Day 7 – Wrapping things up, for now

Final day, and I have to say it has been a tough week. Tough and rewarding, actually. What started as a huge ‘mess’ of solution, problems, and frustrations was concluded with five project presentations. The ideas ranged from a bulletin board to cafés and festivals, and although the solutions were diverse in nature, they all were geared towards making the lives of people living in Yuzhnoportovy better.

In the end, what were the learning outcomes of this workshop? In the beginning we – the workshop facilitators – gave a value proposition to the participants: by the end of this workshop you would know how to 1) identify problems (cartography + ethnography), 2) propose solutions to problems (business canvas), and 3) sell your solutions to relevant stakeholders (brand + business canvas + cartography). So, not only did the participants come up with solutions to actual problems, but they also learned how to apply these methods to other aspects of life, too!

Day 6 – Branding solutions and telling stories

After the day off, it was time to focus on crafting a story to support the solution. As we see it, proposing a solution to a problem is only one part of the issue at hand: what is also needed is a story – or a brand – to connect with the people affected by the solution. With this assumption in mind, the participants started with word association tasks: how does our solution feel, what does it look like, what do we want to communicate with it?

Shifting away from the actual, even concrete, project by focusing on the branding aspect, the participants were able to let their imagination run wild as various kinds of word associations started to emerge!

Day 5 – Day off – on seeing things differently

Since our workshop lasts for a total of seven days, it is more than necessary to have a day off somewhere in the middle. This serves two purposes: first, it gives the participants time to reflect on what they have gone through so far, and second, it also makes it possible to gain distance to the tasks at hand.

Thus, what we did was that we asked the participants to test their ideas during Day 5 with friends and strangers. Gaining feedback already during the process helps to steer the solutions away from the worst pitfalls. Or in other words, stepping back from the solution and talking to outsiders helps us in seeing the blind spots better.

Day 4 – Business models as transformation facilitators

When it comes to solving systemic or individual problems, formulating how and why to start is more often than not one of the biggest challenges. To counter this, we utilized the Business Model Canvas (BMC) as a tool to reorganize and sharpen our thoughts.

Despite its shortcomings, the BMC works relatively well as an idea generator. Not only does it clarify your current solution, but it can also give rise to completely new – sometimes even innovative – solutions!

 

Day 2 – Cartography and ethnography as basis for understanding needs and identifying problems

To identify societal – or systemic – problems, we believe cartography and ethnographic to be some of the most effective and enlightening methods. Bearing this in mind, we sent the students to the district today to gather data about people, interaction, places, and so forth.

After a half-day ethnographic exercise in Yuzhnoportovy, the participants returned to Strelka with numerous problems and challenges identified there. Main focus was on people, spaces, and technologies, and interactions between these. As a result, the participants made their first map of Yuzhnoportovy with problems mapped on it.

Photograph by Maria Encha.

Day 1 – Ready, steady, intervene! Or an Aalto University approach to transforming cities

How do you transform cities through the combination of design, business, and technology? Furthermore, how does mapping of people, spaces, and technology help us in seeing our cities and their problems in a different light? These questions serve as a starting point for our workshop, in which our aim is to identify problems through ethnographic methods and cartography, and to offer solutions that are based on business-driven tools.

To keep matters simple and effective, we have divided the workshop into three interconnected themes: mapping, modeling, and implementation. Each module lasts two days, and they will teach the participants different tools and methods on transforming cities through business, design, and technology.

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