conference, EVENT

Eliminating the Capital D at Nuqat 2014

Screen shot 2015-04-12 at 8.27.36 PMWe were invited to speak at the annual Nuqat Conference taking place in Kuwait as a non-profit organization that focuses on the value of collaboration. The speech was entitled ‘Eliminating the Capital D: The Value of Multidisciplinary Collaboration in the Design Process’. The synopsis is as follows:
nuqat3
‘Design has come a long way since the days of the ‘Designer’ who only defines the profession as a means to produce luxury goods or advocate for capitalist consumerism. Nowadays design aims to use its methods and tools at large scales for strategic planning, organizational transformation, public policy, and economic development. It motivates bottom-up approaches to think creatively about solving social, cultural and environmental challenges. In such projects, where design can really affect the lives of people, the designer is merely a facilitator, learning from others and combining skills and expertise to co-create better solutions and outcomes. This multidisciplinary, collaborative and human-centered process has finally brought the real value of design into perspective, serving the 99% and obliterating its egoistic past.’

nuqat2The speech is about 20 minutes and focuses on the challenges we face in the MENA region when it comes to collaboration.

 

Standard
conference, DESIGN RESEARCH, EVENT, SOCIAL INNOVATION, Uncategorized

From Hong Kong to Eindhoven to Casablanca

Every year, the months after Beirut Design Week give us a chance to travel and meet like-minded people in order to develop international partnerships and collaborations.

Our journey starts in Honk Kong in collaboration with the International Gender Design Network, the Design Faculty of the Honk Kong Polytechnic University and Design Research Company from Cologne, Germany. Between October 10th and 12th, during the Social Innovation 10 Day Festival at the Jokey Club Innovation Tower, we participated in a conference and exhibition entitled: The Great Small, and gave a workshop on Cultural Perspectives on Gender Stereotypes, creating a comparison of gender inequality in mass media between Central Europe, Eastern Asia, and the Middle East.

Exhibition HK  HK1doreen HK Participants of the workshop were asked to observe examples of Gender stereotypes in German, Lebanese and Chinese media, and to discuss their impressions and share stories about the cultural values the imagery represents. This brought forth many critical reflections and also surprising results with regards to what some cultures define as ‘normal’ gender behavior, while others perceive it quite shocking.

HK5 HK4 HK3
A week later we were invited to the Dutch Design Week, which takes place annually in Eindhoven, home to the famous Design Academy and the Philips factories now converted to design spaces. On October 20th, we took part in a co-design workshop entitled: When Co-Design Works in collaboration with PROUD Europe, which was later followed by a conference on social innovation as a main event of Dutch Design Week. In the workshop, participants were asked to share their experiences in their respective countries, focusing on challenges with co-design projects.

DDW1

The high profile conference included keynote speakers from the Design Council in the UK, including governmental representatives as well as speakers from IDEO.org and a handful of other multinational organizations known for their social impact work.

DDW4 DDW3 DDW2
The trip ended with a visit to the Design Academy final year exhibition where previous Desmeem participant Tamara Barrage had just graduated with a Master degree and was setting sail back to Lebanon.

DDW5

From The Netherlands we ventured south to North Africa to take part in a workshop developed by EUNIC in Casablanca, Morocco from the 5th – 12th November. This workshop was focused on training cultural entrepreneurs and operators to learn more about developing strategies for organizational growth as well as meeting other cultural managers from the MENA region in order to establish partnerships.

EUNIC1EUNIC4 EUNIC3 EUNIC2  Guest speakers from different cultural organizations from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Serbia, Belgium, France, Spain and the UK, provided valuable insight in order for all participants to develop a global perspectives on the challenges faced by Cultural managers in different fields.

Standard
BEIRUT DESIGN WEEK 2014, conference, EVENT

Creativity and Regeneration in Mar Mikhael

DSC02141

On July 17th, GAIA Heritage organized a SWOT conference entitled  “Creativity and Regeneration in Mar Mikhael” at the abandoned Brasserie du Levant, an old beer factory in the area. Mar Mikhael is currently one of the trendiest areas of Beirut where the hippest bars and restaurants are situated, as well as  designer/ architect/ artist communities mixed with metal workers and  greasy garage shops. Like all upcoming neighborhoods in metropolitan cities, this area has also been under the real estate microscope causing construction of high rises at every corner and destruction of heritage architecture, which inevitably result in tripling rents, inviting large crowds to the overflowing bars, and eventually forcing the small designer boutiques and ateliers out. Seeing that this has been quite a recurrence in Beirut with the previously trendy neighborhoods, this conference aimed to bring together major stakeholders in the region along with government officials to discuss the issue at hand and collectively suggest solutions through dialogue.

The day was divided into an introduction and research panel, introducing the MEDNETA and the cooperation of this project with other historical cities, as well as a summary of the socio economic research results that were accumulated by GAIA as well as other sources. Then came two discussion panels; the first which dealt with the subject of ‘The Creative Economy: Issues of Sustainability in the Context of a Rapidly Changing Neighborhood”, and the second entitled: “The Mar Mikhael Neighborhood: Arts, Crafts, and Design’s Engagement with the Public Space”.

The speakers of the first panel were:

  • • Dr. Khater Abou Habib (Chairman of KAFALAT)
  • • Mr. Emile Nasr (CEO l’Agenda Culturel)
  • • Prof. Stephen Hill (Economist, Sohar University)
  • • Ms. Sarah Hermez (Principal Creative Space Beirut)
  • • Mrs. Rosy Abourousse (Principal Rosa Maria Jewellery)
  • • Ms. Doreen Toutikian (Director, MENA Design Research Center)

Moderated by Ibrahim Nehme, editor of The Outpost magazine, the panel was a discussion between designers in the area, cultural entrepreneurs, and investors. We presented Beirut Design Week, its causes and goals, within the framework of Mar Mikhael, as it is one of BDW’s main focus areas. Two of BDW’s participating designers spoke about their work their challenges. And eventually a discussion with the audience was developed about the needs of designers to grow in such a milieu given the current context of Beirut.

The second panel speakers were:

  • • Dr. Mona Harb (Associate Professor Urban Planning, AUB)
  • • M. Serge Yazigi (Urban Planner, head of MAJAL)
  • • M. Nabil Itani (Head, CDR CHUD WB project)
  • • M. Mario Khoury (Central Bank, Investment Department)
  • • Mrs. Maria Halios (Owner, Maria Halios Design)
  • • Mrs. Christine Codsi (Partner, Tawlet/Souk el Tayeb)
  • • M. Karim Bekdache (Owner, Karim Bekdache Architecture Studio)

Moderated by Dr. Elie Haddad, Dean of the Art and Design Faculty at the Lebanese American University, this panel was fervently defending rights of citizens in the city and insisting that the government must enforce the laws to protect the rights of citizens -especially when it comes to protecting small industries like that of crafts and design against the pressures of rising rent costs, real estate ventures, and the increasing number of bars without enforced regulations.

The Conclusion panel members, headed by the discussion leader Dr. Georges Zouain, head of GAIA Heritage, included:

  • • H.E. M. Raymond Arayji (Lebanese Minister of Culture)
  • • M. Alexis Loeber (EU, Head of Cooperation Division)
  • • M. Ibrahim Nehme (Editor The Outpost)
  • • Dr. Elie Haddad (Dean LAU School for Design & Architecture)
  • • Professor Sofia Avgerinou‐Kolonia (Director of Urban and Regional Planning Department, NTUA)

All speakers expressed support for future initiatives related to Mar Mikhael’s Arts, Crafts and Design. Moreover, the final panel concluded in hopes of strengthening the rule of law in the neighborhood and innovation in the realm of the creative economy. This project has been funded by the European Union.

Standard
BEIRUT DESIGN WEEK 2014

BDW14, behind the scenes…

NEW-LOGO-BDW2014Here at MENA Design Research Centre, the excitement is mounting as Beirut Design Week approaches. If you haven’t already, take a look at all the fantastic workshops, talks, exhibitions and other events we have scheduled for you from the 9th of June to the 15th.

What you don’t know is how hard the team is working to put on these events, and so here is a little insight into the preparation it takes to organize a festival on the scale of Beirut Design Week. Currently in its 3rd edition, it has grown immensely since 2012, and this means a lot more work for the team. From press releases to coordination of designers, both local and international to creating and sending hundreds of invitations, here is the story of how it is all done on time.

Since March, the whole team has been working towards creating Beirut Design Week 2014. As usual, Beirut Design Week is held across Beirut City, featuring exhibitions, conferences, workshops and open studios showcasing the work of local and international designers operating within Lebanon. All our events focus on creative economies, intercultural exchange, design education and design entrepreneurship. 

MENA Design Research Centre has been working to bring together designers from around the world and right here in Beirut to showcase their work in different areas of the city including the Beirut Souks, Saifi Village and Gemmayze. The events are designed so that participants can explore the city without missing out on any of the events.

The past few months have therefore been full of emails and calls to designers and artists worldwide to invite them to participate. Hilary Alexander. Rik Runge, Rowan Bain, Mona Hatoum and Jasper Van Grootel are only a few of the inspiring people that will be speaking during Beirut Design Week. These talks will vary from Fashion Design to Interior Design to Graphic Design as well as Design and Entrepreneurship and Contemporary Art. Be sure to come along to see any or all of these artistic innovators.

The week will not only feature well established figures of the Design community, however. The annual Newcomers Exhibition is back with young designers eager to display their work. See Karma J, Johanna Jonsson Abchée’s display of mirrors, Karen Kanaan and her brand Kera, Sanaa Ayoub’s fashion line Sana’ for today’s modern woman, Siwar Kraytem and her cycling guide to Beirut. Discover Nour Hage’s eponymous fashion line, We Shape Hearts, born out of a love/hate relationship with the city, Sacoche’ beautiful display of leather bags. Witness Moi et ma Puce exploring the bond between moms and daughters and finally, One plus One’s furniture concept.

Beirut Design Week will also feature the work of Crealev (Angela Jansen), Studio JSPR, Studio Mieke Meijer, Niels Bakkerus, Rik Runge (Philips Healthcare) and T+HUIS in collaboration with the Embassy of the Netherlands and Dutch Design Week. Explore the latest in Dutch lighting design, furniture design, interaction design, product design, and design for social impact.

Another event of the week to look forward to is the Contemporary Dutch Architecture Exhibition. Socially sustainable projects that are programmed for interaction, environmentally sustainable projects that reduce emissions by converting sun, wind and water into energy, and economically sustainable projects, where abandoned buildings and even entire districts are be­ing put to different use – all are represented in this exhibition, which gives an overview of the talent and diversity of contemporary Danish Architects.

We’d like to say a big thank you to all the members of the MENA Design Research Centre and everybody else who has contributed to making Beirut Design Week possible for all your hard work.

Standard
BEIRUT DESIGN WEEK 2014, DESIGN RESEARCH, DESMEEM, EVENT, HOW WE WORK, MENA PROJECTS, RESEARCH METHOD

Design Strategy in Collaboration with AALTO University (Part III)

IMG_3973IMG_3962This is the last piece of a three part blog post concerning the collaboration between AALTO Master students of the Media Lab with the School of Business and MENA Design Research Center. In this post, we discuss the co-creation workshop that was developed over the course of 2 days in the Island of Suomenlinna in Finland. 

After weeks of research and skype meetings, the teams were set to meet their client and engage in a co-creation workshop to further design the services that MENA Design Research Center offers, as well as create new strategies for growth according to the current challenges the center faces (explained in part I).  The coordinators of the course rented out a conference room on the island of Suomenlinna, and accommodated all participants in a nearby hotel on the island for a full weekend. On saturday morning, after getting to know each other with team building exercises (which also included answering embarrassing questions publicly), each team set out to pinpoint 3 main challenges and the potential solutions that were suggested. Those were then further developed with concrete action plans and timelines.

IMG_3960 IMG_3977

The system and services which were designed for MENA Design Research Center were based on the yearly cycle of the organization. One of its core projects, which defined the role of the center in the region, was DESMEEM. Therefore research into a newer version of this project is being conducted as a DESMEEM 2.0 with a variety of added features and modification based on feedback from the earlier version in 2012. Moreover, a list of Gatekeepers were deduced as main players in Business, Economy, Education, and Culture. These will be people who will be acting as ambassadors of the Center in the coming years. The entire process of this project will be documented and made public to our audience in Beirut Design Week 2014.

By sunday evening all the team members were exhausted of brainstorming and set out to the nearest cafe for a good old Finnish Kahvi and lighter conversations. The MENA Design Research Center would like to thank Nina Martin, Anna Asikainen, Joanna Saad-Sulonen, Teemu Leinonen,  Andreas Pattichis, Pirkka Aman, and Pouyan Mohseninia for all their efforts on making this project a great success.

IMG_3985

Standard
EVENT, HOW WE WORK, MENA PROJECTS

Design Strategy in Collaboration with AALTO University (Part II)

demos collageThis is Part II of a three part blog post concerning the collaboration between AALTO Master students of the Media Lab and the School of Business and MENA Design Research Center. This post is about the visit to DEMOS Helsinki, a Finnish non-profit organization that is similar to MENA Design Research Center. (Image sources: demoshelsinki.fi, merijnhos.com, tylkkari.fi, low2no.fi)

As part of their research, the AALTO students were looking for similar institutions and organizations in Helsinki, where potential synergies with MENA DRC can develop: one such non-profit organization is DEMOS Helsinki. They arranged a meeting with Satu Korhonen (Head of Product Development) and Outi Kuittinen (Head of Co-Creation) of DEMOS and Doreen Toutikian (Director MENA DRC) in order to start a personal conversation about the history and development of DEMOS as well as the challenges they have faced in the past 9 years since their establishment in 2005.

“The first five years were the most difficult” confirmed Ms. Kuittinen. The organization was founded by 2 people and now after nine years they are eight full-time employees with a large extensive network of interns and collaborators throughout Europe. Through this network and collaborations, they were able to develop and grow as one of the most prominent non profit organizations in Finland that deals a variety of issues and challenges faced by Finnish and global societies. One of their most famous projects which has now developed into a platform of its own is Peloton. Its focus is to develop innovative strategies for sustainable energy consumption within the Finnish industries and households by changing consumer behavior. Another popular project of theirs is the Koulu Festival which was a weekend long event where anybody can teach a class about anything; this was a great social project that aimed to build interest-based communities and bring people together.

Much of the openness and energy is derived from the team who seem well-grounded researchers with creative sparks that are not shielded by corporate attitudes. They are all very versatile and skilled in many disciplines such as: economy, sociology, political science, design, technology, media, geography, education, philosophy and business. When asked about not having a specific focus for the organization, it did not seem to be a concern as they prided themselves on their versatility and multidisciplinarity. They stress on being a serious research based organization but also enjoy the fun side of interacting with people in the learning process. In fact, since they do not fixate on one topic or theme, they perceive it as an endless opportunity to stay open to new ideas and concepts. When asked about their financial sustainability, they were very transparent about the state, city, and European funding they receive to pursue their projects.

The visit to DEMOS Helsinki was very insightful and comforting. Many similarities in aims and challenges were clarified. A comparison was not the aim behind the meeting, but an understanding of how contexts might differ or influence the process of developing a non-profit organization. One thing was clear as the session came to an end: there are many people who are trying to build better communities and societies in their respective fields, and it is the common ground in between these people and disciplines that can pave the way to real development and growth.

Standard
BEIRUT DESIGN WEEK 2014, DESMEEM, EVENT, HOW WE WORK, MENA PROJECTS

Design Strategy in Collaboration with AALTO University (Part I)

IMG_3977MENA Design Research Center in collaboration with AALTO university in Helsinki (The Media Lab and the School of Business) has been developing with its Master students new strategies for the challenges that MENA DRC has been facing as an organization in Lebanon. The course -New Media Concepts for the Third Sector- is made up of interdisciplinary teams of researchers, designers, and entrepreneurs that have been studying MENA DRC and developing service design strategies for growth and development as a co-creative consulting opportunity for both parties. In this first part of this blog post we will be introducing some of the challenges that MENA Design Research has been facing for the past year. 

MENA DRC was officially established in 2012; the first year was quite successful marking the beginning of the DESMEEM project and Beirut Design Week. Although dozens of proposals were written to continue DESMEEM initiatives in the following year, the region’s funding priorities were directed towards more urgent matters. In 2013, the only project that came to full realization was Beirut Design Week. Although it is very important and successful, it is not enough to develop and sustain a design research center. Coming to the end of 2013, some decisions need to be made according to the following challenges:

Growth & HR: The center currently has 2 active working members (Doreen Toutikian & Maya Karanouh). While Maya helps in providing contacts for business development through Lebanese SME’s, banks and organizations alongside managing her company TAGbrands, Doreen builds relationships with international organizations, embassies, and universities as well as handles the daily tasks. During projects, the center hires coordinators for the length of the project. Volunteers are welcome but rare. TAGbrands as an incubator provides office space and services to the center. These services include graphic design, social media, legal services, accounting and PR. We believe that having more full-time employees would be very beneficial to the center, but as it is not financially feasible, should we employ volunteers? How can we grow in our human resources while keeping the integrity and commitment of people that contribute? What kind of benefits can we provide instead for their dedication to developing the center?

Direction & Focus: As far as we know, there are no similar Design related NGOs or non-profit organizations in the region. Therefore, our responsibilities are quite broad. We have still not decided on a certain direction or focus and we are not sure if this is necessary yet. We are involved in all the following activities and initiatives: festivals, workshops, training, user-centered research, publications, conferences, social development, urban planning, urban mobility, community integration, youth& education…etc.  At some point, the center must diverge all its energy towards a pivotal point. Do we just focus on Beirut Design Week, and develop similar events throughout the year (conferences, workshops, talks, exhibitions…etc.)?  Do we focus more on social work? Do we do our own research and publications that concern design in the Arab world?

Community Building & Communication: We have a large network of followers on social media, but they all seem like one group (those who are design/ tech savvy). How do we involve other communities that are not necessarily the hip people of Beirut? How can we reach them? How can we make them interested in what we do and perhaps help them benefit from us? How do we communicate who we are to those who don’t speak our language? How can we make them see that Design is more than just luxury and fashion?

Financial Stability: Since the center is incubated by TAGbrands, we do not have to pay for rent or maintenance. When we realized that funding is scarce for Design in the MENA region, we created Beirut Design Week as a service to Lebanese designers that acts as an annual crowdfunding platform. Embassies and international organizations also help us to bring in professionals from all over the world during the week. This is the main source of income for the center. It is enough to keep it running, but not enough to initiate other projects. Are there other services we can provide that we haven’t thought of? What else can MENA DRC offer?

Space: Unlike many cultural organizations, we do not have a large space to host events, workshops, exhibitions… etc; which could be a way to sustain the center financially. Should we be looking at finding a space for ourselves? Are there possibilities for partnerships with the private or public sector where our presence in a certain space could be mutually beneficial?

Beyond Lebanon: Eventually, we would like to be a regional institution with unified goals and a mission to develop the understanding and awareness of Design in the Middle East and North Africa. We are still very young, and we need to prove ourselves and grow much more to be able to take on such a responsibility. What would be the best strategy to expand within our neighboring countries?

In the next blog post we will be discussing the workshop that took place in Finland as a co-creation session between Doreen Toutikian (Director of MENA DRC) and the AALTO students; where the students took on those challenges and turned them into opportunities for the center.

Standard