Documentation | Collaborative inclusion: how migrants-residents collaboration can produce social values. A reflexive design exercise

Imported back from the hackpad: Thanks to all note takers.

FRI 10:00 | Collaborative inclusion.

How migrants-residents collaboration can produce social values. A reflexive design exercise.

LOTE5 session:

Please read the Notes for participants prepared by Ezio and the team:

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Ezio: "Before you try to invent something new, look very attentively for existing solutions in society. Even as you find them, that does not mean you cannot help: these inventions will typically exist, but they will need help, they will be perfectible.

Today we are going to do just this:

  1. We take an issue – migration and the influx of refugees
  2. We look around at what people are already doing in order to ameliorate the problem.
  3. We audit those services from a design point of view and we look at spaces for improvements.

What makes a service “good”? In the area of design for social innovation we consider services “good” if:

  1. They run on the active participation of beneficiaries. 
  2. They make use of the situated knowledge of everybody involved.
  3. They create value for the society at large.

We look at two main value creation strategies:

  1. Improving the case. 
  2. Enriching the case's ecosystem – imagine things around the project that give it positive externalities.

We are really not qualified to improve the case of services designed and implemented by others. They know so much more than we do about those projects and how they really work.  Looking to enrich the ecosystem is much simpler. The main question is: what can I, with my peers, do to improve this?

These services are targeted at inclusion. Why is it collaborative inclusion? Say we we repair a bicycle, and we do it together: when we have done it, we will not “simply” have a working bicycle: we will have a social relationship that can be repurposed to do things other than repairing that particular bicycle. Collaboration is an engine to build social capital, and social capital then produces a flow of new things. But collaboration is tricky: it requires an explicit social contract (what are you promising?) and commitment. Collaboration is also interlinked with the issue of diversity: having diversity is good, because it enhances the resilience of the system, but it also increases the costs of  collaboration.

Yara Al Adib describes the process of arriving in Belgium as a refugee. A visual synthesis is here: It’s pretty heartbreaking: hurry and wait; disempowering sense that there is this impersonal machine dragging you on. Some of the people in Belgium were very empathetic, but you do meet with a lot of stereotypes.

The journey is interesting. You meet a lot of people, you learn things. It is also quite challenging, it puts in situations where you have to be brave.

The cases

Elizabeth from DineWithUs ( “Once a migrant has been processed and is “legalised” in Belgium there remains a wall between Belgians and newcomers. I was personally frustrated that I did not know any of them, and all my friends were white. Our idea is pretty simple, just share a meal, learn recipes and teach your own. We have now over 100 registrations, it’s working OK but we need to grow.”

Sara from StudioRefugee (  “We match (graphic) designers (and design-students) with refugees to design products that contain real refugee-stories, then sell the products.”

Tarik from SmartSocial ( “I have a hospitality startup. What with refugee crisis, we asked ourselves whether we could use that expertise and team towards social housing. So we started a first project serving minors in the European contract. We have a very good relationship with FedAsil Our first obstacle: the owner of the building is not so happy that minor refugees will move into his building. So we tried to convert some of future co-working spaces from our other startup into temporary accommodation for refugees. But we were sued by our neighbours. But we won: we have legal expertise and took the case very seriously. This is a crazy venture, but it is important to address the crisis. I am grateful to my business partners who accepted that I dedicate half of my time to SmartSocial. As entrepreneurs, we know camps are not enough, and should get involved when we see the opportunity.”

The design tools (Vishall and Stefanos from Namahn)

  • Stakeholder map. Who are the protagonists of this story? Which groups are affected, or interested? Migrants, for sure, but certainly other people too. 
  • Persona. "Placeholder" imaginary persons that we can imagine interacting with our cases. 
  • Journey of Experience. A conceptualization of how people interact with services over time. It forces us to think in terms of time. 

Plenary restitution

In the StudioRefugee case, the area of improvement is how you create value for both refugees and the Belgian host community. The concept is that in addition to turning the venture into a cooperative with shared ownership from refugees, some of the refugees who get involved can become ambassadors for the StudioRefugee. They envision to expand from Ghent to Antwerp, putting one of the refugee-designers in charge. Rand suggestions enabling makers of artefacts, refugees themselves, to sell their own products e.g in Brussels Vintage Market.

Some of the more detailed discussions:

Selling products is a highly competitive market - > Need to offer customer value proposition

Also, where do you start?  This depends on intent: Is it training people to build skills?  Is it nurturing exceptional talents? or generating an income stream?

  • If you start with the people: Find means to be able to train people to develop skills (information, education, financial support)
  • If you start with the talent: Find people with unique skills, incubate them
  • If you start with customer: Find distribution channel, map demand

There is a discussion about this where some people in the group assert that the venture has to generate an income for the refugees, and not just training- training for what? Founder’s answer: Making people happy!

The DineWithUs group has recommended to advertise the service already from within the refugee camps, using the camps themselves as a communication device. Now people who register from small communities tend to have no match, so they sit idly. We have imagined we could instead ask first registrants from one community to become volunteers, putting themselves out as the reference point of DWU in their local community. Additionally:

  • Public feedback: "we really had fun at our dinner..."
  • Collaboration with chefs.
  • Photographs of participants on the website (it fosters trust) 
  • "... many more, there is not the time to list them all!"

[Missed the SmartSocial restitution, please add].

“Until you know the people you are nothing. The sooner you can attach refugees to a social network, the better.”

Is it better to have a generalist service that also refugees can use or should we have specialised, “exclusive” services? The refugees in the room (particularly Rand and Orwa) could not really decide one way or the other. They do not like labels, but they do appreciate how difficult it can be for refugees to use generalist services. Ezio: you should have both. Specialised services should “break the ice”, but then generalist ones should be welcoming towards refugees.