Disrupt!/Design! 2016: Sustainability

img_1255For the second year in a row, MENA DRC along with Hivos and Dutch Culture ventured to organize yet another Disrupt!/Design! ideathon for over 3 days during Beirut Design Week 2016, bringing together 11 teams that applied to the program with their ideas on developing a sustainable business. Submissions had to be creative ideas that incorporate sustainability in its core values.

About the Theme

Sustainability means “development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Although primarily focused on ecology and the environment, it also involves social, cultural and economic aspects of life. If the submitted idea was in line with this form of thinking, then the team was eligible to be part of the ideathon. It could be a product, a service, a movement or an awareness campaign that encourages more responsible behaviour for citizens in Lebanon and the MENA region. This can include recycling and upcycling projects, but also services that maintain, support and educate.


Introducing the Teams

Participation was open to all people currently residing in Lebanon of any age or background. Participants may be primarily designers, but also social workers, scientists, researchers, creatives, makers, techies, or creative people who are passionate about sustainability.

TEAM 1: Amer el Debek and Aisha Habli

Having noticed the difficulty that young businesses face during the setting up phase, this team aims to automate and streamline the business incorporation method all in a ‘one pit-stop’ website, where a startup can get a fixed cost, set-up their business in no time – all happening online for the first time in Lebanon! This will tackle many of the current difficulties in setting-up a business in lebanon such as understanding the legal framework.  Aisha and Amer will combine their skills in the entrepreneurial and crowdfunding realms to bring this platform to reality.

TEAM 2: Maria EL Hajj and Aya Hoteit

CIVVIES is an urban fashion brand that works on harvesting plastic waste before it hits landfills and gives it a second life in the form of uniquely designed graphic apparel. The brand is more than just about the items it creates as it provides a full service based on an application that allows for personalization and customization of a purchase and a stronger reach into the market. Fitted into a sustainable cycle, the brand hopes to also raise awareness about plastic waste and its collection. This female trio will combine their skills in engineering, marketing and project management to bring CIVVIES to fruition.

TEAM 3: Mariebelle Aouad and Reine-Marie Zeghondi

Ex-Décor tackles sustainability with a new angle by addressing the social tradition of household decoration for both traditions and/or religious events. The team has tallied around 10 different yearly events that require their own set of decorations, objects essentially stocked away 10-11 months per years, just to be displayed once. Ex-Décor is an opportunity to sell your old decorations in exchange for somebody else’s; thus avoiding any creation of waste. This dream team of 2 business savy ladies have thought out all the details of their operation deeming it sustainable both financially and ecologically!

TEAM 4: Iskandar Anis Abdallah, Adib Ghaith, Ghaleb Hawila and Farah Mazyad

Ghain design is an initiative that aims to revitalize the craft and tradition of arabic calligraphy by integrating it to the modern household in the form of furniture. Using a mix of Origami and Arabic Calligraphy the team produces unique lighting fixtures. Each item is carefully crafted and designed to highlight both function and aesthetics. This team combines skills in the art of calligraphy, design and social media and together they hope to repurpose an old tradition and reinvigorate it among the youth.

TEAM 5: Ahmad Khouja and Mustafa Nachar

With the current waste crisis, Lebanon’s dependency on plastic bottles and cans is all the more exacerbated. Khouja and Nachar are developing a mobile compactor that runs without electricity and is able to treat both plastic bottles and cans of various sizes. This device will tackle several problems related to recyclable waste such as the lack of a regular pick-up service and the difficulty of storing plastic bottles. This will allow users on multiple scales to increase their ability to capture and redirect plastic and aluminum waste out of the normal garbage stream and into recycling centers. Ahmad has a background in environmental design and architecture that will be complemented by Mustafa’s design and crafting abilities.


TEAM 6: Renée Abi Saad and Rita Andrew

Donations and charity are an important aspect of today’s economy. Renée and Rita would like to streamline this process to provide more resources to people in need and facilitate the process for those willing to share. They will be creating an application where users can volunteer or donate blood, clothes, money, food, etc. while organizations can build profiles and manage the donations through a merchant account. The app also delivers push notifications to alert users based on their preferences. This duo hopes to truly make a difference in their community by bringing together their passion and knowledge of economy, project management and web development.

TEAM 7‭: ‬Berna Daou‭, ‬Farah Jaroudi and Radwa Rostom

Based on the four dimensions of the Eco way of living, the trio Daou Jaroudi and Rostom imagined a news four dimensional approach to sustainable housing. Their goal is to co-design with communities and a team of experts, using local resources and recycled materials, a house that takes care of its residents. Their approach takes into account the context and the setting, the ecological dimensions of the household needs (such as water, energy,etc.) as well as an economical and a social dimension. All teammates have quit their jobs earlier this year and have decided to dedicate themselves to making this project a reality in Lebanon. They are currently in the data collection phase as they look for ideal sites to implement the pilot project.

TEAM 8: Alfred Bridi and Joseph Sheridan

Joseph and Alfred are tackling culturally sustainable travel with a web platform that can streamline, synthesize, and communicate the soul of cities in the MENA region through the stories of its people. The BETA version will have a specific focus on Lebanon in the hopes of driving more tourism to the country. The platform is a digital and holistic way to experience a city, for travelers and locals alike, through video-based storytelling. An inspired look at a city is provided through curated city guides and editorialized, cinematic-quality content focused on the city, its spaces, and people.  Joseph has experience in building start-ups as well as understanding of middle-eastern real estate; knowledge that will be complemented by Alfred’ experience art directing.

TEAM 9: Haya Farah and Nicolas Maalouf

Tackling social sustainability, the team Farah and Maalouf hope to empower senior school students by building an interactive orientation platform. Based on a narrative format that visualizes the path of several people, the team hopes to create a more approachable format to the data, one that will inspire youth into finding a school major or a career. The website will also be complemented by a youtube channel that prepares them to the job market through passing over the power of storytelling when sharing stories, aspirations, strengths and weaknesses when job hunting or at interviews. This bold “career makeover” will be made available in Arabic and English using Haya’s experience in entrepreneurship and Nicola’s design skills.

TEAM 10: Nicole Fortin and Maya Terro

SOUPer Meals on Wheels SMW is a community-based, volunteer-driven self-sustainable food truck that aims to provide food to those in need. The proposed concept functions on two separate shifts, during day time hot meals are delivered to different communities and at night the truck transform into a traditional street-food service, selling pizza to paying customers! SMW’s mission addresses the issue of food poverty with an emphasis on communities with a high risk of becoming food insecure. In doing so it also highlights the environmental problem of food waste by tackling and raising awareness on the food rescue. As one of the founders of Food Blesses Maya hopes to bring her experience with food and community work into this initiative while Nicole will bring her environmental policy know-how!

TEAM 11: Jesse Bowley, Jeanne Fouchet and Adrian Perez

Harvest is an initiative to develop a DIY kit for indoor and simple mushroom growing focusing on distribution in the MENA Region. This project hopes to tackle the disengaged relationship of the modern urban dweller with the food he consumes. Mushrooms are a high yield crop with a fast growth rate, requiring minimum technology and expertise to cultivate. In addition to its high nutritional value, a great advantage of mushrooms is that they grow primarily on waste material ranging from agricultural waste to cardboard. The main target of this project is educational urban agencies to disseminate the message of urban/indoor gardening to the youth. Adrian, Jeanne and Jesse will be working together bridging between art, design, cuisine and sustainability.


The Ideathon Program & Mentors

The program of the ideathon is divided into a series of sessions throughout the three consecutive days. The sessions are designed in such a way where the mentors introduce the subject to the teams, and then the teams are given tasks to implement before the next session starts. The sessions include tools from Design Thinking methods incorporated into business models such as The Business Model Canvas, Stakeholder Maps, Product Positioning strategies, Value Proposition, Core Value Summary, Accounting & Financing, and Progress Reporting. The mentors for Disrupt!/Design! 2016 were Diala Lteif, Eric Klarenbeek, Doreen Toutikian, Vrouyr Joubanian, Marc Metni, Waleed Jad, Roy Letterle, Nicole Hamouche, Antoine Karam, and Asil Sidahmed.


Final Presentation Jury

At the end of the 3-day ideathon, the teams pitched their project concepts using storyboards and prototypes to the panel of jury members, who selected 2 winning projects and rewarded them with cash prizes.The jury members were Ziad Abi Chaker, Nathalie Fallaha, Eric Klarenbeek and Dima Boulad.


img_1249The Winners

1. Berna Daou, Farah Jaroudi and Radwa Rostom: Sustainable Housing

2: Ahmad Khouja and Mustafa Nachar: Kabseh Kabsten


MENA DRC would like to thank Hivos and Dutch Culture for supporting the Lebanese community to keep building sustainable projects and helping the youth with developing their ideas into achievable business plans.

Beirut Design Week 2015, EVENT, SOCIAL INNOVATION

Disrupt! Design! Crowdfunding Campaign Launches at BDW2015


No one acted surprised when the lights went dark in Beirut Souks on a Monday night early in June—power cuts are regular enough. But that blasé reaction turned to curiosity when the sounds of the rainforest, not generators, followed, and that curiosity turned to excitement as fog poured in and video footage of a waterfall shined through the mist onto a bare souk wall.

“It’s the rainforest!” one young shopper enthused as crowds gathered with smiles on their faces and cellphones in hand to record the unfolding display.

The dramatic public intervention jumpstarted Beirut Design Week, and showed in a very public way how design can make a social impact in the region. As far as campaigns for change go, that was just the beginning. Only a few hundred meters from the pop-up rainforest, teams of Lebanese designers were busy pitching their own social initiatives.

Tackling a broad swath of social issues, the groups of designers participating in the Disrupt! Design! initiative were appealing directly to Beirut Design Week attendees for the funding they needed to get their projects off the ground. Through the Disrupt! Design! initiative the teams had already been equipped with training from the MENA Design Research Center and the crowdfunding initiative Zoomaal.

The diversity of their projects showcases just how many different paths social intervention can take:

Ensa Project With a 2D-animated series, the Ensa Project is looking to empower young Lebanese to address persistent social issues. One key to the project is the online platform where users can interact, share their own stories, and submit ideas for future episodes.

Beirut RiverLess Having already gained UNHabitat and municipal backing for its ambitious strategy to revive and restore the Beirut River watershed, Beirut RiverLess is looking to change the public’s relationship with a once-vital waterway.

Inara Initiative The Inara Initiative designed and launched pitched BDW2015 attendees on its specially engineered lids—one a lamp, and the other a water filter—for the household jars commonly used in underprivileged communities. While the team was appealing for public crowdfunding, its designers were keen to point out that anyone can fund the project by simply buying an upmarket version of the lids, which subsidize the donation models.

Look Me in the Leg The final crowdfunding project to launch at BDW2015 was a team touting its plan for customized prosthetics that provided enhanced functions such as Bluetooth speakers or cellphone chargers. The team hopes it can alter the perception of both prosthetics and disabilities among the public as well as its users.

Showcased alongside the Based in Beirut exhibition in Beirut Souks, the Disrupt! Design! projects were nested near the heart of Beirut Design Week, and the Ensa Project’s first promotional installment played on the silver screen during the BDW2015 international conference, but all the designers had the chance to meet potential funders: from interested individuals to aid organizations.

As the crowdfunding campaigns continue and the design teams push harder to make their interventions, one thing is clear: they can’t do it without a little help from the public pulling them along.

This project has been developed in partnership with Hivos and Mideast Creatives.


Social & Environmental projects win Disrupt!/ Design!/ Funding

_DSF5001 Three minutes may be longer than an elevator pitch, but it isn’t much time to explain the innovation, impact and feasibility of a social design project that’s been months in the making. But that was the challenge design teams faced at the Disrupt!/ Design!/ ideathon this weekend as they sought to convince a panel of experts their projects deserve a $1,000 grant, an advertising budget and mentorship from the MENA Design Research Center. The teams that won funding Sunday proposed projects to tackle a host of environmental and social problem in Lebanon.

_DSF4760Khalik Mitl Sami is a platform for fostering open dialogue on race in Lebanon. Starting with a pop-up stand highlighting the food and cultural of Sudan, the team hopes it can facilitate interactions between groups who wouldn’t normally engage each other. The genesis of the project and its name are rooted in team member Asil Sidahmed’s own experience in which a Beirut service driver upbraided a passenger for racial insensitivity.

“When we look at the Beirut River, what we see is two walls and a sewer,” said Adib Dada, whose team has a master plan for rehabilitating the Beirut River. By creating two parks on either side of the river and building a footbridge connecting Badawi and Bourj Hammoud, the team hopes it can tap into memories of a time when the natural river was a bigger part of daily life. “If we can bring back that emotional relationship, they will fight for it to be cleaner, to be rehabilitated,” Dada said.

Setting out to demystify the Bomb shelter, this team is turning the bomb shelter into an interactive space as it compiles a fresh oral history of the civil war. Tamara Qiblawi said the team hopes the stories of human survival it gathers will fill in the blanks left by war stories that all too often end with “ba3dein zilna 3lmelja.”


With its plan to make a gray city greener one square meter at a time, the Square Meter team plans to distribute hydroponic kits to bring much-needed plant life to rooftops and unused lots throughout Beirut.

Most important for the organizers behind the Disrupt!/ Design!/ campaign is long-term follow-up, which gives them hope the projects will be self-sustaining. “Great ideas happen all the time, but sometimes they go nowhere,” MENA RDC Director Doreen Toutikian said. Mideast Creatives Project Manager Arthur Steiner said the Disrupt!/ model, which has already succeeded in Cairo and Amman, is proof that fields like design, typography, video gaming and music can be engines of social change and economic development. Although designers had in the past been relegated to the role of facilitators for the stories and ideas of others, ideathon lecturer Richard van der Laken said designers are now claiming new agency to pursue their own projects.

“We have, suddenly, a very different role,” van der Laken said._DSF4954

The ideathon teams not selected for the funding campaign are not walking away from the workshop empty-handed, as all the teams have the option of joining a crowdfunding campaign to take their ideas directly to funders through Zoomaal. The campaign will launch June 1 at the opening of Beirut Design Week, where funders will be able to view the projects and meet the designers.

Over three days at Dawawine, the Design!/ Disrupt!/ ideathon teams also worked with a slate of international mentors specializing in fields as diverse as design interaction, monetization and crowdfunding. The teams have spent months, and in at least one case years, developing their ideas, and feedback from other teams and the mentors helped them hone these ideas.

Paul Hughes kicked off day No. 1 of the ideathon with a lecture on design thinking, and Stephanie Hughes coached the teams through the value proposition. On day No. 2 Richard van der Laken shared his experiences about brand identity and positioning, while Lilian Abou Zeki walked the teams through nontraditional business models to sustain their projects.

On day No. 3 the designers worked with Zoomaal’s Aisha Habli to up their crowdfunding IQ, and they learned from Paul Hughes how to nail the pitch. Ideathon participant Ghinwa Chlouk admitted the workshop’s schedule was grinding, but “throughout this whole process we’re having a lot of fun,” she said.

The ideathon closed with the teams pitching their projects to a five-person jury consisting of:

  •  Hani Asfour (architect and creative strategist, president of the Beirut Creative Cluster)
  • Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes (lead architect at AKKA)
  • Ricardo Karam (talk show host and philanthropist with TAKREEM Arab Achievement Awards)
  • Jimmy Ghazal (innovation director and Saatchi & Saatchi)
  • Carmen Geha (professor specializing in political reform and civil society at the American University of Beirut)


Deliberations stretched from an allotted 10 minutes to half an hour as the jury struggled to agree on which three teams that would receive funding. In the end, the jury wasn’t forced to make its shortlist any shorter—a last-minute donation of $1,000 by Ricardo Karam on top of the $3,000 pledged by Hivos broke the deadlock and allowed the panel to select a fourth winning team.

More than 90 designers submitted proposals for the Disrupt!/ Design!/ ideathon, and although only 10 teams were selected for the workshop and four received direct funding, organizers found the strength of the ideas encouraging.

“At a certain point, we hope they all fly,” Steiner said._DSF5334


Design is here to Disrupt!

disrupt6 Promoting big ideas to disrupt the status quo, the Disrupt!/Design!/ campaign kicked off Friday with its first training session for ten Lebanese design teams looking to take their projects from the drawing board to the board room and beyond in search of funding.

The teams—which include veterans as well as plucky newcomers in fields as diverse as architecture, engineering and traditional handicraft—are all vying to be among the three teams selected for a crowdfunding campaign that will launch in June during Beirut Design Week.

A collaboration between Beirut Design Week and the Dutch development organization Hivos, in partnership with Mideast Creatives and the crowdfunding organization Zoomaal, Disrupt!/Design!/ will provide the teams mentorship from a panel of international experts. These mentors will push the teams to refine their proposals while addressing the specific needs each faces.

As they hone their pitches, the teams will also benefit from crowdfunding training by Zoomaal, which will include storyboarding, writing, video production and presentation.disrupt1

The teams are:

Ray Chawki Ghafary and Charbel Afif

Recognizing that traditional below-the-knee prosthetics have left many amputees ashamed, the team aims to make a prosthetic that users could wear proudly. With more attractive covers and an emphasis on aesthetics, the team wants to battle the stigma many amputees face. “We’re not reinventing the prosthetic,” Ghafary said, “we’re enhancing its usage.”


Adib Dada, Yasmina Choueir, May Khalifeh, Raya Tueny, and Alia Fattouh

Though its project is still in the development phase, this team has a series of major interventions planned around the Beirut River. Among them, the team hopes to crowd-fund a project to build a footbridge linking Badawi and Bourj Hammoud, and to build parks on either side of the river.

* * *

Dima Boulad, Pamela Haydamouth, and Celine Khairallah

Looking for a way to convert unused corners of urban sprawl into gardens and green space, the team hopes to partner with the municipality to identify city-owned plots that are currently lying fallow. Boulad said the key to success would be fostering a sense of stewardship among neighbors and allaying any mistrust within the community. “If you give people trust, they give it back,” Boulad said.


Tamara Qiblawi and Mireille Raad

The KnoozRoom team hopes oral history and creative storytelling can prompt recognition of new memories of the Lebanese civil war. The team plans to screen its 27-minute documentary film in a Spears Street bomb shelter-turned-interactive space in order collect untold stories that upset existing narratives of the war. “The aim of the project is to solicit stories of human survival,” Qiblawi said.

* * *

Fadi Mansour, Karl Hitti and Candice Naim

Inspired by regional refugee crises and frequent power outages, this team is producing portable solar lamps. While tapping into a disappearing heritage of glassblowing within Lebanon, the team hopes to serve underprivileged communities with a safe and sustainable solution to the basic need for light.


Angelique Sabounjian, Missak Hajiavedikian and Cynthia Raffoul

Perhaps more than any other corner of Beirut, Bourj Hammoud retains a bevy of local craftsmen and ateliers. This team is seeking to build bridges between generations of Bourj Hammoud’s craftsmen and artisans by creating links among the future makers, the established craftsmen, and the suppliers. “It’s creating this full circle in the production cycle,” Sabounjian said.

* * *

Hassan Kanj and Rawad Hajj

Between coders and designers, there isn’t much common ground, which is why this team believes if coders knew the basics of design and designers knew the basics of coding, collaborations would be a breeze. “If they can understand, they can appreciate,” said Hassan Kanj. With a platform for collaboration between the two communities, the team hopes to make it easier for designers and coders to find each other.


Dina Alwani, Ayman Moadad and Ali Ahmad

With its 2D animated web series drawn from the experiences of daily life in Lebanon, this team of animators hopes to entertain and educate Lebanese young and old about the issues affecting their nation. “It shows what everyone is suffering from,” said Alwani. The key to the series, Ahmad stressed, is that it will draw attention to the issues as well as the inaction that allows them to persist.

* * *

Collette Hogg and Mazin Sidahmed

Seeking to draw a positive collaboration out of the conflict in Syria and influx of refugees within Lebanon, this team hopes to forge bonds around Syria and Lebanon’s shared history of crafting tile mosaics and glassblowing. While traditional methods of producing these tiles and glass have all but disappeared in Lebanon, the team hopes displaced Syrian craftsmen could work with artisans in Lebanon to reintroduce these time-honored techniques while fostering dialogue.

* * *

Cyril Kallab, Iva Kovic, Rana Taha and Laeticia Honeine

Feeling that designers and makers have been left out of the supply chain that leads from craftsmen to consumers, this team hopes to work with established craftsmen to fill in the missing links. By bringing designers into the fold, the team is seeking to influence the market for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Check back for more updates as the collaboration continues!

Special Thanks to our new team member Ian Larson, for interviewing the participants and writing this post.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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.


Nouvelle vague: the new french domestic landscape

“Les nouvelles forces du design français: une nouvelle fièvre entrepreneuriale”


Cedric Morisset and Pauline Deltour came together yesterday at the Institut Français to talk to us about how the design scene across France has changed in the recent past. Even in the past ten to fifteen years, Morisset says, a growing number of young French editors has emerged, which means that a lot of French designers can now produce in France, rather than abroad. These editors include Moustache, Petite Friture, Superette, Specimen, Saint Luc, Goodbye Edison and many more besides.

This is a departure from old ways, when Roche Bobois and Ligne Roset were the only famous French editors. Indeed, this new phenomenon means that a new, younger generation of more international-minded designers are emerging, creating their own brands and developing them with the help of the previously listed editors. France is evolving, opening itself up in many ways to new possibilities, and design is one of the fields benefiting from these changes.

Morisset concludes by saying that these designers are being encouraged to take new initiatives, and he looks towards the future to see how the French design scene will incorporate itself more actively into the international community Beirut Design Week is helping to create.

Pauline Deltour, a designer herself then takes over to talk about her different sources of inspiration. These include “Legacy” in a big way, because she worked alongside Puiforcat for many years and a lot of her collection reflects their work. In particular, their collaboration on the “Argent de Poche” collection illustrates this relationship.

Next, Deltour moves on to talk about “Material Exploration”, for which she mainly used metal wire, bending it to her will to create anything from draining boards to umbrella stands. Next, she spoke of the “Manufacturing Process”, talking at length about the new innovative techniques she discovered, again using metal wire as a key material in her work. She explained that she wanted to use “existing anonymous objects”, which is to say everyday materials and objects that are barely noticed anymore, taking them and using them in new, innovative ways. An example of this would be a copper pot, of the type we’ve all seen at Grandma’s house, and using the material, flattening it and transforming it into a table top that was later used by an Italian restaurant as the dimensions of the table matched the dimensions of the pizza.

She therefore uses culture’s influence a lot, adapting her work following the people she collaborates with, be they Italian, Japanese, French or other, and uses layers, landscapes, valleys and stone gardens to develop her work along many different lines.

The talk was very successful and a brilliant insight into what the design scene of France looks like. We look forward to welcoming Pauline and Cedric back in the future!


A workshop on Design Education in Lebanon

On friday January 3rd, a group of people were called to a brainstorming session to discuss design education in Lebanon.  With the support of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, MENA Design Research Center, and Beirut Art Center, Master student Vrouyr Joubanian (ex-project coordinator of DESMEEM and MENA DRC) is now embarking on a new venture in researching the topic within the Master of Design for Social Impact of the University of Arts. The participants were selected according to three group categories: educators, students and professionals. The list includes: Diala Lteif, Doreen Toutikian, Marc Baroud, Rana Haddad, Pierre Hage-Boutros, Simon Mhanna, Hala Hassan, Danny Arakji, Micheline Nahra, Cyril Kallab, Elias Salamoun, Salim Batlouni, Ronald Abdala, Joumana Matar, Pascal Hachem, Mohamed Yassine, Karim Chaaya, and Rani Rajji.

IMG_1798 IMG_1855

The workshop was conducted through a series of activities that encouraged the discussion of various issues regarding the current state of education, the major challenges that are faced, insights to opportunities, and potential solutions that can be developed. As design research methods, these co-creative activities serve as tools to ease the communication among participants and share ideas within an open-minded and encouraging atmosphere. Much of the themes revolved around universities, institutions, politics, culture and history. As stakeholders and design enthusiasts that yearn for change, insights were collected from various perspectives, and honest confrontations were made possible between the educators, the students and the professionals. Although more specific details will be provided by Vrouyr Joubanian in the course of further research and analysis. It was clear that much of the problem stems from the politics of institutions that act as handicaps to Lebanon in most social and professional realms. Words such as stagnation, lock-in systems, backwardness, corruption and lack of collaboration were common highlights that encompass the frustration of educators.

IMG_1903By the end of the workshop, 5 teams developed possible solutions to the challenges faced. Then a vote was cast to determine which were more feasible and promising. In the coming weeks, a more concrete strategy will be formulated and a collective of people is set to develop outside the institutions to provide a more solid and hopeful future for design education in Lebanon.

IMG_1604To read Vrouyr’s post on the subject with more detail, please follow this link: http://vrouyr.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/about-design-education-in-lebanon/

Photo credits: Rizkallah Chaaraoui


Desmeem Talks To Design Students Of The Lebanese American University

On FRiday March 1st 2013, the Desmeemers were invited to the Lebanese American University to talk about their design process during the three months of the Desmeem project. The teams informed the design students about the research methods they used, the challenges they faces along the way, and the outcomes they achieved through human-centered design. On behalf of the MENA DEsign Research Center, we would like to thank LAU and the Desmeemers for this truly informative and inspiring event!


Exhibition & Community Day with Migrant Workers

During December 2 workshops were held in AltCity concerning migrant workers in Lebanon. At the end of which an exhibition and a Community Day was established on December the 16th. The workshops were developed in collaboration with Migrant Workers Task Force, AltCity, Joumana Ibrahim, and a group of Graphic designers who dealt with infographics. The exhibition design and concept was developed and implemented with the help of Doreen Toutikian, Director of the MENA Design Research Center, since it is one of the center’s goals to contribute to design for social change in the Arab World. Moreover, having worked with migrant workers on a previous Desmeem project, Community Day with the aforementioned partners is a good way to follow up with the latest updates and concerns regarding this serious challenge that affects the country profoundly.

On Community Day migrant workers from many different communities plus Lebanese and other nationalities came together in AltCity to share food, stories, laughter and celebrate the end of the year’s classes.

The Two Exhibitions of the Workshops are:

1) Lens on Life: A series of photo essays created by migrant workers using their mobile phones under the guidance of Ann Megalla and Dima Saber

2) Visualizing Migrant Rights: A series of infographics depicting the lives and rights of migrant workers in Lebanon produced by graphic designers under the guidance of Joumana Ibrahim.

In addition to the 2 workshops, AltCity is also displaying a series of infographics by Visualizing Palestine depicting some of the human rights violations conducted in Palestine.

This whole exhibition has been made possible through the help and support of the MENA Design Research Center, the Netherlands Embassy in Lebanon, the Migrant Workers Task Force, and numerous volunteers.

For more images click here, courtesy of AltCity.


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