Rethinking Critical Crisis Themes and Design Directions: Workshop Outcomes

Participatory Workshop: Rethinking Critical Crisis Themes and Design Directions led by Prof. Nitin Sawhney, Dr. Salu Ylirisku and Magdalena Mihalache, June 26, 2020 (PDF slides).

On Friday, June 26, 10 – 12, we kicked off the first participatory workshop in the course led by Prof. Nitin Sawhney, Dr. Salu Ylirisku and Magdalena Mihalache. Read more about the workshop plan and summary experiences of the virtual workshop.

With the goal of critically contextualizing the role of Human-Centred Research and Design in Crisis and devising insightful design directions for students’ own project concepts, we started by reflecting on crisis themes. Based on previous assignments and lectures, participants brought in several ideas and concepts related to the 3 main domains presented until now in the course: Humanitarian Operations, Contact Tracing and Personal Healthcare.

For 90 minutes, participants engaged in open discussions related to these domains and reflected on the Questions, Concerns/challenges, and Design Opportunities that derive from those.

There were 6 themes that emerged from all the discussions: 

  1. Transparency, trust and clarity of purpose
  2. Agency and empowering people
  3. Inclusivity and Accessibility
  4. Participatory Ethos, Methodology and Process
  5. Ecology and Systems Thinking
  6. Engagement of local and cultural knowledge

All these themes are essential to a good crisis response and are a central part of human-centred design.

Students were then challenged for the next 30 minutes to critically think about the core human-centric themes that transpired in all discussions. Three themes appeared to be leading the process, applying Human-Centric Research and Design: 

  • For Inclusion and Accessibility
  • For Agency and Empowerment
  • For Trust and Transparency

The first theme related to Inclusion and Accessibility posed intriguing questions, mainly related to who to include in a crisis, how and to what extent. Several situations and proposals were observed, from data accessibility, local engagement to education and healthcare stakeholders involvement. 

The next theme sketched the direction for Agency and Empowerment, concluding in agency of data principles, deconstructing thinking and methods through experimentation, driving autonomy and a participatory approach. The overall approach of this theme is being aware at first of different perspectives before proposing ideas or solutions that empower and motivate people.

For Trust and Transparency, it becomes evident that there is a trust lifecycle. To build trust through any solution in a crisis, one might need to consider in advance what are the boundaries, motivations and ethical concerns that emerge from it; during a crisis everything needs to be clearly and transparently communicated while after a crisis learnings need to be captured and shared.

After the workshop, participants were encouraged to continue thinking and iterating on these frames, as well as share their personal workshop experiences in blog reflections. The concepts captured here will be used to guide participants in engaging these themes as part of their Collaborative Project Concepts.



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