Life Journey

To tell you about my journey you better fasten your seatbelt, as it has countless traveled (s)miles throughout 3 continents: Africa, Asia and Europe.

In 1986 I was born in Lisbon (Portugal). Capital where I first had to start learning to pack suitcases to go to Pointe-Noire (Republic of the Congo) with my parents and elder sister. I was 4 months old.

One year later we moved to Douala (Cameroon), another French-speaking country, reason why I ended up in a French kindergarden and carried on in the French educational system.

We lived the historical turn of the decade - 1988 to 1991- in Luanda (Angola). While in the Northern Hemisphere the Cold War was coming to an end with the fall of the Berlin Wall, we were in an extremely resourceful country divided into zones controlled by rival armed political groups supported by superpowers such as US and USSR.

Then came Port-Gentil (Gabon), where I remember learning how to fish from the local kids with only a fishing line and a hook and going to indigenous markets where everyone called my mother “Maman”.

After having spent the first 10 years of my life in Africa, we then moved to a tiny peninsula in the Middle East named Qatar. Wow! So different from what I had seen until then: no street life, huge houses in compounds all looking alike and most impressive… all women covered in black!

(Un)Fortunately it was only until we arrived to Mumbai (India) that I understood what mass poverty meant. So many people. A different unrecognizable disease at every traffic light. An improvised “home” at every corner. An authentic organized chaos in which the symbiotic relation between diversity and respect created an admirable synergy: crossroads with a Temple, a Mosque, a Synagogue and a Church all cohabiting in harmony.

By the age of 14, I had the chance to discover what it felt like to live in an industrialized country as we settled in Barcelona (Spain). Suddenly life seemed much easier while I was getting acquainted with the term Freedom. Playing outside with friends wasn’t a problem anymore and purchasing goods and services was always too easy.

From then on the rest of my studies and work experience were in Europe: finished high school in Paris (France), studied for 1 year at a business university in Lisbon (Portugal), completed my degree in Product Design in Barcelona (Spain), worked in a visual management company in San Sebastian (Spain) and did a Masters in Design for Social Business in Milan (Italy).

The reason why I chose to tell you about my journey was also a way for me to understand how inherently I perceived design as a tool to solve the REAL problems of our world, helping people generate social development through products, services and experiences. It is the best opportunity I found to achieve self-actualization through an exceptional combination: working in a people-centered orgnaization and designing for social welfare.

… And this is who I am and my purpose in life (and this is when I shift to the “Make a living” campaign)! :wink:


Two questions

Dear Tiago

What an amazing life you’ve had so far! Being able to see so many places and learn different languages at such early stages of your life must have made a huge difference in the way you see the world and in the way you want to change it. I share a passion for social design with you, and I too think a lot of our efforts in the future will have to focus on designing better responses to the world’s challenges.

Having said this, I am curious to ask you two questions:

  1. What did you miss in your upbringing? You certainly lived through a lot of changes and experiences. Was there something you would have liked to experience differently?

  2. What would you say is the most important element of your upbringing, the one that gave you the best outlook in life?

Thank you again for sharing your story with us!



Alberto, sorry for the delay and a big thanks for your interest!

Both your questions are sensible and wise…

  1. Many people might agree with me when I say friends are important while growing up, which is absolutely true! By travelling all my life and changing contexts, schools, friends, it struck me once I was older, how important the role of the family was. Who needs more friends when your best friends are your parents and sister? So what usually people think is the most important factor, is not. These are values that once were part of our society and are now endangered.

I would say the most important ingredient I missed in my upbringing was the absence of reasoning.

  1. The most important element was definitely a consequence of the first one. The absence of reasoning made me absorb unconsciously all the different aspects of a culture. That is why today I easily adapt to different situations, persons, and why one of my favorite hobbies is the confrontation of cultures or culture-sharing.

These are enough reasons for me to bring up the term of RESPONSIBILITY. In social design and whatever area that has to do with building a better future, we need to understand the limits of cultures and how disruptive ideas can destroy identities.

Here are two (more) questions related to yours.

  1. Can we talk about endangered values just like we talk about endangered species?

  2. Can we innovate without Schumpeter’s “creative destruction”?

And thank you again for your interest!


Nurturing Development

Hey Tiago!

What a great ryde man! Such an amazing “galloping” through your life.

How would you define/feel yourself in terms of identity? You are Spanish-part African-part Indian, European, a human being, an earthling perhaps?

I din’t get from thevideo whether your project idea was implemented or not. If yes where and how broadly? How did it work out in practice? Did it grow naturally (form community to community)?

Just some quick thoughts on your questions.

An endagered value today around the world is Empathy. I think you might find this RSA video particularly interesting - The Empathic Civilization


Also, social innovation is not technological or scientific innovation. We cannot put whole communities, regions, countries in the lab and test our projects, ideas, policies, ideologies etc. All we can do is draw and indentify lessons for the past and delegate more ownership to the people/the beneficiaries.

If the community fails, the responsibility is theirs and the feedback is felt and given by peers, neighbours, relatives. Therefore, the stakes and the responsibility for the projects is higher. This would make the further initiatives more enagaging and particiative with better accountability.

in peace,


Well done and more

Well done, Tiago. The video is absolutely brilliant. I am going to reshare it.

You, too, keep sharing experiences.

the difficulty of interaction

Ciao Tiago!

thank you for sharing your life journey and the video of this great project!

The social design makes me feel optimistic and sometimes it surprises me like a child!

I have often managed and I’m studing collaborative processes and when I watched the video I’ve thought at the difficulty to let people to tell about them, about their needs.

how do you long have you worked on the field, talking to the people? Have you found any ways to facilitate the interaction that were useful for that specific community, but that could be a way also for others communities?

Empathy is key

Alessia, thanks for your comment.

Well, to answer your question we were 3 weeks in Colombia, 2 weeks in India and 1 week in Sicily. It is not only about talking the same language as the people you are co-designing with (which of course was not the case in India making it impossible to interact without a translator), it is mostly about empathy: being able to adapt, to be sensitive and sensible.

There are interesting methods that I have come across to engage interaction. Drawings with kids works pretty well, as with adults creating maps with different stakeholders related to the person and interviewing at the same time kind of gains time and eases the whole process.

You can find a series of tested examples in IDEO’s toolkit.

Take care,

See you soon :wink:

collect inspiring experiences and thoughts

Thanks for the answer, Tiago.

I know IDEO’s toolkit  and I find it really interesting!

When you can, I’d like to know where did you go in Sicily and some details about that week: I’m part of The Hub Sicily and we’d like collect inspiring experiences and thoughts about social innovation above all if they’re related with our region.

No problem

I’ll send you the information via email! :slight_smile:

Amazing video and amazing program, especially the concept of creatign the citizens of the future. I think that’s something we should learn to value in our own societies as well, we need it badly. Partially young people are “waking up”, I remember my class mates in high school and they were a lot less aware of what was going on in the world (or in their communities) than kids I worked with recently. But I believe we can’t just leave it up to the kids and hope for the best, in many senses they (we) need even more guidance to get the best out of today’s world. And that’s what the school system shoul do, they are in the perfect position and we should all relise it’s the best investment we can make :slight_smile: