“Designing without borders”

Does segregation exist in Malmö? And how can it be reduced? These were the questions four students, Simon, Debasmita, Lorenz, and JaeHee asked themselves when collaborating with Listeners Without Borders, a non-profit organization that seeks to bring people together through conversation and listening in a way that empowers people. For the course of Codesign: design participation and democracy the group elaborated on the idea of creating a digital space that could address and counter the issues of segregation.

The four students participating in a constructive listening workshop

By involving international and Swedish students, as well as various people from Listeners Without Borders as participants during their co-creative workshops, the group ended up with various creative digital possibilities that would be by the users as well as for the users.

“Maybe a digital platform could be what brings the organization to broader and more democratic solution, making it possible for all voices to be heard and leaving the design for the users once the tools have been developed.” (Simon)

What could a digital space mean for Listeners Without Borders? This was the question the group asked themselves before jumping too far ahead and designing ‘just another app or platform’. The students first met with Fredrik Eklof, the founder of Listeners Without Borders, and also actively participated within an introduction to constructive listening, in order to get a better grasp of the visions and philosophy of the organization they would be collaborating with.

Discovering existing ideas about segregation with the student housing

“One of the things we were always mindful about was to make our project a bottom-up approach by actively seeking and involving the participants in the process which was especially a challenge for us who chose to use an organization with a powerful leader as a starting point.” (Debasmita)

The next step was to find a way to discover the existing ideas about segregation within Malmö together with the student housing of Celsiusgården. Bringing the students together proved to be more challenging than they thought, so they decided to organize a ‘three-phased workshop’ or ‘future format’ workshop for the various students living at the student housing.                                                                                       By first coming together, thinking together, and writing together about the different problems and issues that were related to the topic of segregation, the participants came up with five different categories on which to discuss further: language, status quo, socializing, cultural diversity and physical surroundings.                                                                                               The next phase was to create a ‘utopian scenario’ that could solve these problems at hand. The participants chose one of the categories to work with, and this led to the creation of very interesting ideas such as having mixed student floors within the student houses.                                             In the last phase of their workshop, the group asked the students to convert their utopian ideas into more realistic ideas. This led to interesting conversations about having common events for international and Swedish students, and by this, addressing segregation within the student houses.

“Ultimately we realized our contribution to the organization was not the ideas that emerged in the last workshop, but the workshop format itself. Which could be used to generate more ideas from varied voices which could then hopefully materialize into action plans initiated by the organization itself.” (Debasmita)

To give the idea of a digital space form, the group decided to hold another workshop, this time with Fredrik and the people of Listeners Without Borders, to actively explore the digital possibilities together. The group decided to use the same format again in order to let the participants find their own creative space to work in. By this, the participants could think as widely and unusual as possible.                                                                               Again, using this format led to the establishment of various bold ideas, which ranged from having ‘mind-reading to overcome language barriers’, to creating perfectly non segregated housing societies, all the way to apps for refugees and newcomers to understand Swedish bills that come through their doors.                                                                                             Finally, the participants were asked to convert their previous utopian ideas into reality by using the possibility of a digital format that could actually implement them. The group was happy to discover that the ideas of the participants weren’t limited to the idea of creating ‘just another application’, but that the ideas were diverse and could be materialized with the aim of countering segregation. One of the ideas that was discussed and presented was a function in Facebook that could notify its users when there is not enough diversity in their friend circles, and as a result suggests new friends instead.

When reflecting on their project, the group realized that their most important contribution to the organization was that they had given the organization and its people an innovative workshop format that was to be used in order to generate ideas with the involvement of diverse participants, in order that they could possibly implement these ideas in the future.

By Tim Verhoeven, student of the K3 master program Media & Communication Studies at Malmö University. This article is part of a series of publications by Malmö University DESIS Lab, with the aim of showcasing the various projects of K3 students about design, sustainability and social innovation.


“Connecting Augustenborg”

To identify ‘Malmö Matters’, or special topics within Malmö of interest or concern, this was the brief for one of the student-groups for the course of Codesign: design participation and democracy. The three students, Erika, Freyja and Tülay, chose the area of Augustenborg as their place of concern, a neighborhood which has unfortunately been negatively depicted within the Swedish media. It was here where the local housing company MKB recently built the Greenhouse, an experiment in sustainable multi-family housing.

By working and designing together with the actors of both the neighborhood and the Greenhouse through various co-creative workshops, the group discovered that Augustenborg has a strong motivation to be a sustainable place to live for everyone.

Hidden treasures and surprising insights

“Choosing to work in the area of Augustenborg was really interesting, in that sense that my assumptions kept on being challenged throughout the whole project.” (Freyja)

The students started their project by exploring the area surrounding the Greenhouse. By talking with the various local residents, the students first of all found out that a lot of the negative assumptions about Augustenborg were not correct, and that people are actually happy to live in the neighborhood.

By mapping out visually what they learned from these explorations under the labels of existing assumptions, hidden treasures, and surprising insights, the students managed to highlight the existing differences between the Greenhouse building and the neighborhood.                                                               As a hidden treasure within the area, the group discovered that there is a strong motivation to inspire others in the neighborhood of Augustenborg through their own sustainable lifestyles. One of the surprising insights was that people wanted to be actually involved with each other, despite the lack of structure to do so.

A series of four workshops with various actors of the Greenhouse and Augustenborg, including MKB, was then set up with the aim of connecting the various parts of the network within the area, in order to inspire the people within the area to work together

Sustainable features

“Suddenly, pockets of well-intentioned people with their unique skills have found out that they are not alone in wanting to create something more with the people around them, which I believe will leap progress in the area forward.” (Erika)

The various building blocks and tokens used during the workshop

The group designed a kit of blocks for the local actors to build with during the workshops, including the greenhouse symbol, as well as tokens that represented the various actors within the network.  Furthermore, every workshop the group would take blank cards with them, adding more and more knowledge each time, so each workshop became more and more defined. With the help of these blocks and tokens, the residents could map out their future ideas about linking the Greenhouse and the various parts of Augustenborg, and how it could become a more sustainable place to live in the future.                                                                                                                   For the students it was really interesting to see how the actors, completely unaware of each other’s skills, had assumptions how the other actors would act when put in a certain situation, thereby showing that they truly wanted to create something together.

The workspace after one of the workshops

As a result of these workshops, the group and the participants came up with various possible features for the neighborhood, which would use the available resources within the area of the Greenhouse, in order to make the actors of the Greenhouse and the neighborhood meet and work together in a sustainable manner.                                                                                 One example of these implementable features was the idea of growing stuff. By connecting the growing networks in the area, together, all of Augustenborg could be used produce their own special products. The residents and people within the neighborhood could start cooking together, and by this get to know each other, or they could start a local weekly market to sell their produce.

Designing various sustainable features to be implemented in the future

The features were eventually handed over to the stakeholders in the hope of inspiring them in the future.

Reflecting forward

“I didn’t expect this course to become more than going deep into the research process to me as a product designer. Thinking out of the box without just focusing on the “solutionism” has expanded my horizons.” (Tülay)

Besides countering the unfair and negative assumptions surrounding Augustenborg by working together, the students found out that working with the idea of co-design changed their own view and approach on design as well.                                                                                                                 The group realized that actually designing with the users, instead of merely for the users, has proven to be a far more appealing and rewarding approach. In the future, this participatory approach will therefore likely be implemented in their own field of working as well. Erika: “I’m intrigued where my newfound knowledge will take me in my practice, and will be looking for cases where co-design can be (or has been) applied in larger architectural projects.”

By Tim Verhoeven, student of the K3 master program Media & Communication Studies at Malmö University. This article is part of a series of publications by Malmö University DESIS Lab, with the aim of showcasing the various projects of K3 students about design, sustainability and social innovation.

Malmo University DESIS Lab

Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) Lab at Malmö University is hosted by K3. The Lab focuses on how design can be used to explore and raise discussions about societal challenges and it does so both through research projects and teaching activities.

The Lab is part of the international DESIS network that includes design schools from all over the world engaging with questions of social and environmental sustainability in their research and teaching activities.

From this week on, K3 blog will feature students’ projects and researchers’ activities focusing on design, sustainability and social innovation.

Contact: Anna Seravalli

“Beyond mere design practice”

Going beyond simple ‘design practice’ and implementing a navigational framework that adapts itself to the changes within the building of STPLN. This is what the student group for STPLN, an open house for people with creative ideas/projects based in Malmö, set out to do. By implementing various creative ideas within the various spaces of building, the group managed to bring together the various users and actors of STPLN, as well as making the building more inviting for new users.

For the course Design for Social Innovation, Dennis Bücker, Judit Komáromi and Lisa Rausch from the K3 Interaction Design Master program carried out a two-month project in collaboration with STPLN. For their project, the group had the challenging task to make the space of STPLN more intuitive to navigate for new as well as recurring users of the building alike, and to showcase the different resources available in the different parts of the building, all by using visual tools.

By conducting an interview with Dennis and Lisa, I managed to gain more information about how the implementation of their visual navigational framework improved navigation within STPLN, how the implementation of various prototypes changed the relations between the users and actors, and finally, how the actors within STPLN have been further appropriating the ideas proposed within the group’s plan. Continue reading ““Beyond mere design practice””

“Hacking the rules in Lindängen”

To benefit the Swedish community of Lindängen by working together with them. This was what the project-group In Lindängen with Lindängen set out to do, and succeeded in. By working within, and most importantly wíth the community, the group explored how to support and further reinforce existing and possible collaborations between different actors and citizens in  Lindängen.

Implementing a pizza-oven within and together with the community of Lindängen

For the course Design for Social Innovation, Ana Barbosa, Erica Coria, Hannah Weiser and Mauricio Struckel from the K3 Interaction Design Master program carried out a social innovation project in the Swedish community of Lindängen. The project , called ‘In Lindängen with Lindängen’, has been carried out in collaboration with Framtidens Hus (Future House), a citizen service provided by the Malmö Municipality . Starting from the concern of how to move beyond the time-limited frame of project formats, they developed a time-line and a map to share information about previous and ongoing projects in Lindängen, moreover, they also constructed a public oven together with local people in Lindängen.

By conducting an interview with the group, I managed to gain more information about how the implementation of ‘the oven’ realized their goals, what the future holds for their project  after they left Lindängen, and how their project reinforced collaborations between the community of Lindängen and the various actors involved.

From left to right: Hannah Weiser, Mauricio Struckel, Ana Barbosa and Erica Coria 

“What are the different actors in Lindängen already doing, and how could possible project ideas take in consideration that the local actors could eventually become the ones maintaining those projects, or even become the ones conducting them?” This important question was at the basis when the group started working on various innovative ideas that were to ultimately benefit the community of Lindängen as part of their project. Continue reading ““Hacking the rules in Lindängen””