News from AU
May 3, 2019

Creating a Better World Through Design: Joe Speicher of the Autodesk Foundation

Joe Speicher

The rapid changes in how we design and make are bringing important benefits for our world and the people who live in it. The problem? Those benefits aren’t always equitably distributed. What’s more, these transformations can also bring disruption and upheaval in the short term, presenting challenges for those, such as workers, who must adapt to stay relevant.

The Autodesk Foundation is committed to helping remedy these issues by supporting organizations making the world better through design. Together, they work to distribute the benefits of technological transformation more equitably and help people around the world adapt to change successfully.

Joe Speicher, Executive Director of the Autodesk Foundation, recently spoke at an event hosted by the Aspen Institute. The event announced the release of a report, Automation and a Changing Economy, from the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative and the Autodesk Foundation. Speicher wrote about the event and the partnership between the Aspen Institute and the Autodesk Foundation in a piece for ADSK News. The focus was on the impact of automation on the workforce over the next 5-30 years—which will be significant across industries—and what we can do to create better outcomes through education, job training, public policy, and new uses of technology.

“We exert a lot of energy into our work. So let’s think about the opportunities to exert that energy into work that creates the world that we want to see in the future.” –Joe Speicher, Executive Director of the Autodesk Foundation

Speicher also presented in the Theater at AU 2018 (video: 11:09 min.) sharing the Foundation’s work in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to build safer, more sustainable camps for the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Using Autodesk software and advanced simulation, they were able to identify the encampments most at risk from flooding and relocate them before the rains started, saving potentially thousands of lives.


These 2 stories may not, on the surface, seem to have much in common. One is about helping workers in the United States thrive in the midst of increasing automation, the other about helping refugees in South Asia survive the monsoon rains. But distributing the benefits of technology more equitably and reducing the negative impacts of transformational disruption are both powerful examples of how we can use our skills and resources to design and create a better world.