Coaching the Beirut Social Innovation Camp

This past weekend, as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Region in collaboration with AltCity, ArabNet, the MENA Design Research Center along with dozens of active partners in the Middle East, organized the first Beirut Social Innovation Camp. As a Design Coach, director of the MENA Design Research Center -Doreen Toutikian- was invited to spend one-on-one time with each team to guide them through the design process of their project.

The room was crawling with developers, designers, and entrepreuneurs who had come to team up with each other and turn their ideas to life. 14 teams were formed with project themes varying from community recycling plans, customer- product reviews, local talent archiving, braille apps, Garage sales, bio-lemonade, handcrafts, location-based job scouting, health planning, youth protection, housing for students, and gunshot detection.

On the third day, the judges who were representatives of ArabNet, Cedar Environmental, AUB, and Naharnet listened to the pitches and picked the winners. Instead of creativity, originality, research, or reasoning behind the project, they seemed to be entirely focused on business models and competitors. Personally, we would have preferred more diversity in the criteria, but nonetheless, it was a great effort from all parts; and surely the participants learnt some valuable lessons. The first prize went to Job Pinner, an app that determines the location of freelancers/ service providers from various fields.

Images Courtesy of Naharnet & Beirut.com


Design Without Borders Conference & Exhibition in Oslo

On November 1st 2012, Design Without Borders, a 10-year project in association with Norsk Form and DOGA organized an international conference with a curated exhibition of the collected works in Oslo, Norway. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs being a partner of this project, invited over 50 designers, educators and professionals from 20 countries around the world. Two people from the Arab World (MENA) were invited as well: Doreen Toutikian, Director of the MENA Design Research Center from Lebanon and Younes Duret from Morrocco.

About Design Without Borders: ” In the field of both design and development aid, there is increasing awareness about the important contribution design makes towards solving the challenges facing developing countries. The last decade has shown us that designers, in their enthusiasm to act, often underestimate the complexity of the challenges they undertake and create practical but inappropriate solutions. Similarly, the developing communities are often so overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation that they are unable to innovate effectively. The conference Design without Borders – Creating Change focuses on the work and thoughts of designers, organizations and entrepreneurs that have managed to find a way of combining complexity and action, effectively using design to create change in real world situations.”

The Speakers: Leif Verdu-Isachsen (Norsk Form), Cynthia E. Smith( Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum), Tor Inge Garvik (Laerdal Global Health), Sille Askefrø Bjørn (INDEX: Design to Improve Life), Eve Blossom (Lulan Artisans), Elizabeth Palmer (Danish Refugee Council), Ole Chr. Kleppe (SuSan Design), Anna Kirah (Steria), and Nita Kapoor (FK Norway)

The conference was followed by a curated tour of the exhibition which was a collection of products, architecture, and services that have been designed and implemented through Design Without Borders for developing countries over the last decade.

For more info about Norsk Form and Design Without Borders click here. Photo credits: Norsk Form/Kjersti Gjems Vangberg





The MENA Design Research Center is proud to be launching the first Beirut Design Week (June 25-30). If you are a contributing member to Beirut’s design scene, we would like you to participate in this event.

Beirut Design Week is the first official design week to ever take place in Lebanon and the MENA region. During the week between the 25th and 30th of June, Beirut will be welcoming some of the world’s most influential design educators and professionals from Germany, Italy, the UK and the USA as well as introducing to the public our local design scene. With a series of exhibitions, conferences, workshops, and screenings across the city, we will be celebrating the role of design in our contemporary culture, society, education and economy.

The website beirutdesignweek.com will be complete soon; meanwhile, for any inquiries regarding participation, please contact us at hello@menadesignresearch.com.



On March the 31st we kicked off DESMEEM. All the designers -Lebanese and European- as well as all the NGOs gathered at the Nasawiya Space in Mar Mikhael Beirut to meet each other and decide on the themes and teams. DESMEEM director, Doreen Toutikian, hosted the event and then explained about the detailed three-month program, the requirements, rules, and upcoming major events. By the end of the day, all the teams were formed and enthusiastic discussions filled the space. With a definitely positive outlook to the project, the DESMEEMERS then moved on to Chaplin, a bar just next door to enjoy a relaxed evening with their new teammates. The teams will meet with Doreen every Saturday for group discussions and feedback . There will also be weekly workshops to enhance the work of the designers given by various designers, researchers and educators from the Middle East and beyond.



On Sunday the 11th of March, DESMEEM introduced its first event, D-Factor Day. All applicants that made it through the first selection phase were asked to come down to Babel Theater in Beirut and present a speech on stage. Thirty six designers and architects of various disciplines and universities, including students and working graduates, gave a speech 20 years in the future about an award they received because of DESMEEM. By choosing one of the 10 themes of the project, each awardee used his or her style of presentation and creative skills to accept this honorable  prize. Some thanked their teammates and mums, others referred to intergalactic aliens, some beat-boxed, and some danced. With a few nervous pauses and a lot of laughter, they all got to know each other a bit better. During the event, all participants had to vote for one another, this vote counts as 25% of their score. At the end of the event, they watched all the videos of the European designers who also gave the same speech. The final participants of DESMEEM will be announced today!



DESMEEM Website & Application

The MENA Design Research Center has initiated Desmeem, a design project where European designers will come and stay in Lebanon for THREE months and work with Arab designers and non profit organizations to create better solutions for social and environmental issues in the Arab World. The final outcomes of all the teams will be exhibited and the best designs will be sponsored for production and implementation. To  view the website and learn more click here on the image below.

“We created Desmeem to promote the awareness of design as a multidisciplinary problem solving tool for social and environmental issues and to show the benefits of multicultural collaboration for such projects. By uniting nonprofit organizations and designers to work on common causes and help each other in reaching innovative solutions, we are extending the role of design in the Arab World. Moreover, we would like to encourage design education in universities to adopt such methodologies in their curricula and invest in exchange programs between Lebanon and Europe.” -Doreen Toutikian

To apply and become part of the project click on the image below.


Last week’s talk at AltCity

Last week Doreen Toutikian gave a talk about Design for Social Innovation within a mini-conference about Social Entrepreneurship  hosted by AltCity in Beirut. As many of the attendees were part of non-profit organizations, and very few of them were aware of how design thinking can help them with creative problem solving; the discussions that followed brought on new possibilities for collaboration. Many of them wanted to learn more about the design thinking process from research and ideation to prototyping and implementation. After further discussions with David Munir Nabti, head of AltCity,  there might be a series of workshops regarding this matter in the near future.

On a more recent note, the crowd was also informed of our new project DESMEEM which will be launched next week, so stay tuned.