Tag Archives: collaboration

Graphic recording – designing social enterprises

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to take part in a workshop organised by the Eco Design Centre and Llamau, a charity working with young homeless people in Wales. For some time now Llamau have been helping young people set up social enterprises and the idea of the workshop was to explore what design can do to help this process and give more confidence and focus for the young people to start making things happen.

My role was to harvest emerging ideas and highlight underlying meaning via graphic recording, a process that took place alongside the workshop activities. It never stops amazing me how effectively visualisation can clarify information in context and inspire deeper thought processes for people when they can see the big picture unravel. I also enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with Nathan Hallett, an illustrator with plenty of insight and humour in his expression.

It was fantastic to be involved in a workshop with an emphasis on cross-disciplinary collaboration  between designers, facilitators, consultants, researchers, youth workers, and of course the young people themselves. I was impressed and inspired by the energy in the workshop and hope these social enterprises have some more ideas and tools to help them on their way.

For more photos from the day, visit the Eco Design Centre Flickr page

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Come to your senses – experience mapping & data

Last Saturday (7th May) me and Emily of Mindful Maps co-facilitated an experiential map of Brixton Village market as part of a Treasure Hunt for the Transeuropa festival.


Our aim was to engage people to first of all reflect on their experiences of the market and then record them in writing or drawing. As guidance we provided a framework of words and phrases that people could draw on:

Some of the above became categories we colour coded the experiences with – each experience tag had one or more colours representing the experience on the map.

This post compiles the data collected with some feedback and evaluation – if you wish to read more and see more photos, please check out blog post by Mindful Maps.

Looking at the data
As this project is work in progress, we wanted to set up a simple framework for both us and the people we wanted to engage with. This would provide a clearer route for people to engage with and for us to evaluate and develop this approach further.
So what did people feel about Brixton Village?

Out of 41 recorded entries, 26 people mentioned an emotion they experienced.

What kind of sensory experiences did they have?

Out of 41 recorded entries, 15 people mentioned a sensory experience.

What about the combinations?

Interestingly, there were a variety of combinations.

What other themes emerged?

Food was mentioned the most, and a variety of other perhaps more conceptual themes came up at an equal level.

We will be looking at feedback and evaluation of the project in the near future – the mapping process could be used flexibly to explore a multitude of topics in different scenarios.

Future visions – are you prepared for change?

Today I took part in a Sustainability Action Planning Workshop organised by Forum for the Future, held at the Watershed in Bristol. The aim of the workshop was to get together a wide range of professionals from the creative industries to discuss future scenarios, their implications and our roles in them. It was interesting to meet different types of creative people and the discussions were thoughtful – however I left with mixed feelings.

I was reading the four different uncertain scenarios (uncertain because we don’t really know what will come our way) in preparation for the event on Monday evening and had contradicting feelings about the whole thing. The scenarios, impressive as they were with the depth of detail, had familiar and plausible elements but at the same time they were quite far out there, hard to connect to. At the workshop we were working in groups discussing possible upcoming challenges and opportunities and what action we could take to help positive change. Some persistent red threads came through – need for collaboration, networks, knowledge sharing, openness and transparency, bringing design thinking into business and decision making as an integral part of the process, need for champions who can reach out to educate our industry of actions anyone can take to help combat things like climate change and its repercussions… the list is actually longer than I thought!

As it can be with these “visionary” workshops, the discussion often veered off the focus at hand (building concrete short term and long term actions) and the aims and rules of how to go about the group setting could have been defined clearer. Not that the activity was without benefit, but the results could have been more fruitful and innovative if openness and playfulness would have been encouraged and guided by the facilitators.

So as not to sound like dry critic, I’d like to say that the process we went through today has made me think a lot about both useful ways of engaging with people in workshop scenarios and also about my actions. What can I do to help change happen to tackle climate change and bring sustainability into my working process and workplace? Change is coming on one level or another and I know it can be viewed as a positive thing instead of a negative threat. I’d like to bring a feet-on-the-ground ethical set of values to my work – embracing sustainability in the way I work but also assessing it for the clients I work with. If this could be part of the setting from the start, everyone involved would be aware of it. I’d like to think this would be viewed as responsible thinking and efficient action, all still making business sense as well.

Other actions are already taking place working with ARK – planning projects for social design, tackling local issues and hopefully prototyping ways of collaboration and codesign.

I hope other participants left with some thoughts on their mind rather than indifferent feelings – reaction is always a sign of engagement, be it good or bad.

ARK Empty Shops – a collaborative process

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).

Community workshop (photo by Simon O'Rafferty)

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:

ARK blog: http://thinkark.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @thinkark
Empty Shops Twitter feed: @ARKEmptyShops

Or come and meet the people in person – ARK come together every Wednesday at 7pm at the Cardiff Arts Institute. Come and say hello!