The last few weeks have been abundant with new connections and inspiration born out of a collaborative process. I went along to the weekly meet ups with ARK, a social design group based in Cardiff. I had followed their activities in the digital realm for a while and wanted to see what the real environment was like.
I was pleasantly surprised – I had my initial doubts but they were washed away by a shared openhearted approach which spun conversations along. It didn’t take long for me to be engrossed in discussions on social implications design and sharing experiences.
I ended up becoming involved in their Empty Shops project that took place at Castle Arcade last weekend involving three days of multiple ways of participation, mapping and entertainment.
My particular interest was in facilitating and mapping for Friday’s workshop, Imagining Cardiff. Participants from the council and local community and voluntary groups were invited to come along to codesign a vision for a Cardiff in 2020.
It was such fun – we had icebreaker exercises and then brainstorming ideas for projects which would enable that future vision to come true. I personally found the results exhilarating – so many positive and engaging ideas that could be made into reality (some of them are being done elsewhere in the country or in the wider world).
We also hosted a business workshop for the business owners in the arcades. For this we first showed vox pops, then a presentation on social design and then the participants came over to my corner to do some collaborative ideation on how things could be made better. The thing is, there’s no use hosting occasions for negative remarks – a positive outlook and nudging results in positive and engaging ideas. I think we did well and started a process, a spark for the people whose livelihoods depend on the arcades. And, this is not a one off thing either – as we ended the session, we asked the shopkeepers to spread the word about these ideas, and we pledged to meet in a month’s time to see how we can help them develop their ideas into action.
Prior to the workshops I had ideas and theories and fluffy (but positive) feelings of how these workshops would work and what kind of beneficial results we could see afterwards. The experience proved my hunches were right: a genuine, flexible setting for a collaborative workshop in designers facilitate, not determine the process and outcome, is a tool for positive engagement and creating connections both between people and between ideas and concepts. We will continue to develop these processes and the continuation from here onward but the initial feel is there: I think we really started something.
ARK in the digital realm:
Or come and meet the people in person – ARK come together every Wednesday at 7pm at the Cardiff Arts Institute. Come and say hello!