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Philips van Lenneppark Kiosk

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by René van der Velden

Since the beginning of my internship at Bron van Doen I have had the chance to be involved in a project which aims to solve the dispute between the municipality and a group of its citizens. The dispute is about a ‘kiosk’ in the Philips van Lenneppark in Eindhoven, which was to be demolished due to decay. The surrounding neighbourhood residents disagreed and started a workgroup to oppose to the decision made by the municipality. After a lengthy process the municipality agreed a new kiosk could be built and they offered the workgroup a small financial contribution as well as a social designer to aid the process.

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This social designer is Conor Trawinski and I have been assisting him in this process as he has been using his knowledge about co-design processes to lead the group towards a solution. So far we have organized four meetings/workshops with the group.

The first challenge proved to be getting a clear grasp of the situation, many things had already happened before we joined in. This difficulty was enhanced by the quite radical changing of the project between the 3rd and 4th session, as the Kiosk did not have to be demolished anymore, only renovated. Due to everything that happened the participants cherished a lot of frustrations towards the municipality, our job was to get them to put it in the past and look towards the future.

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By preparing, executing and reflecting upon these sessions in collaboration with Conor I have learned many things. One of the most important things I have experienced is what the role of the designer is in this situation. I had some difficulties with defining what role we had and how we should lead the group. I found the answer when looking at the skills the participants lacked, while Conor did possess them and could complement the group. I realised it was mainly the lack of knowledge about creative processes and working in an uncertain process towards a concrete solution, where the participants needed help. With this knowledge and all the other things I have learned I am better equipped to be of value as a social designer within these processes.

DDW 2016 – Agents of Change Tours

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by René van der Velden

During the Dutch Design Week I have joined one of the four Agents of Change tours organized by The Umbrella. I already knew what the tour would look like, as I was involved in some of the preparations, but I was not informed about most of the projects we visited. I was one of the eight participants who were led by Ron Krielen to four locations where we were informed about socially engaged projects in Eindhoven. At each location we got a personal tour and explanation of the projects.

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For me this was a whole new way of experiencing the DDW, as for the other exhibitions I have gone there by myself and without a personal presentation. I liked how the projects were presented more in-depth and personal. The fact we were in a group sparked discussion about the projects which would not have happened if I had visited these projects on my own. This format made sure the full potential of the projects was shown.

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The social projects and the participants who were also socially involved, have given me more insight in the social design environment of Eindhoven. I have seen that it can both stimulate as well as counteract social initiatives. Which is important knowledge for if I want to establish my own social projects in Eindhoven. The different views of the participants and project designers showed me their versatile experience with social initiatives and the importance of creating a strong network. I have also learned that many social projects are very uncertain and that flexibility is an important trait as a social designer.

Wij zijn Bron van Doen

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A Dutchman, Irishman and Korean. Came to Eindhoven to study at Design Academy Eindhoven. Graduated from Man and Leisure between 2013-2014. Focused on social projects and co-design in school. Dedicated to working with communities and learning how to run your own business after school. While the circumstances that brought us all to Eindhoven at the same time may have been by chance, with all we have in common for us to end up working together since 2014 was not an accident. And now we decided to call ourselves Bron van Doen.

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After working together as independent designers based in Eindhoven for over two years, this year all three of us have been making important decisions in our personal and professional lives. In the beginning of the year Ron quit his side job as a taxi driver and joined our collaboration full time. In spring Conor moved to Germany to start building a life and career in Munich. And during the summer Minsung finally obtained his self employment residence permit allowing him to reliably live and work in the Netherlands. Along the way the three of us have been discussing our vision and future as socially engaged designers and creative entrepreneurs. The result of this is now a business partnership between Ron and Minsung, with Conor continuing to collaborate with us as an associate.

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We hope 2016 marks a positive step in developing our collaboration rooted in Eindhoven; while we still have much to learn in all aspects of life and work, we believe we are growing towards becoming more responsible to ourselves, our surroundings and the people we work together with. We will continue to devote our creativity to working with people, addressing societal challenges together and being the source of positive action.

Reflecting on “Working with Constituents” at mima

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Between the 8th and 10th of September 2016 Gemma, Ron and I took part in a 3 day symposium titled “Working with Constituents” hosted at the Middlesbrough Institution of Modern Art(mima) at Middlesbrough, England. While all of my colleagues in The Umbrella network have taken part in programs by L’internationale on a number of occasions, it was my first time to have the pleasure of meeting the people of L’internationale.

This three day gathering was dedicated to the progression of L’internationale: Questioning how art can be used differently, focusing on mediation and education, upon the urgency to re-think how institutions function and use art, how to undertake constituent thinking and how museums may identify themselves as one of many constituents.

In short, the conference was extremely inspiring and I have returned to Eindhoven with new knowledge and tools that will undoubtedly enrich the activities of The Umbrella. While I am motivated to write about my thoughts following the conference, at the moment I do not have the time to draft a coherent and well articulated reflection. Rather, borrowing from the notes I have made during the event I will share fragments of what I have observed and learned at the conference as well as what I have come to expect from L’Internationale from the perspective of a constituent operating in the city of Eindhoven.

Authority as inspiration

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During the opening talk “Instituencies” Anthony Gardner mentioned how authority could also be inspiration. Frankly it is easier for communities to perceive the established as authoritarian and restricting – something that must be opposed with constituent power, or simply something to complain about. While such sentiments are quite abundantly in society, it will be difficult for a constituent to instigate change with this attitude. Reflecting on our work in Eindhoven and how we engage with the municipality and institutions, we have been actively uncovering new opportunities in between established rules and procedures. Here, a negotiation process has always been crucial: while it was important for us to show we are able to establish a dialogue that respects the boundaries of authority, it was equally important for the establishment to demonstrate towards us a willingness to listen and consider the possibility of accepting deviation and uncertainty. While this way of working may be far from revolutionary, I consider it useful.

Vulnerability

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Bluntly put, constituents are extremely sensitive to current political landscape and opinion (propagated through media). In order to keep the playing field of societal discourse broad, it is essential that the discourse generated within the cultural institution (based on long term ideals using “thoughtful” language) is consistently disseminated throughout society (translated into short term actions using “useful” language). If cultural institutions neglect to continuously question, challenge and debate established/popular norms, preconceptions and assumptions in societal discourse, practitioners like myself will quickly lose effectiveness and integrity due to the concessions and compromises we will inevitably make for the sake of keeping our work practical. The narrower the playing field of societal discourse becomes, the less diverse, patient and adventurous we will be. If we are indeed in a war in which freedom of speech is being threatened as Jesús Carrillo Castillo put it, I see myself becoming a collaborator with good intentions operating within norms rather than becoming a visionary freedom fighter acting radically. Since I’d rather not defect any time soon, I implore everyone to play their part and help keep the field of operations wide and broad.

Graph Commons is useful

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I am extremely excited about Burak Arikan’s open tool for mapping and analyzing complex networks and relationships. A large part of my work involves developing and applying participatory processes that are useful for communities. The elegance of Burak’s tool is in how we can focus on using words and sentences during the process and let the program take care of the visualization. While artists are comfortable with visualization tools and drawing mind maps, it is easy to take for granted that many people are uncomfortable with drawing lines and circles, and in many real life situations we simply cannot afford the time to familiarize everyone with visual processes that bring out the artist within. When a community is trying to tackle a societal challenge with a limited amount of time, Graph Commons will be extremely effective in focusing on the key players and relationships, and uncovering potential dynamics in the network by analyzing the visual map.

On validation

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I recall the question of validation coming up during the final discussion of the conference. While it seems prudent for a confederation of museums dedicated to working with constituents to be critical about its final outcome, I think it is important to focus on the inherent strength of L’internationale. To be brutally honest, the development, process and execution of L’internationale and its programs have been done within the culture, expectations and language of European cultural institutions. Expecting to invent a format outside of this context weakens the cause. From what I have witnessed and experience at mima for these three days the discourse of L’internationale is quite precise, and I am looking forward to outcomes in the form of writing, publication and further discourse. These results must be able to effectively carry the cause of L’internationale further among other cultural institutions.

Regarding the relevance to constituents, the test of validation will inevitably come when the institution is faced with the choice of committing to the idea of being a constituent among many, and devoting to programs that embody the ideas described within the writings and discourse of L’internationale.