Welcome to a Design Thing!

The students and teachers of the Co-Design course invite you to a Design Thing about city making and democracy

A “Design Thing” is a hybrid of a democratic parliament and an experimental laboratory where participants collaboratively “make” decisions through exploring  matters of concern.

8th of November

STORM, Malmö University.

RSVP 2nd November to anna.seravalli@mah.se

During the course. we have been focusing on the areas of Kv. Spårvägen and Östervarn/Kirseberg, to explore together with local inhabitants, civil servants, NGOs, companies and other actors questions of: citizens involvement and waste minimization; and collaborative efforts in the planning and development of a former industrial area. On the last day of the course we would like to engage you in a Design Thing around some of the insights we gain along the way.

/ The students and teachers of the Co-Design  course





Co-designing Malmö’s parking lots

Codesign in Malmö

While taking the course Co-design — Design, Participation, Democracy, five students dedicated themselves to exploring the topic of urban public spaces in Malmö.

Camila Mahzouni, Manuel Siegel, Szymon Sulka, Kamila Wnorowska, and Hyejoo Yoo looked at what public spaces are, how participation within these spaces works, and, crucially, what citizens expect them to be like. As a result of their project, the co-design students created a participatory platform and redesigned Malmö’s parking lots with it, concluding that public spaces can be turned into whatever they need to be.

Read more about students work here.

Read more about Malmö University DESIS Lab.

Reflecting on design, sustainability and social change #2

Malmö University DESIS Lab and MEDEA are producing a series of short interviews with design practitioners and researchers to explore if and how design can contribute to sustainability and social change in different contexts.

This second interview is with Yanki Lee  a social designer, design researcher and activist that has spent the past 20 years in designing creative participation for social inclusion and innovation. Yanki has been working in both European and Asian context.  She is the co-founder of the Enable Foundation in Hong Kong, a  non-profit social design agency with the aim to develop capacity training programs and projects on design thinking & doing and creativity with individuals, organizations from private and public sectors.

Reflecting on design, sustainability and social change

Malmö University DESIS Lab and MEDEA are producing a series of short interviews with design practitioners and researchers to explore if and how design can contribute to sustainability and social change in different contexts.

The first interview is with Sreejata Roy and Mrityunjay Chatterje, a two member team of an artist and a media practitioner based in New Delhi.  Their practices with regard to urban space are generally twofold. Through the projects, using and combining different media, they document the changes in the city and study how these changes affect peoples’ lives. They also explore, adapt and create spaces for public interactions and collective intellectual and creative practices.

Co-Design in Co-Production Processes

New article by Anna Seravalli, Mette Agger Ericsen and Per-Anders Hillgren have been publiched in CoDesign- International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts.

Co-Design in co-production processes: jointly articulating and appropriating infrastructuring and commoning with civil servants

Anna, Mette and Per-Anders have been part of the research project URB@exp during the last years.

About URB@exp
European cities face complex economic, social and environmental challenges. To address these challenges, cities seek new approaches. A currently popular approach is urban labs (Living Labs and City Labs), in which local governments engage in solving problems together with other stakeholders in urban development. However, clear guidelines are needed concerning types of problems for which urban labs are most suited and how urban labs can best be organized and integrated into formal local government organisations.

The URB@Exp project aims to develop such guidelines by reviewing experiences of urban labs, and conducting action research in urban labs in five European cities.



“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