IK BEN STER(K)
Empowering young adults from a low income neighborhood in Rotterdam to design and fabricate their own ideas
This project is my MSc thesis project, carried out between 2012 and 2013 in collaboration with research center Creating 010 and Fablab Rotterdam. The goal of the project was to use participatory design & digital fabrication to empower a community of underprivileged young adults to discover and develop their passions and skills through REFLECTING, DESIGNING, MAKING and SHARING. The aim behind this was to enable them to EMPOWER THEMSELVES THROUGH A PARTICIPATORY BOTTOM-UP APPROACH.
The process I followed was an iterative Research through Design approach combining research-design-evaluation-implementation, with contextual ethnography “in the wild” as a primary way to approach the discovery of the social issues nestled in the reality of South Rotterdam, where a strong immigrant population lives and works in conditions of low socio-economic status and lack of opportunities compared to the rest of the Dutch inhabitants.
I chose to focus with the neighborhood Afrikaanderwijk, which 80% non-Dutch population and had great inherent potential but low social economic status.
Through various immersions in the neighborhood and interviews with the stakeholders I identified a KEY UNSERVED NEED: lack of positive role models and cultural activities to involve the local youth, which was experiencing high rates of school dropout, unemployment and small crime.
Together with a local school instructor, I created a plan for a workshop where the students would UNCOVER THEIR PASSIONS, DESIGN AN OBJECT THEY WANTED TO MAKE THAT REPRESENTED THIS PASSION, DIGITALIZE IT AND 3D PRINT IT AT THE FABLAB. The main issue was MOTIVATING THE YOUTH TO BELIEVE IN THEIR ABILITIES & IN THEIR OPPORTUNITIES. Once they discovered they could actually MAKE SOMETHING AND TAKE IT HOME, THEY WERE REALLY HAPPY.
As a result of the first workshop prototype, a workshop platform was created and evaluated with the students of the school.
The platform IK BEN STER(K) is an online-offline community that uses the physical TOUCHPOINTS OF THE SCHOOL & LOCAL FABLAB for the students to be involved in person. The COACH/INSTRUCTOR is the FACILITATOR OF THE PLATFORM and makes sure the platform works correctly and the students are supported.
IK BEN STER(K) is a play on words in Dutch, which means “I am strong” (Ik Ben Sterk) and “I am a Star” (Ik Ben Ster). The idea comes from the INTERACTION VISION, recognizing the students as a constellation of stars: each shines of their own unique light but together they make a beautiful shining image in the sky.
HOW DOES THE PLATFORM WORK?
Each student who joins the workshop platform will CREATE A BADGE WITH A UNIQUE RFID TOKEN that will be used for the workshop access.
Every week she LAUNCHES A CHALLENGE FOR A NEW WORKSHOP on a FACEBOOK GROUP, to which the students apply a theme they want to work on.
The student winner will ORGANIZE THE WORKSHOP TOGETHER WITH THE COACH AND OTHER HELPER STUDENTS. She/he also gets the organizer badge, that sheOn the FB group and in person, the student invites the PEERS and the RFID tokens serve as a means to check in the workshop.
During the workshops the students MAKE THEIR IDEAS INTO REALITY and then EVALUATE THE WORKSHOP.
Every month, the students SHARE THEIR WORK TOGETHER WITH THEIR COMMUNITY, INSPIRING OTHER TO COME ALONG AND SHOWING THEIR WORTH TO THE WORLD.
The workshop platform was evaluated with two workshops, this time using LASER CUTTING as a the technology the students would learn. After some difficulty in gaining the ACCEPTANCE FROM THE SCHOOL, WHO DIDN’T UNDERSTAND THE INITIATIVE, we managed to successfully carry out the workshops and the students LOVED THEM. They managed to bring their idea from CONCEPT TO FINAL PRODUCT and shared it within their community. It was a very good experience. The platform did not continue after I finished my graduation project. The requirements to make it ongoing were that I continue facilitating it for a while and at the time my life went in a different direction. I look forward to implement it elsewhere!
The video below was created in order to substitute me at the event TEDx Youth @ Delft in fall 2013, to which I was invited but wasn’t able to participate because of a prior work commitment.
Ik Ben Ster(k) was finalist at the 2013 edition of Dutch Design Awards, one of the most important national Deisgn competitions of The Netherlands.