Let's Talk Water
COLLABOR ATING WITH
Alissa van Asseldonk Renee Scheepers
Waterschap de Dommel Woonbedrijf
Sept 15 / Mar 17
Letâ€™s Talk Water The Readership in Strategic Creativity at Design Academy Eindhoven
Preface Bas Raijmakers
Introduction â€“ Letâ€™s talk water Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
Three design research approaches Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
Activist water interventions Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
Bringing it together: the Aquatheek Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
Frameworks for joint reflection Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
Trail of evidence Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
Design students as temporary researchers
Interview with Robert Adolfsson
Talking to Waterschap De Dommel Interview with Martin Bouwman, Tony Flameling and Peter Glas
Talking to Woonbedrijf Interview with Rob Bogaarts
â€˜We borrow our water from nature, so letâ€™s take care of it
employee Waterschap De Dommel 5
a selection of Aquatheek members
Preface Bas Raijmakers
Designers collaborating with residents from a particular neighbourhood, has become a bit of a tradition in Eindhoven, as is demonstrated each year by several projects during Dutch Design Week. The Social Design Street and Circular Factory exhibitions, in 2016 and 2017 respectively, each included a number of examples, and there have been many more instances. This tradition, which was partly instigated by students and alumni of Design Academy Eindhoven, among others, is linked to the Readership in Strategic Creativity – for example through several of the CRISP projects from 2011 to 2015. This book discusses a recent project – from 2015 to 2017 we collaborated with residents from the Geestenberg neighbourhood in Eindhoven, which consists mainly of social housing built in the 1970s and which houses a mixed group of residents in terms of stages in their lives. As well as the residents, our partners for the project were social housing corporation Woonbedrijf, and the water board, Waterschap De Dommel. DAE has a longstanding relation with both of these organisations, which have been involved in several projects prior to our work in Geestenberg. They had, however, not yet properly worked together in a project before, neither within nor outside of DAE. Another first was that the focus was on creating knowledge, rather than ‘simply’ ideas and concepts. This book presents that knowledge, and also touches on the concepts that were eventually created using this foundation of knowledge, several of which are now being implemented. The research we undertake in the Strategic Creativity Readership is always done by alumni of the academy, whom we hire on a part-time basis as Research Associates. For Stroompunt (the Dutch title of this design research project), Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers joined the Readership in 2015. This way of working allowed them to continue their own design studio practices whilst engaging with the complex, hard-to-define issues that the Readership tends to become involved in. Such complex issues are addressed through collaborative problem-finding rather than problem-solving. We combine the skills and expertises of our alumni with those of the participants from our partners, to jointly figure out what we are up against, what the real problems are. Our work typically concludes when this has become clear enough to contrive a brief for designers who can help in solving the problems. That is the moment when the Readership steps back and leaves the matter to the partner and problem owner, who are now confident in knowing 9
what to ask in a briefing and what to look out for in proposed solutions. Like this, rather than competing with DAE alumni for the most interesting projects, the Readership can create markets for them. This is an excellent way of understanding what kind of knowledge is created in projects like Stroompunt and in what ways that knowledge can be put to use. This book gives a rare insight into how design can be both the motor for change as well as the lubricant for the necessary collaborations. Even though our work happens before a design brief is written, it is still design-driven – throughout the research that we undertake, design is our main skill, expertise and inspiration. Of course, we also need to have solid research skills for data collection and analysis, but these are not entirely separate from design either. Our approach is one of Thinking-Through-Making, a particular take on what is more generally called Research-Through-Design where, essentially, design is not used to make a product or service that people will actually use, but rather is used as an approach to creating and expressing knowledge – which does not mean that we are always standing on the sidelines, at times we also create interventions that produce effects ranging from incremental changes, to alternatives for existing systems. At DAE all of this is not so much model-led or theory-led, but rather led by reflecting on our – intuitive, but also well-informed – practices. This ensures that the interventions we undertake in a neighbourhood such as Geestenberg are not only carefully designed, but also playful and unusual enough to ensure that people are c urious about what it is – if it is research, design, activism, a solution, a service, all of the above, or something else. That curiosity is a good starting point for conversations and the questions we want to ask, which can lead to the understanding we are seeking, and even to some very unexpected insights. At times our partners had perhaps to swallow their doubts about what we were doing, but between us there was always enough confidence to take on the unknown and the uncertain – perhaps precisely because it feels better to approach uncertain situations on their own terms, with design approaches that are capable of delivering unexpected results. The great achievement of Research Associates Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers is that they managed to express these results so clearly through design that Woonbedrijf and Waterschap De Dommel were able to take the work forward and integrate it into their daily practices as organisations.
References  See https://www.woonbedrijf.com/nieuws/dutch-design-week, organised by Woonbedrijf and curated by Cindy van den Bremen  See https://www.woonbedrijf.com/nieuws/nieuwsberichten/kom naar-de-circulaire-fabriek-tijdens-dutch-design-week-2015, organised by Woonbedrijf and curated by Cindy van den Bremen  See for instance http://www.crisprepository.nl/ project/grey-but-mobile  Raijmakers, B., Arets, D. 2015. Thinking Through Making. Design Academy Eindhoven.  Stappers, P.J., Giaccardi, E., forthcoming in 2017. Research through Design, in: Encyclopedia of Interaction Design. Interaction Design Foundation (http://www.interaction-design.org).
project house in Geestenberg
Let’s talk water Introduction
Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
Let’s Talk Water presents the intriguing knowledge that was created within Stroompunt (the Dutch project title), a collaborative design-research project of Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE) with the Dutch waterboard, Waterschap De Dommel, and the social housing corporation, Woonbedrijf. This project was undertaken in our case-study area of Geestenberg, a neighbourhood in the East of Eindhoven, where we, Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers, Research Associates in the Strategic Creativity Readership at DAE, investigated residents’ relationships with water. The Readership develops design research as a collaborative practice working together with partners in industry and in society, building bridges between previously unrelated disciplines and interest groups. This is exactly what occurred during the process of the Stroompunt project and was already taking place during the initiation and definition phases which led to the start of the project. The urgency of the project can be appropriately coined by a quote from Woonbedrijf’s district manager, Rob Bogaarts, who has a strong focus on sustainability, “We have already solved all those problems which we are able to solve by ourselves. The problems we are facing now are so complex that we need partners to enable us to address them together.” Interestingly, he defines the complexity of the problems by as being determined by the number of perspectives that need to be involved in order to address them. Both the urgency with which the partner organisations felt they needed to collaborate, and the design-research context which was provided by DAE, were crucial to the success of the results. For Woonbedrijf, the social housing corporation, another sense of urgency was rooted in their becoming aware of the relative lack of representation of water management within their strong focus on sustainability. Having already been making sustainability related transitions for several years, they intend on developing their vision further, taking the Geestenberg neighbourhood as their testing area. Although Woonbedrijf has serious ambitions in terms of sustainability, and works in direct contact with its tenants, it is wrestling with the fact that the government is pressuring the organisation back into its original, core business: social housing.
The impulse for Waterschap De Dommel, the regional water board for the area around Eindhoven, to join this project came from another transition which that organisation is going through. For over 400 years they have been managing water in the Netherlands, largely in the background outside public attention, and up until now they were never really in direct contact with the people they serve – namely every resident and business in the Eindhoven region. They increasingly feel the need to involve residents in the service they provide because water management is becoming ever more important in urban environments. Also, they are aware that people are currently becoming more concerned about, and less accepting of, the taxes they pay to organisations like the water board. This raises the need to make clear what is offered in return, and the question of how to do so. The water board also realised, “our work starts at home,” as Erik van Kronenburg (account manager for industry at Waterschap De Dommel) said. Which prompted the choice for a social approach – to “think big, act small,” as Tony Flameling (senior advisor wastewater technology at Waterschap De Dommel) expressed it. The decision to work in the Geestenberg neighbourhood was quickly made. The neighbourhood was built in 1973 as a ‘bloemkoolwijk’, literally a ‘cauliflower neighbourhood’, i.e. little groups of houses forming intimate groups within the neighbourhood, and connected to the main road in a cauliflower-like structure. Thinking along highly idealistic lines, the idea was that interaction among the residents would be stimulated through the architecture of collaborative gardens and recreational areas at the rear of the homes.
Geestenberg in 1975 – children’s fathers perform a puppet show on the street for the kids. The play was about a ghost from Strijla, who had to deal with three neighbouring residents – Mrs Patio Blocker, Mr Garbage Garden and a dog named ‘Come Here’
However, since people started erecting fences around their individual gardens, Geestenberg has shut itself off, and has become transformed into a quiet neighbourhood with almost no interaction, where even the postman gets lost. Viewing this as an opportunity rather than a disappointment, we developed
fotograaf: Fenny Keller-Mathijssen
a working method (see page 19) which entailed interventions taking place on a regular basis throughout the neighbourhood. We built on the thinking-through-making approach, where thinking and making go hand in hand, alternating all the time in quick iterations â€“ an approach which DAE is continuously developing further. The result of this approach is that making and thinking become very interrelated, enabling ideas and prototypes to be tested as early as possible (see page 29). By reiterating this process several times, the design research enables more applicable but also more imaginative and collaborative results. We explored, in a hands-on way, the attitudes of the Geestenberg residents concerning water. Finally, these results were brought together in the Aquatheek (see page 49). In line with developing design research as a collaborative practice, we teamed up closely with all three partners, working with them rather than for them (see page 69, 73). Students from DAE, residing in our project studio in Geestenberg, also temporarily became part of the team (see page 63). Waterschap De Dommel supplied in-depth knowledge on water cycles in daily life; on its challenges as an organisation; and on the future of water in the urban environment (see page 69). Whilst Woonbedrijf supplied valuable input about the way the neighbourhood of Geestenberg has changed over time, as well as information on the urgency of tackling sustainability issues as a social housing corporation (see page 73). Parallel to clarifying the challenges these organisations were facing, we also sought to better understand the residents and what drives them â€“ in their daily life in Geestenberg in general, and in their attitude towards water in particular. In the course of our work, we teamed up with the residents as much as we did with Woonbedrijf and Waterschap De Dommel, all three becoming equally important partners to us design researchers at DAE over the course of the project. More details can be found further on in this publication. We hope youâ€™ll enjoy the read!
Raijmakers, B., Arets, D. 2015. Thinking Through Making. Design Academy Eindhoven.
Geestenberg in 2015
Three design research approaches Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
When we began Stroompunt without a defined design-brief, the only things clear were the theme (water) and the context (the Geestenberg neighbourhood in Eindhoven), and the initial two partners, Woonbedrijf and Waterschap De Dommel, to which we soon added the Geestenberg residents as a third partner. Throughout the project we worked to provide opportunities for discovering new ways to look at water, to bring awareness and to trigger behaviour change. All of which happened iteratively and by thinking-through-making rather than with a set goal in mind. Nonetheless, the process was structured and systematic at the same time, which helped greatly in terms of being confident that the results would be meaningful and valuable. From the beginning we kept in mind a kind of mission statement which was based on a quote from one of the employees of Waterschap De Dommel, “We borrow water from nature, so we should treat it with care.” This quote led us to the invention of the Aquatheek, Latin for water storage place and a reference to the Dutch word for library ‘bibliotheek’. What began with actions to provoke residents’ reactions, developed into a concept for a communication platform on a neighbourhood scale, and eventually resulted in a drastic change in the ways that all partners involved interacted. Through our designs, we often acted as activists, trying to shift current perceptions, not only within the neighbourhood, but definitely within the partners’ organisations as well.
input Waterschap De Dommel
Systematic, yet free to grow in new directions, the process felt fluid. It was not always smooth, some hiccups in the form of unexpected responses occurred, but it was always stabilised and clearly motivated by the input we gained from all the groups involved. Within this dynamic we built on three existing approaches: a Semi-Structured approach, Making the Familiar Strange, and Cultural Probing. The Semi-Structured approach, applied by us mainly during interviews, is a qualitative method of inquiry, combining predefined open-ended questions with the flexibility to allow the conversation to veer in an unexpected direction. In order to direct the total experience and the setting of the interview, we designed both scripts and physical aids for our search (these ranged from documentation tools to a portable research station). Despite having a clear strategy, we also gave ourselves the opportunity to base actions on our intuition, introducing a spontaneous, tactical approach opposed to the predefined script. Our tactics were like ruses, largely unplanned but benefiting optimally from any coincidence occurring. By basing our search directly on observations of the ever-changing environment of our partners, we were able to explore unexpected themes which popped up during interviews. The visual tools we used to direct the conversations were needed in order to keep control over the situation. The objects themselves actually became players, making it obvious when we should take on different roles such as interlocutor or observer. Making the Familiar Strange is a method in which we use defamiliarisation in the design process. Defamiliarisation is an artistic technique taken from literature in order, “to remove objects from the automatism of p erception […] As we see that as perception becomes habitual, it becomes automatic, making all of our habits retreat into the area of the unconsciously automatic”. We used this technique in the interactions with all three partners. By presenting common things – such as rainwater, or drinking water flowing from your tap – in an unfamiliar or strange way, we enhanced people’s perception and were able to introduce an activist approach towards something as mundane as water. Clean water coming from our taps, or being able to keep our feet dry throughout the year is so ordinary in the Netherlands, hence people tend to take these things for granted. By placing water in a different context – such as it being extremely scarce or over-abundant, or tasting different in each household – we were able to raise questions about ownership and the responsibility associated with it. This, in turn, opened up conversations and stimulated an awareness of each individual’s relationship to water, whilst at the same time kept conversations personal and steering away from ‘the needs of the planet’ or other more abstract notions. 20
By Making the Familiar Strange we aimed to raise questions, to topple assumptions and to break habits, which naturally flowed into an activist-like approach – not in the sense of ‘attacking the system’ but in the way it stimulated both residents and partners to look at water from a new perspective, to wander off the beaten track, think outside the box and imagine things outside of a set system. From the start on we aimed to be present in the neighbourhood on a regular basis with the intention of intervening in everyday life – we deliberately called our actions interventions. The way we used physical objects within these interventions, to create knowledge or provoke, is not dissimilar to Cultural Probes – “Probes are collections of evocative tasks meant to elicit inspirational responses from people – not comprehensive information about them, but fragmentary clues about their lives and thoughts.” The difference, however, is that we did not create probes for people to work with autonomously and supply us with information, but rather as objects with which to trigger interactions and stimulate conversations in order to be able to collect stories about the people we worked with in the neighbourhood. This all took place face to face, in settings ranging from going door to door, to organising public events (see page 29). Developing our probes very attentively – applying a strong aesthetic element but ensuring a low threshold – was beneficial to the process, as the obvious care and refinement was much appreciated by the residents and by the partners’ employees. This relates to Cultural Probing inasmuch as “we believe aesthetics to be an integral part of functionality, with pleasure a criterion for design equal to efficiency or usability”. Looking at Stroompunt, we recognise this ‘pleasurable’ aspect to be a ‘fun factor’ recurring in every action and already established in the first phase of the project. As this fun factor became a recognisable feature, a mutual ‘language’ arose, which provided a strong base for the project’s further (visual) development over time. We were usually present ourselves whenever our probes were used by residents, so we became an integral part of them, our attitude and behaviour, including aesthetic qualities, merging with them. This not only made us recognisable in the neighbourhood, it also allowed us to be flexible with the probes at the moment of their deployment too. In other words, the design of the probe did not end in our studio, it continued to be developed in the field. By further developing all three of these approaches we made them our own. Constantly listening to and observing the reactions of all our partners, meant that we remained aware of the approaches we could take whilst at the same time we were free to mix and combine them, experiment with them and to create our own tactic hybrids, which we expressed in the interventions we 21
did on a regular basis (see page 29). Moving forward like this over the course of almost two years, continuing to reflect on what we had done and what had not (yet) been achieved, we further shaped the set of interventions we came to call the Aquatheek (see page 49). You could say that the process itself was a semi-structured, blank framework, that we continued to adjust and colour in throughout.
References     
Wood, L.E. 1997. Semi-structured interviewing for user-centred design. In: Interactions, 4 (2), 48-61. De Certeau, M. 1984. The Practice of Every day Life, University of California Press Shklovsky, V. 1917 (1965). Art as Technique. In: Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays. Transl. and ed. Lemon, L. T. & Reis, M. J. 1965. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 5-24. Gaver, B., Dunne, A. & Pacenti, E. 1999. Cultural Probes. Interactions, 6, 21-29. Gaver, W. W., Boucher, A., Pennington, S. & Walker, B. 2004. Cultural Probes and the Value of Uncertainty. In: Interactions, 11, 53-56.
secondhand neighbourhood watersoup
blue communication signs
blue loyalty cardS
rainwater carwash fest
interventions in the neighbourhood october
02 a december
05 03 03 04 A B february
blue complement cards
aquatheek welcome pack
design research space
window wash invitation
Dutch Design Week
03 03 c c october
10 11 12 13 14
02 c may
overview activist water interventions
Activist water interventions Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
The most relevant outcomes of the project were arrived at through structured interplay between the approaches mentioned in the previous chapter (see page 53). Being present in the neighbourhood on a regular basis, allowed us to prototype interventions in the field and to use the lessons learned from them as a scaffold to build on. During the process, this framework was further refined and developed into our concept, the Aquatheek (see page 49). The moments described below provide insights into this process, which started with the idea of the Aquatheek as an overall metaphor for an attitude toward sustainable water, but developed into a powerful prototype for neighbourhood interaction. Water Tasting As we were new in the neighbourhood, we used a Semi-structured interview Method to become acquainted with the residents. This method truly proved its worth – avoiding a standard, corporate introduction line that would lead to a predictable conversation about water, we designed an alternative way to introduce ourselves: Armed with a cart, clinking bottles, and a conversation script entitled ‘water-profiles and energy-profiles’, we went door to door, introducing ourselves with, “Hi, we’re new in the neighbourhood and we’re organising a water-tasting. Could we tap some water to fill a bottle?” This combination of a strange opening sentence combined with visual probes, was designed with the intent of Making the Familiar Strange, and it allowed us to escape the corporate or commercial genres. Defamiliarising the situation, literally lowered the metaphoric threshold as we were able to step though the door and into people’s lives – invited in, before we knew it, to tap the water ourselves! The moment we were inside, we used our semi-structured script to allow us to address the topics we wanted to address, but also leaving space for the conversation to head
water-profiles and energyprofiles as a semi-structured conversation script
into new directions that we had not thought about beforehand. We were able ‘to ask questions about what seems so obvious’, creating open dialogues and already founding the basis for relationships that would continue throughout the project. The ‘plug-and-play’ system of the cart, a deliberately unpolished design using second hand materials to give it a personal and informal feeling, was born of necessity as we didn’t yet have at our disposal a local house to work from. Recognisable from a distance, this transportable research station made our presence a little clumsy – we disregarded all the stairs and different levels in the neighbourhood. This was a valuable lesson to us, not in terms of improving functionality, but rather that clumsiness on the streets loaned us a conspicuous presence on the one hand, whilst on the other hand made us very approachable. During the course of the project we further developed this effect to our own advantage, and the cart became our key recognisable feature, leading to responses like, “Oh there are those water-girls again!” It turned us into a memorable presence in the neighbourhood, even though we were only around once a week, and it also provided a great reference to address us. Next to getting acquainted with the neighbours, the act of water collecting itself already led to in-depth dialogues about water. The miniscule question, “Do you have some water for us?” already touched on the issue of ownership and the value of water, which led to extremely animated conversations about the liquid coming from our taps, and at the same time enabled us to get a realistic view of how Geestenberg residents live their lives. The bottle was our entrance ticket, enabling us to enter and fully observe their home situations, in person. Not only did it provide us with a truly valuable experience of the neighbourhood, we were also able to analyse and map the stories they told us and the observations we made, thus gaining insight into the wishes, needs and demands of the residents.
input waterschap de dommel
buurtbewoners geestenberg Veel gezinnen hebben hun huis kleurrijk en speels ingericht.
berging vóór het huis
geen bewustzijn bij de burger
huizen hebben geen waterpunt in de tuin
Minstens 6 van de 15 huishoudens heeft een huisdier.
uitdagingen Water als transportmiddel voor afval
Overstroming door hevige regen
Veel oudere alleenstaanden hebben een rommelig huis.
Smalle gangetjes en steegjes
TUIN verontreinigd oppervlakte water
30 - 60 wordt in actieve vorm aangetroffen.
AFVAL INZAMELEN OP PIEKMOMENTEN
GESLOTEN WATER SYSTEEM
2p huishoudens worden in actieve vorm aangetroffen. Oude alleenstaanden treffen we aan voor de TV. De meeste ondervraagden wonen al meer dan 10 jaar in de wijk.
GROEN ALS FUNCTIE
Alle ondervraagden vinden het een fijne wijk.
Hergebruik / Recycling
Eigenaarschap van water
Mensen die er vanaf het begin wonen ervaren nu minder collectiviteit dan vroeger.
Bewustzijn bij de burger creëren
Collectieve openbare ruimte
Tuinen lopen over in gemeente plantsoen
ACTIVITEIT WAARIN AANGETROFFEN
+/- De helft van de tuinen is groen, de andere helft betegeld.
AFVAL SCHEIDEN a/d bron
Non-ruimtes tussen muurtjes
De meeste ondervraagden hebben niet (meer) zoveel contact met hun buren.
Alleenstaande ouderen: grootste gedeelte weinig contact met de buren.
OVER DE BUURT
BUURT Rustige buurt.
ACTIVITEITEN Ondervraagden vinden geen aansluiting bij huidige activiteiten in de buurt.
Het overgrote deel stelt ons bijna geen vragen maar vertelt zelf heel veel.
Alle ondervraagde oude alleenstaanden hebben de verwarming hoog staan. Het overgrote deel heeft geen enkel probleem met ons binnen laten.
Oude alleenstaanden zeggen zuinig te zijn maar zijn dat niet.
vooral ouderen gaan heel graag met ons in gesprek.
Het overgrote deel was bereid mee te doen aan de watertapperij.
Grootste groep is bewust van het milieu en probeert zuinig te doen.
6/15 mensen zegt bio- en ecoproducten te kopen.
Aantal huishoudens van verschillende categorieën zijn heel erg bezig met milieu.
Maar 2 mensen stellen een kritische vraag over de watertapperij.
Mensen zijn meer bezig met energiebesparing dan met waterbesparing.
WATER 7/15 zegt zuinig om te gaan met water.
ruilwinkel Veel mensen geven aan water graag te hergebruiken binnenshuis.
3 mensen geven aan water als heel waardevol en kostbaar te zien.
“Er mag meer rondom natuur & milieu plaatsvinden (voor kinderen).”
“Het zou leuk zijn als de elektriciteit uitvalt, dan gaat iedereen op zoek naar elkaar op straat.”
“Kienen & high-tea: dat mis ik!”
“Zuiveren van water zichtbaar en openbaar maken.”
“De zwemkuilen (tussen keermuurtjes) weer actief maken.”
COLLECTIVITEIT EN ACTIVITEIT
“Ik zou graag samen met anderen demonstreren, zoals vroeger.”
“Een watertap op het plein!”
“Ik zou graag de wc doorspoelen met mijn douchewater.”
“Wat nou als je energie kan opwekken door het glijden van een glijbaan?”
Hemelwater “Ik zou graag de wc doorspoelen met regenwater.” Wateropvang op platte dak voor planten in de tuin.
bringing the water board’s challenges together with the wishes, needs and demands of the neighbourhood
Het overgrote deel vind dat er te weinig activiteiten plaatsvinden in de buurt.
Water Safari Following a thorough acquaintance-making with the neighbourhood and having laid the basis for mutual confidence with neighbours and with the partners, we next took steps in using the framework we had developed from residents’ motives (see page 53). Becoming involved in Stroompunt made us extremely conscious of our own water-related behaviour – we are still emptying cold tea into plant pots, feeling ashamed to just pour it away down the drain. This switch in our own behaviour was caused by a much deeper understanding of the way water flows through our lives, from learning about the systems behind it and what effect our actions have on them.
our documentation of the water chain, following an explanation by water board employees
This is exactly the process that we wanted residents to go through, nonetheless it did not really surprise us to learn from Waterschap De Dommel, that on Open Day at the Wastewater Treatment Plant there wasn’t exactly a rush of people eager to visit… So the problem was how to get residents involved and eager to learn. An expedition through Eindhoven, accompanied by the area administrator of the water board, opened our eyes. For example, he showed us an exotic plant that had spread to cover the total water surface of the river – the result of an ignorant resident who had once cleaned out his aquarium in public water. He also explained how many fish species in rivers are becoming more and more female because of the hormones in the medication people flush down their toilets. We had never thought about how the influence of our actions, as human beings, affects the water system in such a visible and omnipresent way. At that moment, the idea began to form for bringing the abstract topic of water back into residents’ daily life, starting, literally, from their own perspective – the Water Safari was born. 33
The Water Safari is an unusual tour commencing in the residents’ own living environment and leading through the nature area and the river valley close to the neighbourhood, with an employee of Waterschap de Dommel as guide. Whilst a tour is not necessarily an uncommon event, a Water Safari is anything but familiar, and we deliberately maintained that eccentricity. Reframing the tour as a safari, we aimed to give it an appealing and adventurous angle, trying to attract attention whilst at the same time creating a bit of a mystery – what is a Water Safari?! When we proposed this idea to niche water-experts we used probes to semi-structure the conversation whilst aiming to make tangible the experience of the Safari. Armed with pictures of ourselves which showed the feeling we wanted the Water Safari to express, we collaboratively marked interesting destinations on empty maps. Proposing this idea to a neighbourhood panel called into being especially for the project, which consisted of a selection of residents, one lady in a mobility scooter was a little sad that she would never be able to join. She also admitted that she almost never left the neighbourhood, other than to go to the supermarket. It was precisely this which triggered our minds, (thus proving the value of close collaboration with residents), and we began to develop something we wouldn’t have come up with on our own – a Mobility Scooter Water Safari, for that group of people whom we often encountered alone at home. After this resident had allowed us to see through her eyes, all non-mobile older residents were rewarded with a real Mobility Scooter Water Safari they joined a year later, resulting in a procession of balloons bobbing above the reeds like a blue march along the water.
We realised that with this Safari that we had created a very strong concept. It is very widely applicable, all that is required are stories (which are already there), a route and a tour guide, then you are ready to roll. Think big, act small... the scale, the target audience, the approach and the location can differ, but the goal is very concrete and always the same – animating people’s interest in ‘the water issue’. The Water Safari transforms a huge, seemingly immutable challenge, into something manageable, tangible and accessible. 34
tour through the Wastewater Treatment Plant, accompanied by primary school pupils
Blue Compliment Cards During the hours we spent in Geestenberg, making observations and conversations, some things in particular stood out. A high number of residents expressed themselves through posters and messages taped to their windows or front doors. These ranged from political expressions to funny signs or
advertisements for their companies. One thing specifically caught our attention – postcards with an image of garden gnomes, signed by Woonbedrijf’s neighbourhood manager, often with additional comments by the residents themselves. Looking at the cards which Woonbedrijf had been using over time to communicate with residents, it struck us that the tone of voice had changed from imposing rules on them, to a more positive approach whereby ‘good’ behaviour was stimulated, and that there was a move toward being open to the ideas of residents.
The neighbourhood manager, Johan van de Sanden, turned out to be the instigator of these Blue Compliment Cards – giving people compliments instead of warnings and rules. Some residents had begun to collect the cards over the years, sometimes even showing their pride by displaying their collection on the windowsill. Although we sympathised with the idea, the Compliment Cards went against everything we had already learned in the project and against what we wanted the residents to do – they gave compliments for a well maintained ‘garden’, which in Johan van de Sanden’s eyes would be a light-coloured, paved pathway, with gravel on either sides and a few nicely decorated plant pots. Anyone with a jungle of bamboo and weeds would receive a friendly reminder to take better care of their garden. 37
Keeping the positive approach but changing the message, we developed Blue Compliment Cards. All of a sudden, residents who were not used to it received compliments – for having a green (though sometimes messy) garden, or for collecting rainwater in old barrels. This had a defamiliarising effect, as the residents who normally received negative attention or no attention at all, were now celebrated for ‘doing something good,’ without even having realised it. Recognising this was an opportunity for additional educational value, going even a step further in the approach Johan had initiated, by supplying ideas, giving a sense of control and stimulating a pro-active attitude, we implemented tips and tricks in a following series of cards.
It is important to note that handing out Blue Compliment Cards was the first intervention specifically signed by both organisations, Waterschap De Dommel and Woonbedrijf. It might be that this unusual combination – the activism of the cards (giving ‘messy’ green gardens a compliment), and the stature of the organisations who are the senders – had a defamiliarising effect. This was further emphasised by our use of an attractive medium like postcards, often used for informal, friendly communication, a quality that is also recognised and used, for instance, in the Cultural Probes. This made the action even more worthwhile, as it triggered interactions – people felt so honoured by having received a compliment card that whole new conversations ensued. 38
Taking the existing infrastructure of the cards as a basis allowed us to quickly develop and test our own cards. This was a great opportunity with one caveat – we had to ask the neighbourhood manager to not only deliver these altered versions of his concept, but also to change his whole approach and mindset about who deserved a compliment. This caveat would soon turn into a great success – a short speed-course in water sustainability resulted in Johan being one of the first Woonbedrijf employees to fully adapt to the new vision of a ‘blue’ neighbourhood. In a further phase of Stroompunt he even ended up vlogging about the neighbourhood-wide implementation of the blue compliment cards.
Rainwater carwash fest Our insight that residents would take the opportunity to approach us themselves once we offered a chance for them to do so (as demonstrated by the Blue Compliment Cards), led to a switch in focus – from creating new ways to provide residents with information, to creating contexts for meaningful interaction. Instead of us reaching out or sending a message, why not instead design opportunities for residents to reach out? To research possible ways to stimulate interaction, we worked towards a collective goal: a Rainwater Carwash Fest for the residents and the partner organisations. The Fest placed the emphasis on using rainwater for non-familiar purposes, with a fun factor incorporated – the Rainwater Carwash, Rainwater Bubble Blow and Rainwater Window Washing. We created this grand finale in order to give shape to our research context, which was in fact the path leading up to the Fest. We researched which methods had worked well, not only in prodding residents, but in really activating them. In order to stimulate curiosity, we kept it open what exactly the Rainwater Carwash Fest was about, though we did broadcast a clear message for them to collect rainwater together with us. The focus on rainwater felt like a logical next step, as previous interventions had mainly been about tap-water and waste-water – in fact the neighbourhood lends itself as a perfect illustration of the need to address rainwater, considering the flooding in summer times and the differing levels all over Geestenberg. Referring to the ancient concept of a community well, we gave rainwater a social value as it became the centrepiece of this community-building event, celebrating and using the water which had been collected – and once again defamiliarising water.
flooding in the streets in Geestenberg in the 1970s
Whereas in the first phase of Stroompunt, each of the interventions and probes which had been used to collect stories stood alone, we now designed a chain of interventions which built on each other – first triggering curiosity and stimulating interaction, which later raised the expectations and developed into a climax. Building on the experience of the Blue Compliment Cards we designed probes supplying residents with ‘an opportunity to start interaction’. We changed one thing however – as opposed to solely using probes during our personal presence in Geestenberg, we now ‘planted’ them in public spaces, with the aim of extending our scope by Making the Familiar Strange even when we were not physically present.
If you had been a resident of Geestenberg at that time, the first thing you would have noticed would have been a blue sign and a mailbox appearing. We planted them in the neighbourhood, whilst concurrently distributing a neighbourhood-wide flyer with the intention of inspiring residents with peculiar blue messages and testing ways to stimulate communication. Would residents visit the website or send us an email (both were suggested on the flyer), or would they post a letter in the special mailbox to respond to the blue messages? Later we built up to the Fest by planting large, blue rainwater barrels on the streets, requesting rainwater. Every intervention or probe was testing something very specific. This made us extremely aware of specific, detailed design decisions: whether we should put a picture of ourselves on the first neighbourhood-wide flyer, or whether we should put only the Aquatheek logo on the blue mailbox, or also the logos of Woonbedrijf and Waterschap De Dommel. In situations where we anticipated one of either of two outcomes – e.g. posting a letter or not posting a letter in our blue mailboxes – we were regularly surprised when a third, unexpected option cropped up. By using an approach related to the semi-structured interview method (designing and planting probes in a defined context, but relinquishing control of what might happen), we gave residents 42
the opportunity to do something unscripted, like kicking a mailbox off its feet or ‘borrowing’ the blue signs to create an installation off-site. The great unplanned effect was that the probes triggered residents to reach out, literally providing them with an opening sentence, asking us, “Hey, are you the ones planting those blue signs? There is one right in sight of my front door!”, or to ask their neighbours, “Was it really true that this square used to be a swimming pool?” (as was indicated on one of our signs). This was a milestone within the project – we were no longer the only ones reaching out, now residents also approached us and others in the community. In this way, the probes, and more specifically the blue signs, became a medium for social cohesion. We tried to build on this valuable result by deliberately designing a probe with that cohesion in mind – blue cardboard cards with a little piece of chalk attached to them, urging people to ‘pass the baton’, a metaphor for the hope that our mission, whilst being adapted by the residents, would continue on, living its own life in Geestenberg.
References    
Wood, L. E., 1997. Semi-structured interviewing for user-centred design. In: Interactions, 4 (2), 48-61. Bell, G., Blythe, M. & Sengers, P. 2005. Making by Making Strange: defamiliarization and the design of domestic technologies. In: ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 12 (2), 149-173. Ibid. p. 153. Gaver, W. W., Boucher, A., Pennington, S. & Walker, B. 2004. Cultural Probes and the Value of Uncertainty. In: Interactions 11 (5), 53-56.
Blue Communication Signs intervention
t h e A Q U A T H E E K Why are neighbours not portraying sustainable water behaviour YET?
they don’t know how
open a dialogue
SUSTAINABLE WATER BEHAVIOUR
lower the threshold
they can not
create a community
GET IN DIRECT CONTACT WITH RESIDENTS
they don’t want to
integrate a fun factor
STRONG COMMUNITIES IN NEIGHBOURHOODS
make it personal
SUSTAINABLE WATER BEHAVIOUR
A Q U A T H E E K residents
Bringing it together: the Aquatheek Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
“Hi! Welcome to the Aquatheek. We borrow our water from nature, so let’s take care of it!”
This opening line, with the maxim based on a quote from one of Waterschap De Dommel’s employees, was coined early on in the process and functioned as a great base to build on. As a mission statement it provided a context for bringing together, in an ongoing and fluid process, the lessons we learned from our design interventions in the Eindhoven neighbourhood of Geestenberg (see page 29). Though the Aquatheek’s message remained as a central pillar throughout, we adapted, through trial-and-error, the ways in which we approached the spreading of this message through the neighbourhood. The initial idea was of a physically present neighbourhood platform like a library, (the word Aquatheek sounds like the Dutch word for a library – bibliotheek), a concrete presence which would involve all three partners equally, (the two partner organisations and the residents), in workshops, events and community building, around the topic of water. This idea was altered and polished during the course of the process. As we became acquainted with the neighbourhood, we discovered a clear division between one group of people with very conscientious behaviour towards water sustainability, and a larger group of people with (almost) no conscientious behaviour towards water sustainability. When we analysed the interviews conducted during the Water Tasting intervention (see page 29), we distinguished three foremost reasons why some people were not yet behaving in a consciously water-sustainable manner, namely: ‘I don’t know about it’; ‘I don’t want to’; and ‘I would be willing, but I literally can’t.’ These were the reactions we kept in mind when creating approaches to tackle these reasons. In turn, this collection of approaches provided us with material when we were contemplating new actions and interventions to research what the purpose, identity and characteristics of the Aquatheek could possibly evolve into. Using prototypes we learned that it was not a good idea to introduce to residents yet another platform with the same aims as both partner organisations, especially when its goals were presented only vaguely. Rather than its message being adopted by residents, confusion would be the only outcome. We learned that the playful prodding as well as maintaining a slight aura of mystery, worked very well in attracting attention, triggering conversations and raising 49
awareness, but that when these came from an unknown source it did not activate anything other than questions – ‘What is the Aquatheek?’ Through experience we came to realise that we had crossed a fine line, by simply prodding too much without actually providing a proper basis for people to understand what the Aquatheek was. This realisation provided us with the insight that the Aquatheek should not be a separate thing, but should be clearly connected to both organisations – it didn’t necessarily need to have a physical presence, but should be integrated into the existing infrastructures – and for each individual partner involved, it could have a different output (identity and goal) as well as a different value. For Waterschap De Dommel, the Aquatheek created a ‘service’. This consisted of a first set of actions and events aimed at nudging residents and eliciting unconventional interaction with them – opening up conversations, stimulating awareness and changing the ways they behave concerning water. The Aquatheek became, for the water board, a blueprint for neighbourhood-scale interaction, and the start of a social media platform with national potential. For Woonbedrijf, this blueprint for neighbourhood-scale communication and interaction was applicable not only to the water sustainability issue, but to all the issues they deal with as an organisation. To them it has become a tool to make ideas and topics more visually present in a neighbourhood. Working with recognisable probes in public space not only triggers awareness, but stimulates communication among residents, creating a livelier and more liveable neighbourhood. The residents in their turn, benefit from an increasing number of events in which they can participate, as well as a lively and more liveable neighbourhood, and the added benefit of a closer relationship with Woonbedrijf and Waterschap De Dommel. Whilst the sustainability-minded residents feel the urge to live in a greener environment, the possibility of participating in actions to accomplish this is often thwarted by financial or practical limitations. Having close connections in each of the organisations could support these actions of or even help initiate them, and could result in more and more homes becoming water-resilient and sustainable in their use of water in the future. The connections betweens the partners could be seen as a self-supporting loop, as both organisations also benefit from an increased number of water-resilient and sustainable homes, particularly as they are also responsible for maintenance. This final concept of the Aquatheek continues to work along the lines of the original approaches from our initial framework (see page 53) – aiming to 50
create awareness, followed-up by a change in behaviour. By reframing the meaning of water and by giving water a social value by means of the interventions, we really built on each partner’s strengths and on the opportunities offered by their existing infrastructures. This made the output (actions and interventions – see page 29) not only more relevant and more grounded, but also lowered any possible financial thresholds for the organisations, as well as dismantling any barriers to necessary changes in mentality. (These could now happen over a period of time). The Aquatheek idea, as expressed through the mission statement, grew in importance for all partners involved, including ourselves, as did the entire Stroompunt process. One way in which we continue to benefit from the work is in the way that all partners have gained confidence in working collaboratively to address complex issues, doing so in a way that branches out from their respective goals which were named initially at the point when they commenced involvement in the project (see page 13). Teaming up closely throughout the project gave them the experience of collaborating in a process that is not set in stone but which does provide the right context by means of expertises, skills and approaches. Mutual understanding, and trusting that a positive outcome would emerge from the fluid design and research process, opened up a second way to continue benefiting from the work done. Namely, a follow-up phase, separate from the DAE-led research project, and conducted from our own design studios. The most successful of the interventions are now also being further developed and implemented in the work of both partner organisations by means of a design process. This is something which is already happening with the Blue Compliment Cards (see page 37) and the Water Safari (see page 33), but which definitely provides a structure with potential for the future as well – as our partners already observed, we still have walls full of ‘blue’ ideas.
Frameworks for joint reflection Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
Stroompunt stemmed from the urge to collaborate in addressing complex problems (see page 9), so working together and undertaking action as experts on equal footing was extremely important throughout the whole process. This process provoked an awareness of our roles and forced us to be specific about them, at least to ourselves. The roles we took on differed, intentionally, depending on the context we were in, and also changed over time. As we went through the process of integrating ourselves into the neighbourhood and getting acquainted with the key-figures from Waterschap De Dommel and Woonbedrijf, we adjusted our positions, presenting ourselves as ‘playful’ when interacting with residents, and as ‘professional’ when interacting with either of the two organisations, Woonbedrijf or Waterschap De Dommel. These positions are not necessarily oppositional and they have some flexibility at times, but emphasising them allowed conversations to be held on different levels, using the same semi-structured interview approach (see page 20) for the different partners. Whereas we intuitively took on a playful role in the neighbourhood in order to facilitate opening up conversations by Making the Familiar Strange (see page 20). We also realised that in doing so we created a basis of trust, which we were able to develop further into a balanced relationship in which we were still playful, but acknowledging the residents as an equal partner. This manifested itself in various ways, for example, some very water-conscious residents were eager to think along with us on the project during brainstorm sessions around their kitchen table. We also set up a neighbourhood panel where people with varying attitudes were represented, from the extremely water-conscious, to those who did not give two hoots about water issues. On the panel they discussed their perceptions and opinions of our project’s interventions with us. Being straightforward about our process, and opening it up visually through design, created a level playing field with all partners involved, enabling us to work with them rather than for them and for everyone to really understand the challenges through addressing them together. We facilitated this close teamwork by designing a Trail of Evidence (see page 59), as a way to keep track of our process in a tangible, visual way, by communicating everything openly – from quote to sketch, from note to insight. We also shared any doubts we had, or anything that jarred, which revealed the uncertainties and the, sometimes messy, nature of a design process. Initially this made us feel tense (do they expect us 53
to present clear results?), but our partners never perceived us as anything other than professional. Nevertheless, over time, we came to realise that taking this attitude as designers had its drawbacks – as designers we could no longer control every detail at each and every moment. Jeroen van Erp phrases this positively as, “The mentality of designers has to change; they must not want the last say on the details, but they must set the direction - they must let go!”. Indeed, there is something here that can be advantageous, we observed that as designers, we were taken seriously when exploring and developing strategies together with our partners. We discovered that if, during workshop sessions with the partners, we relinquished control by making all the steps of our process transparent, this made the work function well because we provided the frameworks to enable reflection on our materials and experiences, on our interventions, research data and the stories we collected. Looking, for instance, at the Water Tasting intervention (see page 29), we created a framework (see page 53) around the question, “Why are the residents not behaving in a more water-conscious fashion?”, and anticipated the three main answers we considered most plausible, namely the “I don’t know about it,” “I don’t want to,” or, “I’d be willing to, but literally can’t,” responses. These statements may represent different positions on a scale of awareness, but each of them still results in the same conclusion – no change in behaviour. To discover how to possibly overcome these attitudes, and how residents might be prompted into actually taking action, we came up with a wide variety of approaches, such as, ‘integrating a fun factor’ or ‘lowering the threshold’. Exemplary of this framework, is that we did not use it as a mould to deploy knowledge but rather as a springboard to launch off, enabling us to see new things in new ways. This way of working was not only beneficial to us design researchers, but also gave the partners faith that we were capable of making sense of the dynamic chaos of collected stories in ways that may, at times, be intuitive, but which we were able to communicate in a clear way. This confidence, combined with the rich collection of data, created a solid collective basis for joint analysis, enabling us to derive insights and opportunities together from the evidence we produced. Although the analytical overviews and frameworks stimulated confidence, it was the stories we collected in the neighbourhood that were the most valuable. We presented these stories as part of a ‘still-life’ visualising the intervention in the neighbourhood, enhancing people’s perceptions and stimulating empathy. Presenting the stories in their original context, clearly showed that, “the stories that emerge from the Probes are rich and multi-layered, integrating routines with aspirations, appearances with deeper truths. They give us a feel for people, mingling observable facts with 54
emotional reactions”. This was of great importance as once employees of both organisations were able to empathise with the stories, it enabled them to build on them and apply their expertise in mutual brainstorms. We even went a step further in involving partners in our process in a tangible way – as probes worked so well in directing the total experience and initiating interaction with residents, we applied this to instances of interaction with employees of both organisations. Workshop sessions or presentation moments were launched by enacting (future) interventions. “Hi, welcome to the Aquatheek. Please accept this personal pass.” By making these familiar encounters strange during the process, we not only set an informal tone stimulating fast collaboration, but also enabled employees to become part of that process in a whole new way. We shifted our role from ‘professional’ to more ‘playful’, working with them in the same way as we did with residents. Now the employees could feel and imagine the interventions, they were able to build on this experience and started coming up with new ways of interaction themselves. Neighbourhood manager Johan van de Sanden, for instance, who started vlogging about the Blue Compliment Cards among other things, or Tom Overgaauw of Waterschap De Dommel who asked us if he could use parts of our intervention in an educational event he was organising for primary schools. By making the whole process tangible, we turned it into a stronger, more collaborative process which enhanced and broadened the perception of employees and residents alike, enabling them to embrace the interventions. In this way, some of our methods that were initially ‘rogue’ actions – in the sense that they existed entirely outside the systems of our partners – became inducted into their system. We also learned together when it was not a good idea to copy one another’s actions literally, as not all of our probes and interventions could be suitably transformed into services. As one employee of Waterschap De Dommel pointed out, “You two can easily ring doorbells, playfully asking to tap some water. But how am I going to do that as a big middle-aged guy?” Examining together which of our actions could or should, or couldn’t and shouldn’t have spin-offs, was a very valuable activity, which opened up various opportunities for future work commissioned by Woonbedrijf en Waterschap De Dommel. After all, the partners had together created a solid basis for further collaboration, and they had hoped from the start to implement solutions for the most valuable opportunities created during the project. Some of the most successful interventions have already been developed further and implemented along a separate track, without the involvement of DAE, instead being based in our own design studios (see page 69).
Our journey started from a structured, yet uncertain process with activist-style interventions, and developed all the way to collaboratively designing solutions for the complex problems our partner organisations faced, together with those partners and the residents. Without all these intense collaborations, and the growing trust in each other as a result, far less would have been achieved. References  
Raijmakers, B., Vervloed, J., Wierda, K. 2015. One Design Under a Groove. In: This is CRISP. CRISP magazine 5, 29. Gaver, W. W., Boucher, A., Pennington, S. & Walker, B. 2004. Cultural Probes and the Value of Uncetainty. In: Interactions, 11, 53-56.
joint analysis in our imaginative Aquatheek
the stories collected during the water tasting intervention presented as a still life to partners
Trail of Evidence Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers
Designers are trained to keep track of their entire process because “documenting is a crucial facet of reporting on the (design) process, as well as a way of providing insight into design research findings”. As Design Academy Eindhoven graduates, we are highly skilled in both visual documentation and in storytelling, and within the Readership in Strategic Creativity we use documentation as both a design tool and a research tool. Furthermore, because engaging with the audience is as important as engaging with your partners, during the Stroompunt project we further developed our m ethods of documentation into a framework that facilitated joint analysis and researching as a team – we titled this method the Trail of Evidence (ToE). The ToE can be seen as a physically present, semi-structured framework, which was applied by us to walls during meetings with the partners. We transformed that natural, designer’s quality of documenting everything from quote to sketch, from note to insight, into a tool to keep track of our process in a tangible, visual way that was comprehensible to our partners. This process even included any doubts we had or things that irked us – thus revealing the uncertainties and the, sometimes messy, nature of a design process.
sketch (by Alissa) showing different takes on design during a process
The ToE provided added value to the project in multiple ways. First of all, the semi-structured framework literally created space for us to experiment and approach challenges in our own way, whilst also making the steps and processes explicit to others. This contextualised our work and stimulated partners to think associatively and to search for connections incorporating their own expertise. It stimulated joint reflection and building on each otherâ€™s ideas, which, in turn, resulted in ad hoc team forming, or â€˜teamingâ€™. As the ToE was applied to set events, it facilitated moments to really come to grips with the knowledge created. Not only by amassing everything we had done, but through actually introducing a communicative framework, opportunities arose for everyone involved to derive insights, not just the design researchers being the ones to draw conclusions. This, combined with the transparency of the process actually growing on the wall, inspired partners to become involved and acquire a sense of co-ownership over the process. This process resulted in a much more balanced collaboration, with all partners involved acting on the same level. From this emerged a more natural flow of conversation and debate, as opposed to our simply presenting the final result to them. It also made sure that nothing which had been collected and created was lost, enabling partners to go back to our evidence and ideas at any time, and apply these to the unique challenges within their own organisations. The Trail of Evidence started as a way for us, the design researchers, to be able to get to grips with knowledge from our own process, and it resulted in a valuable tool for collaboration and partner interaction.
References   
http://www.lexiconofdesignresearch.com/lexicon/texts/document http://www.lexiconofdesignresearch.com/lexicon/texts/storytelling Edmondson, A. (2012). Teaming, How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, United States.
what if every household could only flush 50l of water per week through the drain into the sewage?
what if rainfall would increase by ten times?
what if wastewater treatment would be the task of residents?
WEEK 1 guests: woonbedrijf, waterschap de dommel
scale: the house
WEEK 2 guest: Heyheydehaas
scale: the house
WEEK 3 guest: TOM LOOIS
scale: the street
WEEK 4 guest: AFDELING BUITENGEWONE ZAKEN
scale: the neighbourhood
scale: the neighbourhood
Design students as temporary researchers Interview with Robert Adolfsson Bas Raijmakers
Bas Raijmakers – Could you say a few words about yourself and how you came to be involved with this project? Robert Adolfsson – I’m the coordinator for the Food Non Food department at Design Academy Eindhoven and one of my roles is being a ‘connector’, someone who looks for opportunities. I have known Alissa van Asseldonk and Renee Scheepers since their studies, and I still see them regularly. They were discussing this project about research into water, and because of earlier experience through my work as an Associate Reader elsewhere, I understand how this kind of design research project can translate into an academic way of looking at the design process, which is interesting from the point of view of method. So I thought Stroompunt was a great opportunity to bring outside expertise into our department, to confront the students with a real project but also with real people from the field, and with designers who are working as researchers. For the students it can be a difficult space sometimes, but I think they really took it on board. It was made easier by the fact that the project was short, only six weeks, and that it was well structured with a good rhythm, something new each week. BR – Could you elaborate a little bit on what the value is for students in actually working on a design research project like this. RA – My background is in qualitative research, ethnography in particular – something which, ultimately, is practice-based theory accumulation in a real setting. You can talk about it, but if you want to learn ethnography, you need to do it – you will only learn through your failures, from situations where you’re actually able to make mistakes. That’s why it’s so important to go to a location where you meet people that you would otherwise never have met, people from different strata of society. This project provided all those opportunities to the students, and that was very valuable. Our school, with its very international mix of students, appears, on the surface, to be very multicultural, but in fact, the students from all over the world come from a thin section of the upper middle-class, all of whom have similar understanding of one another. In order for them to actually see the people they are going to be designing for in the future, people, for instance, who use water, as well as people who develop policies concerning water, they 63
need to actually talk to those people. This project enabled our students to acquire the ability of talking to people who are not like them, and to understand what it is to really listen to them. BR – Can you talk a bit about how design can help with that. You mentioned briefly that they might have a list of questions, but they also have their design skills. RA – I think that for somebody who’s not a designer or a maker, the way that people who create are able to express their ideas and thoughts with something tangible, something other than words, can be seen as very attractive. There’s nothing more appealing than standing next to someone who is making a beautiful drawing. So, in this water project they were creating these conversation pieces, something you could start a conversation around – for instance, a fake phone-charging system powered by water, and other ‘What If…’ creations, things that look a bit funny. If you were a resident of that neighbourhood and you saw something like that, perhaps you would feel as if they were designing those things a little bit with you in mind. As an ethnographer you are somewhat anonymous, with just your list of questions, whereas if someone actually makes something in your neighbourhood, for you, it becomes more personal. And if it is also a little bit playful, then it’s both personal and it’s a gift – the designer can ask, “Do you like my gift?” which allows the designer to show their vulnerability. The resident could answer, “No, I don’t like it,” which could also become the start of a conversation. BR – In this context, confusion could also be a good starting point for a conversation, could it not? RA – Certainly… the reaction, “I don’t understand”, is also a useful response, it can be very valuable to give someone the opportunity to say, “I don’t understand what you mean.” In this way the hierarchy between researcher and the group that is being researched dissolves, which creates a different setting, so that a person can interact with you in the conversation in a different way. Traditional academic research has always been hierarchical. You come in as a researcher with a capital R and it’s all very important, which easily creates a tendency to look down on the people you are studying. This isn’t something intentional, but it happens, and before you know it a water policy is being created without having explained to anyone the reason why. This mix of ethnography and design can be seen as a very positive force – I have seen it happen in other projects too, projects which include designers creating things which can trigger members of a community in a different way. Everyone is free to say. ‘I don’t understand this’, or ‘I understand it 64
differently’, because they can actually see it for real, and not only read about it in a report. BR – To document the students’ design research, Alissa and Renee created a wall-sized map they called the Trail of Evidence. Every week it grew with the addition of new work from the students, and it was used for r eflecting on the work, both with the students as well as with the partners in the project. What did you make of that wall? RA – When you see the wall, it is so much more attractive than a report. You can point things out, such as – this was our initial question, these were the subsequent questions, these are the answers to our questions, and these are suggestions for follow-up research. A colourful wall like this is never boring, because you can go into details, plus it provides you with a structure that continues to allow you to make new connections. You can look at this thing here, and that one there, and you can visualise these trails of association. The wall functions as a conversation piece, whilst at the same time it works to convince. Despite the apparent casualness, it imparts a sense of linearity that is very helpful when one talks to policy makers. It reassures them, and gives them a sense of completion. Together you can pick out one argument and say, ‘This is an interesting argument’, or, ‘There’s another discourse I would like to follow up on’. The findings of your project become more reliable because through the wall, people can refute conclusions, disagreeing with a particular conclusion from a particular part, and so you move beyond it being simply a conversation piece like the ones you initially brought into the neighbourhood, because with the wall you are providing the proof of the logic of your arguments. When you present the documentation like this, it is still neutral material that you can have open conversations about. As soon as you start finding patterns and drawing conclusions however, you make it less neutral, you colour it through interpretation. This leads me to wonder how you deal with that in such a way that your patterns and interpretations become justifiable. BR – The way we dealt with that is to invite our partners to be part of that interpretative phase, by doing part of that interpretation with them together. This is not only related to the Trail of Evidence wall that was used with the students but, in a more general sense, for the entire project. Alissa and Renee regularly presented their initial interpretations to the project partners and from there, continued interpreting with them together. RA – Yes, I recognise this – you always go back to the people you actually talked with at the start, in order to continue the discussion. There is 65
something very attractive about this approach. It allows you to have an ongoing conversation, something which does not happen in academic research which is aimed towards becoming an academic paper. In this approach the knowledge is being directed back to the centre of the stage where you actually acquired it – that has a nice circularity. Our era is very different from that of the classic anthropologists, like Levi Strauss, who went to a faraway island to study faraway people and then returned to Paris to become a professor, never again having to deal with the people he studied. He simply returned to Paris where his work was respected and valued. I’m so happy that we no longer live in times like that, happy that academic work is no longer like that, and that it’s now possible to become an active part of the situations you study.
DAE students Julie Abraham, Chieri Higa and Anne Kamps opening up the conversation with neighbours about poo, by asking questions about their toilet paper 66
fake phone-charging system powered by water – by DAE students Sixtine Blandine, Ruth Klückers and Crys Leung
Talking to Waterschap De Dommel Interview with Martin Bouwman, Tony Flameling and Peter Glas.
Renee Scheepers and Ellen Zoete
The water board, Waterschap De Dommel, is a regional water authority in The Netherlands. It is a dedicated branch of government that carries the responsibility for the management of surface water, ground water, water safety, water quality and the purification of municipal sewage water. Waterschap De Dommel’s activities centre on the region of central the Province of Brabant and their work influences the lives of some 900,000 people in 34 different municipalities. The decision to collaborate with design researchers and students from the Design Academy Eindhoven wasn’t entirely new. They had been collaborating with DAE for several years, though this would be the first collaboration in a research project. Waterschap De Dommel, Woonbedrijf and DAE joined forces for the Stroompunt project. Despite being active in the same region, Martin Bouwman, senior communication specialist of Waterschap De Dommel, noted, “It’s strange that we have not worked with Woonbedrijf before. Woonbedrijf is also concerned with sustainability, even though their primary focus isn’t on water.” Reflecting on the process, he explains, “It was a beautiful process of collaboration. Starting off as a triangle of organisations, it developed into something more organic, which also closely involved the residents as an additional partner. This was achieved thanks to having a physical presence in the neighbourhood on a regular basis.” Tony Flameling, senior advisor in wastewater technology at Waterschap De Dommel, adds, “In this case, the role of the designer was one of translator, enabling the somewhat technical point of view of an organisation to be communicated in such a way that it was accessible and appealing to the residents.” Solutions to the problems of sustainability lie, to a greater extent than one might imagine, with the day to day behaviour of ordinary people. It is, however, the responsibility of organisations like Waterschap De Dommel to prompt an initial awareness that, in turn, can become the basis for change on a larger scale. The evident lack of insight into the comings and goings of the water we use daily, is not exclusive to the residents of Geestenberg, and in fact, one could say that in general the Dutch have been overindulged with access to clean water which is perpetually available regardless of actual demand. “In general people are not very conscious of the Netherlands’ exceptional 69
position. A large part of the country would flood if it wasn’t for the coastal defences and river dykes,” says Peter Glas, ‘Water Reeve’ of Waterschap De Dommel, (a position that goes back to the Middle Ages and is appointed by the Crown). The Netherlands has been plagued by heavy rainfall, but also of prolonged droughts and heat stress in inner cities in recent years. Peter Glas is hopeful that the general population’s awareness and interest in learning more about the ins and outs of water will increase, “But we’re not there yet.” “Designers can contribute by helping to create more accessibility for everyone in the debates about the challenges which society faces – in this case, vis a vis water. They can do this by presenting the issues in new, unusual or even provocative ways that encourage everyone involved to think again. By talking to residents, farmers, entrepreneurs, politicians and civil servants about experiences, values and emotions, conversations become more personal and the issue is no longer completely abstract,” says Peter Glas. “The trick is of course to then shift back from the personal and emotional to concrete questions about practical actions. The water board is not an emotion factory that has awareness as its by-product. We have an important role in society, and a concrete task, for which we collect more than €100 million in taxes from citizens and businesses every year.” Tony Flameling adds, “It’s not all about behavioural change. Residents are prepared to be more water conscious in their lives but that alone is not enough. We also need to incorporate water sustainability measures into the infrastructure and the houses themselves, so that people can make use of these.” It is interesting to note that this project has also stimulated a shift in approach within the water board, internally. “Stroompunt has taught us that there are different, creative ways to come in contact with people,” according to Peter Glas, “We’re currently looking for a way to take things further together with the partners.” He points out that they now aim to find out and understand the wishes of the people involved before taking any steps toward designing a solution. In addition to this, Waterschap de Dommel is becoming aware of their own role as ambassadors in this approach. By observing different methods during the Stroompunt project, the water board became aware of new ways of working and, as Peter Glas points out, “This has made us think about how we can do things differently. Stroompunt has proved it possible and we would now like to do more in the same direction.”
Talking to Woonbedrijf Interview with Rob Bogaarts
Bas Raijmakers and Renee Scheepers
Bas Raijmakers – What is your role at Woonbedrijf, and how did Woonbedrijf become interested in sustainability and design? Rob Boogaarts – I am the district manager for the region of Tongelre, where we are responsible for around 3.800 homes, their tenancies and their upkeep. Alongside that I have the portfolios for sustainability and for neighbourhood culture. All three of these things come together in Stroompunt. We have already been concerned with sustainability for a while at Woonbedrijf. In 2012 we began The Natural Step – embracing, among other things, our goal of The Natural City, where biodiversity, water and green space are important. When Tessa Blokland of Design Academy Eindhoven came to us to ask if we would be interested in working together to start up a project with the water board, (which has been a friend of DAE for a while already), that was a good way of stimulating us to really work together. Design was like the ‘key’ to a strong collaboration between two very different worlds. Renee Scheepers – Is that how water came into your perspective? RB – Yes, that happened through the project. There were a couple of key moments in the project which I recall vividly, when I suddenly began to see water differently. During the presentation of the work of the participating DAE students in the project house in Geestenberg, for example, where the students’ ideas were translated into plans all over the walls of the house. There was a model in which water was at the heart of the home, it made you start to see the house very differently. BR – What is important for you in projects like Stroompunt? RB – What was really nice in the presentation in that house, was the wall with the Trail of Evidence (see page 59), that was really beautiful, particularly because what we certainly need in our organisation is a logical process. That process was made really clear in the Trail of Evidence, and so the outcome becomes really logical too. That approach is great, and I think it’s really fantastic that the Trail of Evidence is presented as one of the results of your investigation. 73
For me, in this sort of project, it is not important to know beforehand what the result will be, the process is more important. I liked the way in which you walked around the neighbourhood, creating surprises for people, surprising our employees and employees of the water board too. The Trail of Evidence and what you later presented, then becomes much more important because it makes the process visible and opens it up for discussion. The way you utilised design to do this was completely new for me. It was a pleasant surprise, that there was such a lot of structure to it. I have worked previously with DAE but then it was always aimed at producing a concept or a product as result. RS – So would you say that that structure, including the Trail of Evidence, gave you the grip on the project that you needed? RB – Yes, the grip, the logic. We do need to be able to explain what we do, because otherwise it can easily be seen as something woolly or vague. Everyone perhaps understood something of the reason we were doing this, linking it, for example, to The Natural Step, but the way we went about it was probably less evident. Why did your project entail going from door to door collecting bottles of water for example, or collecting rain water with a sponge? I myself am used to all sorts of stuff, and it would have surprised me if you hadn’t done that kind of thing! BR – We have noticed that with everything which becomes concrete there is a tendency to view it as a solution, whereas in fact we want it to be all about the process. Is that something you find difficult to explain within the organisation? RB – Not really, we call that social design – projects that entail getting neighbourhoods involved, animating residents, pro-jects where it’s about the activity rather than, for example, a statue or sculpture in the neighbourhood – unless of course that is a means rather than an end point. Social design has a definite place in our organisation through Woonbedrijf’s Neighbourhood Culture Fund, with which we have run something like 350-400 projects in the last six years. The fund has enabled us to create a link between all Woonbedrijf’s artistic and cultural initiatives – on which we spend roughly half a million euros a year. Residents of the neighbourhood themselves also apply to that fund for projects. Everyone at Woonbedrijf is really proud of what we have achieved through the fund, and it is evident that it has created a breeding ground for projects like Stroompunt.
BR – What view do people from the organisation have of Stroompunt? RB – It takes them a while to see it at first, but later they become super enthusiastic. Johan van de Sanden is the best example of that – through Stroompunt it became clear to him that he needed to completely change his way of working. This didn’t even cost him that much effort – he was carried along by the logic of the project… and so we get back to logic, to what can be seen on the wall. You are able to explain it, and then suddenly he understands, ‘Ah, previously I gave compliment cards for a paved garden when I really shouldn’t have… I should be giving compliment cards for lovely wild gardens.’ And now Johan is encouraging other neighbourhood managers to think along those lines too. The ship is not going to suddenly capsize because a designer thinks that things should go differently, but the course of the ship can certainly be changed. Five years ago, sustainability was not an issue – now it clearly is. There are all sorts of interventions like Stroompunt which are important in turning people around, such as Johan, steering them in the right direction – the ship doesn’t capsize, but it does change course.
References  
See www.thenaturalstep.org ‘Friends of Design Academy Eindhoven’ are partners with whom DAE collaborated in research projects and educational projects. See: www.designacademy.nl/Friends
Biographies Alissa van Asseldonk BA
political and narrative dimensions of design. She
Alissa van Asseldonk is a research-based de-
follows an engaged approach to transformational
signer whose basic mission is to put human ex-
change, addressing issues such as redesigning
perience at the centre of her work. Holding a BA
democracy, and the role of design in new media.
in design from Design Academy Eindhoven she
She is Associate Reader Strategic Creativity at De-
continues to develop her research skills within
sign Academy Eindhoven and heads the research
the Research Associateship at DAE whilst main-
minor Radical Ecologies where students employ
taining strong ties to the creative field. She is a
a research through design approach, in which
founding partner at design studio Alissa + Nien-
they use design itself as a tool to open up complex
ke, specialising in researching human perception
themes and issues.
and designing materials and spaces to improve
Ellen Zoete BA MA
(future) daily life. Her experimental and empathetic character as a designer, is ex-pressed in
Design writer and curator, Ellen Zoete, gradu-
both these functions. She works from her studio
ated from Design Academy Eindhoven in 2007.
space at Nul Zes, a co-work space she co-founded
She received her Masters degree in Design Writ-
in 2013 and subsequently collaboratively rede-
ing Criticism at the London College of Com-
munication. She is the producer of the Strategic Creativity Series, completing its editorial team
dr Bas Raijmakers PhD (RCA)
alongside Daniëlle Arets and Bas Raijmakers.
Bas Raijmakers is Reader (Lector) in Strategic he leads the research team there. Bas has a back-
The Readership in Strategic Creativity at Design Academy Eindhoven
ground in cultural studies, the internet industry,
The Readership explores how design and
and interaction design. His main passion is to
creativity can play a strategic role in society,
use visual storytelling to bring the people with
in the economy in general, and in service in-
whom, and for whom, we design, into processes
novation in particular. Academic knowledge is
for innovation and change. He holds a PhD in
created through designing, within the strong
Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art
‘think-ing-through-making’ culture of Design
in London. He is also co-founder and C reative
Academy Eindhoven. The design research pro-
Director of STBY, a design research consultancy
jects are connected with the educational pro-
in London and Amsterdam, specialised in service
gramme of DAE by way of Design Research
innovation. Bas works for clients around the globe,
Spaces – five-week design research modules for
in the public, non-profit and industrial sectors.
students that serve as a temporary appendage to
Creativity at Design Academy Eindhoven, and
the design research project of Research Associ-
drs Daniëlle Arets
ates in the Readership. Results are further dis-
Daniëlle Arets is a design researcher with a
seminated through public debates, conferences,
background in cultural and media studies from
workshops and publications. You can follow the
Maastricht University (the Netherlands), and Aar-
work via several digital channels. More details at:
hus University (Denmark). She researches the
Renee Scheepers BA
Renee Scheepers has been working as a re-
Woonbedrijf is a social housing corporation in
search associate for the Readership Strategic Cre-
Eindhoven. Their greatest social accomplishment
ativity at Design Academy Eindhoven since 2015.
lies in providing and maintaining a good supply
She graduated with distinction in DAE’s depart-
of affordable rental homes for over 70.000 resi-
ment of Man & Well-Being, with her prize-win-
dents. Woonbedrijf was established in 2005 fol-
ning project, Revealing Maps of Cancer Care. She
lowing a merger, and with currently 30.000 hous-
employs a strong visual language when, for ex-
es in and around Eindhoven they are one of the
ample, mapping the social structures of complex
larger housing corporations in the region. Their
environments such as economically challenged
main challenge is to provide good, affordable
inner cities, large companies and mental health
housing without excluding anyone. Woonbedrijf
institutions. Her wide ranging curiosity embraces
aims to contribute to forming a society based on
themes in healthcare, agriculture and sustaina-
fairness and driven by sustainable choices.
bility, and community, and it drives her to work closely with partners and parties from the public sector as well as the industry. Her design studio is located at Nul Zes, a multidisciplinary collective of creative professionals which she co-founded in 2013.
Waterschap de Dommel Water board Waterschap De Dommel is the regional, public water authority, active throughout the entire Dommel river basin, from the Belgian border to the city of Den Bosch. Currently, there are almost one million inhabitants in this area. The water board is responsible for flood control, clean water quality and quantity, and the treatment of urban wastewater. About 400 employees work together with organisations and inhabitants to ensure ‘dry feet’ – sufficient, clean water in streams, ditches and rivers. Water management also entails the management of ground-water levels in order to fight drought and to prevent flooding. Adjusting to climate change, both in rural and urban areas, is one of their challenges for the near future.
Colophon Let’s Talk Water
Alissa van Asseldonk, Renee Scheepers Daniëlle Arets, Bas Raijmakers, Ellen Zoete Writers: Geert Jan Bogaerts, Bart Brouwers Authors: Alissa van Asseldonk, Bas Raijmakers, Renee Scheepers Proofreade/copy editor: Jimini Hignett Graphic design: HeyHeydeHaas Printed by: Unicum by Gianotten Edition: 500 Editorial team:
Participating students Design Research Space:
Julie Abraham Stephanie Bakker Sixtine Blandine Axel Coumans Cécile Espinasse Chieri Higa Jeffe van Holle Anne Kamps Ruth Klückers Crys Leung Laila Snevele Cas van Son Sebas Reneman
Guest tutor Design Research Space:
Robert Adolfsson, Ester van de Wiel
With special thanks to:
Tessa Blokland and all the participants from our partners at Woonbedrijf and Waterschap De Dommel, and the residents of Geestenberg
Lody Aeckerlin, Alissa van Asseldonk, Fenny Keller-Mathijssen, Renee Scheepers
Lydia Halders 78
Design Academy Eindhoven Emmasingel 14 Eindhoven, the Netherlands www.designacademyeindhoven.nl/strategiccreativity email: firstname.lastname@example.org ISBN: 978-94-91400-34-6 Price: 10 euro
The Readership in Strategic Creativity, 2017 Reader (Lector):
Dr Bas Raijmakers PhD (RCA) Associate Reader (Associate Lector): Drs Daniëlle Arets Research Associates: Alissa van Asseldonk, Michelle Baggerman, Renee Scheepers This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. © 2017 Alissa van Asseldonk, Renee Scheepers and Design Academy Eindhoven 79
Let's Talk Water
In this era of climate change, our relationship to water – be it rain or rivers, for drinking or wastewater – is changing. A new awareness and an understanding of how we can use water sustainably, are needed, and we must investigate how we can prepare for heavy rain, droughts and flooding. This necessity is something which also confronts us at an individual level – in our homes, streets and neighbourhoods. This was the main motivation for Let’s Talk Water, a collaboration of Design Academy Eindhoven with partners Woonbedriif, a social housing corporation, Waterschap De Dommel, the regional water board for the Eindhoven region, and with the residents of the Geestenberg neighbourhood in Eindhoven. This publication presents a range of design research methods which build on our thinking-throughmaking approach, which we tailored specifically to fit the complex situations we faced. In the Readership in Strategic Creativity, research is always conducted by alumni of Design Academy Eindhoven in collaboration with economic, societal, cultural and scientific partners. The goal is to make connections between those fields through collaborative research and design. The publications in the Strategic Creativity Series document the most exciting and valuable knowledge that is created within the Readership, in order to make it available for others to build upon.
Bas Raijmakers PhD (RCA) Reader in Strategic Creativity at Design Academy Eindhoven
In this era of climate change, our relationship to water – be it rain or rivers, for drinking or wastewater – is changing. A new awareness a...
Published on Oct 15, 2017
In this era of climate change, our relationship to water – be it rain or rivers, for drinking or wastewater – is changing. A new awareness a...