What would your children design for you? (Can children become Social Designers?)

To an extent they already are! Children’s potential is oft overlooked in every field. Their capacity for empathy and creative thinking positions them perfectly as social designers. And let’s face it, we need all the help we can get. Unexpect hypothesis is, ‘Children can creatively solve some of the world’s problems’ (problems usually created by adults). We are researching this hypothesis through a series of design workshops and manifestations. Looking specifically at the questions:
Under which circumstances can children tap into their design potential?;
What types of social and environmental problems can children best work on?

This week in a prototype workshop with 16 children in the age range of 8-9 years, we worked on the topic ‘Designing for your Parents’  The workshop was about two hours in length.

massagemachine

A floating massage machine for father, as he suffers from a slipped disc (hernia).

We kicked off the workshop, with a game, to encourage creative thinking and feelings of empathy. (if you would like the workshop program, download it here Unexpect#2 (in Dutch). Then we invited the children to draw the outline of an adult in their lives and map onto it any problems, they knew of. Most children choose a parent or a grandparent. They described problems such as, broken hips, black lungs from smoking, red spots on hands, being too busy, always having to work and sadness due to divorce.

oma&opa

A 3d printed hart for Grandma and a wire for better hearing for Grandpa.

Then we looked at a number of new and future technologies and talked about their potential. Such as 3d printing, eye lenses which react to the wearers blood- sugar level, jet pack, Google’s self driving car, huge touch screens.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 5.01.53 PM

Lenses which react to the wearers blood- sugar level, for diabetes patients.

Next up was to envisage in what way a new technology might provide a solution to one of the earlier mapped problems. Most children went eagerly to work and had plenty of ideas, a few children struggled. Such as the girl whose father was sad due to the divorce, she didn’t know how to help him with that in a structural way, another problem she perceived was the lack of color in her father’s wardrobe so she decided on an app to give him clothes advice every morning.

app

The clothes color advice app, on the right the different screens. 

rocket

A cigarette which turns into a rocket and takes off, as anti-smoking device

We closed the workshop by sharing solutions and followed up the next day with an evaluation and checking if there were any concerns from the home front and to check if all the children knew where they could go to if they felt troubled.

Through the workshop and evaluation we learned a number of things:

– the workshop scored high in the children’s estimation with girls scoring it higher than boys;
– of the four workshop parts, the opening game and designing solutions scored the highest, followed by the new technologies and as last the mapping or problems;
– the children are well aware of their parents and other adults problems
– children are motivated to alleviate parents distress or discomfort.

Questions that were raised:
– how do we deal with the privacy of issues raised by children revealing adults issues?
– how do we channel creative thinking into applicable solutions

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, we’d love to hear them, drop a comment or mail us at workshops (at) unexpect.nl

This is the second in a a series of test workshops for Unexpect. Unexpect cultivates young people’s creativity for beauty, resilience and solutions to social and environmental challenges. In a nutshell, ‘Social Design Education.’

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