Archive for October, 2011

Farrow Partnership’s design for a Health Promoting Lifestyle Centre in rural South Africa


Where in the world are we most likely to find a radically progressive way to reduce the burden of disease? Will we find it in countries that endlessly debate minor changes to their sclerotic, unsustainable health care systems? Or should we instead look to South Africa for fresh thinking, a country which has every reason to make a giant leap to an entirely new “health-causing” model?

The term “salutogenic” may not be familiar to many, but it offers a powerful, optimistic way to think about massive problems – ranging from chronic illness to low productivity to violence – that plague societies everywhere.

Salutogenic is the opposite of pathogenic, a term widely recognized and defined as “disease causing.”

The fact that many people understand the term “pathogenic” but few have even heard of “salutogenic” speaks volumes about where we find ourselves today as a society.

“We have 8,000 known causes of disease, and maybe only 80 known causes of health,” observes Dr. Alan Dilani who is director of the International Academy for Design and Health, based in Stockholm.

The government of South Africa recognizes the value of building facilities that rigorously apply salutogenic principles to planning, programs and aesthetics. Our design for Health Promoting Lifestyle Centres represents a departure from conventional facility models which focus narrowly on downstream causes of ill-health and disease prevention. (click on chart below for an overview of this contrast)

The potential of this new model to dramatically reduce the human and financial costs of illness is enormous.

There is growing recognition that health is an economic and human rights issue. Ill-health prevents a population from realizing its full potential. Watch this space for updates as our team, which includes Ngonyama Okpanum & Associates and Clark Nexsen, moves this innovative idea to salutogenic reality.

– Sharon VanderKaay

Liquid Energy

Throughout the industrial age, tips on time management – essentially, how to pack more productive activities into each work day – were perennially popular.

Only in recent years have we seen a major shift in emphasis from merely “being productive” to the bigger question: Why squeeze more activities into a day unless we’re sure that all of those tasks need to be done in the first place?

And thus “lean management” was born – aimed at rooting out time-eating bureaucracy and wasteful work. Instead of doing more stuff more efficiently, the idea is to look upstream so we can eliminate low value tasks and bad management practices.

NOW COMES THE EVEN BIGGER QUESTION: Is it enough to minimize time wasted, or should we also obsess about how we expend and renew our energy? In the context of causing innovation to happen, burnout and depression at work are not only health issues, they lead to lost business opportunities. In other words, we may somehow find the time to be creative, but we must also possess the energy for innovation.

In a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy examine costs, causes and remedies for today’s human “energy crisis.” They recommend practices for renewing four dimensions of personal energy: physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy and spiritual energy.

This month’s HBR addresses ways of working that rob us of time via “Lean Knowledge Work.” Ideally, recovered time could be directed toward innovation. As well in this issue, the highly-regarded Rosabeth Moss Kanter observes, some of the greatest harm in organizations today is being caused by “callousness about people’s time.”

Management theorists and workers on the ground are still in the early days of understanding the relationship between time, energy and innovation. This is a fruitful area of study that deserves special attention. Perhaps as an alternative to Master of Business Administration, future students will be able to pursue an inspiring Master of Business Vitality degree.

– Sharon VanderKaay

artwork: Susan Ottevanger

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    We see our collaboration with clients and colleagues as providing a living lab for enriching the creative process. Farrow’s built work has been internationally recognized for leadership in human-centric design. This is where we come to discuss our ideas as they hatch and our experiences as they happen.
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