role of the professions in society, to challenge and understand the purpose of accountancy and to understand how to better help the next generation of professionals in shaping their future.

We live in fascinating and fast changing times. In a social landscape influenced by austerity, outsourcing, civil activism, political upheaval, environmental challenges. Our Open Design Studio inspires a positive, on-going conversation beyond the project itself that looking at the future of the society that we want to become.