About This Project
This is the first DESIS (Design for social innovation and sustainability) project I did back in my first master program in China. I fell in love with DESIS since then and never missing it before I graduated since what it is focusing on is exactly what I always have been trying to pursue via my design practice-- designing for real world, real problem and making the world a better one for everyone, not only just for people who is rich enough to afford this (no empathy, all about business).
Other team members are: Wei Hensen, Xu Jinrui, Yang Wanying, Yi Shu. Sep. 2010 I was the team leader and I came up with the core structure and idea. I also made the system map and story board.
Food safety has been quite a hit recent years in China. It is harmful both physically and mentally. It makes people feel vulnerable, lack of safety and suspicious about everything... I have been focusing and working on this problem for a while when I was in China. Next-door Veges focuses on developing and encouraging urban farming by bridging people, meanwhile establishing mutual trust in community. The final goal of our design is improving social innovation and sustainability.
We chose three different communities as research cases. Yu Hua Community, located in Northern Wuxi; Rong Lane, an old community has a dense population and Swan Lake which is a modern and new community.
Rong Lane has a relatively long history as a living block. Many houses has been built for over 100 years. It has a much more natural and habitat environment with highest flexible living style in these three cases. In addition, it has the highest aging population percentage, which make urban farming social practice quite popular here. Neighbors trust with each other since they have been living together for decades.
In Swan Lake, the picture is totally different. Residents live in this area are not allowed to do urban farming activity in public space in terms of the need of unified planning. The residents here are young and busy, they barely communicate with each other so they have low mutual trust as well.
Yu Hua Community is in between. It is a modern community that has poorer infrastructure, longer history and more free living environment than Swan Lake does. Also, neighbors know each other better too and they hang out, talk with each other a lot.
After weighing, we decided to pick Yu Hua Community as the case to work on.
What We Have Found
People who live in old community and block have stronger willing of sharing, especially for retired elders and unemployed people since they regard it as opportunity to prove his/her values to the community. As you could see from pictures above, people shown their creativity to make available spaces to make urban farming happening. Although urban farming could only provide limited yield, however, they all believe the harvest is more organic, clean and safe, last but not least showing more care.
We have interviewed a new-mum who has a 1 year old son. She told us that her parents are planting vegetables for their grandson exclusively since the limited yield there is.
We were brainstorming what are the key words of our design, which lead our design process afterwards. During iterating our design, we should come up with a benefit flow that could support the system keep running, in other words, we want to design a enable flow that make this service system sustainable. Eventually, we introduced "Time Bank" concept into our system.
Three features we were looking for in our design:
- Enhancing mutual trust between people by making communication and sharing easier fruitful.
- Providing safe and organic "neighbor-made" vegetables to people who need the most (children and pregnant women) in fun and sustainable way.
- Letting elders showing off their value and mightiness to community and breaking the stereotype of saying elders are useless.