Designing tools for diversity

February 21, 2019

This spring I was part of BIO designathlon. 3 days of very condensed teamwork.

I picked a topic - University and got assigned into a group. We were to explore what is common knowledge in terms of university. I got the best team, most diverse in age, nationalities, profession and level of expertise. 

We started off great, we were on fire.

We were dreaming of modular spaces, open booking tools, instructions for organizing events and workshops, …

We really wanted to make something, not just talk about it. We tried to initiate change with small steps and by giving agency to students, housekeepers and professors. In three days we had a plan. We were working as a team. Pitched the idea.

And did not get through, which meant we didn't get funding and we did not get the space to experiment. But we didn't take no for an answer. And we believed that failure is good for the team. So we continued the project remotely. 

First it was really hard to book a meeting since we were scattered across continents, let alone work together for a couple of hours. We had all the apps and technology that makes online work possible. But it just got harder and harder. Something just got lost. I started to procrastinate, wait for decisions to be made, I was also waiting for people to take agency, discussions were nice but the work was not done... Weeks turned into months and it seemed nothing was really done.

Have you guys had similar experience when working remotely?

I think when working online we lose the sense of teamwork, we lose empathy for each other, compassion and communication that is so natural when working in the same space.

Technology allows us to communicate across continents. But it was not designed to nurture teamwork or empathy or compassion. 

Today I have to struggle to “find” time for a coffee with a friend, we are ever more busy. We need to remember what is really important. Iris, the team member of our group, reminded me that people just lost hope that change is possible and that's why they don’t act. Especially today we need spaces and tools to initiate change. 

Most beautiful thing about design is not that it can open questions, but the ability to build and make things real. Design alone will not save the world but we can start making small steps, small changes.

During our research we saw that our classrooms and schools were also not designed for teamwork, nor were they designed for empathy, compassion, peace, diversity, sharing, focus or rest. That's why we are building and sharing tools for transforming physical spaces. We will be sharing games, DIY furniture instructions, guidebooks, workshop instructions, how to organise a lecture to flower nurturing guidelines and most importantly different layouts, anything that can improve our learning environments. 

We believe that with small changes open to everybody we can give agency to anyone that wants to transform learning environments.

And all of you can help us too. Let's stop discussing and opening questions and start making a better common future real.

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