Filed under: Design and Society, Education Matters
Some good news for a Friday morning: Despite our Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the Pupil Design Awards pilot falling just short of target (we had £8,000+ pledged), our Academies have agreed to support this pilot project using their own resources, meaning we are able to go ahead! We have begun working with teachers to transform three RSA Student Design Award briefs, and work with pupils will begin in April.
Mollie Courtenay, who was shortlisted for the RSA Student Design Awards in 2013, is one of our alumni who is keen to get involved. Mollie studied graphic design at Kingston University and graduated with a first in 2013. She has recently taken the new position of Junior Designer in the Design Council Challenges team who use design to tackle big social issues, working on a variety of projects including the Knee High Design Challenge. Here she reflects on her own experience of the RSA Student Design Awards, and why introducing social design thinking into schools will inspire pupils to think beyond the classroom…
“Yes Miss! I believe introducing the RSA Pupil Design Awards to schools would offer a practical method of inspiring pupils to think beyond the classroom. How incredible would it be if young people began to build and use their skills and imagination to tackle real social issues?
My personal reflection of school, is that it could often make me feel like one of many others; year by year I was in the same class, in the same uniform, answering the same exam questions. Even when it came to Design and Technology, the end product was always prescribed; each of us designing perfume packaging or a place mat.
The Pupil Design Award project briefs would offer an opportunity for pupils to embark on an individual journey, to create a project that provides unique insight, and to design an innovative solution to a challenging question. There is no single correct answer with these briefs, which is often why they exist and why they are so exciting.
I took on a RSA Student Design Awards brief at University, as I was motivated by the realness of the issue I was designing for (encouraging safer driving among young drivers). At one point I remember I had covered a whole wall in my flat with my research. When my flatmate got home, he looked at me as if to say- ‘er, are you alright..?’ I was great – I had found something that I was interested in, and discovered the issue I wanted to solve through design.
I am currently working on a project that focuses on the development of children in their early years, up to the age of five. When working in this environment you can’t think about design in a way that produces shiny, perfect and one off things.
One of the most important factors when designing for society is to really understand the issue or problem you are trying to solve, whilst building empathy for people and situations you are working with. It is unlikely that this can be done without spending time with people where they are. This means getting out and about, learning from many sources, observing, monitoring, questioning, recording and interpreting. Having an agenda and going out to fulfill it.
Giving pupils an opportunity to take responsibility for their own project is a fantastic way of encouraging individuality and creativity. Unlike some school subjects, these design projects allow for mistakes; and that’s where the really interesting learning happens. It’s so important to continually look back and challenge your own thinking and not rely on your own assumptions.
I am super excited for the launch of this project and hope that schools can see the value in adding it to their existing curriculum.”
If, like Mollie, you want to get involved in the Pupil Design Awards, there are plenty of ways to do so!
- Become a mentor or judge We are looking for a handful of designers to help mentor the pupils through the briefs.
- Donate a prize This could be an industry placement or some design-related goodies – we’re open to suggestions!
- Help take the project UK-wide We are already looking for other schools and especially sponsors to take this project beyond our Academies.
If you would like to get involved, or receive project updates, please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a look around you. Wherever you are there will almost certainly be something that has been designed. The buying and selling of these objects, the way they are made and the people and raw materials that are involved in the making build economies and develop societies. The design industry is a key part of this loop. With around 11% of the UK workforce in our sector, we play a key role in the economy and account for 7% of GVA, with a third of this coming from consumer-related spending (ref).
The designer’s role of adding value to products is fundamental to the markets. But sadly this industry, like many others, is only slowly waking up to some of the negative impacts of this system: the over extraction of resources, the exploitation of workforces and growing toxic waste streams. The staggering fact is that, according to EU research, 80% of a product’s environmental impacts are decided during the design stage. Ultimately our decisions at the very beginning stages on material specification or assembly process will be instrumental in determining the product’s lifetime in use and method of disposal (whether re-use, recycling or landfill), but our industry seems to have very little understanding of this. Why is this so?
To understand the challenges around system change you need to go right back to the beginning. Everything around you once had a written brief given to the design team to tell them what they needed to consider. These design briefs could include quite specific instructions which, in summary, might say: ‘We want a kettle design that is weighted so it can be held comfortably by an elderly arthritic person; is able to boil two cups of water in less than twenty seconds; uses minimum metal in the moulding; and retails at £12.99’. Or, it may say something about the aesthetic outcome: ‘We need a 50 page full colour report that makes our company look youthful and innovative’. However, you can absolutely guarantee that a brief will not include phrases like: ‘This product is required to be designed for a second life’, ‘must be able to have all its raw materials fully recoverable to their maximum value’, or ‘must not in any way be diverted to landfill in the first 5 years of its life’.
Imagine if it did. Consider how different our products would look, how differently we would use them, and how much easier it would be to recapture the materials. It would radically change the way our products were made. It would require a lot more collaboration and knowledge transfer around the extended supply chain, with those that see the problems at the end of life (ie waste disposal or materials recovery experts) telling those that potentially build in those problems at the beginning (ie designers) what they are experiencing. Design would not be so focused on the initial sell but would extend its vision far into a product’s potential second or third ‘life’, or even towards a ‘circular system’ of continuous re-use. To get to this point, the whole process of design, manufacture, recovery and ultimately re-manufacture would need a complete re-think.
Over the last 18 months The Great Recovery project at the RSA has been investigating the role of design in the ‘circular economy’. We have been building networks and using the creativity of the design industry to help understand why current design does not include ‘closed loop’ principles (where product ingredients can be recovered back into raw materials through re-use, industrial symbiosis and recycling). Our programme of public workshops and networking events set in the industrial landscapes of recovery and recycling facilities, disused tin mines, and materials research labs worked with people across all sectors mapped in our circular network model.
Participants went through a process based on the design principles of ‘Tear Down’ – where you literally pull products off the recycling pile and take them apart to understand how they are currently designed, manufactured and recovered/disposed, and then ‘Design Up’ – a process of rebuilding and redesigning the products around the four design models for circularity mapped by the programme: longevity, leasing/service, re-use in manufacture and material recovery.
This first phase of work supported the competition calls from the Technology Strategy Board on ‘New Designs for a Circular Economy’. These calls invested up to £1.25m into a range of feasibility studies proposed by business-led groups that included collaborative design partners.
The lessons that came out of these initial investigations underlined some key issues:
(i) the role of design is crucial to circularity but very few designers understand or think about what happens to the products and services they design at the end of their life;
(ii) new business models are needed to support the circular economy;
(iii) the ability to track and trace materials is key to reverse engineering our manufacturing processes and closing the loop;
(iv) smarter logistics are required based on better information;
(v) building new partnerships around the supply chain and knowledge networks is critical.
The inaugural Resource show sees the launch of The Great Recovery’s next phase of work in a two-year programme of work that will bring together materials science innovators, design experts and end-of-life specialists to explore the interrelationships and key levers in the manufacturing process. In a series of investigatory workshops we will be seeking further understanding around the challenges and obstacles faced by businesses and members of the circular network when considering the shift towards circularity. We need the problem holders, ideas creators and collaborators to get involved and share their resource knowledge.
In a move to nurture disruptive thinking across the network, The Great Recovery plans to develop short-term immersive design residencies that can set up inside recovery facilities around the UK. These design teams will be there to observe and experience the complexity of recovery systems, to help inform new thinking around current waste streams and new product designs. We will also be growing our network of pioneering professionals and circular economy stakeholders, developing thought leadership, influencing policy and nurturing disruptive thinking to fast-track innovation. By their nature, many of these activities will be highly creative and we are looking for interested recovery facilities, designers, materials experts and other stakeholders who want to participate.
Filed under: Arts and Society, Design and Society, Social Economy
The first ever unMonastery launched this month in the city of Matera, in Southern Italy. Doing something new is messy. The path is unclear, doubt is a killer, and it’s somehow never easier to quit than when you are on the verge of something real.
2014 could be the year of unMonastery, and my mission, gladly accepted, is to help shape evaluation models and metrics that help us understand what it is and if it is working.
UnMonastery is place-based social innovation that throws a group of people into one place – currently Matera – and sees what happens. It takes issues facing the whole of Europe – youth unemployment, mismatched skills, brain drain to major cities, under-utilised buildings, depleted public resources –and offers up a secular, 21st century version of the monastery. People with skills and projects to offer are housed, fed and work out of a building that would be otherwise left empty.
Best suited to areas suffering brain drain and a lack of home-grown opportunities, the ‘unMonasterians’ are tasked with working with people from the local area to develop locally specific projects that respond to local needs and assets. For me the key question will be measuring whether the project is one that both preserves the sanity of its protagonists, and can be mapped to really engage with and become embedded in its local area. Without the wellbeing of those working in it, it becomes a workhouse, without local embeddedness it becomes a fun working holiday for some super-skilled Europeans.
The Matera unMonastery is situated in the ‘Sassi’ of Matera, a ridiculously picturesque setting in the labyrinthine ancient part of the city, where, since the troglodyte era, houses have been built into the local ‘tufo’,a calcarenitic rock that comes from marine sediments. Whilst fantastic, this setting will actually prove to be one of the first challenges for the unMonastery: Matera, the people, is not Matera, the beautiful and touristy Sassi.
The Matera unMonasterians were selected through an international open call in which people were encouraged to apply for residencies in Matera with projects that responded to local needs and interests, as had been set out following a series of co-production workshops. The final team comprises of projects that take us from building functional solar-panel trackers with local young people, to setting up water-filtering systems for urban farming. The skill-set of the unMonasterians spans coders, graphic designers, illustrators, engineers, social scientists, artists. Over the next four months their projects will focus both on Matera, and on unMonastery as a venture in its own right. UnMonastery favours total, brutal, transparency: you will able to follow its progress, with everything from project plan updates to budgets available online. If at all curious, you can meet the team and ask many questions today (!) from 10am UK-time, by following the hasthtag #unmon on twitter.
Progress so far?
Due to the iterative nature of building unMonastery, it was always hard to know what it would end up being. Born as an idea in the first EdgeRyders conference in Strasbourg, it only became real when Matera – currently a candidate for European City of Culture 2019 – stepped up as a host and funder. First Materans shaped unMonstery in their understanding of what Matera’s assets, resources and needs were; then the unMonastery applicants shaped unMonasery through the projects they proposed. And now, Matera and unMonasterians – sometimes the same thing – will shape each other.
So, how will we know if it is working?
Without the wellbeing of those working in it, #unMonastery becomes a workhouse; without local embeddedness it becomes a fun working holiday for some super-skilled Europeans
The job of the unMonasterians is now to work hard and be nice to each other – not too light a request when living and working in the same space as up to ten people for up to four months.
Using metrics developed in the RSA’s Connected Communities work, I am helping them develop ways of measuring how things are going, inside and out.
1. How are you? Social change is messy, and burn-out is often the cost. The unMonasterians will be asked to measure their levels of wellbeing, and make sure they have routines that allow for some version of the five ways to wellbeing and proper sleep.
2. Do you feel part of a community? RSA Connected Communities work has really highlighted the importance of feeling part of a community, of feeling accepted where you are.
3. Do you feel supported? It is important to know that you can go to others when you need, and our social connections are often the first thing to suffer when we move around. Even for those who live in Matera full-time, their new focus could disrupt those social connections that currently help them feel well.
4. How are you and your project linking in to the local area? This is the big mama of the questions. Even if our unMonasterians are happy, bright eyed and bushy tailed, without real local engagement unMonastery is a spring-break, not a new way of working. Using social network analysis, and possibly linking to unMonasterian Lucia‘s walking ethnographies, we will be tracking who the unMonasterians are working with, how this changes, and if this goes beyond the existing contacts of our contacts. Everywhere is a bubble: a key question will be whether we can burst ours.
2014 could be the year of the unMonastery, and unMonastery could be the start of something really excellant. Please do follow unMonastery on twitter, keep up to date with what they are doing here, and join them for an online twitterstorm at 10am today!
— Edgeryders (@edgeryders) February 8, 2014
Gaia Marcus is a Senior Researcher on the RSA Connected Communities project.
You can find her on twitter: @la_gaia
The fabulous poster images are all by Anthony Burrill.
We delivered four student workshops, had meetings with five RSA Fellows, and Sevra gave a keynote talk attended by many more RSA Fellows (there are 85 in total in Hong Kong). We also developed links with some organisations doing exciting work in the design for social innovation arena, rode one of the longest escalators in the world, and visited a social entrepreneur’s maker workshop in a disused farm. Suffice to say it was an incredible trip – here are a few of our best bits:
Working with students and staff from Hong Kong Design Institute
We were invited and hosted by the DESIS lab for social design research at Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI), the design stream of the government-funded Hong Kong Vocational Training Council which currently has over 7,000 students. This year HKDI is encouraging students from across different design disciplines to respond to the 2013-14 RSA briefs and enter our competition (students anywhere in the world are eligible to enter). We ran workshops with students from Landscape Architecture, Product Design, Interior Design, Publishing and Visual Communications courses, meeting over 150 students in the process and seeing some outstanding work. This visit was an initial step in establishing a relationship that may result in a more formal partnership with HKDI, and many of the tutors we met expressed a keen interest in embedding the RSA briefs in their curricula in future years.
Learning about Hong Kong’s burgeoning design for social innovation scene
It was clear from meetings with DESIS staff and the directors of Hong Kong Design Centre, the British Council, and the newly founded Design Institute for Social Innovation at Hong Kong Polytechnic University that there’s a growing movement of organisations in Hong Kong promoting and enabling design that affects positive social change. All of the organisations we met with were keen to develop closer ties with the RSA and to explore potential knowledge exchange partnerships.
Spreading the word about the RSA + social design – with the help of RSA cupcakes!
The biggest event of the week was the RSA Student Design Awards evening talk and reception on Thursday night, hosted by the Hong Kong DESIS lab at HKDI. There were some very big smiles when we discovered upon arrival that drinks were accompanied by cupcakes decorated with our very own logo and images! We managed to resist tucking in until after Sevra had delivered the keynote speech; a very well received introduction to the RSA and presentation of our unique viewpoint on design. HKDI staff, students and other young people attended the event along with a number of Hong Kong-based RSA Fellows, which made for some fascinating conversations and networking during the reception.
Visiting a remarkable social entrepreneur and his maker space
One day we travelled nearly 2 hours out of Hong Kong City Centre to meet engineer and social entrepreneur Cesar Harada at his design workshop. Cesar is a Senior Ted Fellow who quit his job at MIT in 2010 and moved to the Gulf to develop an Open Source, shape-shifting robot called ‘Protei’ to clean up the BP oil spill. Cesar recently moved the Protei headquarters to Hong Kong, and is the current ‘Creator in Residence’ at HKDI. We (eventually!) managed to locate his self-built workshop in a disused farm, and spent some time being shown around, hearing about Cesar’s Protei journey and taking a look at a prototype. Cesar later attended and spoke at the RSA evening reception, so he had a chance to talk to some RSA Fellows too.
Meeting RSA Fellows
It was a real inspiration to meet so many RSA Fellows during our time in Hong Kong, both in meetings and at the RSA evening reception. Those we met included the CEO of a global design company, a psychology professor from a Hong Kong University, a 1981 RSA Student Design Award winner who now runs his own design agency, the principal of a secondary school and the founding director of a social enterprise. One Fellow who gets a special mention is William Yeung (above, right), who was carrying his lifetime RSA membership card and has been a Fellow for over 50 years!
We found that there was a real commitment to the RSA and an appetite for a more active RSA Fellow network in Hong Kong, and the new Hong Kong RSA connector, Chris White (above, in the centre), is working on this. We spent a brilliant evening with Chris, who also attended the reception and had a chance to meet other Fellows there.
I’ll finish by sharing something one of the Hong Kong Fellows said which really resonated with us – when speaking about what being a Fellow means to him, Simon Yeung said:
‘…by being a Fellow, you are demonstrating that you are a certain kind of person; you are making a statement that says “I have a social conscience.”’
Rebecca Ford is the Assistant Manager of the RSA Student Design Awards.
I have been working at the RSA for six months and as my time here is coming to an end, I have recently taken to a. reflecting upon what I have learnt and how it can be used in a future role and b. panicking about finding a job. One thing that I have certainly learnt about myself and being an intern however is that I should at no point refer to myself as ‘just an intern.’ I’m sure that some internships require very little of interns, but this is not the case at the RSA (thankfully). We are definitely being paid for a reason. I have been given the opportunity to play an important role in a research project for the RSA Warwick partnership which involved conducting focus groups with pupils in the Academies, creating a questionnaire, and even speaking at the launch event (which was only slightly terrifying). I have also been given the opportunity to work on the Kickstarter project RSA Pupil Design Awards * which involved drafting the script and working with the Fellowship and Design teams. This definitely seems like the role of an employee to me, and I can honestly say that I’ve been made to feel like one throughout my time here.
Interning at the age of twenty seven is not for the faint hearted as there is nothing worse than feeling like you probably should have started your career when you were 21 years old. However, did I know that this was the area I would like to follow after graduating? No, I certainly did not. Did I feel prepared to stay in England after graduating? No again. I can honestly say that when choosing to apply for this internship within the education team at the RSA, I was passionate about working in this sector. Having completed a dissertation comparing the higher educational aspirations of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in both France and England, I wanted to feel as though I was part of a project which aimed to aid these pupils. I’m happy to say that I have achieved this and I will continue to follow the progress of many of these projects from afar.
I’m not sure what my next move will be, but rest assured that I will be using the skills I have developed throughout my time here. I will also never again refer to myself as merely an intern. Here’s hoping that future employers will appreciate this too…
*Please do check this project out and spread the word kck.st/pupildesign. We only have 7 more days to go!
Filed under: Design and Society, Education Matters
I would like to start this blog by wishing you all a very happy new year! 2014 is looking like an exciting year for the design team here at the RSA – it’s the 90th birthday of the brilliant RSA Student Design Awards. The RSA Student Design Awards is a global curriculum and annual competition that challenges students and recent graduates to think differently about design, through tackling briefs focused on real-world problems. We work closely with universities to help them implement the curriculum and support participants through workshops and mentoring. Winners are rewarded with cash prizes, paid industry placements and complementary RSA Fellowship to kick-start their careers.
We’re driven by our mission to enable, support and reward design that positively impacts the world, and we are looking to build on a hugely successful 90 years of working with students by launching a brand new project in 2014. The ARC Design team are teaming up with the Education team to pilot the Pupil Design Awards. We want to introduce a version of the RSA Student Design Awards to about sixty teenage pupils aged 14-19 in three RSA Academies. If the model is successful, we will expand this into a national competition for all schools in the UK.
Why now? Design Technology education is on the decline. In 2013’s A-Levels there was an 8.56% drop in those taking the subject from the previous year, and D&T has seen a steady decline in those taking the subject as a GCSE – from 5.6% in 2009 to just 4% last year. This has seen it fall from number 6 to number 9 in GCSE popularity tables. This needs to change. With the Design Council telling us that every £1 spent on design gives you over £20 in increased revenue, £4 increased profit and £5 in increased exports, and that the UK spends £33 billion on design every year, we can’t afford to let this subject slip at a young age.
Design and Technology was introduced to the curriculum in 1988 to “prepare pupils to meet the needs of the 21st Century; to stimulate originality, enterprise, practical capability in designing and making and the adaptability needed to cope with a rapidly changing society”. Now 14 years into said 21st Century, these words ring truer than ever. The Pupil Design Awards will not just teach the students to learn to ‘cope’ with a rapidly changing society, instead they will be given the chance to design how that new society will look. Challenges will look at topics around collaborative consumption (asking pupils to design a product or service that gets better or more useful the more people use it), how to design out waste and how to use design to bring generations together, thus helping to tackle isolation in the elderly.
We know that the RSA Student Design Awards is a successful model which makes a huge difference to how young designers think about and use their craft, and past winners have told us they think it would benefit younger pupils. 2012 winner Richard Watters commented “If I had done this award when I was younger, it would have inspired me to think about the world differently and how design can help society as a whole”.
We need your help to make the Pupil Design Awards happen. We are raising money using Kickstarter to fund the pilot project – the first ARC project to do so. We have some brilliant rewards up for grabs including framed prints of winning entries and being a named sponsor on one of the briefs. We have two weeks left on our campaign, and are passionate about making the Pupil Design Awards happen this year.
Happy New Year
Filed under: Design and Society, Education Matters, Fellowship
We are happy to announce that our project RSA Pupil Design Awards: Coming to a school near you? has now been launched on Kickstarter!
Following on from the success of the RSA Student Design Awards, we are hoping to trial the expansion of this scheme for 14-19 year old pupils, aiming to inspire them to apply their design skills to solving real life problems. The Pupil Design Awards will challenge pupils to think differently about design, through tackling briefs focused on real-world social, environmental and economic problems. The project will initially be run in three of the RSA Academies with the opportunity for further expansion at a national level if successful.
It has been particularly interesting to look at alternative ways of fundraising and what this may mean for the ways in which charities operate in the future. Crowdfunding has the advantage of allowing people to donate as much as they like, offering them the chance to receive various rewards pending on the amount donated. In thinking up our rewards for this project, it was necessary to think more clearly about our audience which has in turn assisted us in further developing the project. Our rewards include an invitation to the Pupil Design Awards ceremony if you pledge £50 or more and a signed A3 colour copy of one of the three winning pupils’ designs if you pledge £20 or more.
It is still the beginning so it is impossible to comment on our success as yet, though we have already raised £2, 300 of our £10,900 target in 5 days which is a great start. We’re grateful for all of the tweets and retweets and we’re hoping that this will continue during the next few weeks.
Please help spread the word and make the Pupil Design Awards happen! Donate here!
Filed under: Design and Society, Innovation, Social Economy
This post has been re-blogged from the Nominet Trust Website
One of my favourite things is a picture of my Italian grandmother, my Nonna, when she was 20 years old. The war is over, and she is celebrating in a pleated skirt she had sown herself, whilst brandishing a sub-machine gun. Born in 1925 in a tiny hill-top hamlet north of Venice, her lifecycle takes us from the fallout from WWI, the rise of fascism as a political force, the extreme changes that faced Italy post WWII – from latrine outhouses to more cars than children in under 50 years – and the political jokers that we find ourselves with today.
The internet is some sort of magic… but it feels a very prosaic type of magic when you are 60 minutes into a trans-European phonecall trying to explain how to re-plug a router!
My nonna has worn many hats. Her dreams of being a teacher or accountant were scuppered at the tender age of 10 when her father died – malaria handing him over to pneumonia in the end. This daughter of petty bourgeoisie sharecroppers became a scullery maid then seamstress then resistance fighters’ runner then market trader. Despite being very tech-savvy for a woman of her time – good on a typewriter, she had cycled hundreds of kilometres at a time during the war and had learnt to drive very early on as one of the minority of women working after it – the computer and the internet had largely passed her by. Until now.
Now I’m networking my almost ninety-year-old Nonna up to noughties. It’s hard work. She distrusts and finds joy in the internet in equal measure. Each day is a new battle; reminding her where the skype button is, ruefully laughing each time she delightedly exclaims “I can see your face! How funny….” The internet is some sort of magic, granted, but it feels a very prosaic type of magic when you are 60 minutes into a trans-European phonecall trying to explain how to re-plug a router!
London to Milan is a very long way when it is your route to grandma. Whilst I know that she has family, friends and neighbours that support her those 782 miles away, there is always that feeling of guilt when I get up to leave. Beyond my nonna, we all know that more should be done to combat loneliness and social isolation, especially in older people. Scientists have found that feeling lonely over long periods of time can kill you: being emotionally isolated can be as fatal as smoking, and common illnesses that are made worse by loneliness include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, and cardio-vascular diseases.
We try to do our little bit to help out in the Social Mirror project: Social Mirror is a way of linking local people to local activities and groups, using local knowledge. Social Mirror is a bit like an automatic magazine quiz: you answer questions and, if you need it, social mirror can issue you with local ‘community prescriptions’ based on your interests; anything from a walking group, to a photography class and much in-between!
My nonna is something of an inspiration for the Social Mirror project. Working with the wonderful Sue at the Knowle West Media Centre we have been using the magic of the internet to ‘plug’ mainly elderly isolated people into the magic that is local community. With developer delays and all the usual jazz the project has suffered from some ups and downs, however we all agree that the initial feedback coming in makes it all worthwhile.
One elderly gentleman has even gone from being largely alone to going to multiple walking groups a week. He has been so enthusiastic about the project that he agreed to speak to the Rev Giles Fraser about it for his upcoming series – Communities through Thick and Thin. Be sure to listen out for us on the 15th December, and do tell us what you think!
Original post here
The image has been taken from this Italian history timeline.
Mental health is a major issue affecting the UK population. 25% of people in Britain will experience mental health problems every year. It costs the NHS a great deal and causes billions in lost earnings from sick days every year. Approximately half of mental health issues are ‘common mental disorders’, such as depression and anxiety.
As part of a partnership with Nominet Trust, we are applying our model of social innovation to the issue of mental health, and very excitingly, we have been lucky enough to develop a brief for the RSA Student Design Awards on this topic.
Last week, We Are What We Do’s Creative Director Tori Flower and I helped to run a workshop at the RSA, for 35 students who were working on our brief, to help them use and understand our approach to behaviour change, around the issue of mental health.
Recent trends in psychology have focused not only on treating these ‘common mental disorders’, but also on preventing them. Just as we should live healthy lifestyles even when we are physically well, so as to build up resilience and lower our chances of becoming physically unwell, similarly, psychologists say we should practice certain activities in order to lessen the chances of us developing mental illnesses. This is what our brief and the workshop explores.
We began by looking at the difference between and importance of explicit messaging that tells people what to do, and implicit, facilitative products and services that offer practical solutions and facilitate new, positive behaviours, embed habits and appeal to a mainstream audience. These facilitative products and services enable action, reducing the drop-off between awareness and tangible, sustained changes in behaviour, and help the users of that product or service to make improvements to social and environmental issues, without being nagged into making a change.
Once we’d grasped that, Tori moved on to explore 5 key activities that can build resilience and promote good mental health. These are:
- Spending time with the people you love – friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours
- Being active – doing a physical activity you enjoy
- Learning something – stretching yourself, rediscovering an old interest or trying something new
- Doing something for someone else – being part of a team, helping someone out, thinking of others
- Looking around you – thinking beyond your internal thoughts, appreciating what you’re doing and noticing the world around you
The students were then split into 5 groups, each looking at one of these behaviours and were asked to use our approach to design a product or service that facilitates the positive behaviour, and therefore help people to embed positive mental health activities into their daily lives. We were looking for a solution that sneaks these positive behaviours into a product or service that isn’t overtly associated with improving one’s mental health.
We were really impressed with the energy and enthusiasm in the room and by the innovative ideas the teams came up with in the short period of time we allocated for the task. We can’t wait to see the submissions in Spring next year.
Following Nat Hunters blog, ‘Finding out what Makers really want’, we have spent the last few weeks picking apart all the drawings, diagrams and questions from the our first co-design session down at Makerversity and have begun to flesh out what a digital maker network might look like with a basic prototype.
Last week we once again took over Makerversity to present our prototype to 40 Makers, aged 16 – 50, to get feedback, input and ideas. There was a fantastic mix of people in the room – we were joined by a diverse range of Makers, manufacturers, educators and designers, including students from the RSA Academy in Tipton and several RSA Student Design Award alumni.
Once again the session was facilitated by Tom and Dan from Swarm, whose engaging rapid prototyping exercises (including the rather weird and wonderful ‘recreating the internet in a room using post its’) encouraged everyone to contribute ideas and feedback, which will prove invaluable as we take our prototype to the next stage of development.
One of the most inspiring things about the day was watching everyone working so fantastically well together, sharing ideas and experiences despite age, background or professional practise. Gary England, DT Teacher from St Johns Academy in Marlborough who attended both sessions with 6 of his A and AS Level Students agreed. “The fact that everyone was equal really appealed to the students and they can see that they are playing a vital role in the platforms development… Its not like the decisions were made for them. I think that one of their main thoughts before the day was how it could look on a CV or in their personal statement, but will now have a real interest in the project.”
These two sessions have cemented a couple of things in our minds as we take this project forward:
One is that the idea of a ‘platform’ for Makers of all levels to connect is both wanted and needed. We are now looking to further develop our prototype and secure funding to roll this out on a larger scale.
The second is that this collaborative way of working and designing was hugely successful. Not only do we have new and innovative ideas from all our participants, but we also have the support and backing from 40 of our target audience from the very start of this project.