EVENT, MENA PROJECTS, SOCIAL INNOVATION

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.

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EVENT, SOCIAL INNOVATION

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.

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DESIGN RESEARCH, SOCIAL INNOVATION

Why Design Research is Important for the Arab World Now

Photo by Ravy Shaker

The political scene in the MENA region is now at the epitome of historical breakthrough, we are the generation that is experiencing a revolution like none other in our region- on a multitude of dimensions and scales. The Arab Spring has revealed to the world that this region, whose peoples have been forced to deal with ongoing political strife and social conflict for decades, is now fervently undergoing a period of massive change. What is more surprising to the world however, is that for the first time we see the Western world taking initiative from the uprisings of the Arab peoples and re-manifesting that rage towards their own political and social systems. Considering the fact that the Arab world has almost always been the ‘follower’ or recipient of  the West in almost all matters until now, this new age of global activism is creating -in many ways- a new era and understanding  of politics.

So where does design  research come in? To most designers who specialize in social innovation, the answer is obvious and the possibilities are endless. First off, as designers we consider that the implications our actions may have on people should be preferably due to participatory and bottom-up design strategies. This means that we encourage the input of the people involved in the problem being tackled, by learning from them, working with them, and designing for them the right tools that they can use to create change in their communities. It is in fact the smaller circles of change and the meme effect they have on surrounding communities that lead to change in the whole system itself. In other words, designers can perhaps help the Arab communities redefine their systems by being the link between politics and the people. By going into each home and understanding the real underlying issues they face and gathering qualitative data, culture specific and innovative solutions can be formed and implemented.

Design does not promise grandeur illusions of instant solutions that fix all social and political problems simultaneously, but it offers people the empowerment to start making small changes in their communities  and understanding the design thinking process to problem solving. Most importantly, as this understanding of design and designers is a fairly new concept, it brings with it the motivation of a new idea and the enthusiasm of young designers who believe that on some microscopic level, they are saving the world.

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DESIGN RESEARCH, MENA PROJECTS, RESEARCH METHOD, SOCIAL INNOVATION

KonfiKits: Results & Insights

Summer has almost come to an end, and the kids are getting ready to go back to school. We spent those 3 months getting to know kids from all over Lebanon and exploring their secret worlds, which they gladly shared with us. They gave us so much insight through their interactions with the KonfiKits, and introduced us to concepts we were hardly aware of with regards to their interests, worries, likes, dislikes, and lifestyle habits. Some answers surprised us, some made us laugh, others were very touching; in all cases sharing experiences with these tweens reminded us of what it feels like to be 10, 12, or 13. It became clear that due to technological advancements and over-exposure to media, many things had changed. These issues opened up new questions and topics to be further tackled.

Currently we are filing all the data we have received and we will be writing an official report to hand to Toufoula regarding our findings and suggestions to move forward with a design solution for better health awareness for Lebanese Children.

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DESIGN RESEARCH, MENA PROJECTS, SOCIAL INNOVATION

Piloting Questions with Kids First

Before distributing the cultural probe kits on the kids, it is best to test out the questions on a few children first to make sure that an average child of the same age understands the requirements. Often, researchers discover missing points or realize issues that only become apparent with the child’s input. Initially, we met with Professor Bahous who teaches education in the Lebanese American University in Beirut, to look over our questions and give us feedback, as she is extensively experienced with such projects and Lebanese children. We also met up with Nadine Touma of Dar Onboz, who recently finished filming a documentary with children and their families in Lebanese rural areas concentrating on their traditional eating habits.

We asked parents and friends to help us find children between the ages of 10 and 12 from different demographics across Lebanon, who would be willing to test the questions with us. Some of the questions (see above) are very personal and would give us insight about how the kids feel about the world surrounding them and themselves, the answers could help us find smarter ways to reach them and  better ways to integrate a healthy lifestyle into their everyday lives. We are currently piloting our probe kit questions before mass producing a significant quantity and issuing them to schools who have already approved the project. Thanks to Toufoula’s founded reputation and previous projects, the dispensation part of the project has been relatively easy for the MENA Design Research Center.

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